Where has all the music gone?
April 12, 2010 7:41 AM   Subscribe

Lots of current pop music as background on UK television shows. Not so much on US shows. What gives?

Having watched a lot of British TV, I've noticed that almost every reality show plays lots of charting pop music during the course of the program. However, in America, you don't see this as much, if at all.

I assume this is because of differing licensing costs. How come it became so expensive to feature US music on US shows? How did US labels get this setup in place, compared to UK labels? I feel like a new generation is losing out, compared to what we all got to watch in the 70s and 80s.

Anyone know anything about this?
posted by teedee2000 to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
What US shows are you watching? Lots of teen dramas (of the kind you find on the CW) use current pop music. Any time I flip past 90210 or Gossip Girl there's familiar, popular music playing.
posted by Bella Sebastian at 7:49 AM on April 12, 2010


Lots of US shows do this -- see anything on MTV (The Hills, Jersey Shore, et. al -- not that I've actually, erm, watched them....hehe).
posted by nitsuj at 7:59 AM on April 12, 2010


I should probably amend the question and limit it to reality shows. I'm not saying you can't license music in the USA for shows, just that it isn't done as much on certain shows. In the UK, almost every show -- literally -- has real music. Not the case in the USA; sometimes you hear generic fake music. I know there is something to this, but maybe I'm not asking the question right. =)
posted by teedee2000 at 8:04 AM on April 12, 2010


teedee2000, I do understand where you're coming from. I catch a lot of British shows as well as watching a LOT of American TV, and I think you might want to give some examples of specific shows. For instance, I know on Gordon Ramsey's F Word there's often pop music playing in the background, whereas you'd never hear that on any shows on the Food Network. But as nitsuj says, certain reality TV in the States is very into playing pop music (he nails it with MTV especially) -- then again, other shows like What Not to Wear or Survivor use their own music.

Why this is the case, I don't know, but hopefully this might help you clarify your question.
posted by pised at 8:22 AM on April 12, 2010


AFAIK, the BBC has a blanket license with PPL that covers most music (film soundtracks, Beatles, Stones, or Hendrix being notable exclusions). That's how something like Top Gear can use 20-30 short tracks in a single episode.

I'm not sure if the other commercial stations have something similar, or if they just pay for a few individual songs in order to keep up with the Beeb.

I believe that MTV in the US has a similar blanket license going way back, due to playing videos for promotional use by the record labels.
posted by smackfu at 8:22 AM on April 12, 2010


As many of us learned/were reminded during the Battle of Burbank, US television networks have blanket music licenses as well: http://ipandentertainmentlaw.wordpress.com/2010/01/25/how-much-did-nbc-pay-for-lovely-rita-on-conan/

It might be that the some of reality people are avoiding using ASCAPpy music because they don't want to have to have to change it for future repackagings -- i.e. how sometimes a DVD release has to change some tracks because, while the price of the original broadcast right was covered by the blanket license, the publishing-on-DVD cost may vary and make some tracks not worth the expense. The DVD case may not be a big one for reality programs, but other repurposings may create similar annoyances. And since the whole point of reality is to be cheap to produce, surely this is an easy place to cut corners.
posted by xueexueg at 10:10 AM on April 12, 2010


To be honest, I'm actually surprised about how many non-radio songs I hear on US TV that I know and like. For example, an episode of House featured (Chris) Clark, Bonobo and Four Tet. It's not a million snippets, but a few songs in full (or nearly full).
posted by filthy light thief at 11:59 AM on April 12, 2010


sometimes a DVD release has to change some tracks because, while the price of the original broadcast right was covered by the blanket license, the publishing-on-DVD cost may vary and make some tracks not worth the expense.

A good example of this is the DVD release of the US show "WKRP in Cincinatti."
posted by zippy at 6:10 AM on April 15, 2010


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