Themes from ‘NBC News’

“Top Story w/Tom Llamas” Theme

“Top Story w/Tom Llamas” is the primetime news show on the NBC News Now platform. The theme is produced by Current Music, with composers Matthew Sikora and Elizabeth Forde. Current Music, a boutique custom music and licensing house, has created 25 news, sports and talk show theme packages as of September 2021. The founders, Christian Salyer and Maddie Madsen, have over 50 years experience combined in the custom music and licensing space. They started Current Music in 2013.

Current Music – Top Story w/Tom Llamas theme

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“The Vote” 2018 Theme

For the 2018 midterm election, NBC went back to the theme that is since 2004 most closely associated with its election coverage. Composer Michael Karp did some additional versions of the election theme for NBC and MSNBC that were used in addition to the 2016 versions. The longevity of the theme is amazing. NBC did, however, replace it’s longtime Decision moniker with new branding: “The Vote: America’s Future”

Michael Karp – The Vote theme

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“Stay Tuned” Current Theme

Stay Tuned is NBC News’ twice-a-day show on Snapchat, YouTube and Instagram. The theme was composed by The Perch, a new L.A. based boutique studio. Lead composer Matthew Kajcienski explained to us that it took quite a different approach when compared to writing for network or cable news shows. Because it airs on a social media platform, the audience will likely be watching the show on a smartphone, which means reduced audio quality. “From a sonic perspective, we had to keep in mind how certain orchestration, musical range, and instrumental sonorities perform when listening on such devices, ” according to Kajcienski.

Form was also a rather big departure from most other news shows. Stay Tuned is an incredibly condensed newscast, lasting only about two minutes. The theme package consists of four versions of the theme that convey different moods for different stories and an extensive set of short, transitional tracks (“the glue”). “With such a condensed broadcast format, quick transitions, and abrupt advertising breaks (especially), the theme had to be extremely flexible in how it could be edited together, yet with so many musical components, blend together seamlessly as not to feel like the music is chopped up into little pieces,” explains Kajcienski.

The Perch – Stay Tuned theme

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“Decision 2016” Theme

For the 2016 election, composer Michael Karp revised his legendary NBC election theme that has been on the air since 2004. It includes an entirely new thematic section, a new vamp section and other minor updates. In addition to MSNBC and CNBC, NBC also uses it for various election events such as “The Commander-in-Chief Forum”.

Michael Karp – NBC Decision 2016 theme

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“Today” 2016 Election Theme

During the 2016 election, Today continues to use its own election theme. This theme is not used by any other NBC News program. It’s composed by Adam Gubman for Non-Stop Music. The new music builds on the music that Today used since 2010 to introduce their election coverage.

WCPM Custom – Today election theme

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“Today” Current Open

Just shy of 30 years after its introduction, the Today Show replaced its iconic opener composed by John Williams. The new theme, which has a more modern feel but remains orchestral in nature, is by the custom music division of Warner/Chappell Production Music. NBC attempted twice before — in 1994 and 2004 — to replace the Today’s opening fanfare. Those times it quickly returned. This time around, the new music had a much better reception.

WCPM Custom’s music was gradually introduced to viewers. It’s essentially a variation of the music that Today had already been using for elections and other special broadcasts. Meanwhile, Williams’ music was relegated to just the 7 a.m. open. Bumpers, promos and opens for the other three hours, had been using different music for quite some time. This particular mix was used until 2015, after which point they started using a slightly remixed version.

WCPM Custom – Today open

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“Rock Center” 2012 – 2013 Theme

This news magazine is named after the location of NBC News headquarters in the GE Building at 30 Rockefeller Center. It’s NBC’s first new news magazine since Now with Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric debuted in 1993. Rock Center is more serious than Dateline NBC which primarily focusses on crime. Rock Center also covers more topics whereas Dateline features just one story these days. While critics consider Rock Center a smart show, viewers didn’t like it as much. It was cancelled in 2013. This is the show’s second opening theme. It’s a more dramatic and serious version of the original open.

Gordon Miller – Rock Center theme

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“Today” 2012 – 2013 Headline Bed

On the same day that Good Morning America debuted a new theme, Today debuted a new headline bed. It has more of a driving beat to it than the previous version. Today also debuted new graphics and…a new open. But the new open mostly went unnoticed. In late 2011 John Williams re-recorded the open for Today in digital audio. At the same a new version of the Meet the Press theme was recorded. However, unlike the Meet the Press theme which saw significant changes, the Today open wasn’t changed that much, if at all.

Non-Stop Music – Today headline bed

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“Today” 2011 Royal Theme

For the wedding of Britain’s Prince William and Kate Middleton in April 2011, the Today Show went all out with their coverage. The show broadcast from just outside Buckingham Palace in London for six hours straight. For the occasion, Today commissioned their go-to composers, Adam Gubman and Non-Stop Music, for a piece of special theme music. In the years after the wedding, the theme was brought back for other major news events from the British royal family.

Non-Stop Music – Today Royal Wedding open

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“Today” 2010 – 2015 Election Open

While all NBC News programs use the same graphics for their election coverage, they don’t all use the same theme music. Today has used its own election theme since 2010. It’s part of a package consisting of various secondary themes by Adam Gubman for Non-Stop Music. This particular cut was also used to open the 60th anniversary special edition of Today. During that broadcast the Empire State Building was lit in the colors of Today and anchor Ann Curry wore a dress with the Today sunburst prominently displayed on it.

Non-Stop Music – Today election open

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“Decision 2010/2012/2014/2016” Theme

After using Michael Karp’s election theme for several election cycles, NBC went into a totally different direction in 2010. This election theme is more understated and has a cinematic sound. You might be surprised to learn that the music is done in-house. Gordon Miller is the music director for MSNBC. Along with the election theme, he also composed the music for the news magazine Rock Center.

Gordon Miller – Decision 2010 theme

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“Chris Matthews Show” 2009 – 2013 Theme

In 2009 the Chris Matthews Show received a new theme. It’s written by John Williams and is part of the 2004 update he did of The Mission, his theme for NBC News. This particular cut, which you can hear below in full, was intended as the new theme for NBC Nightly News. In fact, the last 15 seconds are indeed used for Nightly. However the opening fanfare in the front part was not used. When the Chris Matthews Show started using it, it became the first non-NBC News program to use The Mission. As a syndicated program, the Chris Matthews does not air exclusively on NBC affiliates.

John Williams – Chris Matthews Show theme

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“Today” 2006 Promo

Another image campaign for the Today Show by the folks at 615 Music. This one was used to promote Meredith Vieira’s debut as co-anchor of Today in 2006. Customized versions (with partially local lyrics) were done for a number of NBC stations, including those in Atlanta, Miami and San Diego.

615 Music – It’s A New Day

Interestingly enough, a version of this campaign was also created with the tagline: “It’s a new hour of Today”. The decision to add a fourth hour was not yet announced, probably not even made, but they did commission the music to promote it. Ultimately a new promo was composed to promote the fourth hour when it debuted a year after this promo music stopped airing.

615 Music – It’s A New Hour of Today

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“Today” 2006 – 2013 Open

In 2006 Today debuted a new open for the first time in more than 20 years. The music was part of John Williams’ 2004 revision of The Mission but Today opted not to use the new open until a few years later. The new open is 10 seconds longer than the original open. It was extended to cover the full announce, including the last part: “…live from Studio 1A in Rockefeller Plaza.” The new open also has a somewhat mellower sound due to less brass, making it a better fit for a morning program. In late 2011 the open was actually re-recorded in digital audio by Williams and his orchestra, along with the Meet the Press theme. However, unlike the Meet the Press theme, the changes for Today are barely noticeable. (The version below is the 2004 version.)

John Williams – Today open

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“Today” 2005 – 2012 Headline Bed

For many years Today had a cold open in which an anchor quickly teased a few stories. It lasted about 10 or 15 seconds while no music played. But like any other news program, Today wanted to tease more stories at the top to keep viewers tuned in longer. With that change came this headline bed which is composed by the folks at Non-Stop Music. These days the headline segments lasts significantly longer: about a minute.

Non-Stop Music – Today headline bed

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