Inside music's role in the creation of movie trailers

The music is probably the reason everyone is talking about that amazing trailer you just saw
  • A film strip
April 17, 2017 -- 5:00 pm PDT

Music is a powerful force. It can make us feel deep emotions, evoke vivid memories and it plays a role in many major moments of our lives. It's no surprise then that music underscores nearly every moment of film and TV — even trailers.

Though they may seem like an afterthought, in reality, trailers are short films unto themselves and play an increasingly important role in the marketing a film. In an article for Forbes, Jordan Passman outlined the complex and competitive process of choosing the music that supports major film marketing campaigns, including using famous songs, creating custom trailer music, and incorporating remixes and cover songs into trailers.

"One of the driving forces behind every film trailer and marketing campaign is carefully selected music," writes Passman. "These huge campaigns are coupled with massive advertising budgets, which means that the boundaries of music are wide open. Spending up to seven figures on a famous song is not uncommon, and even budgets for original music can peak into six figures."

For a recent example, the new trailer for Atomic Blonde, the upcoming spy thriller starring Charlize Theron, features a cover of New Order's "Blue Monday" and a mashup of Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus" with Kanye West's "Black Skinhead." Not only does the music artfully storyboard the trailer, it is in lockstep with the action, with the beats seemingly choreographed to each big kick, shot and punch.

As Passman outlines, it's no small process to add music to film trailers, but when it's done right, it can make the trailer and convert millions of viewer impressions into theater ticket sales.

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