Themes from ‘NBC News’

“Today” 2005 – 2006 Promo


Country music artist Phil Vassar wrote Live For Today together with his wife Julie and Randy Wachtler, president of 615 Music, a Nashville company that composed music for television. It was selected from hundreds of demos for use as a promo on Today. The song received an Emmy-nomination.

Phil Vassar – Live For Today

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“Today” Current Bumper


This Copland-esque theme — think Hoedown from Rodeo — is part of the 2004 update of The Mission. It was originally intended for a possible Tom Brokaw-anchored news magazine prior to his retirement from Nightly News. The program, however, never came about and so the theme was never used as a main theme. In the late 2000’s it was used occasionally as a bumper for the Today Show, usually for NBC’s Education Nation segments.

John Williams – Untitled Part of The Mission

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“Decision 2004/2006/2008” Theme


Election themes don’t get much better than this. Michael Karp composed this theme for the 2004 presidential election on NBC. Since then it has become a staple of NBC’s election coverage. While a new theme was composed in 2010, Karp’s music remained in use on MSNBC. In 2018 the theme once again became the main theme for coverage on NBC. It’s a beloved theme.

Michael Karp – Decision 2004 theme

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“Early Today” 2004 – 2013 Theme


In 2004 Early Today received a complete makeover. MSNBC took over production of the show and it shifted focus from financial news to general news. Subsequently Early Today got new graphics, a new theme and a new anchor. In fact, since 2004 anchors changes have been frequent. Natalie Morales, Amy Robach, Contessa Brewer and Kristine Johnson have all anchored the program. The theme is composed by Savage & Laporta. In 2013 Early Today’s look was updated to match the Today Show.

Savage & Laporta – Early Today theme

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“Meet the Press” 2004 – 2011 Theme


This is the very subtly updated Part IV of The Mission, used for Meet the Press and special reports. As the longest running program on television, Meet the Press often digs into its vast archives in a segment called “Meet the Press Minute”. Usually its a historical clip related to the events of the present day. In 2011 John Williams was again commissioned to do a (small) refresh of The Mission. The changes are again subtle.

John Williams – Meet the Press theme

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“NBC Nightly News” Current Theme


In 2004 after the general election, veteran anchor Tom Brokaw retired from NBC News. The transition had been announced long in advance and so successor Brian Williams was carefully introduced to the viewers. As part of the transition Nightly News updated its classic theme, The Mission, along with the graphics and set. No big changes — all debuting in the days before Brokaw left. The updated version of The Mission was recorded in October of 2004 in Culver City, CA and featured a 100-piece orchestra conducted by famed composer John Williams. NBC News commissioned an update to the classic theme because they wanted a slightly crisper and cleaner sound. Furthermore, to better preserve the music, the new theme was recorded digitally. The new Mission package also includes three unused themes for future use. The theme you are listening to is the full length main theme of The Mission, used as a close on Nightly News.

John Williams – NBC Nightly News close

The opening sequence to Nightly News was also revamped in 2004, at first returning to what NBC considered the roots of The Mission with a softer headline bed, but quickly abandoning it in favor of the old percussion-heavy cue.

John Williams – NBC Nightly News open

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“State Funeral of Ronald Reagan” Music


For the state funeral of former president Ronald Reagan, NBC chose this solemn piece composed by Michael Karp. It’s called Requiem. Tom Brokaw anchored, in what was one of his last major broadcasts as NBC’s lead anchor before stepping down as anchor of Nightly News.

Michael Karp – State Funeral of Ronald Reagan

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“Operation: Iraqi Freedom” Theme


The 2003 war in Iraq had a long and protracted build up to it. This meant that news organizations had ample time to get ready. All networks built special sets, designed custom graphics and commissioned appropriate theme music. Major news is a branding opportunity for news organizations. This theme, by Michael Karp, was used during the initial days of the war on NBC and MSNBC.

Michael Karp – Operation: Iraqi Freedom theme

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“NBC Nightly News” 2003 Promo


This promo is called “NBC Nightly News Hard & Fast”. It was used to promote a feature report on the next edition of Nightly News. Aside from main themes, networks commission promo material from a composer that they have under contract as a music producer. While promos usually feature the signature of the main theme, they are produced more cheaply: fewer live instruments and more synthesizers. And while main themes can be used for decades, promo music is refreshed every few years.

Man Made Music – NBC Nightly News promo music

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“Chris Matthews Show” 2002 – 2009 Theme


The Chris Matthews Show is a half-hour show airing on Sunday mornings that debuted in 2002 and focusses on politics. It consists of the roundtable format that the network public affairs shows have pioneered and perfected. However, the panelists are almost exclusively journalists, not politicians or political professionals. The show is produced by NBC News but is syndicated, meaning that it doesn’t necessarily air on NBC affiliated stations. The theme music is by Man Made Music.

Man Made Music – Chris Matthews Show theme

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“Later Today” Theme


Later Today was the second installment of the Today franchise that was created in 1999. It aired at 9 a.m. (in most markets), right after the Today Show. It was a talk show focusing on women hosted by Jodi Applegate, Asha Blake and Florence Henderson. Henderson may be best known as Carol Brady, she was actually a “Today-girl” in the late 1950’s. Later Today lasted only one season and was replaced by an extra hour of the Today Show.

Michael Karp – Later Today theme

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“Early Today” 1999 – 2004 Theme


In 1999 NBC replaced the long running News at Sunrise with Early Today, seeking to extend the strong Today-brand. This is not the first time that time slot was occupied by a newscast named Early Today. From 1982 to 1983 the peacock network also used this title for its early morning newscast. The current incarnation, during the period in which this theme was used, was produced by CNBC and focused on financial and business news. Because of this, the show had similar graphics as the main CNBC network and Early Today was taped at CNBC headquarters. The show was anchored by CNBC’s Nanette Hansen. The theme is by JSM Music.

JSM Music – Early Today theme

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“Today” 1998 – 2005 Promo


This is a well-known promo campaign used for a number of years: America’s First Family. It is composed by Jay Stollman, Fred Shehadi, Frank Radice and Peter Primamore. Many local stations had their own version of this promo campaign for their own morning news. When this promo was in use, Today was the most watched and most profitable program on all of television. During the use of this promo package, Today expendad to three hours.

Kingsize Music – America’s First Family

Before the third hour of Today, there was Later Today. They used a different theme, set and anchors, but had their own version of the promo above.

Kingsize Music – America’s First Family (Later Today version)

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“Nightside” 1997 – 1998 Theme


NBC Nightside was NBC’s second overnight newscast. The program started in 1991 and was produced in Charlotte, North Carolina by the NBC News Channel. That is not the same as MSNBC. It is the service, comparable to a wire service, that provides customized reports and video of national news to NBC affiliates. Some of Nightside’s many anchors included Antonia Mora and Campbell Brown. While the program was financially profitable and did well in the ratings, it was discontinued in 1999 because NBC wanted to use the overnight timeslot to air repeats of their late night comedy shows. The theme is composed by Michael Karp.

Michael Karp – NBC News Nightside theme

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“Today” 1997 – 1998 Promo


Start With Today is composed by Jay Stollman, Fred Shehadi and Peter Primamore, then of Kingsize Music, and was used in many promos for NBC’s Today Show. The show has a long and proud history. It was created in 1952 by Sylvester “Pat” Weaver who was vice president of NBC in charge of television and revolutionized the new medium. He created programs in which the sponsors could buy ad time as opposed to the old radio format in which sponsors owned shows, dictated their content and sometimes even their time slots. Weaver brought American television the Today and Tonight Shows and proved that people would watch TV at all times of the day. The first host of the Today Show was Dave Garroway. His sidekick van J. Fred Muggs, was a chimpanzee. While that may be unthinkable today, one thing isn’t different. Back then they also used a street side studio. So both when this promo aired and in 1952, they had a ‘window on the world’, as the lyrics say.

Many different versions were made of the Start With Today tune. This is a later production that includes the America’s First Family brand into the lyrics.

Kingsize Music – Start with Today

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