Weather Permitting: A Case Study in Music Supervision

“It’s raining, it’s pouring, the old man is…” listening to Elliott Smith?  What is it about rainy days that evoke sudden urges to be under an umbrella of melancholy sounds or within earshot of soft, longing vocals? An overcast sky can’t help but set the mood for an introspective look at my own life.

I think it’s something we all can’t help but experience, whether we realize it or not. For some, the idea of seasonal playlists preloaded on their iPods are a given – ready at the drop of a hat for the bright sunshine of “Summer Favorites” (upbeat, bright tunes to mimic the assumed brightness and energy of a summer sun) or the quiet nature of “Winter Blues” (minimalistic, drowsy tracks that drift as delicately as the snow). It’s a purposeful positioning; similar to the wine pairing you have at a fancy restaurant. One time I made the mistake of trying the wine that was presented with someone else’s meal – not good with what I was experiencing on my plate at all. In a similar way, Sigur Rós just does not feel as good in the middle of a Fourth of July parade – nor would Pitbull bring you the meaning of life during a dark thunderstorm (though, who am I to judge?)

This past Fall, Man Made Music worked on The Weather Channel’s Local on the 8s programming, which is a regionally specific weather report that airs every 10 minutes. As one of its most popular franchises, it was a unique opportunity to subtly weave a deeper emotional connection between viewers and the news they were viewing by selecting the right popular music track to play in the background. “Weather is personal as you plan your day,” said Joel Beckerman, our company’s founder and lead composer. “We wanted tracks that evoked the feel of weather you would experience that day. If you listen carefully the lyrics offer a wink to the information you are getting.”

Split among multiple categories of both weather-state and time-of-day, the music supervision strategy our team worked on allowed for popular music tracks to be filtered through a unique lens – that strategy would allow for the track selections to be continually refreshed, but at the same time be a complimentary soundtrack to the viewers weather experience throughout the day. For example, the type of energy a track exhibited during a thunderstorm in the evening would be noticeably different than that of a rain shower in the morning.

Nowadays, streaming music players allow us to take that same concept on the go. The music curating service Songza recently announced a partnership with The Weather Company, parent to The Weather Channel. By using real-time weather data, users will be presented with even more fine tuned options that fit their expected mood and anticipated activity – rain or shine.

As technology advances and becomes even more intertwined in our decision making, it won’t be long before the only degrees we use to measure the weather will be degrees of rhythm and melody.