Santa Monica-based producer and composer of epic music––an offshoot of movie trailer music but with grander aspirations––Yoav Goren has been in the business for more than 20 years. Inspired by classics such as Doctor Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia, he started composing for friends’ films while an undergrad at NYU. In 1993 he and partner Jeffrey Fayman founded Immediate Music, which has become a conduit for original music into film trailers. They’ve since composed trailer scores for The Dark Knight Rises, Argo and The Hobbit.
“In the early ‘90s, the trailer music options were limited,” Goren recalls. “Studios had either a soundtrack from an existing film––a popular one was The Mission––or they hired someone to knock off another soundtrack. Opportunity was there because of the economics. To license an existing soundtrack would be a minimum of $50,000. But you could get a composer to do something for between $5,000 and $10,000. The challenge was to come up with a production level that they were accustomed to. Meanwhile, we could continue to license the score. If they insisted on owning it, we’d write a concurrent version that we’d own.”
When a studio wants trailer music that’s similar to the actual film score, the approach Goren takes is to compose something that’s approximate in feel. “We’ll tap into what the emotional response is to [the movie score],” he says. “Even though there are only 12 notes in a scale, you can come up with something similar. If a melody is stepping up every four bars, that gives a sense of hope; of adventure.”
For the overwhelming majority of music created by Immediate, the company owns both publishing and master recording. “It’s called turnkey clearance,” Goren explains. “You only need to contact one person if you want a piece of music—that’s where ‘Immediate Music’ comes from. This is unlike the pop world where you might have six co-writers and six publishers on a song and you have to take time to clear [a license] with all of them.”
What’s the go-to sound for trailers today? “That seems to change every three months,” Goren observes. “You’ll get a sense of a big, thick arrangement; nearly over the top. Eight or nine years ago it was almost cacophonous. Now the emotional content has to be bigger than life but not an overt, hit-me-over-the-head style. Take the American Sniper commercial: slow montage with piano pings, focusing on ringing out emotional response. Even big action trailers use subtle music. Gravity is a perfect example.”
Often Goren is asked to compose for a trailer, sight unseen. “We get pictures about half the time,” he explains. “They’re nervous about piracy. Unfortunately, the creative process suffers. But we’ll get descriptions of what we’re writing for––sometimes a temp score––and we use our imagination. Often it’s a sequel, so we know generally what we’re aiming for.”
Immediate Music has a pool of about 100 composers that they work with, though their core is a slimmer 15. The company is on track to create approximately 100 original pieces of music this year. The good news for readers is that Goren welcomes submissions from new talent.
Imperativa Records was founded in 2006 so that Goren could share his music more broadly. The label typically issues four records a year. In December it released Dark Hero, compositions intended for brooding superheroes. Football is Epic, a recording of top European soccer team fight songs, was released in March. “These are songs people know and love,” Goren asserts. “You’ve got 50,000 people singing [them] together.”
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