Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Music rights are killing good TV shows

DVD cover for the first season of WKRP in Cinc...Image via Wikipedia

Mike Masnick at TechDirt has repeatedly identified cases where the difficulty of obtaining rights to music played in TV shows is either holding up or killing attempts to reissue those shows on DVD. WKRP in Cincinnati is probably the best-known example, but more recently this meant that the claimed "complete" release of Beavis & Butthead on DVD was in fact an edited version of the show with all of the music videos removed. Why? Because the shows relied heavily on music at the time, and the difficulty of obtaining all of the necessary rights to display the music in the episodes proved to be too cumbersome (or too expensive).

Well, now we have a less egregious but no less disappointing example: MTV is reissuing The State on DVD. That's a good thing: The State and Beavis & Butthead were two shows that were much-needed comic relief while I was in law school. And there was no better sketch from The State than Barry & Levon and $240 worth of pudding:

Cool, right? Well, not so much. Turns out that MTV has completely edited the original sketches, removing the Marvin Gaye music (and presumably other music) due to licensing problems/costs. Check out the first comment on the post:
Where's the original Marvin Gaye music? Don't tell me you didn't get all the orginal music rights for the DVD release, if that's case, then it's a big NO SALE for me, and many other fans. There must be 4 or 5 Barry and Levon skits in total, and one where they even mention Marvin Gaye ("I'm starvin' for the Marvin..I got the Gaye in a bad way"). So would these be redubbed versions? The inflections in their voices sound off too....
What a waste. The rights-holders of the Marvin Gaye music end up without promotion to an entirely new generation of people who might find that they like Marvin Gaye (and who would then, oh, I don't know - buy his music), members of The State, like the hilarious Michael Ian Black, end up seeing their work modified (and rendered less effective), and fans of the original show don't have a legitimate source of re-experiencing the works they enjoyed the first time around.


Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


  1. Same situation has been cited with the delay on the release of another great Micheal Ian Black show "Ed" (starring Tom Cavanagh).

  2. So... I sit through a 30 second ad for shoes and I idly notice that the prize or cost or whatever is shown in Euros. "Odd," thinks I "I assumed this was an American site."




    Oh well.

  3. The reason why you can't rent the wonder years from Netflix comes down to music licensing issues too. Not sure why it was OK on TV, but not on DVD or online, but it seems silly to have to differentiate between these things. At least we have a healthy P2P community to keep archives of the originals until they fall out of copyright.

  4. Ally McBeal is another great example of this. The show is available on DVD in the UK but not in the USA. It is due to the inability to secure music licensing rights.

  5. The Great Northern Exposure, they took out much of the songs which One the characters, Chris in the Morning, is a DJ. You can imagine the choppiness of the show now, and less enthused audience.

  6. Rick: While I agree that the difficulty in licensing music is incredibly annoying, I'm mostly commenting because "$240 Worth of Pudding" is one of my all-time favorite comedy sketches. "Aaaaahhh yeaaah."
    Thanks for reminding me of a great laugh.