The professionals at Stephen Arnold know news music. The creatives at Cox’s TV stations in Boston and Memphis, not so much. The two groups found the perfect collaborative synergy with Stream, a new news music package both stations are using.
The timing was perfect for a new news music package being developed at Stephen Arnold Music and two Cox-owned Fox affiliates: WFXT Boston and WHBQ Memphis.
“It was the stars lining up,” says Chad Cook, VP creative services at Stephen Arnold. “Two sister stations talking to us about something new and fresh. We were already in development on a new package that lined up very closely with what they were wanting, so we developed a package with their input.”
That collaboration led them to Stream, the latest news music package from Stephen Arnold airing on the two Cox stations.
But getting all three to speak the same language when it comes to how the new music would sound and how it would make people feel became an interesting challenge.
The musically inclined at Stephen Arnold spoke of innovative, stylized guitar textures, tonal arpeggios and sonification.
And the stations?
“I didn’t know what I wanted,” says Mike Newman, WHBQ’s creative services director. “I love music. But I am not a music person, so I can’t just describe anything.”
“Me, neither” Levy says. “Music is difficult for anyone and Mike and I could have had completely opposite tastes. It’s just a preference.”
Newman and Levy both wanted music that was modern, energetic and multiplatform friendly, “so we talked to them together,” Cook says.
Levy wanted the music “to make that connection. We want the emotion. Emotion was a word we used a lot.”
Newman says Cook sent them both questions about the feel, tone and emotions they were looking for.
To help them find those qualities musically, Cook sent them examples from the Stephen Arnold library of news music. It was a good start considering Stephen Arnold has produced easily over 1,000 music packages “for sports, entertainment, international, local stations and cable news,” Cook says.
“They sent us literally packages from all over the world,” Newman says.
That began a back and forth to find and whittle down those musical moments the stations were looking for.
“I would be like, I don’t think it’s upbeat enough,” Levy says.
Newman says they listened to possibly a hundred different tracks. “We have notes, I like how upbeat these drums are or I like how the guitar is melodic in this one,” he says.
But television is a visual medium, and only when Newman and Levy added their graphics to the music examples they liked did real progress begin.
“That is when it really started to come together,” Newman says.
Even when the music sounded right, “you have to see how you feel about it visually,” Levy says.
Eventually, a consensus was formed, and Stream became a fully-produced music package for both stations.
However, changing the news music a station has used for years can be startling both inside and outside the station.
Levy says she wanted to make sure the station thought the new music was an improvement and had a clever plan to demonstrate that to insiders there.
“I played our old music and then I played our new music right after, and that showed the dramatic difference I was looking for,” Levy says.
Newman says after the new music launched, “one of our main evening anchors e-mailed me to say how much she liked it. She felt it really picked her up.”
Levy says throughout the process, the folks at Stephen Arnold were receptive to the stations. “For someone to really listen to you, take the time and work with you, that was fantastic.”
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