Music Supervising the 2012 NFL Season: Rob Rudkin of CBS Sports
September 3, 2012 by David Weiss
WEST SIDE, MANHATTAN: In the NFL, 65 preseason games are played, followed by 256 regular season matches, then 10 post season games plus the Super Bowl. A healthy percentage of those are carried on CBS.
And America officially goes nuts about pro football this Sunday.
Robert Rudkin is Manager, Music for CBS Sports. As you’d expect about a man who’s about to tie the 2012 NFL season and Super Bowl XLVII together, sonically – for millions of viewers every week – he’s got his game face on right now.
Rudkin called a timeout to tell us everything that goes into being a network sports music supervisor. Here’s how he selects the sounds – original music, licensed tracks, and production music libraries – for what is arguably America’s most popular sport.
The NFL Season is about to kick in. Is this a particularly busy time for you?
It absolutely is. We have seven crews out on the road covering the NFL, each of them asking for different packages. Every one of them has their own producer, with their own personalities and different tastes in music. So it’s definitely a busy time.
What are the different musical components that they need for the show on Sunday?
They’ll ask for highlight packages. And they’ll be looking for tease music, which comes at the start of the game, where there’ll be a one-minute or so tease to set the scene. Also re-tease packages, an hour into the game, where they do a little recap of the action from that game. That could be orchestral music, popular music, or it could be bed music. All different kinds get used.
Right around now, we’re refining the music packages to give out to all of our different crews, and as the season progresses they’ll be looking for different things, like the genres I just mentioned.
When they have a specific request, can you accommodate them up to a point? What determines if you say yes or no to a producer’s music need?
If it’s something that needs to be cleared, I can get people on there to accomplish that. If I can save the money, I will find a soundalike, or a better alternative from the many catalogs that we subscribe to.
I can usually satisfy the guys. They know there’s only so much time and budget to fulfill a request. Especially with live TV, and they’re asking for it two days before air.
What do you think is specific to being a music supervisor for a TV sports division, as opposed to another genre of entertainment?
It would probably be the time constraints, and the vast quantity of music that is actually used. In any particular NFL game, you will hear – whether it’s bed music, theme music, popular commercial music – you’ll hear 80 or 90 cuts. That’s including halftime and the post-game show.
There’s a million different highlights reels, all of which may differ in length. And between the early and late games, there could be seven to eight games in a day, all airing on different parts of the country.
What do you do on Sundays during the season?
I’ll be working in the studio on the pre-game show, picking all the music for the pre-game, halftime report, and post-game shows. So not only am I equipping the crews on the road, but the studios here in NYC.
That sounds like a lot of pressure!
I’m just going to try very much to be prepared. That means having anything that can be imagined available to them at the drop of a hat.
If we’re at Segment One and at commercial break, the producer says, “At Segment Five we’ll be doing this type of sequence, can you get this music?” I’ll do my best.
That would give me up to half an hour to give me what I need. If they want popular music that has to be cleared, it may be of the question. But if I can scavenge our online libraries, or run back to the office and find a CD, sure I’ll do it.
What’s distinct about music supervision for football, than from the other sports you work with?
The sounds of the NFL might be a little more hard-hitting. The hard rock highlights will be harder – heavy guitars, faster pace, big theme music, orchestral. But it’s like the basketball tournament, in that there are multiple games going on at the same time all over the country.
Do you try to not repeat cues across the different games?
I tend not to mind. I would like to differentiate the studio show – the pre-game and post-game – from the NFL game.
Do you have an idea of how you’ll do that?
Not a different tempo. I want to keep a unity of sound, I want it to sound fluid. But as far as actually physically different cuts, I’ll try and separate any elements of the experience.
Any licensed tracks you’re particularly excited about that they’ll be using this season?
I don’t know if I can say!
Do you try and evolve the music you pick from season to season? If so, how will you be shifting the CBS Sports sound of football in 2012, as opposed to last year?
We have a lot of songwriters and composers that write for us from around the country, and I challenge them by sending them contemporary commercial music that I like – the hard rocks bands of now, our Muses and Foo Fighters. I try to have them send back bed music inspired by contemporary sounds.
It’s the same thing with dance and pop music. I’ll send them tracks like Calvin Harris, and all the new stuff going on, and challenge them to send me back music in that vein. That keeps our package sounding new and fresh.
That sounds like a solid strategy.
I hope it works. It’s a new process. It may not always register with the general listener, but I want our music to come off as well thought-out, modern, and just sounding good.
Do things change again when you hit the playoffs? And do you know what you’ll be looking for come Super Bowl time?
We will definitely refresh the playoffs music package, and I will always refresh a producer’s package when they ask for it.
As for the Super Bowl – oh boy! A lot of the sounds of New Orleans. That’s still very far away.
Switching gears, how are you finding new music? What are the latest/newest tools you’ve added to your toolkit for searches?
In terms of licensing tracks and commercial music, Spotify has been huge. It has been gigantic in listening to new music and hearing sounds. Having that at our fingertips is terrific. I want to make sure road crews have their own Spotify accounts to stay up on new trends.
When it comes to production music and beds, how do new libraries get onto your radar?
I’ll get recommendations for a new library from the CBS entertainment division in LA. I make sure that it works for our medium, and if it does, I’ll reach out and go to them.
Sounds like an intense job. Are you having fun?
Right now, I’m definitely having fun! I’m excited for the new season, I’m excited for the rush. But I’m really sad the summer is over.
– David Weiss is the Founder/Editor of SonicScoop, and co-author of the book Music Supervision: Selecting Music for Movies, TV, Games & New Media.