Television News Music Packages

TV news music is the term commonly assigned to the music used on television news programs.

In the earlier days of television news, it was common for stations to introduce their news programs with music from popular movies — tracks from “Cool Hand Luke” and James Bond films were especially popular.

However, as the media landscape became more cluttered, news stations quickly began realizing that a short, catchy tunes that “sticks in your head” could offer up many advantages:

  • Viewers who might be only listening to the television hear the familiar tune and realize the news is on.
  • The music becomes part of the station’s identity and branding in its local market.
  • Viewers can identify what station is on solely by the music.

News music packages rely heavily on what’s called a “signature” — a short series of notes that are repeated throughout the package. This can also be referred to as a “sonic brand” or motif.

This is also typically the part that most people remember. When the signature is repeated elsewhere in the package, it may take on different keys, tones, speed or be played with different instruments, but typically the notes remain the same or nearly the same.

Just by mixing and matching all of these characteristics, it’s possible to produce a large variety of variations of the same signature.

Professional TV news music packages contain hundreds, if not thousands of clips, or cuts.

Typically a full length version of the theme is provided, as well as ones that run specific lengths frequently used in news programs, such as 10, 15, 30 and 60 second versions.

These cuts will often bear a striking resemblance to the full length version but have been modified to fit in the time allotted (for example, making sure the final flourish of the song is heard at the end of each length).

News music packages can also include clips for different purposes:

  • A slow, somber cut for news coverage of tragedies
  • A “patriotic” version that often includes emphasis drums and trumpets for election coverage
  • A techno-style version for online and technology stories
  • Very short clips used for stingers and snipes

While the cuts typically have suggested uses, it’s also not uncommon for stations to use them for entirely different purposes as they see fit.

News music packages can be produced using real instruments — larger stations and networks will often commission entire orchestras to perform it — or using synthesized sounds.

TV news music packages are broadly categorized into one of three types:

  • Syndicated: A news music producer will compose, record and master a package and all associated cuts and then license it to multiple stations, with a stipulation that only one station per market can use it.
  • Group: Similar to syndicated, these news music packages are written for a specific group of television stations and then used, in a variety of formats, at those stations. Typically the music will only be available to stations in that group. Group packages also often include a variety of “main cuts” that might have unique signatures so different stations in the group have a choice in which one will be their theme.
  • Custom: A station will commission a completely custom news music package, typically through a company that also provides syndicated packages. The song will be available exclusively for that station, though the package sometimes ends up being licensed to other stations later.

A final type of news music is the TV news image campaign. Typically composed separately from a news music package, these may include vocals and are used by stations to create “image campaigns” — which are highly produced commercials that promote the station in an upbeat, positive way.

Image campaigns may be syndicated, group or custom as well.