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Use of production music on broadcast and cable TV reaches new heights: Study

Nearly half of all the music played on American broadcast and cable TV is production music, according to a new study by music data company BMAT.

The survey, commissioned by the Production Music Association, looked at 47 high-rated channels including broadcast networks ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and the CW; and cable channels including A&E, CNN, Discovery, Disney, ESPN, Food Network, Fox News, HGTV, Lifetime, MTV, National Geographic, Nickelodeon, TBS, Telemundo, Univision and USA. Non-advertiser-supported pay cable and streaming services were not included.

The survey, done in February and March of this year, indicated that music was used in 39% of the total airtime, and that 46% of that music originated in production music companies or music libraries.

Production music, formerly known as “stock music,” is specifically composed for use in media productions, typically as part of a catalog of music made available for immediate licensing, and where the publisher and recording owner are the same. It can be written specifically for a series but unlike conventional scoring, is generally not tailored to specific scenes.

Other findings included: music used in ads, promos and trailers made up 20% of the total when music was present; production music is used 6.5 times more than commercial music on broadcast and cable; and that commercial music accounts for only 7% of total usage.

Interestingly, the highest numbers of music usage were in lifestyle, documentary and reality channels like Investigation Discovery (present in 67% of all airtime), Oxygen True Crime (61%), Food Network (60%), Outdoor Channel (58%) and TruTV (55%).

The trend was reversed for channels telecasting mostly news and talk shows. Among channels where music was used the least were MSNBC (no music present 90% of the time), Fox News (88%), BET (81%) and CNBC (80%).

Commercial music (that is, commercially available tunes not originally written for the programs) constituted only 7% of total music on the air, with the remaining 47% labeled as “unclassified,” including commissioned music, film and TV scores, and catalogs owned by the broadcasters.

Production music was deemed “highly predominant” in lifestyle, reality and sports channels including Outdoor Channel (75%), Magnolia Network (68%), ESPN (66%), NFL Network) (63%) and Food Network (60%).

“The BMAT study is a powerful demonstration of the value and importance of production music to the television and advertising industries,” said Adam Taylor, president of APM Music and chairman of the Production Music Association. “Production music is specifically written in service of the moving image, and it is clear that our music plays a vital role in the success of modern programming.”

Added Morgan McKnight, executive director of the PMA: “The findings of this survey validate that production music is the dominant source of music on broadcast and cable TV, making up almost half of all music usage. This study firmly establishes our industry as an integral part of the media landscape, while confirming what we’ve known intuitively for years.”

Joe Saba, co-founder of VideoHelper and vice chairman of the PMA, noted that “the creative level of libraries has risen dramatically over the last decade, becoming just one of the reasons why so many of the world’s most successful companies choose production music. On the tech side, production music has led the way in many areas, including YouTube monetization, music search, digital music detection, and even AI-based music categorization.”

PMA executives said they plan to continue this study on an annual basis, tracking production music usage regularly. Variety

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