The Wonder Years is perhaps the best recent example of how the intricacy of the music clearance process affects media distribution. Kudos to the folks at Time Life for making the investment (of time and money) to do the DVD release of the classic series the right way– with the music that helped make the series a hit. Here’s an excerpt from an article about the DVD release of the series from the Wall Street Journal, and you can click the link below to see the full story.
Home-video distributor Time Life spent two years preparing the show’s DVD release. The company’s deal with series owner Fox (which had acquired original owner New World), hinged on whether Time Life could secure the rights to the Joe Cocker theme song.
“If we couldn’t clear that song, there was no reason to go onward,” says Jeffrey Peisch, who runs Time Life’s video and music division.
He says the company spent a seven-figure sum to clear the theme song and 284 others for the DVD release—96% of the original music.
Mr. Peisch predicts the “Wonder Years” set will be profitable. “The audience of aging baby boomers are being ignored by many distributors, and people in this category still want to own product,” he says.
In the version of “The Wonder Years” streaming on Netflix, the first thing that greets viewers is a facsimile of the Joe Cocker theme, which had been swapped for a version performed by an uncredited singer. It was one of many music replacements throughout that caused core fans to reject the show’s altered form.
“I never dared to watch it with the music replaced,” Mr. Brush says. “It was if they had Photoshopped a new character in, or taken Kevin Arnold out.”