How the NBC Chimes Became The First Trademarked Sound

There is nothing more powerful in the audio business than a recognizable sound signature and yet sound branding has remained largely elusive. In fact, while many companies have tried, only about 100 sounds have been accepted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.  

The MGM Lion roar, The Lone Ranger, The Harlem Globetrotters “Sweet Georgia Brown,” AOL’s famous “You’ve Got Mail," ESPN’s Sportscenter intro, the Looney Tunes theme song, and the "Intel Inside" bong are all examples of identifiable audio that are registered marks.  

The iconic NBC chimes however, is without peer and easily the most famous sound in broadcasting.  It has endured for 90 years and was the very first sound recognized by the USPTO.

The great podcast 99% Invisible, in cooperation with Twenty Thousand Hertz tells the story of 3 little chimes (started as five, actually) and its impact on generations of listeners and viewers.  

It's a great story and a reminder that audio branding is not new, and in a crowded soundscape should be on the mind of audio creators everywhere to cut through the "noise."

Enjoy the video which is a tour of NBC's audio and video branding through the years starting in 1926.  There is also a website museum for the NBC Chimes

The link for the podcast is here.






Steven Goldstein is CEO of Amplifi Media, LLC, an advisor in strategy and content development for companies and podcasters. Steve can be reached directly at (203) 221-1400 or

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