The sounds of "Vegas"
Live acts and up-and-coming recording artists keep the casino a-rockin'Capturing the thrill and glamour of Sin City in a music cue is no easy task. But over the past 100 episodes, "Las Vegas" composer Charlie Clouser and music supervisor Jennifer Pyken (sister of show exec producer Matt) have harmonized with the show's creator, Gary Scott Thompson, to integrate song and score into what Pyken calls "a little movie every week."
The process of prepping "Las Vegas'" music begins before the scripts are written, she says. A sit-down with Thompson over plot and a collaboration with the writers comes first; then Pyken chooses recorded songs, supplying the show's editors with "hand-picked" CDs of music she's culled from the hundreds of discs she gets sent by the music industry each week. Pyken fills the discs with songs she thinks fit Las Vegas' fast pace and brassy attitude, and the editors have those songs at the ready when they're cutting together a sequence. Pyken and Thompson then meet with Clouser, who Pyken says "does his own thing and is great at it."
Pyken and Thompson have the final say, and their decisions aren't always a matter of creative choice. "We secure rights song by song," Pyken says, "And it's the music business, so songs have gotten very expensive. Sometimes we go to the best indie artists and get songs that are less expensive than what the major labels are charging. And sometimes we pay top dollar for top artists because we have to."
On top of that, she and Thompson collaborate with musical guests -- because "Las Vegas" wouldn't be Las Vegas without music. "I bet our guest list rivals 'Love Boat,'" Thompson jokes. "Sometime we just can't fit in everybody who wants to be on the show."
Booking of the musical acts is one of "the best parts of my job," notes Pyken, who has helped the show feature performances by acts as diverse as Duran Duran, John Legend, Paul Anka and OK Go, all worked into the story line of the episode in which they appear. "We tailor the scripts for the artist," she says.
Thompson admits he has performance favorites: "I'm a huge Brooks & Dunn fan, and it was cool when Fergie came on with Black-Eyed Peas."
Pyken cites James Blunt, who came in from England just to appear on an upcoming episode, as her favorite. "He was great," she says. "But I can't tell what he's doing because they'd kill me."