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Music for Film Trailers

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Film trailers have not only become another source of revenue for musical artists, but have become its own class of entertainment. So much so, that some trailer’s popularity surpasses that of the actual film that it’s for. One of the main driving forces behind any great trailer these days is the music that is chosen for it, either by you (the filmmaker) or by your music supervisor/trailer house.

Choosing the right music for your film trailer is an incredibly powerful branding tool. One that, if done right, you could capitalize on. Below are typical types of music used in trailers and some suggestions on how they can be used.

Composed Music

Using composed music in your film’s trailer can enable you to create a soundtrack that tells the film’s unique story. This helps you to create the exact musical experience that you want your target audience to experience. This is the best option to tell the story of your film, as well as, a more cost-effective option over using popular music.

Popular/Well-known Music

Using popular music in your film trailer brings familiarity and instant connectivity to your audience.  Music, in general, evokes emotions. So, hearing a song that we know or love, draws us into that song and whatever visual is connected with the song.

The music itself, tells a story. Whether the audience is focused on the trailer, or it’s playing in the background, the music offers the audience moments in the storyline to connect with.  Hearing music that we know and love inspires us to act. I know I have gone and seen films solely based off of the music I heard in the trailer or the story that it told. It helps create a bond with your audience that you wouldn’t be able to do otherwise.

Sound-a-likes

As previously discussed, using popular music can create an instant connection between key moments in your film and your target audience. This connection creates brand loyalty. However, not all film budgets are created equal, and sometimes you simply can’t afford to use a popular song in your trailer. A common alternative is to create a “sound-a-like” track. Something with a similar feel, tempo and instrumentation of the popular track.

Scores of Other Movies

Similar to using popular music, utilizing a popular or well-known film score can help create an instant connection I mentioned earlier. Dependent upon what your goal is, scores of other films can also be used when parodying something or transmit the tone of the film to your audience.

Library Music

Library music (previously composed production music) has gotten a bad reputation in the past. Compared to the library music that we have today, library music of that past was not as versatile or interesting. Not to say that there wasn’t good library music out there. One just had to dig a little more and know the right companies to pair with. Nowadays, music libraries have adapted with the times and are now in a position to create more interesting arrangements, with different mixes and versions available.  Using library music can be a cost-effective way to create a soundtrack for your trailer. Working with library music can sometimes be tricky if you don’t keep some musical aspects in mind. This is where you would refer to your music supervisor who will be able to trouble shoot any issues with the library music that you want to use.


Finding the perfect music for your film’s trailer is an important step in the marketing process. A trailer can really make or break a film. We have all seen the impact memorable trailer that uses music in a unique way to capture the audience. Since the type of music is key to setting the tone, choosing your music as early on in the process as possible will help with trouble shooting any issues and will give you time to perfect the sound you’re going for.

Rosie Howe

About Rosie Howe

Rosie Howe is an L.A. based music supervisor, licensor, and entertainment administration manager. Her clients include filmmakers, producers, film & tv production companies, advertising agencies, tech companies, as well as brands in various industries. Rosie advises on music selection and original music production, licensing strategies, artist relations, and serves as a proficient arbitrator. Rosie is an active member of the Guild of Music Supervisors and the California Copyright Conference. She has a background in music performance, legal administration, peer education, customers service, and sales. As a firm believer in social investment, Rosie spends her free time providing helpful feedback and educational resources to people starting out in the entertainment industry through workshops, panels, and one-on-one sessions. She has been featured on Behind the Music podcast, panels for Music Biz Mentors, and is a regular contributor to the magazine style blog Ms. In The Biz.