Are You Discounting Music Beds?

 In Blog

Film and television spend mega dollars and a ton of time selecting music that helps set a mood and tell a story in every scene. Curb Your Enthusiasm editor, Steve Rasch says of the show’s theme music (Frolic by Luciano Michelini), “It’s this enjoyable circus track that has good energy and counterbalances the sour humor in the show. Music is our tool to bring the mood back up and cue the audience to laugh.”

In his recent blog Make or Break Your Show With Production, Jeff McHugh noted radio’s convention of running generic music beds under conversations was designed to increase the perceived energy and pacing of content segments. Generic beds unrelated to the mood or the subject matter, create a barrier between you and the audience.

Radio and podcast shows that intentionally select music beds to set a mood and match the topic create a emotional listener experience. Let’s look at several instances where music beds enhance or detract from content execution.

Dos and Don’ts of using music beds:

  • Many CHR and Urban Contemporary radio stations in particular run music beds under all talent content segments. When we suggest they discontinue that practice, the personalities sound more real, intimate, and one-to-one.
  • A morning talent recently asked me, “If we’re talking about Taylor Swift, should we play a quick clip or run one of her songs underneath our conversation?” The quick clip is more effective because having a song with vocals playing under a conversation is not only distracting, but you will also be competing with the vocals for the listener’s attention.
  • Avoid beds under callers (outside of contests). It’s challenging to hear many callers due to poor cell phone quality and background noise.
  • Generic music beds diminish authenticity, however, in PPM markets, music beds are necessary under conversations to maintain listening credit. Your engineer can set the volume at the lowest level that holds the meters.
  • Avoid foreground music beds with driving drumbeats, guitar licks, and horns. They divide and distract the audience’s attention.
  • Signature music stagers trigger listeners that a popular benchmark is beginning. They establish a mood of fun, suspense, or drama. Listen to how Dave and Dorene at WKLH Milwaukee use the old Dragnet theme in their Dairyland Dumbass feature. 
  • At the beginning of NPR’s stock market report, they start with a clip of either We’re in the Money or Stormy Weather. You immediately know whether the market is up or down.

Photo by Marius Masalar on Unsplash

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