Yoav Goren is co-founder of Immediate Music, which creates music for motion picture trailers as well as for high-end product advertising, television programming and promos.
Goren is also owner of Imperativa Records, which recently released a compilation of Hollywood trailer music featuring big names within the genre, called This is Epic Music — Volume 1.
Santa Monica-based Goren, an Emmy award-winning composer and producer, has been working in trailers and related worlds for over 20 years. What better time than now to reach out and get some background on the artist and his music.
Writing music for motion picture promos is a very niche field. How did you get into it?
I had met a fellow composer by the name of Jeffrey Fayman when I was working in a music store back in the early ‘90s. He hired me to help him with his home studio. We became friends and discovered that we both loved the same kind of big, emotional, cinematic music heard in film soundtracks. We decided to try our hand as a writing team and break into film scoring. But we needed a way in.
Jeff had scored a couple of trailers at that point, so he suggested we pursue that line of work as a stepping stone into the world of film scoring. We sent out demo tapes with compositions we co-wrote to every trailer house in Los Angeles. And then we crossed our fingers.
How was the response?
Every single trailer house, except one, ignored us. Bloom Film, a small, boutique company that had the 1992 Academy Awards as a client — and for whom they were creating a trailer featuring a montage of the five nominated Best Picture films — gave us a chance. Through a couple of all-nighters and a few revisions, we managed to cobble a track that finished into a trailer.
Not long after, a couple of the editors from this company left for bigger companies… but they never forgot us. And when they needed scores for their bigger budget trailers they called us. We started making a name for ourselves in the industry, and at the time there wasn’t an overabundance of composers specializing in music for motion picture advertising. The work started flowing in, and we got better at writing and producing music for this niche field.
What about your goal of scoring for films?
We pretty much forgot our ambition to get into film scoring. Both of us had some experience scoring films, and we realized that, for us, writing for trailers was much more creatively rewarding, We decided to develop it into a business.
Eventually, we created a catalog of trailer music, which has been licensed into thousands of theatrical trailers, TV spots, home video trailers, video game trailers, television shows, films, spots and other audio visual works.
What does it take to be successful in this particular segment of the industry?
Number one is talent. Unlike much of the creative arts — where luck, timing and perseverance play such a major role — in this field if you’ve got the talent and skill to supply contemporarily relevant music for motion picture advertising, there aren’t many obstacles for a composer to quickly become successful.
How does scoring for trailers differ from writing music for other genres?
Music for trailers ultimately serves picture, so it does not live in a vacuum like a pop song would. Also, writing trailer music has a much different sensibility than writing for film, television or video games. The composer really has to know what the ebb and flow of a trailer will look and feel like, and incorporate that into the actual composition and production.
Also, in trailer music, one needs to establish the identity, feel and mood of the piece within the first two or three seconds and then continue to expand by adding layers to that piece. Repetition is a good thing, as long as the composition builds emotionally through a creative use of arrangement.
Finally, on the production side, the four-letter word a composer does not want to hear in this industry is “thin.” The sound needs to be thick, layered, big and, sometimes, over-the-top.
You recently added services for spots and TV series. How did this come about?
Honestly, because most of our trailer clients were expanding and offering their services to clients in other areas of audio-visual work, such as TV promos, TV shows, product advertisements, films etc., they brought our trailer music catalog along to these productions, and then, ultimately, our scoring services as well.
How do you prepare for a job?
It’s really a blend of being up-to-date on technology — continually updating my sound palette and mixing templates — and being in tune with the current styles and trends in the sound of trailer music. So there is quite a bit of R&D that goes on in between jobs. The rest, I’d say 70 percent, is reliant on creativity, which is really a crap shoot on any given day, and there’s no real way to prepare for that!
Having been in this industry for over 20 years, there is a certain amount of experience and instinct that I can draw from which allows me to focus mostly on being creative as well as serving the client’s needs.
What’s your workflow typically like?
I generally map out the entire composition first. About half the time, this happens for me at the piano. As I write, I hear other colors and arrangement choices, but I try to discipline myself by continuing to write the piece at the piano so it would have compositional integrity and not be too reliant on technological bells and whistles. When it’s done, I move the basic skeletal composition over to the computer.
I launch my template of sounds, effects, loops etc., and begin matching what I’d heard in my head with plug-in instruments. Coming up with an arrangement for the composition is really about only 10 percent of the work. Creativity is really crucial when choosing sounds, because I really don’t want to rely on a certain sonic character that I’ve come up with for previous work. And oftentimes the creation or selection of new sounds spawns new compositional ideas. So at this point, the arrangement can modify and hopefully enhance the original composition.
When the piece is done, I move to the mixing console. I like to take time in between the roles of composer and mixer so that I am approaching the project with fresher ears — if time permits, of course.
Can you talk about the mixing?
It’s also a highly creative process with different sensibilities, which I find equally challenging and rewarding. The mixing generally also takes longer than the composition, since this is the stage where the production acquires its sonic identity. The marriage of composition and sound is, of course, the Holy Grail for every composer. For me, getting it to sound as close to what I initially hear while I was sitting at the piano is what I strive for.
What instruments/tools do you use?
I use MOTU Digital Performer and Avid Pro Tools on Mac computers. I use many plug-ins — from virtual instruments to audio processors — within these programs. I mix on an SSL AWS 900 analog board, and incorporate quite a bit of analog processing (Neve, Manley, Tube-Tech) in the chain.
I play piano, and while I can get by on bass and guitar I almost always hire session musicians for these and other instruments.
What about a recent project?
I’ve been collaborating with some noted publishers on creating unique covers of well-known songs in a cinematic trailer style. It’s something I’ve never done as part of music creation for trailers, and I am enjoying putting my own emotional and sometimes twisted interpretations into ubiquitous pop songs.
Is there a project you are most proud of?
My company’s first “Themes For Orchestra & Choir” recording. My partner Jeff and I wrote, arranged and supervised over 50 compositions for which we hired a large orchestra to record over the course of 10 straight days.
It was a massive project, which not only required creativity but also focus on production details and logistics. It was also the first time we had worked with famous engineers who were well established in the Hollywood community.
We put nearly all our money behind this project, and it took a full year to complete. I was so thrilled to have my music played by over 100 musicians, and equally rewarding was that the trailer community embraced the project with the use of the music in dozens of film campaigns.
Any tips for those trying to make it in this area?
Trailer houses are always on the hunt for the next talented composer. Having your music on YouTube is a great marketing jumping-off point, as the industry trolls there for new talent. And contacting the trailer house music supervisors is not as difficult as it would be to get through a label’s A&R person. They are willing to listen to anything new from emerging talent, especially if the material presented is quickly available for a turnkey license. Licensing music, as opposed to custom scoring trailers, is how most of a trailer’s music is selected these days.