Want some musical inspiration for your next show? Televisual asked production music libraries to suggest track ideas for seven hypothetical programme ideas.

It’s never easy choosing the right music for a production. Music is so subjective that programme makers can seriously disagree about the right choice – a director may love a track, while the editor may not.

One thing is certain though. With budgets under pressure, cost effective production music is becoming increasingly important. But where to get the right track from? In this article, we’ve sought to showcase some of the places you can turn to. We have come up with seven hypothetical programme ideas – across docs, formats, drama, commercials and corporate.

We put these (fictional) programme ideas to production music libraries so they could suggest which of their tracks might work best – and to explain the reason for each choice. We’ve not published costs of the music as some broadcasters will cover music in their blanket agreement. Otherwise, many companies will follow the PRS rate card.

Click on the track links to hear the music in full.

Primetime documentary series
This brand new rig show is set in a London fire station. With cameras placed all around the station, it reveals the challenges and realities of life as a fireman in 2015.

Reliable Source Music
Music suggested: Traction (Album Style Rebels)
Why suitable “A catchy pop-rock track with a great intro that then builds with a slightly aggressive feel evoking the feeling of urgency. It even features a distant sounding siren, but not in an obvious cheesy in your face way!”

Addictive Tracks
Music suggested Hunters B
Why suitable “This is a fast and hard beat to reflect a job that is equally so. The driving rhythm creates a sense of energy and urgency whilst the urban feel evokes the imposing atmosphere of the big city.”

JW Media Music
Music suggested The Last Echo from album SW011 Minima in Switch library
Why suitable “This track adds great punctuation to the drama of being a fire fighter. A very simple repeated figure, this track would work in the same vein as the punctuation motif used in the hit C4 doc Royal Marines Commando School. Not overpowering, very thoughtful and reflective of the drama and risks involved.”

Travel/history series
An acclaimed historian travels to the battlefields of the Napoleonic War, using state of the art digital technology to recreate the key battles of the conflict.

Addictive Tracks
Music suggested Srebrenica B
Why suitable “Picture the scene of two grand armies approaching each other through the morning mist whilst a groan of ominous strings is heard overhead.  This track transcends effortlessly through classical and modern, tying together the historical and technological elements of the piece.”

De Wolfe Music
Music suggested Ice Flow 3 Julian Scott
Why suitable “While I would want to choose music to reflect the scenes of war, it can’t be too overpowering. You want to be able to hear and understand the history as told by the experts, so let’s not steal their thunder with over-the-top music. This track is subtle, poignant and understated, yet the morbid bass drum effectively reflects war or a battle aftermath of some kind.”

Dynamic Music
Music suggested Chasewerk
Why suitable “Its driving beat creates an atmosphere of urgency leading into battle. The tune employs a strong string section which can be seen as sensitive to the Napoleonic period where Beethoven was composing his large symphonies.”

Antiques daytime
Expert presenters scour the nation’s attics, sheds and garages for forgotten antiques and then help their owners to get the best possible price at auction.

Music suggested A Sneaking Feeling (Vincent Webb SYNC_5106), Paper Planes (Vincent Webb SYNC_5112)
Why suitable “Using something light, sneaky and playful creates the feeling of excitement and curiosity for what may be discovered. The quirky nature of the music also lends itself to the mix of objects often found on these shows. A mix of tuned percussion and pizzicato strings.”

Music suggested Happy Song (BNB056 # 031); Make or Break (INSD005#5); Dreamers (LQC026 #037)
Why suitable “All are musical beds made for TV to allow for storytelling voiceover. The music reflects the scenes. 1. Finding old treasures, optimistic about making some money. 2. Auction – tension, will it sell, will we get a good price? 3. Euphoric (hopefully) at going home with cash!”

9 Lives Music
Music suggested Auction Time and Curious Cat (NLM070 Wonderful & Eccentric)
Why suitable “Music from this album was produced for daytime TV, light entertainment programmes. The tracks are quirky and curious comedy featuring a lot of pizzicato, edging onto the dramedy category. The music is a little eccentric like many of the presenters!”

This cheeky, irreverent ad for a new price comparison site seeks to introduce the service to the UK public.

EMI Production Music
Music suggested Chicken Wax Supreme (a)’ (KPM 913)
Why suitable “This cheeky, positive ska groove complements the nature of the commercial perfectly. The fresh, sunny brass bounces consistently throughout without being too overbearing or taking anything away from the primary message. Plus, brass is so hot right now…”

Universal Publishing Production Music
Music suggested Gold Digger from the album Dramedy 2 – The Sequel Label: Hollywood Music
Why suitable “The classic light-hearted ‘dramedy’ style of Gold Digger portrays the irreverent and cheeky feel for the ad. The instrumentation promotes a company image which is friendly and ‘no hassle’ with a slight childlike quality.”

Music suggested Cheeky Pizz
Why suitable “Light and cheeky with a feeling of movement and confidence. This style of music has a very general appeal across all ages. This track would sit well under the voice (male or female).”

Early evening docusoap
Doc series that goes behind the scenes at the UK’s biggest airport to reveal the complexity of getting passengers safely to their destination.

EMI Production Music
Music suggested Busy Bumble (C, KPM 853)
Why suitable “Pizzicato strings may be overused on TV but there is a reason for that. They fit perfectly for driving narration forward and providing the set for busy, bustling scenes. The track immediately picks up the viewer to the pace of the myriad of complex tasks being performed, as well as giving great edit points to follow specific characters and situations.”

JW Media Music
Music suggested Spirit of Light  (SOZ062 Ambient Chill Vol 6), Creation & Flow (Sonic Ozault)
Why suitable “This is a minimal tense underscore with a flow like feel. This would suit because while the premise of the show is busy and a feat of organisational skill, it should feel tense and pressured but not overly dramatic or dangerous. Also, it leaves room for narration which features heavily in these kinds of shows.”

Universal Publishing Production Music
Music suggested Light Tension (underscore version, Essential Drama, Kosinus label)
Why suitable “The UK’s biggest airport has a complex infrastructure where error can occur in every stage. The Light Tension track (underscore version) helps to maintain and build the documentary’s narrative. Also, it has a ‘ticking’ feeling. Timing is a very important element at the airport so ‘ticking’ should make this element even stronger.”

Drama series
A mid-budget, fast-paced crime drama series about a crack UK forensics team who will stop at nothing to solve a case.

Universal Publishing Production Music
Music suggested Mood Pulse (Hard Drama 4, Atmosphere label)
Why suitable “As well as being quite gritty and industrial it also has a beat which pushes it forwards with a bit of pace. The track isn’t too dark so isn’t too overbearing but has the right levels of tension. I could picture this track in a scene where the forensics team is investigating a murder scene or in a lab running tests allowing for continuity through the series.”

De Wolfe Music
Music suggested Unravelling, Edward Cooper
Why suitable “Its exciting, hard hitting drum rhythms keep the tension right up and the listener on edge. The revolving motifs and that relentless spiral of sound in the background create a suspenseful and sinister atmosphere, building up to a really heightened sense of drama and urgency.”

Reliable Source Music
Music suggested Music for Murder (RSM163)
Why suitable “One of our recent releases Music for Murder was made with crime docs/dramas in mind. Mixtures of orchestral strings and electronic elements often work well, our track Black Ops being a good example. The strings help to create an anxious atmosphere and the electronic parts are able to complement subject matter such as forensics to apply or reinforce a modern technological element to scenes.”

Corporate film
This film from a small British manufacturer is designed to introduce its latest product to the marketplace and will be used primarily at trade shows, corporate events and on its website.

Cue Songs
Music suggested The Ramona Flowers, Lust and Lies, Instrumental)
Why suitable “Corporate videos are very easy to get wrong as it’s hard not to make it sound dull without being distracting. You need to be wallpaper, but designer wallpaper rather than Homebase. This track manages to never outstay its welcome without ever dominating. You could listen to someone talk about valves and market shares forever with this as the soundtrack.”

Dynamic Music
Music suggested Waves
Why suitable “This track exudes class. This is for the British brand that wants to portray modernity but also demonstrate that they have employed old techniques. This track would complement a British luxury item. Its sound is on point with the tropical house movement that is sweeping the country still, so it would invoke a familiarity with its listeners.”

Music suggested Getting There (Typical)
Why suitable “This track is cool, emotive, uplifting and exudes a real sense of pride. The music has a very British sound and would enhance a sincere, assured voice-over or presentation. The addition of high strings adds an air of sophistication and pushes the feel-good factor to number 11.”

Tim Dams

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