This has become really popular in the last few years; the trend started in the US but is well established in Europe now. The kind of use we are talking about is not just the jukebox in a bar/background radio in the apartment use; the songs are mixed right up front and heavily featured, often in scenes with little dialogue, sometimes for two minutes or more.

This obviously is a topic which affects the composer of music for those shows. How do you as working composers deal with it? Is the choice of source music out of your hands (music supervisor, director or cutter's choice) or is it integrated into the scoring process?

I believe a well-placed song can be a highlight, but generally the use of source music has major limitations: fitting the picture is a matter of chance (more often the picture is cut to fit the song), and of course every other programme can (and do) use the same songs. Also, somebody has to go out and find the "right" song - that is a lot of work too.

In Europe up until now, the TV companies have been able to use source music without paying extra (extremely expensive) synchronisation license fees; they just incur the regular broadcast per-minute royalty collected via PRS/GEMA etc. This payment for use of music is based on a 50 year-old law covering "secondary use" and is possibly inappropriate for the kind of featured use songs are getting in many TV programmes. I have heard that there has been a more recent ruling in the USA obliging TV producers to pay a license fee for source music- is that true?

I'd be glad to hear from any pro composers in the US with your thoughts/ experiences in this field, and what the US legal/rights situation is, if you know.