The Grand Theft Auto V soundtrack, like previous games in the Grand Theft Auto series, features various radio stations that play different genres of music when the player enters vehicles in the game. The stations consist of licensed music, DJ chat and spoof advertising. The game features 18 in-game stations with 240 licensed songs, 16 of which are musical stations and the other two are talk stations.
Since the game's location is modelled on southern California, the developers attempted to create an accurate representation of Californian music. Production of the soundtrack also consisted of licensing music for the radio stations, and selecting a DJ that matches the genre of music the station hosts. The soundtrack consists of a wide variety of radio stations that play different genres of music, including reggae, hip hop, pop and country. The game also features an original and dynamic score composed by Tangerine Dream, Woody Jackson, Alchemist and Oh No which plays out in several selective missions. Selected tracks from the score were later released on The Music of Grand Theft Auto V. In September 2014, it was announced that new songs would be added to some of the radio stations in the next-gen releases of the game.
As with other recent GTA in-game radio networks, songs, DJ comments and other material are randomly sequenced, and may occasionally incorporate references to in-game events. While the DJs do not reference changing weather patterns (a feature not seen since Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas), some DJs will reference the time of day (saying "Good morning" or "Good evening" when applicable, for example).
Flying Lotus (left), Nate Williams and Stephen Pope of Wavves (top right), and DJ Pooh (bottom right) in a recording studio working on Grand Theft Auto V's music.
In developing the radio stations, the development team sought to reinforce the game's recreation of California by licensing tracks they felt appropriately echoed a "Cali feel". On the inclusion of the pop station Non-Stop-Pop FM, music supervisor Ivan Pavlovich noted "the first time you get off an airplane in L.A. and you hear the radio and the pop just seeps out... We wanted that. It really connects you to the world". He felt that music licensing for the game involved a greater discernment than in Grand Theft Auto IV, as the music in Grand Theft Auto V played a greater role in building a Californian atmosphere. "It reflects the environment in which the game is set", he explained. Initially, the team planned to license over 900 tracks for the radio, but over time they refined the total number of tracks to 241.
The tracks are shared between fifteen stations, and the radio also includes two talk-back stations. Some of the tracks were written specifically for the game; for example, rapper and producer Flying Lotus hosts the station FlyLo FM which includes original work he composed for the game. As Pavlovich noted, for each of the radio stations, over time the team would develop an understanding of where the station's music was going and then select a DJ to host the station. Each station's DJ was selected with the mindset that they would match the genre of music the station hosts; for example, in developing Los Santos Rock Radio the team licensed classic rock tracks, and thus Kenny Loggins became a fitting choice for the station's DJ.
The Lab features original music produced specifically for the Windows version of the game, all featured on the soundtrack Welcome to Los Santos. The station was originally exclusive to the Windows version, but became available to all consoles versions in the Ill-Gotten Gains Part 2 update in July 2015. The songs use various samples from the game's original score.
The Windows version of the game adds Self Radio to the station line-up, playing music of the user's choice. These music files will then play when the radio is selected, separated by DJ commentary and fictional advertisements.
As with previous instalments in the series, Grand Theft Auto V features two public talk radio stations: West Coast Talk Radio and Blaine County Talk Radio. West Coast Talk Radio, also known as WCTR, was previously featured on the radio in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. In both renditions, the station includes a program featuring Lazlow (voiced by radio personality Lazlow Jones) and Fernando Martinez (voiced by Frank X. Chavez), fictional characters who are featured in multiple games in the series.
The games in the Grand Theft Auto franchise, including all of the main series games, have led to a soundtrack album release. Many have also inspired orchestral, vocal, or piano arrangement albums as well. Grand Theft Auto V is the first entry in its series to make use of an original score. Music supervisor Ivan Pavlovich noted that creating original score for the game was "daunting" given that it would be a first for the series. Like previous entries in the series, the game also contains licensed music tracks provided by an in-game radio. Pavlovich noted that the team did not want the original music to detract from the use of licensed music as well, but rather to accompany it. He further considered that the team had to balance the "ambient subtext and tension" of the score with onscreen action in the game. To work on the score, Rockstar brought The Alchemist, Oh No and Tangerine Dream on board with Woody Jackson, who had collaborated with the team on three previous projects, Red Dead Redemption (2010), L.A. Noire (2011) and Max Payne 3 (2012). In collaboration with each other, the team of producers composed twenty hours of music which scores the game's missions. In addition, music plays dynamically throughout the game in both the single-player and multiplayer modes.
Early in the game's development, the music team were shown an early build of the game before conducting production on the score. Their work on the score was mostly complete later in the game's development, but they continued composing up until the final build of the game had to be submitted for manufacturing. Edgar Froese, Tangerine Dream's founding member, was initially uninterested in being involved in music production on the game. After being flown into the studio and shown the game, he had a change of heart, impressed by the game's scale and cinematic nature. Froese's initial eight months of work on the score produced 62 hours of music. He recorded with Tangerine Dream in Austria, but further work was mainly conducted at Jackson's studio in the United States, which The Alchemist and Oh No accessed.