Trailer music (a subset of production music) is the background music used for film previews, which is not always from the film's soundtrack. The purpose of this music is to complement, support and integrate the sales messaging of the mini-movie that is a film trailer. Because the score for a movie is usually composed after the film is finished (which is much after trailers are released), a trailer will incorporate music from other sources. Sometimes music from other successful films or hit songs is used as a subconscious tie-in method.
The music used in the trailer may be (or may have suggestive derivatives from):
- Music from the score of other movies. Many films in this century have tracked their trailers with music from other campaigns, such as Dragonheart, Gladiator, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, Edward Scissorhands, Come See the Paradise (27 times), Aliens (24 times), Bram Stoker's Dracula (18 times).
- Popular or well-known music, often chosen for its tone, appropriateness of a lyric, or familiarity.
- Classical music, such as Mozart's Requiem (Cliffhanger), Beethoven's 9th symphony (Die Hard), or Carmina Burana.
- Specially composed music. One of the most famous Hollywood trailer music composers, credited with creating the musical voice of contemporary trailers, is John Beal, who began scoring trailers in the 1970s and, in the course of a thirty year career, created original music for over 2,000 movie trailer projects, including 40 of the top-grossing films of all time, such as Star Wars, Forrest Gump, Titanic, Aladdin, The Last Samurai and The Matrix.
- Songs, which may include knock-offs of recognizable (but often expensive to license) songs.
- "Library" music, which is previously composed production music. Trailer music library companies typically do not offer their music to the public and develop and license music exclusively to the motion picture studios, although Immediate Music, Brand X Music, Two Steps from Hell and Audiomachine have released albums available to the public. In 2014, Imperativa Records released a compilation album of various artists of trailer music, not previously available to the public, entitled This is Epic Music, Volume I, including works by Chris Field and X-Ray Dog.
- The Art of Scoring Trailers: John Beal by Lukas Kendall, Part 1 – Film Score Monthly Magazine, issue #35, July 2003, pp. 6–7, Part 2 continues in issue #36/37 Aug/Sep 1993, pp. 18–19 Online version
- Art of the Tease by Rick Sherwood, Hollywood Reporter August 25, 1992 pp. S-39-S-72
- Coming Attractions!: The two-minute film scores of John Beal by Randall D. Larson, "THE SCORE" Cinefantastique, June 1999, Volume 31, Number 6 p. 60
- Welcome to Heart Attack City' by John Beal, "The Score", Volume XII Number 4, Winter 1998 p. 1, (continues on p. 4) Online
- John Beal, Musical Chameleon November 11, 1998, interview by Helene San, Cinemusic.net
- The Oxford Student, Trailer Music
- Movie trailer music: it's not what you think by Stephen Kelly, Guardian
Trailer Music Companies
This is an incomplete list of trailer music companies and production libraries.