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How To Place Music in Film Trailers with Big Picture Entertainment’s Marcy Bulkeley

By Tess Taylor.  Film trailer music supervisor Marcy Bulkeley, Music Director for Adam Sandler’s Big Picture Entertainment, spoke to our group this week, listened to songs and gave feedback.  This was the first in NARIP’s 10-part series with Trailer Music Supervisors.

Photo (L-R, back row): APM Music’s Gregg Allen, Matthew Naylor and April Flores, Four Jays Music’s Nick Page, NARIP’s Ernie Gordon, Robert Walls, independent song plugger Peter Kimmel, NARIP’s Mary Bee, Rain Perry, Gerard Vargas, North Star Media’s Molly Bohas, NARIP’s Mary Bee, Shok, NARIP’s Simone Grau, APM Music’s Steven Stern.  (L-R middle row) Michael Plen, Brandon Intelligator.  Seated: New Pants Publishing’s Robert Case, Big Picture Entertainment’s Marcy Pulkeley, NARIP President Tess Taylor

Bulkeley spoke about placing music in trailers versus in film and TV as the two formats have vastly different demands and time constraints.

Trailers tend to have a 3-part structure, she said. The beginning needs to grab attention, the middle provides background for the movie to draw an audience in, and then ends with a bang or uplifting feeling to entice.  All this needs to occur in 2 minutes and 30 seconds or less, especially if the trailer is used in advertising where spots can be :15, :30 or :60 seconds long.

Creative Process

The film’s director rarely “creates” the trailer, which is conceived and guided by the film studio’s marketing department and produced at a trailer house such as Big Picture Entertainment.  The studio’s head of marketing tends to have the final say with respect to music in the trailer, and this can be a source of creative tension between the studio (client) and trailer house who often differ on the type of music that should be used.

Very often the music used in the film is not used in the trailers, and it is not uncommon for two or more trailers to be produced for the same film to appeal to different demographics.


Budgets for trailers tend to be higher than for film placement because the rights tend to be broader, worldwide and in perpetuity.  Music budgets for trailers range from $30,000 for the recent Crooked Arrow to over $1 million for Hangover II.

Hot Tip

Big Picture Entertainment just merged with EMG Sports Marketing one month ago and now seek sports-action music cues.

“Sports marketing budgets tend to be smaller than trailers usually,” said Bulkeley, as television is usually regional or national, not worldwide, and campaigns run for a shorter period of time. But once music is placed in a campaign, the revenue generated can add up quickly.

Favorite Music Sources

Bulkeley likes “third parties,” a term used in the film TV world which are sources for small labels and publishers who may not be able to afford their own catalog marketing reps.  She particularly likes Zync, Bank Robber and Static Music.


When receiving music, Bulkeley prefers digital zipped folders or links, and says she uses and Fileblaze the most.  She also likes Sound Miner which enables a preview (or pre-listen) before downloading a track, which is useful. Also:

“Instrumentals Are Music Supervisor’s Gold & Platinum”

Instrumentals, says Bulkley, are “like gold, platinum, even higher than platinum for music supervisors!”  Why?  Because there is far greater flexibility, especially over dialogue, and instrumentals are much easier to edit, cut and layer.  “We do a lot of internal editing,” she said. Supervisors and music editors appreciate receiving stems (i.e., individual pieces of songs) which is helpful when editing.

It is useful to include in the metadata if music builds at a certain point, for example, “dramatic crescendo / build at :38.”  Some supervisors, such as Young & Rubicam’s Executive Director of Music and Creative Content Jessica Dierauer, also appreciate inclusion of the 2 or 3 most prominent instruments used in the track.

With so little time, builds for trailers need to happen immediately.  Music with little or no build, which is dynamically even, is more suitable for film and TV placement, while trailers frequently require dramatic lifts, builds, power-ups and power-downs.


The importance of keywords to find music was emphasized repeatedly.  What does this mean and how does it work?

Music must be appropriately and richly tagged with a description that matches the music and contains excellent adjectives.  It serves creators and publishers to give thought to how they describe their music and what its possible uses might be so that it comes up in a search when a buyer or supervisor is looking for that (your) kind of music.

Bulkeley said keywords  for the types of music she searches for most frequently include, “fun, energetic, sexy, current, hip, mainstream” or “ruckus, gritty, foreboding, spooky, sinister, dark, dramatic, intense.”

Bulkeley also gets many requests for “the new LMFAO.”  “Isn’t LMFAO ‘new’?” she chuckled.

Feedback to Participant’s Music

Throughout the evening when giving feedback to a particular song, Bulkeley frequently mentioned where she would “see” the music presented fitting best, in past or current projects.  Here is her feedback to some of the music presented:

Photo (L-R): APM Music’s VP of Music & Marketing Sharon Jennings, Bulkeley, Taylor and APM Studios’ Steven Stern

The first in NARIP’s Trailer Music Supervisor Sessions series, this intimate session enabled registrants to prepare pitches in advance, meet Marcy face-to-face, have her listen to their music and receive immediate feedback.  In some instances, attendees were able to tailor tracks to better suit Bulkeley’s immediate needs and be more “on brief” and therefore much more likely to be placed.

Click here to see more photos from this event.

About Marcy Bulkeley

Marcy Bulkeley is music director at Big Picture Entertainment, an entertainment marketing and advertising company, where she works on major motion picture campaigns and broadcast sports marketing campaigns. She is responsible for the music in the campaigns for Contagion, Inception, Due Date, The Town, Sherlock Holmes, Hubble 3D, Just Wright, Harry Potter 6 & 7, LOST, Modern Family, Cougar Town, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (seasons 5 & 6), and others. Marcy has consulted for Kathy Nelson (previously VP of film music for Universal Pictures), music supervised with G Marq Roswell at 35Sound, and consulted for Deutsch Advertising. Beyond the screen, Marcy provides background music services for retail and restaurant businesses in Los Angeles.

Sources for More Info

APM Music
NARIP Gallery
Marcy’s Blog
Big Picture Entertainment

Upcoming NARIP Music Supervisor Sessions

Key: MSS = Music Supervisor Session

Feb 22 Trailer MSS: Big Picture’s Marcy Bulkeley in LA
Feb 23 Film-TV MSS: CBS’s Samuel Diaz in LA
Feb 23 Film-TV MSS: BANG Music’s Brian Jones in NY
Feb 27 Ad Agency MSS: Y&R’s Jessica Dierauer in LONDON *JUST ADDED*
Feb 27 Ad Agency MSS: Saatchi’s Ryan Fitch in LONDON *JUST ADDED*
Feb 28 Ad Agency MSS: Y&R’s Jessica Dierauer in LONDON *SOLD OUT*
Feb 28 Ad Agency MSS: Saatchi’s Ryan Fitch in LONDON *SOLD OUT*
Mar 07 Trailer MSS: High Bias’s Toddrick Spalding in LA
Mar 08 Film-TV MSS: Whoopsie Daisy’s Madonna Wade-Reed in LA
Mar 08 Film-TV MSS: Michael Hill (Nurse Jackie / Showtime) in NY
Mar 10 Music Biz Brunch @ Discmakers in LA
Mar 21 Trailer MSS: BLT’s Serena Undercofler in LA
Mar 22 Film-TV MSS: Velvet Ears’ Liz Gallacher in LA
Mar 27 Film-TV MSS: Madonna Wade-Reed in LONDON
Apr 04 Film-TV MSS: Aperture’s Jonathan Leahy in LA
Apr 05 Film-TV MSS: Independent Music Supervisor Dan Wilcox in LA
Apr 11 Trailer MSS: Trailer Park’s Bobby Gumm in LA
Apr 18 Trailer MSS: Toy Box’s Maura Duval Griffin in LA
Apr 19 Trailer MSS: Create Advertising’s Heather Kreamer in LA
May 02 Trailer MSS: Ignition Creative’s Natalie Bartz in LA
May 03 Film-TV MSS: Fuel TV’s Scott McDaniel in LA
May 16 Trailer MSS: mOcean’s Danny Exum in LA
May 30 Trailer MSS: AV Squad’s Angel Mendoza in LA
Jun 06 Trailer MSS: Ant Farm’s Robyn Booker in LA