NPR will change the theme music to Morning Edition for the first time in decades, according to a memo sent to member stations Tuesday by CEO Jarl Mohn.
NPR is developing the new theme to attract new listeners and “to better reflect what Morning Edition is today,” Mohn wrote in the email obtained by Current. The theme will debut May 6.
“As we look to draw in new listeners to NPR programming and grow public radio’s presence on multiple platforms, a new theme will give us a way to better reflect what Morning Edition is today, and attract listeners who have not yet discovered the program’s dynamic mix of engaging, informative, and often surprising stories about today’s world,” Mohn wrote.
Audience research has shown that the current theme is “considered warm but has a weaker association with being energetic, fresh, and modern,” Mohn said.
The new music “will reference the historic theme and work cohesively across the entire program and into promotions, to create a consistent and recognizable sonic palette for the program,” Mohn wrote. Mohn described it as “warm, fresh, weighted, smart, modern, energetic, and very human.”
Mohn said the theme is “inspired by the work of BJ Leiderman,” who composed the current music as well as the themes of Weekend Edition and Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me! Morning Edition has used Leiderman’s theme since its 1979 debut, with subsequent arrangements provided by composer and musician Jim Pugh.
NPR developed the new theme with Man Made Music, a company that has created music and sounds for major brands such as Nissan and HBO. In 2017, Man Made “reinterpreted and reimagined” the cable network’s theme, according to their website.
“We purposefully kept the creative circle small—Man Made Music and a small internal working group at NPR—to streamline decision-making and keep us focused,” Mohn said.
Mohn’s email provided links to some of the music elements on a password-protected website for stations. NPR will give stations broadcast-quality samples of the music Monday for “experimenting and practicing,” the memo said. The gap between the unveiling to stations and the music’s broadcast debut is intended to allow for “sufficient time to adjust to the new music, and to be thoughtful about how best to incorporate it into local versions of the show,” Mohn wrote.
Morning Edition drew 14.9 million weekly listeners as of March 2018, according to NPR.
Update: Leiderman told Current in an email that “NPR’s decision to produce a new arrangement of my theme is a good one. The time is right, and I wish everybody involved all the best in this new venture.”
“We did good work, the music made its mark, and I remain the luckiest and most appreciative composer on the planet,” he added.