Listen to the Top Story w/Tom Llamas theme

Top Story w/Tom Llamas is the hour-long primetime news show on NBC News’ streaming service, NBC News Now. The show has a theme that’s edgy, intense and rhythmic. It’s produced by Current Music with composers Matthew Sikora and Elizabeth Forde. You can listen to it here.

Current Music was founded in 2013. In recent years they have produced theme music packages for NBC Sports and Fox Sports among many others.


Two themes that represent the musical identity of CBS News

Musically speaking, CBS News has found its identity in the last few years. Their themes are usually based around a lush, orchestral sound with crescendos and lots of emotion. That is layered on top of very contemporary drum rhythms and deliberately inorganic sounds that could have come straight out of the latest EDM track. And of course, most shows start with the now famous CBS News tritone.

I’ve added two CBS News themes to this website that represent that identity well. The first is the current theme for the CBS Evening News. It is composed by Joel Beckerman of Man Made Music. The other one is the theme used on election night 2020, composed by Nick Murray on behalf of MIBE Music.

To explain the process of composing the CBS election theme, Murray has posted a video on his very informative YouTube channel. It’s almost ninety minutes in length but well worth your time if you want to gain more understanding of how television music is produced. One of the highlights is that he lets you hear the difference between the demo version which features midi only and the final version which has live instruments. The difference is not as big as I would have expected. He dissects the music layer by layer, letting you hear in isolation the very spacey synths that give the theme its contemporary feeling.

It’s also an entertaining watch. At one point Murray refers to a section of the theme that was played over and over by CBS. “Bars 13 to 21,” he said, “that’s going to buy me a new car nine months from now when ASCAP comes out.”


World News Tonight returns to its roots

World News Tonight had quite a surprise last night for its viewers. It opened with the classic theme, that was used from 1978 until 2012. It’s part of a major overhaul for the ABC newscast, that has been the most watched show on all of television as of late. The broadcast also premiered new graphics and finally returned to the renovated TV-3 studio which is its longtime home.

The version of the theme they are using is somewhat new. It’s not the same version as was used before 2012. Though it is not exactly new either. It’s a version that was recorded in 2002 by Edd Kalehoff but was not used at the time. You can listen to it here. For the opening headlines, World News Tonight still uses a cut from the previous package by Remote Control Productions.

I have some personal history with this theme. Through my sources I had obtained a copy of this theme back in 2002. To find out why it was not being used, I had contacted some people to find out more information on it. That was quickly met with an email and phone call from ABC’s legal department. Being a teenager at the time, that scared me quite a bit. But they couldn’t be more nice and supportive. They wanted me to know that I had to be careful in not hurting their interests. I took that to mean (don’t remember if they said it explicitly) they did not want me to post something which had not aired first. So I, of course, did not. It’s amazing that almost twenty years later, the theme does finally make it to air.

Evening newscasts returning to a classic theme from its past is not new. In 2011 the CBS Evening News went back to their 1987 theme.

It is a testament to the greatness of Edd Kalehoff as a composer. Though he did not compose the original theme (it’s by Robert Israel), all of the versions since the late nineties have been produced by him. That ABC returned to a version he composed years ago and not a new version, shows his music stands the test of time.


New on the site: ABC News Live (plus some personal news!)

A new addition to the website: the theme to ABC News Live. For the streaming news channel, composer Matthew Kajcienski composed a specific mnemonic. It’s embedded in a piece of sound design that is very layered and textured. Be sure to check it out!

Kajcienski was interviewed recently along with composer Michael Karp and yours truly for The Washington Post Magazine about election theme music. We discuss, among other things, what has changed in election music throughout the years and what it says about how the media portrays the upcoming election.

(As an aside, you can listen to all of the election music on Network News Music by clicking this link.)

And finally — some personal news. In the 2020 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records I am listed as the world record holder when it comes to curating the largest collection of news theme music. As of April last year, my collection totals 1,876 hours, 2 minutes and 52 seconds. That’s 80 days of straight listening before you hear something repeated. For those who have the book, I’m om page 76. Since I’m right below the guy with the most Muppet mementoes, you can be sure my collection is presented as a bit of an oddity. But I am nonetheless pleased to hold the world record in something.

After they approached me about possible inclusion in the book, it was actually quite a bit of work to tally up my collection. I had to list every piece of music and its duration in a GIANT spreadsheet. They then went through it more carefully than I would have expected. They asked me to take out some things which were not strictly news-related. That gave us the final tally above.

For those without the book, you can see the page here.


The new GMA theme: powerful and important but not orchestral

A little over a month ago, ABC’s Good Morning America debuted a new theme by Matthew Kajcienski of DreamArtists Music. It’s a different sound for the number one morning show. It carries a weight of importance, yet executives wanted to completely steer away from anything orchestral. “As mainly an orchestral/electronic composer, this was an interesting challenge in the way I normally approach orchestration,” Kajcienski told me. You can read more and listen to the theme here.


New election themes for ABC and NBC

The 2018 midterm elections were perhaps the most intensely covered midterms ever. Two broadcast networks introduced new theme music to brand their many hours of live coverage. ABC News debuted a completely new election theme by DreamArtists Music. It’s big, bold, urgent and orchestral.

NBC News debuted a new variation of their classic election theme by Michael Karp. They were used in addition to the main theme that was used in previous elections. The new variation extends the life of the theme that has been used by NBC in one way or another since 2004.


New additions: Today, Face the Nation and Stay Tuned

Great new music has been added to the website! I’ve finally been able to add the current open to NBC’s Today. (To be precise, they are currently using a slightly different mix – more brassy.) It’s composed by WCPM Custom. Also added to the archive is the new Face the Nation theme by Man Made Music.

Finally, we’ve broken some new ground. The first theme for a network news show developed exclusively for social media has been added. It’s for NBC’s Stay Tuned, composed by The Perch, a new L.A. based boutique studio headed by Matthew Kajcienski.


The theme carrying Nightline into its next chapter

A couple of weeks ago, ABC’s Nightline started using new theme music. It combines elements of EM, pop, and processed acoustic instruments. The theme is composed by Matthew Kajcienski and Adam Schoenberg. Listen to it here.


My marathon playlist tips

After my recent interview on Every Little Thing, the show asked me if I would be willing to share my playlist for running a marathon. Listeners were requesting it. I happily did so and they posted it on Twitter. It includes lot of news music, but also some other songs that I enjoy listening to.

Music provides great motivation for working out. Because I’ve spent a lot of time meticulously compiling my playlist, I wanted to share some tips on how you can compile your ultimate marathon playlist.

— Only include music you really like. There are times to experiment with music but running a marathon is not that time. At several points, when a song I loved started playing, it gave me an extra kick.

— Generally speaking, faster paced music is better for running. But when you’re running for a couple of hours straight, variation is also really important. That’s why I included some slower songs as well. (I sometimes listen to film scores but never while running.) Especially when a fast song comes on after a slower song, it gave me some extra motivation.

— My goal was to complete the marathon in 3 hours and 20 minutes and that’s how long my playlist was. If I did not meet my goal, there would be dead silence. I primarily wanted to give myself some extra motivation. But I also didn’t want to focus on not meeting my goal beforehand. (I ultimately finished in 3:18:42.)

— Beforehand I anticipated what would be tough spots in the marathon. Things get really tough after about 19 miles so I made sure I had some really great songs at that point in my playlist. Analyzing the course, there were some spots that would likely not have many spectators on the sidelines so that’s where music is more important as well. Based on the average speed that I expected to be running, I calculated when my absolute favorite songs would be most useful.

— I chose the song to cross the finish line with quite carefully but ultimately, it did not matter. Near the finish, there are so many spectators and lots of other things that produce noise, that it drowns out all the sound in your headphones. That’s of course what makes a marathon great. However, it makes the music for your last mile or so not that important.


Podcast does deep dive on news music

The podcast Every Little Thing from Gimlet Media did an episode on news music this week. I can really recommend it. The show’s premise is that it takes a trip down the rabbit hole to look closer at things that may seem mundane or simple but are actually extraordinary. Aside from lots of interesting facts about news music, host Flora Lichtman gets into the history of news music and discusses some of the potential downsides (how it helps ‘sell’ the news).

For the episode they interviewed me. In fact, I’m featured pretty prominently. Thanks to Flora and the great team at Gimlet for doing that! You’ll also hear from DreamArtists Music‘s Matthew Kajcienski and David Lowe, the genius behind the BBC News theme.

Listen to the episode on Gimlet’s site, on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.


ABC’s This Week debuts new theme

Earlier this month This Week debuted new theme music, once again composed by DreamArtists Music. The new theme has been added to this website.

It is quite a departure from the past. The theme to This Week has always been a particularly harmonic and melodic driven work. This time, according to Matthew Kajcienski of DreamArtists Music, ABC execs wanted a track in which the backbone was completely percussive-driven.

Alongside the new music, the opening graphics were completely revamped. As NewscastStudio notes, the new look has some visual connections to ABC’s political drama, Designated Survivor.

You can listen to the new theme here.


GMA debuts theme with a bigger, bolder sound

Good Morning America debuted a new theme a few weeks ago that has a bigger and bolder sound. With the addition of Michael Strahan as co-anchor, ABC was looking to replace the more pop-centered theme that debuted in late 2015.

The new theme is again composed by DreamArtists Music. The theme combines large-scale orchestral elements with electronics, a sound that DreamArtists Music is well known for creating in the ABC News division

You can listen to the new theme right here.


Michael Karp revises legendary NBC election theme

160115-decision-2016-mn-1000_3c14d6e5b6bf914eb9540e0bf6278236-nbcnews-fp-1200-800For the 2016 election composer Michael Karp revised his legendary election theme for NBC News. The original had been in use since 2004. Karp added a new thematic section, a new vamp section and other minor revisions. It was heard on NBC for the “Commander-In-Chief Forum” in September and is used on MSNBC throughout the day as the primary election theme. It has now been posted to Network News Music.

(Sidenote: you can browse all the election themes on this website when you follow this link.)

Two other themes have also been added to the website. You can now listen to the CBS News Nightwatch theme that was used in the last few years of the show’s existence. And the classic CBS News Special Report theme from the early 90s is now also on the site. Both are composed by Edd Kalehoff.


New CBS Evening News theme added

CBS Evening News 2016When the new CBS election theme premiered late last year, it was received very well. It is based around three orchestral stabs that are very memorable. Since last night it has become the main theme for the CBS Evening News. You can listen to the full theme right here on this website.

Along with the new music, the new opening includes footage from CBS journalists in the field and shots from the control room (including director TJ Asprea). The combination of the new music and graphics give the broadcast a more urgent feel. (See Scott Pelley’s report on the new theme.)

CBS wasn’t alone in commissioning a new election theme. NBC’s Today has used its own election theme since 2010. Their theme by Non-Stop Music has been updated.

The 2016 election is in full swing and that means we are hearing a lot of election themes on TV these days. Many can already be found on this website. In fact, you can see a list of all the election themes we have right here.

As a little bonus, here’s the CNN election theme. I have not been able to identify the composer. (Update 6/26/2020: It’s by Herb Avery!) The music was first used for the 2008 election.

Herb Avery – CNN Election Theme

Finally, there is also one non-election theme that has been added to the archive on this website. It’s the current theme for The View by Flavorlab.


GMA debuts new theme music on eve of 40th anniversary

abcgma15On the eve of the show’s 40th anniversary, ABC’s Good Morning America relaunched with a new theme music and graphics package. As with previous themes, Matthew Kajcienski of DreamArtists Music composed the music. This marks the first time in just under four years that the long running, top rated morning show switched themes.

The new music combines elements of contemporary pop and EM rhythms with a symphonic/concert music foundation for which DreamArtists and Kajcienski is known.

They have been keeping busy at DreamArtists Music. Kajcienski won an Emmy this summer for a branding piece he wrote for Hearst Television stations. Also, in partnership with Springboard Tracks, Kajcienski created the feature branding campaign song for the ABC Television Network. A full length version of the song – featuring vocalist/song writer Taylor Carroll – will be released soon by ABC and will be available for download.

Update: The theme has been added to the website. You can listen to it here.