This year marks the end of an era. An era in which movie and TV soundtracks are populated by big bombastic song cues. Showtime Networks Billions wrapped an impressive 7 season run. It also marks the last show of its kind, using music as a function of the show’s plot. With the SAG-AFTRA strikes going, and massively budgeted movies bombing at the box offices, studios will look to reduce budgets. This includes limiting the use of music in shows, as a single song can cost upwards of thousands to millions of dollars.
This week’s blog looks back at some of the best shows to use music in their budget, and some of the most expensive songs to be used in movies and TV.
Let’s put the most recent show to wrap up first. The series followed a United States District Attorney (Paul Giamatti) chasing down a crooked hedge fund manager (Damien Lewis). The show is filled with double crosses, heists, and of course, great music. It’s rare that a show would have music in EVERY SINGLE EPISODE. Not just unknown bands, but huge artists in every episode. A rarity for TV.
The show featured musical cues from Metallica, Counting Crows, Eagles, Jerry Garcia, The Police, Duran Duran, Natalie Merchant, and lots more. With music from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s it was one of the more eclectic soundtracks out there on TV.
If you ever wondered what a panic attack looked like in recorded form, The Bear is another great show with an even greater soundtrack. Following the career of a chef working in a Michelin restaurant, the shows fast paced style keeps viewers on the edge of their seat.
The show’s soundtrack culls primarily from 90’s and 2000’s era music cues. R.E.M.’s “Strange Currencies” got a huge streaming boost for its use in the show. Music from the Breeders, Pearl Jam, Refused and The Replacements are among the artists featured.
The show is centered around the life and misadventures of a Chicago based family.
As for the soundtrack, the show featured primarily indie rock bands. Through its use of the Led Zeppelin sounding Greta Van Fleet, the band became one of the biggest modern rock bands of all time. This was all thanks to the shows use of the bands hit “Highway Tune”, as featured above.
A homage to 1980’s movies and pop culture, Stranger Things is inescapable. The show, known for blending horror and comedy elements, will continue for a fifth season once the strike ends.
As for its soundtrack, 70’s and 80’s music cues are plentiful. The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go” was featured prominently early on in the series. The shows use of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” helped get the artist into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The show that started it all. The reason why we have so many complicated antiheroic characters like Breaking Bads Walter White. Without it, the shows mentioned above would simply not exist without a show about a New Jersey mobster attending a therapy session.
The show was also the first of its kind to incorporate a massive soundtrack into it. Featuring popular songs from various decades, the show made great and memorable use of music in its scenes from The Rolling Stones “Thru and Thru” being used to bookend season 1, to Van Morrison’s “Glad Tidings” being used in a not so glad and tidy fashion. Need I say more about what this show did for Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”?
While many shows do incorporate music, none of them do it on the massive scale of these shows. Seeing reduced budgets will likely hurt more than help shows retain their ability to license music.
Below is a list of some of the most expensive songs to put to screen.
Typically, a song costs $15,000-$60,000 to license for a film or show, unless deals are made in the case of Billions where product placement in the show covers the cost of the music budget.
Here are some of the most expensive songs to license for film.
#1 AC/DC- Thunderstruck- $500,000 (uses, Deadpool 2, Battleship, Thor Ragnarok)
#2 The Verve- Bittersweet Symphony (Cruel Intentions) $90,000 (roughly)
#3 Led Zeppelin- When the Levee Breaks- $60,000 (Argo)
#4 Warrant- Cherry Pie ($40,000)