Since the turn of the millennium, movie, television, and video game trailers have all relied on slowed-down versions of pop songs to get their point across. The point: This is very, very important and serious. But while this technique shows no signs of slowing (no pun intended), Variety finally got an answer to why this has been so successful.
Speaking to Jonathan McHugh, a music supervisor, director, and founding member of the Guild of Music Supervisors, Variety found out the key to “trailerizing” is an old Hollywood staple: familiarity. “It’s what I call the old-comfortable-shoe phenomenon,” McHugh said. “You give people something familiar, like Destiny Child’s “Say My Name” in the new Candyman, and all of a sudden they’re more engaged in the content and predisposed to enjoy what they’re watching because they love the song.”
Of course, it does seem like overkill to rely on the “old-comfortable-shoe phenomenon” for a sequel/soft-reboot like Candyman, but there is no shortage of examples. Just today, we published the trailer for the Princess Di movie Spencer, which features a ghost choir version of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day.” Likewise, Variety cites the 2001 trailer for the Xbox 360 game Gears Of War and its use of Gary Jules’ cover of the Tears For Fears song “Mad World,” a missed opportunity for Donnie Darko which also featured the song that year but not in the trailer.
“Trailerizing,” as Brian Monaco, president, and global chief marketing officer at Sony Music Publishing calls it, grabs people’s attention because while they might know the lyrics, the tempo or arrangement of the song throws them off. “It’s called ‘trailerizing’ a song,” Monaco says. “That means changing every aspect of the song but leaving the lyrics. People know the lyrics. The goal is to catch people’s attention. Maybe they’re not paying as much attention to the trailer, and they start to hear the chorus of the song, and they go, ‘Wait, I know this song.’ They start paying attention, and now they’re watching the trailer.”
Monaco is training other songwriters and musicians on the art of “trailerizing” at Sony. Four times a year, he holds camps where writers work out different arrangements of classic songs, pulling from the songbooks of artists like ELO, The Beatles, and Paul Simon. He calls it a “writing exercise,” but argues that it benefits all parties. The original artists get paid for the songwriting and an uptick in streaming, a new artist gets exposure from the recording, and the movie studios get a chance to turn heads with another slowed-down trailer song. Meanwhile, the publishing company gets money from all of it, which is great for the publishing companies who so desperately need our help.