How To Use Music Beds On Your Show

 In Blog

By Angela Perelli 

Randy and I are going to devote the next few posts to production values — stagers, beds, show opens, promos, etc. If you have any specific questions about production elements, comment below and we’ll try to include your question in a future post. 

Today let’s talk music beds. 

Why use music beds? 

Music beds can help lift the energy of a break and add dynamics. Music stagers for features establish a signature that adds entertainment value and memorability. Familiar, funny “mood” songs like “Mission: Impossible,” “Let’s Get It On” or the “People’s Court” theme, for example, cue a specific emotion (suspense, romance, etc.) that primes the audience. Beds during contests add drama and tension.  

Here are some basic rules of thumb for using music beds. 

~ Let the music establish for a beat before you start talking. 

~ Never use a music bed with vocals. It’s like two people talking at the same time. You will compete with the lyrics for the listener’s attention. 

~ Use a bed that is repetitive. Stay away from music with horns, foreground guitar licks and changes in the music (chords, tempo) that will take attention away from what is being said. 

~ Avoid beds under callers (outside of contests). It’s already challenging enough to hear a caller due to phone quality and background noise. A bed adds to the noise. 

~ This might be rare, but just a caveat…Watch out for using licensed songs for commercials or anything with a commercial tag. We got sued by Herbie Hancock at KYSR/Los Angeles for using US3’s Cantaloop (a great bed, by the way!!) for traffic reports because of the sponsor tag. You know we couldn’t give up the tag so we had to stop using the song. 

~ Stay away from beds (especially looping a song intro!) from popular current songs. “Blurred Lines” has a great bass line but if you use it as a bed, listeners will be frustrated you’re not playing the song. Try listening to the whole CD of a popular artist to see if there are beds from other unreleased songs. 

~ And just for Randy and me, just because we are asking nicely, please stop using the Jeopardy theme for your trivia contest. Maybe it’s just a pet peeve, but there has got to be a more contemporary song to use! 

~ This recommendation is the most controversial: Once the segment is established (8-10 seconds), fade the bed. This is particularly important outside of features when you, or a listener, might be telling a story. Steve Jobs never used a podium. Good managers step out from behind their desk to have a conversation. These are barriers to connecting. So are music beds. Beds can take away from a story’s impact by hiding raw emotion — pauses, non-verbal sounds like sighs or even a crack in one’s voice. A good story with no bed is impactful. Pauses and silence make people lean in toward their radio. 

Do you run music under entire breaks? What are your favorite beds to use to establish a particular mood or scene?

Learn more about Angela Perelli.


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