Tommy Kramer Tip #110 – Seinfeld on the use of Music

On June 9th, 2014 at the Paley Center in New York, Jerry Seinfeld talked to David Letterman about his “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” web series.

About 19:25 into the interview, Letterman comments on the incidental music that moves “CICGC” from one point to the next. That’s where you see coffee being poured, Jerry and the guest walking into the diner, etc.

Jerry then compares using music in this show to using it in the “Seinfeld” TV show, saying “If you put music under a scene that has actual written narrative, it ruins the scene. But since this has no drive, no point, the music doesn’t fight with it and it just seems to kind of carry…(it) fills in the little gaps.

Now I don’t think that’s 100% true for radio, because our medium is a little different; we don’t have video to engage the listener. But I do think there is something to be said for asking yourself “Do I have a narrative?” “Does it need music?” “Am I talking over music when I should be just talking?” On a lot of stations, it’s almost getting to where jocks CAN’T talk without a music bed under them. Some stations even require it. (Bless their pointed little heads.)

I recommend using music when it’s appropriate, like a John Williams movie soundtrack – to heighten the mood or the drama of a given ‘scene’. But if it’s just generic uptempo Production music, used as a crutch to create an artificial sense of momentum (which it doesn’t actually do), you’re just trying to cover up the fact that you don’t have a narrative; you’re not telling a story.

Now that I think of it, maybe that would be a good bit in itself, taking real life, semi-boring or technical conversations about brake shoes or roof repair, and putting ridiculous music underneath them.

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Tommy Kramer
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