Blogpost: Why we believe in trailer songs

Over the years, much has been said and written on the production of trailer music. It has become a science, a niche of its own, and an industry. Trailer songs however, are new in town. Trailer songs are excitingly different for a reason, and we believe they’re here to stay.

Lately, we’re seeing and hearing something new and different in the world of trailer music: trailer songs. Not sure what we’re talking about? Well this is an example. And this is another one. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why trailer songs (as opposed to instrumental trailer music, that is) are in demand. But what are they exactly and why do they work so well?

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Wait a sec: don’t all film trailers use instrumental music?

No, not all of them do. And that’s a good thing. We’re not saying these novel trailer songs are here to replace instrumental trailer music: far from it. Trailer songs don’t work on every type of film and, furthermore, there are certain movie genres that will forever (or at least the foreseeable future) insist on a more old school approach of bombastic horns, thundering drums and swirling orchestra’s for their trailers. No argument there.

But when trailer songs do work, like in the examples posted above, they work really really well. To be clear: we’re not talking about an existing pop song that is cut up and edited for trailer music usage. We’re talking about songs - with vocals and lyrics and everything - written specifically for trailers. Yes, that’s happening. They can be completely new songs, or even covers, like we saw in the trailer for Geostorm a while back.

So how does that work?

Take your typical trailer music structure: INTRO – # – BUILDUP – # – CLIMAX I – # – CLIMAX II – # – OUTRO, in which # stands for a short break. Naturally, most trailer music productions follow this protocol, because most trailers are build up similarly. Providing editors with music that sort of matches the classic 3-act approach (set-up, conflict and resolution), or at least providing them with something that allows them to pick and choose musical parts for these acts, is a no-brainer. Trailer songs do the same thing, but they offer something extra.

To be clear: we’re talking about songs - with vocals and lyrics and everything - written specifically for trailers.
— SWMP
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The trailer song approach

Trailer songs honor and respect the classic trailer structure. They work extremely well with image because, like instrumental trailer productions, they were written for a single purpose. So what’s so great about them?

By adding an amazing vocal line with lyrics that match the film’s story and/or atmosphere, by throwing in song-like elements and by finishing them off with a pinch of catchiness, you end up with something that is both unique and bursting with emotion. Nothing adds emotion like a beautiful human voice singing passionately. In the case of the SWMP song Fire And Ice, we sought and found collaboration with the Berlin-based soprano Willa Weber, blending her classical voice with analog synths and orchestral elements. Also: it contains a catchy little chorus. Because SWMP believes in trailer songs.

When all’s said and done, writing and producing a great trailer song is about craftsmanship on the one hand and understanding the narrative on the other. It’s about writing great ‘stealth’ lyrics that work well with film and melodies that flow with the story arc. It’s about delivering a package that contains all the elements an editor needs. It’s about creativity.

More information on (how to get your hands on) trailer songs? Get in touch with SWMP.

Michiel van Poelgeest