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Television Music FAQs

Which is the main website devoted to this kind of subject?

You may also care to visit Film score monthly (online review of film and television music).

What are presentation, production and library music?

Presentation music is the name given to musical pieces (usually short) used in television presentation; in other words music used for station identification, continuity, trailers and jingles. Individual theme tunes are something different therefore. Production music is the pool of music pieces written especially for incorporating into television programmes (or newsreels, films or advertisements). It is also known as library music, since it is normally bought in from commercial publishers who have categorised libraries of this kind of music.

Why is 'library music' used as backing to the test card?

Much of it was taken from the music libraries of KPM, Bruton Music and (perhaps) Chappell. The idea being that, instead of having to negotiate permissions, clearances and royalties with each publisher, the library music companies have one agreement and one price across the board, remaining the same for each unit of air-time.

Normally, when clearing music for transmission, a publisher wants to know (apart from duration and likely audience) exactly in what context the music is to appear. You can imagine how long it takes to get clearances agreed for programmes with many musical extracts! So library music simplifies this somewhat. Even the 'classical' music is probably library music... KPM, for example, have many complete versions of 'classical' works in their catalogue for use by anyone who'll pay the appropriate MCPS (Mechanical Copyright Protection Society) fee. PRS doesn't apply to most dead composers.

The 'pop' music that used to appear on the BBC Test Card (for example, Wings' Live and Let Die, David Gates' songs, Cat Stevens, etc.) comes under a different agreement. The BBC would (and, I believe, still does) enter into various contracts with music and recording publishers for bulk use of certain tracks. Local Radio stations get these sent down on the well-known Radioplay CDs (formerly LPs) which can be used without specific clearances and without extra MCPS/PPL payments. Vast swathes of the Motown catalogue appear here, for example. [John Hayward-Warburton]

What is non-sync music?

This is a film industry expression and refers to music - played during the interval for example - that is not part of the film being presented. The name refers to the very old days when film sound tracks were not recorded on the film but came from gramophone records played on decks which were mechanically synchronised to the projector motor. The name has stuck even though the technique died out in the early 1930s.

Which are the main libraries selling 'production music' or 'library music'?

Chappel; DeWolfe, KPM, Bruton are some of them. Other libraries have come and gone, or are now represented by another company. Some were started by composers looking for a channel to put out their own music, such as Syd Dale's Amphonic label.

How is it sold?

Not like normal music. The publishers actively give away their CDs (discs in days gone by) - for nothing! - to potential users, in the hope they will use tracks in their productions. Users send in logs to the relevant company and pay a fee according to the type of use, size of market and so on. These CDs are provided exclusively to organisations 'in the business'; the publishers do not sell them to the public under any circumstances and this rule is strictly observed.

There is one exception; there is a special arrangement whereby members of The Robert Farnon Society can buy them at a very modest price. For this reason it's well worth joining the society; members receive a first-rate magazine and the annual subscription is not expensive (contact: David Ades, Secretary, "Stone Gables", Seavington St.Michael, Ilminster, TA19 0PZ). Incidentally, if and when a piece of library music becomes a 'hit', the normal deal is that it is re-recorded by someone else; the library version is not released commercially.

Does the BBC have any exemptions in the use of music for broadcasting?

The BBC does indeed have blanket PRS/PPL/MCPS licence agreements that allow it to use commercially-available music more-or-less anywhere - including on pan-European transmissions. It's the only British broadcaster to have that kind of carte-blanche, and it was able to negotiate it partly because it's a non-commercial organisation, and partly because it is such a major contributor to the coffers of the above-mentioned rights agencies! It still has to comply with normal music reporting procedures, but it doesn't have to get advance individual permission to use commercial tracks.

In contrast, if Granada want to use chart music on Coronation Street they would have to approach the copyright holder and ask permission for each individual track. There is no set scale for the use of commercial music - the copyright holder can ask as large or as small a fee as he/she wishes (viz. the Rolling Stones asking and getting $8 million for the rights to let Microsoft use Start Me Up on the Win95 adverts). Given that Corrie is the nation's most popular programme and makes a fortune in advertising, the fee would be big - easily big enough to make a severe dent in the profitability of any episode in which commercial music was used.

That said, the ITV network has a specific licence agreement allowing the use of commercial music on promos without the need to pre-arrange copyright clearance for each individual track, and without attracting silly fees.

Sky get away with using commercial music on satellite because strictly speaking, they're a UK-only broadcaster whose decoder cards are not available on the Continent (yeah, right!) Fortunately the PRS are in the process of hammering them for a much more realistic royalties deal; they (Sky) have been paying something ludicrously low (like £60,000 a year) for their licences, because their deal was worked out when they were still a struggling startup company. Now, of course, the PRS is quite rightly pointing out that they are staggeringly profitable and should be paying appropriate licence fees - £15 million per year was mentioned, but they'll probably settle for about £8 million. That's just for the licence to use the music - royalty fees for each usage of each separate track still need to be paid on top of that.

[Gareth Randall, writing in MHP-Chat]

When a TV programme uses the instrumental part of modern chart music, for example Grandstand or Match of the Day, do they use publicly available recordings, or do they get special instrumental versions?

Most of the time, it's an edit of the commercially-available track. It's very easy to make even the most musically-unorthodox track sit up and beg with modern digital audio editing gear.

What is the music played in the BBC programme Quatermass II? (not the Planets Suite opening music but the library music theme that is repeated so many times and is also used in a 1950s horror film possibly X, THE UNKNOWN.)

I've now played the first two episodes and you probably mean the music used each time over the end credits? This is one of Trevor Duncan's compositions called Inhumanity, on a Boosey & Hawkes 12" mood music disc, number OT2214. It was also the end music for the first Quatermass serial in 1953. I did also hear several times Zero Minus Sixty by Robert Farnon (Chappell C459), but we did use a lot of music in the serial, and all from publishers' mood music discs (except the opening title). I worked on the film inserts for Quatermass II, remembering Rudolph Cartier in Riverside Studios Dubbing Theatre shouting at me on Grams "cue grams" (far too early!) Fortunately I had my cue sheet and ignored him..... In those days, apart from lip sync, all picture was silent and we had to supply music and effects. John Huntley (at that time working in the BFI) had been engaged to select music for the serial. On one occasion while we were recording I noticed that the music disc (10" 78rpm) I was playing would end too soon, so John took one at random from the pile, and handed it to me. I cued it and played it in just as the other one finished. I looked up when everybody in the theatre applauded. There on the screen, just as the dramatic chords started, appeared a sign (shot at Shellhaven) "Poison Gas". They all thought it was deliberate! That was in Episode 3 "The Food" - which was the one shown on the Lime Grove Story evening. [Arthur Dungate]

What was the theme of The Appleyards?

The actual one was a 10" 78rpm Chappell disc which I have at home. I looked it up in my list - C.386 Looking Around (Colin Smith) 2m45 (Sig tune of "The Appleyards") ; The Huckle-Buckle (Farnon) 2m20 QHLO-Farnon (Farnon's piece was on the other side, not used in Appleyards). [Arthur Dungate]

What do we know of the Jerry Allen Trio, who played on Lunchbox?

The following snippets appeared in 405 Alive...

Lunch Box
This was ITV's first regular (Monday to Friday) daytime programme, appearing on British TV screens in 1956. Originated by ATV in Birmingham, it soon became networked (to some regions, not all of them). I remember very clearly watching it  around 1958/9 on London ITV. It was responsible for introducing Noele Gordon to the viewing public long before Crossroads was a gleam in Lew Grade's eye!
A big feature of the show was the music, provided by organist Jerry Allen and his TV Trio. The members of the latter were Alan Graham (vibraphone), Ken Ingarfield (bass) and Lionel Rubin (percussion and jokes). On a couple of occasions, when Jerry was either on holiday or off sick, his place was taken by pianist Chuck Gates.
In later times Jerry Allen, who was a brilliant keyboard player, owned a musical instrument shop in Dunstable-unfortunately he died a few years ago. I have no idea what happened to Alan Graham or Lionel Rubin, but Ken Ingarfield is still going strong, as bass player with the Syd Lawrence Orchestra (we saw him as recently as March 1993).
On the subject of musical TV groups, there was another featured on (I think) BBC at around the same time-the George Fierstone Quintet (George himself played drums). Can anyone recall the name of the programme they regularly appeared in?
While we are on the subject of "Lunch Box", Peter Delaney adds:
Southern Television used to take Lunch Box from the network in the very early days but replaced it by its own programme, "The Lunchtime Show" (such an imaginative title!) three days a week in the early 1960s -it might even have been in 1960 itself. There were two regular presenters, Danny Clare (female) and Jim Dale (yes, the one who went on later to feature in the "Carry On" films, "Barnum" and other shows). It was presented from the studios by Northam bridge in Southampton, not the ones that Southern handed on to TVS but the former Plaza cinema. In those days it was, of course, most unusual  to meet anyone who had actually appeared on television, so having been interviewed on an edition of this programme by Jim Dale, I would be greeted by comments and recognition for weeks afterwards... Most notably by the girl on the electrical counter of Woolworths, when you could buy wire at 1d per yard-off the reel of course-they also stocked Embassy records and slab cake (both fruit cake and angel cake) which was cut for you by the lb like cheese. Come to think of it, you cannot easily buy cheese like that any more! Still, I must stop rambling or I'll give away my age!

Hmm... Ah yes, Embassy records. You could buy them for just five shillings and get two hit tunes, whereas just one hit on any other label would cost you 6s 4d. The snag was these Embassy discs were all recorded by Don Duke and other such musical luminaries that no-one had ever heard of, and nobody I knew would be seen dead having an Embassy record in his or her collection. Nowadays the Embassy label belongs to CBS and has quite respectable artistes in its repertoire, so there's obviously no connection.

Woolworths in those days displayed great responsibility in handing out detailed leaflets on the correct method of choosing and using electric cables and flexibles, as they called them, printed in attention-grabbing red with little red triangles at the top of the page.

Other cheap brands they sold were Ross's Puff Candy (at least a penny cheaper than Fry's Crunchie and Midland Counties ice cream, a sort of ersatz version of Walls). And then those opal white gas lamp globes with pendant chains that you needed a pole with a hook on the end to switch on, those yellow and red price cards that dropped into chromed holders on stands...

Sorry, this is supposed to be a television magazine. Who started me going?  [AE]

Like a growing number of 405 Alivers, Tony collects all old records with a television connection, however tenuous (sounds like an advanced case of collectamania and I should know). On the following pages we reproduce the sleeve of the "Lunch Box" EP record. [Alan Keeling adds that in addition to this EP, there was also a "Lunch Box" LP album which, he says, was a lot livelier and sounded as if everyone in the show was getting in on the act.

From Paul Sawtell, Stourbridge:

Quick bit of feedback on 'what has happened to Lionel Rubin?' (the drummer on Lunchbox).

Lionel is alive and well, living in Hinckley, Leics. and it has always been a pleasure to work with him, as I have done on many occasions. He is not so busy now, but after a glittering career as one of the country's top session drummers he went on to take his own bands aboard luxury cruise liners. He still does quite a few jazz gigs (which is where I tend to bump into him nowadays) and manages to keep alive that fresh sparkling humour of the type seemingly unique to musicians.

I cannot help with Alan Graham unfortunately but maybe if anyone is sufficiently interested, they might contact the Birmingham branch of the Musicians' Union, Bristol Street, Birmingham.

The original ITN theme - Non Stop

ITN used Non-Stop right from its inception in 1955. It was a 10" 78rpm mood music disc on the FDH (Francis Day & Hunter) label, FDH 072 Non-Stop (John Malcolm) 2m50 (orig sig tune of ITN) c/w Paris to Piccadilly (Busby) 3m02 L'Orch. Devereaux-Georges Devereaux. It is a track on the CD "Great British Experience", released November 1997. [Arthur Dungate, John Wardle]

John Batt ("John Malcolm" was his pen-name) is or was a solicitor from Wimbledon, who just wrote the piece for a school concert and it was orchestrated by the late great Clive Richardson, also a Wimbledon inhabitant). [Gavin.Sutherland]

Who wrote the various pieces of music adopted by television stations for their start-of-day music?

Details are shown in this order: Station, Title, Composer







Channel Four:




ITV Network:

ITV Schools:



Teledu Cymru:





Tyne Tees:




Note 1: The Cockaigne overture by Elgar was used originally, although it was replaced later by a march. Regarding Music Everywhere by Eric Coates, Gavin Sutherland writes: "I have it on good authority from the composer's son Austin (now sadly deceased) that the march was written for Rediffusion in 1948 ...for promotional and broadcast material, and it got used on TV as well". Now I know he was into his 80s when he told me this, but I can't help feeling it was used...

Note 2: This is disputed. It is alleged that The Seven Seas is a different piece and the one written by Eric Coates for TWW was called TV Wales and West.

Sir Malcolm Sargeant was commissioned by Norman Hackforth, then head of music at Anglia, to do a shortened arrangement of part of Handel's water music, for the Anglia idents.

Please note: all this is subject to correction: any experts please make themselves known! Clearly Eric Coates's music was flavour of the month in those days.


Stuart Montgomery has kindly done a bit of research on this composer and come up with the following. After all these years I now know why the ATV theme sounded so similar to the Dam Busters march – I always assumed this was musical plagiarism at its worst! [Andy Emmerson]

Eric Coates 1886 - 1957

Born and bred in England, Eric Coates took violin lessons from the age of 6, and when he was 12 he studied with Georg Ellensberger in Nottingham. He entered the Royal Academy of Music in 1906.

He was to gain much experience with various theatre orchestras and in 1908 joined the Hamburg String Quartet for a tour of South Africa. As a composer, he decided to turn his concentration on light music and conducted concerts of his own music in Britain and abroad.

The popularity of his music received its greatest boost when the march Knightsbridge (from the London Suite) was adopted as a radio signature tune. Coates was an outstanding exponent of agreeable light music, which, though of an unadventurous nature, displayed his sincerity, his thorough craftsmanship, and his imaginative orchestration. He was a founder member, and later a director, of the Performing Rights Society.

Below is a very short list of some of his output.....

Orchestral works

Films and concert pieces

* Information compiled here by Stuart Montgomery RSAM; LRAM, and collected from the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, edited by Stanley Sadie.

The following section is no more than a collection of notes, giving the names of the pieces of music used with certain old programmes...

Here and There, also Children’s Television Newsreel: HOLIDAY SPIRIT (Clive Richardson).

ITN News at Ten. This is just one passage from a complete movement called The Awakening, coming itself from an overall work called 20th Century Portrait. It was composed by Johnny Pearson, who also wrote ATV's late seventies opening tune Midland Montage and indeed the short-lived Grampian daily jazz opening from 1974 ). It is played by the "Group 50 Orchestra", which is a euphemism for a large scratch group of session musicians , drawn together for the purpose , from leading London orchestras of the early to mid-sixties often happened , allowing them to earn extra pin money, anonymously. Used by ITN from 1967 onwards, it was composed well before News At Ten and was selected by ITN from a range of library music choices. It was not specially commissioned. I is a fascinating piece, with the first three minutes almost unrecognisable....then a motif that sounds familiar...then loses again , and you think..."my mistake"....then just as you begin to think you misheard it, it launches ...bang... into the bit you know. It is very impressive indeed, and the old original arrangement still sounds better than the two (not one) subsequent re-orchestrations. What we all heard on ITN was re-edited off the original "tape of a disc", as in fact the old "end of part one" sting is the beginning of the main part, and the main part is actually the second part...and the end part, is actually nearer the beginning as the composer had it! [KIF]

Who sang the first song about television?

This question was asked in the BBC staff newspaper, Ariel:

Here's looking at whom?

In the Diary article by Dallas Bower (Ariel, October 29) about the start of the television service, he made reference to the opening song, Here's Looking at You, sung by Adele Dixon. I've heard an audio cut of this sequence and the announcement is: 'Now you're going to see and hear someone you know well, Miss Helen McKay'. So who did sing the song?

Paul Deacon, Music Library

This drew the reply:

Paul Deacon's letter (Ariel, November 12) expresses confusion over who sang the BBC Television song Here’s Looking at You. Was it Helen McKay or Adele Dixon? A sound recording he heard is ambiguous. Of course the song mentioned was sung by Helen McKay during the Radiolympia broadcasts of August 1936. Adele Dixon later opened BBC Television with the familiar 'Magic Rays of Light' song, correctly entitled Television.

The scene of Miss Dixon that is constantly re-run is from a pre-filmed sequence and not the actual live performance. This must he stressed constantly, especially to enthusiastic modern programme makers. It's all very easy to twiddle with the footage; make the pictures fit the script. A recent blatant example was from People's Century - Picture Power which lived up to its title by inserting a scene from a 1953 telerecording and pretending it was Studio A in 1946! Naughty.

Modern producers are not alone. Richard Cawston's award-winning documentary of 1959, This is the BBC merrily depicted Riverside One as BBC TV Studios Lime Grove. Check out the footage if you don't believe me. So programme-makers, what's your excuse this time?

Dicky Howett, Alexandra Palace Television Trustee

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