Fox Sports’ use of jam band music during some Major League Baseball games has fans — and some band members — lighting up social media. “It kind of became a thing,” says Joe Carpenter, the lead audio mixer for Fox Sports.
Fans watching the recent MLB All Star game in July heard some of Hendrix’s All Along the Watchtower and a little Althea from the Grateful Dead.
The musical interludes are called bumps, short segues that take the viewers from the action on the field into the commercial breaks.
What music is played is at the discretion of the audio mixer, up to a point.
Joe Carpenter is the lead audio mixer for Fox Sports. He’s in charge of everything viewers hear at home: “all the effects, announcers, music and everything. I am the final mix.”
In terms of music though, he can’t play anything he wants, like he used to back in the day.
These days, he has to submit requests for the music he wants to play to ensure the tracks get approved through the music department.
“As long as you don’t edit your video to the music, and it all falls under the ephemeral dealing with ASCAP and BMI,” Carpenter says. “You can use any kind of needle drop stuff.”
During the World Series in October 2020, “we started playing a lot of Grateful Dead and it caught on because of social media,” he says. “It kind of became a thing.”
According to an internal story that month on FoxSports.com, Bob Weir, one of the founding members of the Grateful Dead, was quoted as saying, “The World Series is goin’ on as I write this. And, needless to say, my phone is lighting up.”
Carpenter is an avowed Deadhead, and during the 2020 World Series, he played a significant number of Grateful Dead and Phish tracks, bands he likes. “It started out as a selfish kind of thing,” he says. “But then I began to see that it worked great on the broadcast and that a lot of people were talking about it.”
We are everywhere…
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 29, 2020
Carpenter says he usually has prepared dozens of songs along with video that “are all edited to go and can be played at any time instantly, just whatever I’m feeling.”
In addition, he has to be ready to go with a cut of music over live footage of the game as the broadcast goes into a commercial break.
“Once that third out is made, we are playing some kind of music,” Carpenter says.
It’s important that the music Carpenter chooses doesn’t compete with the announcer talking.
“Instrumental is key, and that’s what the jam band music is all about,” he says.
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