During their time on Jimmy Fallon, the Roots have taken the custom of personalizing walk-on music for guests to new heights (our personal favorite was Bill Hader coming out to Maino’s “Hi Hater”). But Questlove himself bowed down to the Max Weinberg Seven on Friday during Conan’s farewell show, when Tom Hanks was introduced to the Beatles’ “Lovely Rita.” It wasn’t so much the reference (a shout-out to Hanks’s wife, Rita Wilson) as the price tag; according to Quest’s insider information, those ten seconds cost NBC a cool half a million. ArtsBeat wondered if it was one last jab at NBC from Conan and got a representative from Sony/ATV Music Publishing (the co-owner of the Beatles catalogue along with the estate of Michael Jackson) on the phone. And … nope, it wasn’t! Because it wasn’t actually that expensive.
Turns out, the Tonight Show has a “blanket license” with publishers, meaning NBC paid only a small additional fee for Friday night’s use of “Rita.” Questlove wasn’t just talking crazy, though: When the song has to be cleared ahead of time for use in a commercial or a scripted show, it does cost $500,000. And if you’re looking for more details on “the world of walk-on music,” check out this Questlove blog post, in which he explains why the Roots tragically will never get to use “Dick in a Box” to introduce Fallon guests named Richard. There — you’ve just spent more time thinking about talk-show walk-on music than you ever planned to or thought was possible.