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In terms of music, cues has two meanings in television:
- All music used in a television show.
- Those pieces of non-lyric music (background music) which are either composed for use in a show, or which are arrangements of public domain music (such as classical works or folk songs) arranged for use in a show. In this sense, it is similar to the term "score," which applies to films.
The name comes from the term cue sheet, which is a list of all music used anywhere in a TV production. Under American music licensing law, the music producer of a TV production is required to submit a cue sheet to the studio and/or production company. The typical cue sheet lists, for each piece of music:
- The title of the work.
- The composer(s)'s name(s).
- The precise running time (starting from 00:00) at which the piece of music begins in the work.
- The duration of the piece of music.
- A brief scene description of what is happening in the production at the time the music is played.
- A description of the source of the music as it appears on-screen (e.g.: "Background," "Playing on radio," "Sung by host," etc.)
These cue sheets are essential to any television production, as they determine precisely which licensed music is used. Production companies must pay royalties to music publishers and (in certain uses) to the artists and composers, and the amount of the royalties are determined by the duration of the piece and the source. Thus, cue sheets are essential to determining the budget of a TV production.