When you watch the news, usually the first thing you hear in the report isn’t any type of news, it’s a song, or the news program’s theme song. It signals that something important is about to happen. Each TV news program in America can be defined by their theme, rather it’s the famous 60 minutes tick, or the ABC Nightly News. So why and how do news networks choose their theme song?
A website called Network News Music offers the biggest news collection themed songs on the planet. The collection made it into the Guinness Book of World Records, holding 1,876 hours, 2 minutes and 52 seconds of news music. The owner of the website, Victor Vlam, has been collecting news music since he was a child. On Vlam’s website he explains the reason why he started collecting news music; it was simple, he wanted to showcase the most memorable news theme music of the past and present.
Some news music can be nostalgic for people; such as hearing a particular news theme song in the background of your family’s house growing up. Part of it being familiarity, hearing a news theme in the chaotic world can be a stable fixture in today’s world. Does America’s themed news music differ from other parts of the world? Vlam said American themes are usually more old school, with big trumpets and big sound. If you think about the NBC Nightly news theme, it was recorded with a 200-piece orchestra. According to Network News Music ,the NBC Nightly News was composed by John Williams, the famous movie composer who also did the music for Star Wars, Jaws and ET. The theme song has been used since 1986.
Fox local news’ theme went in a different direction. Fox News uses more patriotic guitar solos in their theme music. But it communicates a lot of urgency, grabbing the attention of the viewers. And as Vlam said, “theme music is a tone-setter. The primary reason newscasts need a theme is brand recognition.”
“You know you’re watching ABC News when you hear the four-note signature that used to open every single one of their programs,” Vlam continued.
Well, what makes a good theme song? According to a Harvard study, music can be the one commonality in the world despite our differences. Vlam said the most important thing is it needs to grab your attention. Whatever you’re doing, the melody needs to notify you that it’s going to start, and to even get excited. Vlam wrote on his website, “news music is rarely heard without voice-overs or fade outs to commercials, yet it leaves an impact on many people.”
The Broadside has gathered that news theme songs can take you emotionally to different places. Some are joyful and loud, and others are urgent and laser beamesque. There is real art behind the music, transforming you to a place, even with a simple news song.