What Does It Mean to “Trailerize” a Music Track? A Deep Dive into the Art of Trailer Music

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"Trailerizing" a music track may sound like industry jargon to the uninitiated, but this fascinating process is integral to creating the emotional highs and lows of movie trailers, TV spots, and video game trailers. Let's break down what trailerizing means and why it's become a go-to technique for creating an unforgettable impression.

I. What is Trailerizing?

Have you ever noticed that the compelling music accompanying the latest trailers often doesn’t come from the films’ actual scores? Whether it’s for movies, TV shows, or video games, advertisers increasingly turn to familiar tunes to make their products stand out. This strategy involves creatively reworking well-known songs to match the unique intensity and momentum of trailer music, a technique known as “trailerizing”.

At its core, “trailerizing” is the art of transforming an existing track to suit a trailer’s atmosphere, requiring a comprehensive deconstruction and reconstruction of the original piece. This meticulous process enhances the song’s emotional depth, often shifting its very essence from, say, joyful and inspiring to something more intense or ominous, depending on the trailer’s thematic needs.

Through the process of sampling and re-orchestrating, a song is reshaped and sculpted to align with the picture, all while maintaining its familiarity to draw you into the commercial.

Ryan Svendsen, Music Supervisor at Millennium Media I UCLAx Instructor I Creative Sync + Marketing I Musician

But “trailerizing” is more than a mere edit. It’s about reshaping the music by altering key elements like arrangement or instrumentation, potentially changing the song’s entire mood. The result? A piece that maintains the familiarity that resonates with audiences but offers a fresh, captivating experience in line with the trailer’s narrative. This balance between the known and the new is what makes “trailerization” such an effective tool in modern advertising.

1. Brief Historical Aspects

But to truly appreciate this technique, it’s important to understand its origins. Historically, movies relied on their original scores to set the tone for trailers. A prime example is the 1966 trailer for The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Original Trailer of ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ (1966)

As time went on, there was a shift. Filmmakers and advertisers started to recognize the need for music tailored specifically for the trailer. This bespoke music better encapsulated the essence of a movie within the confined trailer durations, be it 30 seconds, 1 minute, or 2:30 minutes. Such music aimed not just to hint at the film’s narrative, but to truly captivate the audience, to make them feel the movie’s soul in just a brief window. A notable and famous example is the 2010 trailer for The Inception, written by composer Mike Zarin.

Original Trailer of ‘Inception’ (2010)

2. Examples of trailerized music

Fast forward to recent times, the art of “trailerization” becomes especially prevalent and impactful, where tailored audio experiences are crucial in capturing and maintaining audience engagement and with trailers becoming a primary marketing tool not just for films, but also for TV, adertising, games and apps, trailerization is more essential than ever.

a) Trailerization in film and TV series

The film and television industries heavily utilize trailerization to create emotionally gripping promotional content. For instance, Marvel Studios’ “Eternals” took a classic country tune — Skeeter Davis’s “The End of the World” — and reimagined it as a grandiose, progressive pop anthem that magnified the film’s epic narrative scope.

Skeeter Davis’ “The End of the World” used in the Teaser Trailer for “Eternals”

Television series have also harnessed the power of trailerization to great effect. Beyonce’s ‘Crazy in Love’ for the ’50 Shades of Grey’ series may be considered an early pioneer for trailerization in TV. Another exemplary case is the use of Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ in the promotional content for ‘Stranger Things Season 4’ or Beyonce’s The hauntingly revised rendition of this iconic song establishes a foreboding atmosphere, hinting at the escalating supernatural threats and emotional journeys the characters are set to embark upon.

‘Running Up That Hill’ by Kate Bush used in the trailer for Stranger Things 4 Vol. 4 (Netflix)

b) Trailerization in advertising and games

Trailerizing is not limited to movie trailers, but it’s also used in advertising for brands and video games. One striking example of trailerizing in modern advertising is Toyota’s ‘Nightcrawler’ campaign, which features a trailerized version of ‘Bad Moon Rising’ by Creedence Clearwater Revival. The original song, known for its upbeat yet ominous melody, was transformed into a suspenseful and intense track that perfectly underscored the adventurous night drive showcased in the ad. The reimagined track maintains the recognizable hook of the classic hit while introducing a sense of urgency and excitement, illustrating the vehicle’s off-road capabilities in a dramatic, memorable way1.

Toyota’s ‘Nightcrawler’ campaign featuring ‘Bad Moon Rising’ by Creedence Clearwater Revival

II. Why Trailerize a Track?

Trailers are essentially advertisement tools for motion pictures. Their primary goal? To captivate. To leave a mark. And music plays an indispensable role in this. By trailerizing a well-known song, the creators are ensuring they instantly seize the viewer’s attention. This precise structure and storytelling tool establishes a bridge between the content and the audience. It tells you what to feel, makes you yearn for more, and ensures the movie or game lingers in your mind long after the trailer ends.

1. Amplifying Impact Through Modern Sound

Through trailerizing, you can now achieve a sound that can be distorted, epic, emotional, dystopian, or whatever the narrative requires. Moreover, by trailerizing a track, you immediately captivate the viewer because they might have already heard the song that has been trailerized. They may also have an emotional connection with the underlying song. By trailerizing this song and embedding it into today’s cutting-edge cinematic requirements in sound and impact, you combine both worlds: the classic song that evokes a certain connection and memory with today’s trends and styles in motion picture and game advertising and storytelling. This fusion of the familiar and the contemporary creates a powerful synergy that resonates deeply with the audience, making trailerized music an invaluable tool in modern marketing.

2. Excursus: The Psychology of Music Choice in Advertising

Understanding the psychological impact of music choice is pivotal in the realm of advertising. Companies meticulously select songs that resonate with their target demographic, forging an auditory link between the product and the consumer. For instance, take the Toyota ‘Nightcrawler’ commercial we analyzed earlier, which cleverly employed a trailerized version of ‘Bad Moon Rising.’ This classic track wasn’t chosen at random; it was a strategic decision.

Target Audience
Today’s 60-year-olds, who form a significant portion of the consumer base for higher-end vehicles, grew up with the rhythms and lyrics of Creedence Clearwater Revival. Hearing ‘Bad Moon Rising,’ even though in a reimagined form, evokes a sense of nostalgia, transporting listeners back to the ‘halcyon days’ of their youth. These positive, familiar auditory cues create an emotional anchor, linking those ‘good’ feelings to the advertised product. It’s not just about promoting a car; it’s about selling an experience, a memory, and a piece of one’s history.

Emotional Branding
This strategy is grounded in psychology. Familiar tunes bypass the more critical parts of our brain and connect with the areas responsible for processing emotions. It’s known as ’emotional branding,’ a technique leveraging the listeners’ emotional response to music to create a deeper bond with the product. The music is carefully curated not only to draw attention but to tap into shared cultural memories. The moment the first few chords strike, they bring a rush of emotions and associations that pure dialogue or imagery alone might not evoke.

Back to trailerization. By implementing tracks like ‘Bad Moon Rising’, advertisers aren’t just using a song; they are tapping into a reservoir of collective experiences, catering to both the memories and emotions of their audience. It creates a bridge from a product to the heartstrings of its consumers, making what’s being sold more relatable and desirable on a profound, subconscious level.

III. Structure of Trailerized Music

Delving deeper into the structure of trailerized music, it typically revolves around a three-act formula. It begins with an Intro, a serene beginning that paints an atmosphere, sometimes punctuated with ambient noises or dialogues. This is followed by a Buildup, where the atmosphere intensifies, adding layers of sound that make the heart race. And finally, we reach the Climax. This is the high, the zenith where every element, every note, and every beat converge to deliver a powerful crescendo.

Take for instance the trailers that brim with action or epic narratives. They often blend powerful song elements with cinematic instruments like strings or choir to give that rousing climax. On the other end of the spectrum, romantic or emotional trailers tread softly, paring down a track to its most tender elements, whispering emotions through instruments like the piano or solo vocals.

1. Technical Aspects

To truly grasp the essence of trailerizing, one must understand the intricate technicalities that go behind it. Many of today’s trailers lean into the nostalgia and familiarity of classic songs, reimagining them to fit the modern trailer landscape. To achieve this, the process of “trailerizing” often involves dissecting these classics and giving them a contemporary touch. Having numerous stems, or even individual tracks, of these classic songs at hand is pivotal. These stems help in achieving that signature modern sound, and it’s this blend of classic tracks and modern production techniques that helps create that sound we’ve come to associate with today’s trailers.

Additionally, many of the trailerized versions of tracks that you hear are crafted by specialized trailer houses like Audiomachine and Totem. Some major players, like Walt Disney Studios, have their very own in-house teams devoted solely to trailer production and music trailerization.

Distinction from the Remix

Trailerization is often confused with remixing, but there are subtle differences that set them apart. While both involve altering an existing song, the goals and techniques diverge significantly. A remix typically focuses on altering the style or genre of a track, often for dance or club settings. It may involve tweaking beats, changing the tempo, or adding new layers of sound, all while keeping the integrity of the original song intact and is usually done by DJs and producers who re-envision popular songs. On the other hand, trailerization aims to adapt a song to the specific emotional arc of a trailer2. The track may be deconstructed and reconstructed, keeping only elements that heighten its emotional resonance and aligning it perfectly with the visual narrative of the trailer.


In music, a “remix” is a creative process employed to craft a fresh interpretation of an existing song, often tailored for radio airplay, club settings, or specific audience preferences. This…

Learn more about Remix »

Distinction from adaptation

Trailerization also differs from adaptation. While adaptation usually refers to adjusting a song for a different musical context or instrument ensemble, trailerization serves the sole purpose of fitting the music to the atmosphere and mood of a trailer. An adaptation may take a rock song and rework it for a jazz ensemble, maintaining the melody and lyrics but altering the stylistic elements. In contrast, trailerization goes beyond style and format. It involves transforming the track at an emotional level, tailoring it specifically to convey the feelings and themes that are being portrayed in a trailer, which may involve dramatic shifts in tempo, key, or instrumentation.


An adaptation in music, which falls under the category of Derivative Work, refers to the process of altering or modifying an existing musical piece to create a new version. This…

Learn more about Adaptation »

2. Legal Aspects

Navigating the legal aspects of trailerization can be tricky. Since it involves various techniques like remixing, sampling, and creating covers, it’s crucial to ensure all required music rights, including Master Rights and /or Publishing Rights, are secured.

IV. Future Trends

The art of trailerizing is set for an innovative leap forward with the advent of modern AI-driven audio tools. Platforms such as lalal.ai are revolutionizing the process by enabling the dissection of songs into their individual components, making it easier than ever to rework and repurpose classic tracks for new audiences. This technology not only streamlines the production process but also expands creative possibilities, allowing for more nuanced alterations and potentially leading to a surge in the variety and quality of trailerized music.

As these tools become more sophisticated and accessible, we can anticipate a landscape where trailerizing is not just a specialty but an industry standard equipped with its own unique set of skills and artistic judgments.


In the world of cinema, advertising and gaming, trailerizing a track isn’t a mere rearrangement. It’s a symphony, a delicate balance between the old and the new, aiming to evoke emotions in the most potent way. Whether it’s making your heart race with anticipation or bringing a tear to your eye, remember: behind that brief bout of emotion is an art, a science, and a story waiting to be told.

  1. Ryan Svendsen in Syn Masterclass #1 with Jennifer Pyken ↩︎
  2. Trailerization vs Remix: What’s the Difference? ↩︎