Thirty-one new shows join the broadcast TV schedule this season. With “Smash” out of NBC’s lineup, only one program is producing original music, ABC’s second season of “Nashville,” and only one is guaranteeing new recordings, the fifth season of Fox’s “Glee.”
Shows typically begin to reveal their musical flavor within three or four episodes and few returning programs are likely to expand or trim their musical offerings. Adventurous programming, by and large, has been relegated to cable networks where risk is factored into each element, whether it’s the size of the episode order or the soundtrack.
Opportunities for contemporary music still exist at two of the networks’ most aggressive players in the space, ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” and the CW’s “Hart of Dixie,” both of which are music-supervised by Alexandra Patsavas and her Chop Shop team. Fox and NBC, for their part, use their highly rated music competition shows — “American Idol” and “The Voice,” respectively — to woo viewers to their other offerings. Three seasons ago, development executives were all trying to figure out how to capture the appeal of “Glee” in a different setting; only “Nashville” succeeded. Nothing on the fall schedule is diving as deep into music as “Nashville,” “Grey’s Anatomy” or “Glee,” but there are still numerous areas for the music industry to keep its eye on.
1. “Lucky 7” (ABC, Sept. 24) and soul music
Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment is co-producing with ABC this adaptation of a British series about a working-class group that wins the lottery. Now set in New York’s outer boroughs (and the U.K. show’s group of supermarket staffers switched up to service station employees), the show is opting for a musical identity heavy on soul, both vintage and retro. Songs by Marvin Gaye, the Staple Singers, James Hunter and the Aggrolites are in the pilot, as is a David Gray cover of Motown’s first hit, “Money (That’s What I Want).” “So many projects that have a lot of music don’t have a music vibe or don’t have enough music to give it a vibe,” music supervisor Liza Richardson says. “This is a solid theme.” Richardson says she’ll be looking to acts like Mayer Hawthorne, JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound, Alice Russell, Vintage Trouble and John Newman. “It’s new music that sounds old plus the real deal,” she says.
2. “Glee” (Fox, Sept. 26, Oct. 3) and the Beatles
The first two episodes of the show’s fifth season — “Love, Love, Love” and “Tina in the Sky With Diamonds” — will include performances of 14 Beatles songs: a dozen from Lennon & McCartney and two by George Harrison. “We’ve been in constant discussions with Sony and Apple Corps since ‘Glee’ premiered in 2009,” music supervisor PJ Bloom says. “The question for both [“Glee” creator] Ryan Murphy and the band’s team had always been how the top television music franchise of all time best pays homage to the greatest pop act of all time. The answer came in the form of the show’s first-ever two-part episode. And after some very healthy negotiating, Sony and Apple essentially allowed us carte blanche to honor the Fab Four in some really exciting, never-before-seen-on-TV ways.” A soundtrack album will arrive Sept. 24 on Columbia.
3. “Ironside” (NBC, Oct. 9) and hip-hop
NBC has expressed considerable faith in “Ironside” anchoring its Wednesday night lineup of dramas, and of the shows NBCUniversal produces, it appears to have a more than usual amount of music. Blair Underwood reprises the role that Raymond Burr defined from 1967 to 1975, but the show is expected to be a grittier take on the police drama. “Team members of mine are having a good time with it,” NBCUniversal VP of music creative services Alicen Schneider says. “They want to tap into the urban nature of it and are looking at hip-hop and rap plus the usual rock’n’roll. They really want to appeal to a younger audience and prove this is not your parents’ ‘Ironside.'”
4. “Nashville” (ABC, Oct. 25) and Buddy Miller
For its second season, singer/songwriter/producer Buddy Miller has taken over the role T Bone Burnett assumed in the freshman season that produced more than 100 recordings. This year could see even more music coming out of the show. “We have new characters and they all sing beautifully,” ABC Studios senior VP of music Dawn Soler says. And there could be a wider variety of music as well. “We will probably spread our palette a bit more to examine everything that is happening in Nashville and touch on the other areas exploding there.” The show uses an extraordinary number of songwriters and musicians, all of whose work passes through the hands of music supervisor Frankie Pine. Lionsgate co-produces with ABC and Big Machine handles the release of the music with plans for a third soundtrack in early December. “We’re hoping this year we have a rhythm,” Soler says. “Last year the poor actors were recording the songs the night before they were doing them in the shoot.”
5. The second screen
NBC and ABC are leading the way in keeping viewers informed about the music used on shows and in promotional ads. ABC’s Music Lounge (abc.go.com/music-lounge) added artist and songwriter profiles last year and will expand its offerings this year to include full performances from scripted shows like “Nashville.” NBC.com/music is a cohesive information source without bells and whistles that lists songs used in promotions and on-air. ABC Family’s Sound Booth is similar — it’s where one would learn that the Civil Wars’ recent single “The One That Got Away” is promoting “Ravenswood.” “We’re hoping this year we can figure out ways to cross-promote [ABC and ABC Family shows],” Soler says.
6. Budgets are down
Everyone has heard the refrain — the minute a production is running short of funds in one department, the first thing to go is the music budget. Those budgets, though, aren’t what they used to be. Several years ago, a handful of shows would have music budgets of more than $100,000 per episode, and insiders now think that only “Glee” and “Grey’s Anatomy” will hit six figures. Translation? More songs from independent artists, fewer instruments used in scores and episodes without music or salaries for music supervisors. “Budgets dictate every decision when it comes to music,” one prominent music supervisor says, “and that includes the hiring of a music supervisor. There’s not a season that goes by without a show hiring someone inexperienced and then finding they cannot get the music right. It requires contacts, negotiating skills and knowing where the good independent music is.”
7. Soundtracks are up
This month alone hosts the release of seven TV soundtracks — song collections from “NCIS,” “Scandal,” “Glee” and “Boardwalk Empire” and scores for “Revolution” (Christopher Lennertz), “Arrow” (Blake Neely) and “Hemlock Grove” (Nathan Barr). One former head of a music division at a studio suggests soundtracks are having a bit of a recovery because shows are more serial in nature and the music is important in shaping the overall story.
8. Midseason shows
ABC’s “Killer Women,” set in San Antonio, will rely on crossover Latin border pop — three uses of music from the Mavericks are already set. (Pine of “Nashville” is the music supervisor.) “About a Boy,” from the producers of the music-heavy “Parenthood,” will be part of NBC’s post-“Voice” comedy block on Tuesdays after the Winter Olympics end. (Richardson reprises her “Parenthood” role as music supervisor.) And NBC hopes the new, live version of “The Sound of Music” starring Carrie Underwood will be the musical event of the season when it airs Dec. 5. “Doing a musical is something new for us,” Schneider says, noting NBC did get its feet wet with “Smash.” “Every effort is being made to ensure that this resembles the stage production, and that requires a lot of research and approvals.”
9. Guest performance on a comedy
Right now there’s only one confirmed — the National will perform “Start a War” on Fox’s “The Mindy Project” on Oct. 31 — and everyone admits the alignment of touring and shooting schedules presents logistical difficulties. “For us it’s bragging rights,” Schneider says. “It’s nice for our show to have the tie-in and go out to a different audience and demographic. The opportunities are fewer and farther between than I would like.” It’s odd that it doesn’t occur more often at the one place that it makes the most sense-Sony, which has bothlabels and a TV production arm.
10. Composers and hourlongs
Star power among the composer ranks is in evidence on several new series — Brian Tyler scoring Fox’s heavily hyped “Sleepy Hollow,” Bear McCreary is the musical hero for ABC’s “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and Trevor Morris is biting into NBC’s “Dracula.” Last year heralded the arrival of Atli Orvarsson (NBC’s “Chicago Fire”) and Chad Fischer (ABC’s “Scandal”) and the blossoming of Ramin Djawadi, who has balanced CBS’ “Person of Interest” and HBO’s “Game of Thrones” since 2011. Fil Eisler, aka iZler, continues to provide musical distinction with orchestras of up to 50 musicians for ABC’s “Revenge,” now entering its third season.