NHL Puck Drop 2021: League, APM Music Cut Production-Music Deal

Agreement covers league and team uses from broadcast to social media

Under an exclusive deal with the NHL, Hollywood-based production-music supplier APM Music will provide all the music used, collectively and individually, by the league and its 32 teams for broadcast, in-venue, commercial, promotional, and social-media applications. This arrangement comes just ahead of tonight’s start of the season, with NHL broadcasts shared by Disney’s ESPN and Warner’s TNT Sports under a seven-year deal commencing this season.

No dollar amount for the deal was announced but is estimated by an informed source as in the low to mid seven figures.

APM Music’s Matthew Gutknecht: “This is the soundtrack for a new era in the NHL.”

“We’re in partnership with the NHL to provide and curate production music for every aspect of the NHL’s operations, from television broadcasts to the music that fans hear in the arenas, to the commercials each team creates in its individual markets,” says Matthew Gutknecht, director, sports entertainment, APM Music. “This is the soundtrack for a new era in the NHL for the next seven years.”

Younger Audience Targeted

Timed with the change in broadcast outlets, the production-music deal reflects a desire to enhance the league’s brand, according to Gutknecht, with a broader array of music content giving the league and teams more creative options that can be tailored to fit the specific needs of a variety of distribution outlets, from broadcast to social media.

Prior to this season, NHL broadcasts had been on NBC since 2006, with film and television composer William Goldstein’s conventional orchestral-type scoring introducing the broadcasts.

Earlier this year, the NHL partnered with producer/artist Timbaland, accessing his Beatclub music marketplace and catalog for music, beats, and songs for some of the league’s live and broadcast applications, including the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals and Final and the 2021 NHL Draft events and broadcasts. More specifically, the league used a remixed, lyrically modified version of rapper BIA’s “Skate” track as the official theme song of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

An NHL source, speaking on background, says the league is proactively trying to skew toward a younger audience: “We’re open to all kinds of music, whatever works well for hockey, working with more modern artists with a younger fanbase.”

Legal Issues a ‘Driving Force’

A second but equally important aspect of the deal is defensive: litigation between sports leagues, broadcasters, and music publishers. Such litigation has become more frequent in recent years as the range of outlets and number of sports media on the air and online have mushroomed, creating more potential for (mostly) unintended copyright infringements. For instance, music that might be properly licensed for live use in an arena leaking into a broadcast of a game could constitute an unintended but nonetheless very real, legally speaking, copyright infringement.

“The rules of the game have changed,” notes Gutknecht, referring to how rightsholders have been more forcefully asserting such infringements. “We interface with legal departments far more now than in the past.”

NHL’s John Bochiaro: “This [arrangement] gives the clubs the ability to use fully cleared, licensed music in the arena, with videos that they can post on digital and share with broadcast-rights holders.”

In fact, avoiding potential copyright infringement was “the driving force to do this deal in the first place,” John Bochiaro, VP, game presentation, NHL. “We work for the clubs, finding solutions for issues, and the legalities of using music is one of them. This [arrangement] gives the clubs the ability to use fully cleared, licensed music in the arena, with videos that they can post on digital and share with broadcast-rights holders.”

Bochiaro, who was director of game entertainment for the NHL’s New Jersey Devils 15 years ago, notes that the team was one of the first to do a deal with APM Music for licensed music.

APM Music, whose catalog numbers 970,000 tracks, is a joint venture of Sony Music Publishing and Universal Music Group Publishing; however, none of the record labels’ music or artists are part of the content to be provided. All music used by the league and its teams will be from APM Music’s own productions.

The company has an extensive history in developing production music for broadcast sports. Clients have included the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, MLB’s L.A. Dodgers, MLS’s Philadelphia Union, and NBA’s L.A. Lakers; production entities NASCAR, NFL Films, and PGA TOUR Productions; and collegiate athletics programs Alabama, Auburn, South Carolina, Georgia, and Clemson. Its sports-music roster includes some iconic tracks, such as “Heavy Action,” aka the Monday Night Football theme, and catalogs like the NFL Films Music Library and MLB Music Library.

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