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article imageThe Secrets Behind Making Movie Trailer Music

By David Silverberg     Sep 7, 2008 in Business
When you watch a movie trailer, do you listen to the music? Scoring trailers have evolved into the core business for Immediate Music, a Hollywood superstar specializing in “audio branding.”
Digital Journal — With the Toronto International Film Festival in full swing, filmgoers will be hungry to see the flicks they only heard about, likely through trailers. But those sneak peeks are more complicated than at first glance, especially when it comes to a production layer rarely discussed: the music.
One of the leaders in scoring trailer music is Immediate Music, based in Santa Monica. They have worked on more than 2,000 trailers in the past 15 years. You’ve heard their work if you saw trailers for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Matrix, Transformers, Iron Man, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and many more. If you thought the average Hollywood studio just used the film soundtrack for trailers, think again.
Yoav Goren co-founded the company with Jeffrey Fayman in order to accentuate a film’s appeal with a custom trailer score. They have called a good trailer a “two minute advertisement” and a trailer score has to suit that marketing promo. The action and dialogue might become the core part of the trailer, but the pacing and conveyed emotions are often dictated by the music.
Immediate Music has also worked on TV show promos, such as Weeds and Lost, and the company took home an Emmy last year for their music for the 20th Olympic Winter Games.
In an interview with, Goren discussed the latest trends in trailer music and why innovative studios should pay closer attention to the “audio branding” of their films. What is the importance of music in a trailer? What does it add in terms of enticing the viewers?
Yoav Goren: The music chosen for a trailer, along with visuals edited together, form an important basis for branding the film’s identity. However, unlike the visual component, the music accompanying the picture can originate from any source, and very rarely is drawn from the film’s soundtrack. Music is integral in creating the aural impression the producers wish to convey to a potentially paying audience. In the space of two minutes, the music interacts with the visuals to create an advertisement style that reaches out to the intended demographic. With the popularity of fast-cutting, MTV-style editing most prevalent in trailers today, it is crucially important for the music to be able to support and sustain the energy presented in the visuals. For example, in presenting the next summer blockbuster, because there is not much time to “set up” a music track, trailer producers usually gravitate towards either fast-paced, explosive action cues, or huge sounding epic orchestral cues that caste the subject matter in a heroic light.
For a romantic comedy, the music chosen will usually instantly convey the “two people from different backgrounds in conflict then coming together” formula with either a light orchestral track or a catchy and evocative pop song. Often times, several TV spots will be produced for a film, each utilizing different styles of music to reach a different demographic, i.e. the male under 25 crowd by using a power metal track, or the female audience by accenting the relationship between the two main characters. For each targeted demographic, the music alters the face of the visuals and presents the film in a different, marketable way. Have you noticed any trends in what music is used to market the films? Are big-name bands still popular, is hip-hop getting any love, is there a form of music winning attention?
Goren: The recent hot trend is what we call “hybrid”. This incorporates cinematic elements such as orchestra and choir, along with contemporary electronic arrangements found in modern rock, techno and urban music. The reason is that this still identifies the film as a uniquely cinematic experience worth seeing in the theater, yet shows that it is hip, cool and trendy. This is especially true for the more action-packed, CGI effects driven films.
Big name bands are always sought after for use in a film’s marketing materials, and the cost of licensing many bands has gone down over the past two years, in concert with the sales declines on the retail record side. Usually, but not always, if a band song is used in the film, the producers will seek the right to utilize the material in the marketing campaign. Trailers are advertising, and famous songs and bands are always in demand in order to tie in a familiarity for the audience, and also to kind of deceive the viewer into thinking they will hear that song in the film.
From our experience, hip hop has surprisingly not caught on in the trailer world. Rock and pop still rule, jazz is very rare, country is virtually absent. What do you suggest to studios who want to market their trailers in innovative ways?
Goren: Often, studios follow a formula for marketing their films. There is so much money on the line, which will dictate a film’s success or failure at the box office, that most trailers mimic successful similar-genre predecessors. This also includes music choices, and these choices have greatly benefitted Immediate Music and our success in licensing our music into trailers. For example, there are several dozen tracks in our trailer music library which have individually licensed into more than 50 film trailers and TV spots.
If I were in the position to advise the studios on such an important matter as marketing, I would say to be more innovative in the trailer production process, which would allow experienced trailer music composers to provide original scores for the marketing material as part of an “audio branding” campaign for the film. It would be great to bring the composer in early in the production cycle, and collaborate on the music without having pre-existing temp tracks dictate the outcome of the music track. Much like the film scoring process, this will create a lot more unique music not previously heard, and may be able to launch a film with its own sonic footprint into the crowded marketplace, where it may be able to differentiate itself from other like-genre films.
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