Charlotte’s Queen City News music caps off rebrand with bespoke theme
When a local news organization recognizes it needs a change, it’s not uncommon for an evening newscast or morning show to spice things up with a new graphics package or set design. But when Charlotte, North Carolina’s Fox 46 unveiled their new brand this past January, they rolled out not just new graphics and an updated studio, but also a new custom musical theme that sounds at home in a Hollywood big budget action film. The transformation also included a widening of news programming and a new name: Queen City News.
Queen City News’ musical theme strays from the format on multiple fronts due to its length, originality, and sentimentality. But, as it turns out, the idea to add an original opening song to the Queen City News intro was actually Plan B.
“We’d been in a rebrand mode probably close to a year before actually launching Queen City News,” explained Erik Candiani, director of marketing for Queen City News. “There was a lot of pausing and they wanted to get it right. They had a set in the studio that they built and weren’t going to show it because they wanted to get the branding right before they actually launched it.”
“At the time, we were planning on launching the open with a song that we were trying to license. We couldn’t get it. It fell apart––literally the day before we were launching. And so we launched with a generic song from the library we have, just to get it on the air.”
Impressed by the sleek, heartfelt promos touting the rebrand, Chad Cook noted that Queen City News needed a musical signature that lived up to its arresting visual presence. Cook serves as VP of Creative at the sonic branding company Stephen Arnold Music.
“We saw the rebrand promos and clips and just the whole idea of the identity being Carolina’s own Queen City News––the graphic looks and all the beautiful footage that was obviously shot custom showing the real heartbeat of the market,” Cook said. “It popped and it was different and it was great. And it called out for a sonic identity that was as good as the visual identity. So, I reached out to Erik and we started brainstorming on what we could do musically to do something distinctive and unique.”
According to Cook, everyone at Queen City News was fully on board with the idea of commissioning an original piece of music to accompany their newscast intro, and the team at Stephen Arnold Music began brainstorming how to make the music stand on its own compared to other newscast themes.
“It needed to be modern, but also timeless to where it could live into the future. We all know the famous theme in Philly that’s been there forever,” said Cook. “Of course, that’s an ancient theme, but they still open the newscast with it and show all the lifestyle shots. But our idea was, ‘Well, can we do something that’s more emotional?’”
In search of a human, accessible sound, Cook and his team opted for live instruments over digitized sounds. He describes the theme as modern, cinematic, organic and emotionally driven. The station wanted a theme that would help bond viewers to the evening newscast and endear its brand, so they were open to having a longer theme than what’s typically heard in most evening newscast intros.
“We wanted to go back to the traditional news open that has been lost and consulted out,” said Candiani. “Now, it’s all about ‘how many stories can we get in this first five minutes?’ If we’re going to call ourselves Queen City News, how do we show that we’re Queen City News instead of just saying it over and over and over again? And so we wanted to go the WPVI route. They have a very traditional long open that’s worked very well for them. We were inspired by them, but we wanted to take it and modernize it. Visually, that’s what we went after to capture the city and not just uptown, but all around the outer areas, the smaller markets or smaller towns and areas. It was vital to have the time to present the music, because in film and in TV, theme has gone away. You have sound effects in movies and you have a lot of electronic drum hits and all this other stuff for most news music.”
“Move Closer To Your World, My Friend,” is the theme song for WPVI’s Action News in Philadelphia. The modern iteration of the theme has changed remarkably little from its original cheeky, outdated 70’s aesthetic, which is replete with syncopated horns, lively percussion, and Rocky-esque chord movements.
The Queen City News theme lives in a different musical universe that feels more gripping and honest. In a scant 30 seconds, the music packs a heartfelt, cinematic punch that pairs especially well with the footage of Charlotte’s residents and shots of the city. The viewer is presented with a potent emotional experience through this music rather than a simple theme that can easily be hummed after listening. When Candiani and the rest of the management team at Queen City News, including ND Casey Clark and GM Lloyd Bucher, heard Cook’s first take, they knew they had heard something special.
“When Chad came forward with this, I thought it was an awesome opportunity to do something where he had time to actually come up with a theme instead of just throwing it at you a million times. It has a build and it goes somewhere. I think they nailed it beautifully because we had a distinctive or a very specific feeling in mind, and it’s like they connected with us when they came through with this theme. The first take was so dang close. It was amazing.”
Cook points to the fleshed out vision the Queen City News team had for their brand as critical inspiration for the project, which is aimed at not only keeping Charlotte residents informed about their community but also restoring faith in local journalism.
“The interesting thing with Queen City News is that the vision was there, and we already had a canvas to work with and direction from Erik and the management team. Part of this mission was to also reclaim pride in great journalism and what it means to a community. So, the music needed to reflect the pride and the usefulness of this to the people in the city.”
Describing the project as an effort aimed at removing the public’s negative associations with the news media landscape, Cook notes that the music was written to bring calm and confidence to the Charlotte audience, “It’s not bombastic and not trying to outdo itself.”
Currently, a full package based on the Queen City News theme is in development. That package, which will be available for licensing by other local stations will add different mixes such as weather and breaking news, all driven by organic, contemporary orchestration.