Several people have written in to me about this. After I pointed out WKRP in Cincinatti and the music rights nightmare as an example of what happens with the heavy hand of the Man, it is coming out on DVD after all. However, my understanding (I think someone emailed me this, I didn’t see it in the linked article) that some of the original music has been substituted for replacements that they could get the rights for. So, it is coming out but not untouched. It’s apparently a middle case, where some but not all of the music rights could be obtained so ultimately they worked around the recalcitrant cases.
The original point stands – that basing any new work on Big Machine Music is insanity, particularly when there is a wealth of available music via Creative Commons or trivially licensable sources like Magnatune. And also, when you cut your deals for licensing things, look ahead a ways. Maybe they could be excused for not thinking there would be a sales potential for archival editions in 1978, but you don’t have that excuse today. It would make sense to — not license all future rights in perpetuity like some businesses seem to want to do — but build in a framework that future rights to as undeveloped technologies could be licensed for some set figure without a new negotiation required.
Little known trivia fact about WKRP: The creator of the show was from Atlanta and involved in radio there. This episode includes some references to WREK, the station I worked at. That page references the automation system “George P.”, which was named after the Georgia Tech psuedo-mascot “George P. Burdell”, a mysterious non-entity that haunted the systems of the school. In 2001, what I did at the station was build the thing that replaced George P. with a computerized system.