FAQ+: Tunefind Talks Swapped Songs

At Tunefind, we often provide a particular view of today’s movies, TV shows, and video games. Today’s entertainment is filtered through a lens of music, how the music in these projects evolves, and how it shapes the entertainment we all know and love. In this entry of Tunefind’s FAQ+ series, we discuss the peculiar television phenomenon of swapped songs.

“That’s the wrong song!”

Tunefind has always been an excellent barometer for what content is popular amongst fans and audiences. When new shows and movies are released, it’s usually pretty easy to tell what fans are gravitating to by what is most popular on Tunefind. After all, if the project is good, that means the soundtrack is a must-have, too. One thing has always been glaringly evident from a Tunefind perspective: TV Titans like Dawson’s Creek, Supernatural, Grey’s Anatomy, and The Vampire Diaries remain infinitely popular. No matter the time that has passed since the series aired on TV, fans are still watching, re-watching, and hunting for the music featured in their favorite scenes. 

Sometimes, in these classically popular shows, you will see fans sounding off about how this or that song entry is wrong, and sometimes, that’s not true. What does happen, though, is that some song entries on Tunefind were made years ago when the episode aired live on TV. Now, many fans watch their favorites via streaming or even DVDs. What is happening can be a surprise the first time you realize that both songs can be correct. The original version can use one song, and the streaming or DVD version uses another. It can be one song change in an episode, or it can mean that the music of an entire series is different now than it was compared to when it aired live. 


So why would anyone orchestrate the song swap that changes the feeling of your favorite shows? Well, no one is doing it on purpose, per se. The swapped song phenomenon is related to the licensing a song or soundtrack goes through for it to be legally allowed to be used in any project. A license for synchronization is put in place to ensure payment to copyright owners when their music is used. Often the word synchronization will be shortened to sync, where we get the term sync placement. 

The problem with synchs from series that first aired years and years ago is that no one could have predicted what would happen when streaming dominated the markets. Producers did not give much thought to the longevity of these programs before the early 2000s. In the days before DVD box sets and streaming, they might assume that the episode would air live and potentially for a few years in syndication. So producers would often choose limited, short-term licensing to be able to include well-known songs in their projects. It helped enable them to sign prominent musicians for a more affordable price. The cost to indefinitely license a song for a picture is far from budget-friendly. 

When streaming started to become popular and more commonplace, swapped songs started to happen a lot more frequently. By the time these classic and popular series are licensed to be on streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, their short term licensing agreements for songs, had long expired. Which means a company could pay potentially big money to re-license the song, or they could swap out the song for a cheaper, less known option. 

Big Song Changes…

Here are some examples of swapped songs that you may have heard…

Fans of the classic teen drama Dawson’s Creek, were irritated when the beloved series hit streaming services and the revered theme song ‘I Don’t Wanna Wait’ by Paula Cole, was nowhere to be heard. Instead, the opening theme was replaced with a track titled ‘Run Like Mad’ by Jann Arden.

Felicity was intentionally music centered and included a lot of popular music from the late 90’s and early 2000’s. As a result this popular series was huge for music discovery during its run. The distributor, ABC Studios, made the decision not to re-license the soundtrack for DVD and streaming. The original song selections were very much a time capsule for the era of this series and have been swapped out for less well-known and more budget-friendly song placements that are sound-alikes for the original placements. Fans have been notoriously vocal about the changed soundtrack.

Similar to Dawson’s Creek, the original Charmed series swapped the original airing theme song, ‘How Soon Is Now?’ by Love Spit Love for similar sounding score when the show hit streaming services. In addition to the theme swap, the opening montage also featured different tracks, unless the song was by the artist who would be featured on-screen later in the episode performing at the club. Again it’s a very close sound-alike at a lower cost, but if you listen closely you can almost guess what was originally licensed for broadcast.

In the end

Now you know why swapped songs happen, but how does one properly list these songs on Tunefind? Great question! Tunefind’s goal is to be as comprehensive as possible. If you are entering a song on Tunefind and know, or think that maybe the version you are watching sounds different (Original vs. Streaming), we suggest noting in the scene descriptions, in brackets, what service you were using when you heard the song. See some examples below.


We hope this FAQ+ is helpful and informative! If you have any questions left unanswered, please feel free to reach out. Check out Tunefind’s FAQ and About sections for more information on the inner workings of Tunefind. Is Tunefind missing your favorite show? Send us a content request through the Contact Us feature, here! We will do our best to get the project up on the site. Check out Tunefind News for more information about Tunefind and popular content.

Check out more series that have been known to include swapped songs, below!

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