Miami Vice is noted for its innovative use of music, particularly countless pop and rock hits of the 1980s and the distinctive, synthesized instrumental music of Jan Hammer. While other television shows used made-for-TV music, Miami Vice would spend $10,000 or more per episode to buy the rights to original recordings. Getting a song played on Miami Vice was a boost to record labels and artists. In fact, some newspapers, such as USA Today, would let readers know the songs that would be featured that week. Among the many well-known bands and artists who contributed their music to the show were Roger Daltrey, El Debarge, Devo, Jackson Browne, Meat Loaf, Phil Collins, Bryan Adams, Tina Turner, Peter Gabriel, ZZ Top, The Tubes, Dire Straits, Depeche Mode, The Hooters, Iron Maiden, The Alan Parsons Project, Godley & Creme, Corey Hart, Glenn Frey, U2, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Foreigner, The Police, Red 7, Laura Branigan, Ted Nugent, Suicidal Tendencies, The Damned, and Billy Idol. Several artists even guest-starred in episodes, including Phil Collins, Miles Davis, The Power Station, Glenn Frey, Suicidal Tendencies, Willie Nelson, Ted Nugent, Frank Zappa, The Fat Boys, and Sheena Easton. An iconic scene from the Miami Vice pilot involves Crockett and Tubbs driving through Miami at night to Phil Collins’ hit song “In the Air Tonight”.
Jan Hammer credits executive producer Michael Mann for allowing him great creative freedom in underscoring Miami Vice. The collaboration resulted in memorable instrumental pieces, including the show’s title theme, which climbed to the top of the U.S. Billboard charts in November 1985. The Miami Vice original soundtrack, featuring Jan Hammer’s #1 hit theme song and Glenn Frey’s “You Belong to the City” (a #2 hit), stayed on the top of the U. S. album chart for 11 weeks in 1985, making it the most successful TV soundtrack at the time. The Miami Vice Theme was so popular that it also garnered two Grammy awards in 1986. “Crockett’s Theme”, another recurring tune from the show, became a #1 hit in several European countries in 1987.
During the show’s run, three official soundtrack albums with original music from the episodes were released. Hammer has released several albums with music from the series; among them are Escape from Television (1987), Snapshots (1989) and, after countless requests from fans, Miami Vice: The Complete Collection (2002).