Themes from ‘NBC News’

“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 in its entirety. 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 which NBC used for the 2004, 2006 and 2008 elections. Decision 2004 was the last election anchored by Tom Brokaw who retired days later from NBC Nightly News. He anchored from a huge set built on and around Rockefeller Plaza (which was temporarily renamed Democracy Plaza). MSNBC started using this theme again in 2012 for its election coverage and continues to use it in the 2016 election.

Michael Karp Music - 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. 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 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. In 2007 the headline bed dropped the first three opening notes.

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 a beautiful piece of music. Tom Brokaw anchored, in what was one of his last major broadcasts as NBC’s lead anchor before his retirement.

Michael Karp Music - 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. And they certainly made use of that time. All networks built special sets, designed special graphics and commissioned special themes. But the real costs of covering war lie in sending reporters to the front lines and making sure they are protected (think of body guards and armored vehicles). This theme, by Michael Karp, was used during the initial days of the war on NBC and MSNBC.

Michael Karp Music - 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. However, promo music can still be pretty good!

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 real Today Show.

Michael Karp Music - 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 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. Today is actually the most profitable program on television, which is probably why it keeps expanding. During the use of this promo package, Today expendad to an extra hour. In 2000 Today added a third hour. In 2005 the America’s First Family-campaign was dropped in favor of “Live for Today” by country singer Phil Vassar and Randy Wachtler of 615 Music.

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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“Today” 1997 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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“Decision 1996/1998/2000/2002” Theme


This theme has been used for coverage of the 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2002 elections. Generally the broadcast networks go all out for general elections and special graphics, sets and themes are to be expected. This theme is composed by Non-Stop Music, which had already done some bumpers for Today and themes for MSNBC (as well as many, many other great themes for television).

Non-Stop Music - Decision theme

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“Dateline NBC” 1994 – 2005 Theme


In 1994 Dateline NBC commissioned Michael Karp to compose a new theme for them. The result is one of the best themes for a news magazine. It started being used around the time that Dateline moved to a new studio. For the first few years the program was broadcast from the set of NBC Nightly News. But when Today moved to their current street side studio, Dateline took over their old studio on the third floor of Rockefeller Center. For most of the time that this theme was used, Stone Phillips and Jane Pauley co-anchored the program. After Pauley retired in 2003, Ann Curry was added as a co-host in 2005.

Michael Karp Music - Dateline theme

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