By Emily Weber

First of all, I am honored and privileged to be a Tadpole Audio contributing writer and this will be the first of many excitable ramblings about the crazy world of trailer music.

Yup! I said it: Trailer Music.  I bet you forget about those little, fast-moving, event-of-the-year mini-movie previews that sum up the best parts of an upcoming movie release.  Whether you are a person who works in the “Movie Trailer Industry” (wait, what?  There’s an INDUSTRY?  Yea, I’ll get to that…), or a musician/composer who is wondering how to get their music into a trailer, or just a regular fan of movies, and you get to the theatre on time so you don’t miss the previews, I think a fun monthly discussion about the music that is IN the trailers you see and the music that has YET to be heard in a trailer, will be a fun thing to talk about.

Since this IS the first of many ramblings from me – we’ll keep this one to the point: how is the music chosen for a trailer?

First of all, my favorite example of how important music (and, well editing) is to a trailer – you HAVE to see this trailer for a “romantic comedy” known as The Shining:


We all know how imperative the music is in a film, and the trailer is even MORE important because the studio needs to sell their film to as many people as possible – all age types, gender, etc.  This is usually why there are so many different trailers out there for a film with different music in each one – it’s to serve all the different demographics.  A recent example that came across my desk was the trailer for Morning Glory – which is a movie that probably my 64 year old mom would go see, but not something a 22 year old male would see – the studio had cleared a Natasha Bedingfield song for the campaign (and I think for the movie too), but they wanted to find songs for the trailer that skewed a bit younger.  It was a tough one – very challenging trying to find a song that fits with the vibe of the movie, AND a specific demographic.  If you were in my shoes, what song would you have picked?  Discuss….

So, who supplies the music? A common myth is that the score from the film is also the music for the trailer.  This is usually not the case unless there is a familiar ‘theme’ (i.e. Star Wars or Harry Potter), but even then, the ‘themes’ don’t usually present themselves until the very end of a 2 or 3-minute trailer (aka: the “title card”).  There are several reasons for this.  Since film music is written specifically for each scene in a movie, it might not work in context with the trailer.  As I said above, music in a trailer must be EXCITING, EPIC, and consistent with the trailer designed for a particular demographic.  I’ll elaborate on this further next month.  With that said, there are different sources of trailer music: songs would come directly from a record label or publisher,  and the “score-like” orchestral music you hear, is usually from a ‘trailer music supplier’ who will write different types of music intended for trailers, or a production music library of pre-existing music.  AND, interestingly, sometimes a movie trailer will have music score from another movie in it!  Whatever it takes to evoke the right kind of excitement!  But, if you are already a fan of trailers, you‘ve probably already noticed a common creative thread in the music: it’s all very driving, building and/or intense (whatever genre it is).  Trailers are intended to create an excited tension with the viewer – naturally, exciting music is usually the compliment to this!

For the past several months, I’ve had Sucker Punch (directed by Zack Snyder of 300, Watchmen, etc.) on the front of my mind.

I admit, I’ll probably wait for the movie to come out on DVD – I loved 300, but this one is stereotypically out of my demographic (female, late 30’s) – however, the trailer music is RIGHT in my demographic, so I’m intrigued…  This Teaser Trailer, much to my surprise, features a song that is a blast to my college past: “Crablouse” by Lords of Acid.  This late 80’s/mid-90s dance/electronic act probably just gained a handful of younger fans who had never heard of them until this trailer – although I think Lords of Acid has been used in other trailers of past… anyone know?  Also featured in this teaser trailer is Immediate Music’s “Prologue” as the intro. (Immediate Music is a trailer music supplier, as discussed above).

But, back to Sucker Punch…. The “Teaser Trailer” is usually the first one released (to tease you about the film) then multiple theatrical trailers will follow.  I happen to love Trailer 1 for Sucker Punch:



Who doesn’t like Led Zeppelin?  They start with “When The Levee Breaks,” and then the back half is Silversun Pickups’ “Panic Switch” (again, a very driving and exciting song) and currently as I write this, the TV promo push for the movie is going strong – the movie comes out in 2 and ½ weeks, so you will be seeing quite a lot of Sucker Punch TV ads and maybe even hear it on radio.  I personally would like to make note of one particular band to watch out for in the TV campaign for Sucker Punch. The band is Blue Stahli and here are two of the songs that happen to be somewhere in the TV Campaign of Sucker Punch“Scrape” and “Anti You.” Blue Stahli is one of those indie bands that trailer editors are hooked on this year.  The music is intense, dynamic, and the hybrid of rock and electronic music is highly popular in trailers for 2011.

So, who is finding the music for these trailers, and who is making them?

That’s a loaded question for sure!  There are production houses creating the trailers for the studio, and often more than one production house working on one campaign.  The main purpose of this is to keep the competition level high in order to produce the most “creative” and cutting edge trailers.  This is similar to when ad agencies compete against each other to win a product client. But in trailers, sometimes there is more than one winner – some production houses are more equipped to do theatrical trailers and some are more equipped to edit the TV spots.  More often than not, the TV spot is just a short cutdown of the trailer that is “TV-friendly,” but you will notice that the music is different in the TV spots – again… for more variety (and sometimes due to clearance issues, but we won’t get into that here).  When it comes to choosing the music, there are many chefs in the kitchen.  Sometimes it’s the editor or producer of the trailer, sometimes it’s the music department at the production company, or sometimes it’s the studio.

So, until next month my lovely fans of Tadpole Audio, you have homework:  the next time you are sitting in the theatre munching on popcorn before the movie starts, listen to the music you hear in the trailers you are watching… You might be surprised at some of the songs you hear!




Emily Weber has specialized in music for trailers since approximately 2004.  She currently works at Position Music, a trailer music supplier and publishing company/record label.