Not all production music is created equal.
Generally there are three tiers. First are the background sounds and cues heard in during the course of virtually any TV show on air at any given time. While vast in terms of volume, these sounds are easily replaceable and often change from episode to episode.
Then there’s theme music—the song played at the outset of any given series. Sometimes these theme songs are culled from the world of commercial music, such as the “Friends” theme song, performed by the pop duo The Rembrandts. Other times theme songs are considered original score and created specifically for the show in question, such as the theme song for “Monday Night Football.” Clearly not as many of these in existence, but they are played far more often and regularly.
And then there’s the “sonic logo.” This is the audio cue used to brand an entire network or, sometimes, company. Just the sound alone is enough to create instant recall from the listener. Famous examples include:
HBO’s “Ahh” opening, as celebrated in their recent ad campaign
NBC’s “chimes” intro: which has been in use since 1926
Intel’s “leap ahead” music
Once selected, these theme songs rarely change. As such these sonic logos last for years, often through multiple revisions of their visual logo counterparts. As noted, NBC’s chime logo has not changed since 1926. The same is true for other broadcasters, such as CBS (since 1992), and BBC (since 1999).
So for royalty investors seeking consistent, stable earnings, TV network or brand sonic cues would be a great place to start.
In most circumstances, these sonic logos are created as works for hire. This means the musicians performing the music get paid a one-time fee to create the song, and the network paying for it would then own it. But the composer still gets performance royalties for creating it. Occasionally, they decide to sell a portion of their share to raise money.
For instance, we have a listing for evergreen sonic logos used in ABC's flagship news programs: Good Morning America, This Week, and America This Morning. Good Morning America alone airs five days/week. And it earns royalties each time.
And we’ll have more theme songs and sonic logos in the future, so be on the lookout.