An Introduction to Indie Sound FX Web Shops

2014/10/24

Galaxy Hero

You’ve conjured inspiring audio in the studio and in the streets. You’ve mixed and mastered the tracks. You’ve gathered your best selections into an impressive sound library. Now it’s time to share your sound effects and music with your peers and fans. But how do you do this?

The last article described how to create an indie sound effects bundle. Today’s post explains how to share your new sound library from your own online Web shop.

Have no idea what a Web shop is? Don’t have the slightest clue how to begin sharing a sound library? Don’t worry. This post will introduce you to Web shops, explain how they work, and share five types you can choose from.

This post is an abridged chapter from my recently released book called Sharing Sound Online. It’s about building a bulletproof sound bundle and sharing it from your own Web shop.

A New Way of Sharing Sound

Sound effects were first shared by corporate distributors. They licensed sound clips from musicians and sound designers and sold them on CDs, DVDs, and hard drives. More recently, huge websites began to partner with individual recordists to sell sound fx on commission from huge à la carte online stores.

The rise of digital banking services like PayPal and free Web-building tools like WordPress have made it possible for any sound creator to skip both of these methods to share sound from their own home on the Web. These sites, known as independent sound libraries or indie Web shops, sidestep the middlemen to offer collections on their own terms.

The result? Sound pros share their creations with millions of people from their own Web shops for next to free of charge. Listeners find incredibly focused, reasonably priced collections larger distributors can’t afford to create.

Why Create a Web Shop?

Sharpest tool in the shed, Lachlan Donald_Small

Sure, you’ve recorded some cool tracks in your day. Now you’re busy editing cuts to meet a deadline, however. Why bother creating a Web shop to share sound libraries?

That’s a good point. Last year, I wrote a book called Selling Creative Sound to describe how to create an untouchable sound library and share it on the best partner à la carte shops on the Web. That’s one of the easiest ways for busy pros to share sound on the Internet.

What if you want more? This week I published a book that graduates the ideas from Selling Creative Sound. It’s called Sharing Sound Online, and it explains how to sell sound bundles from your own shop, instead of on another site.

Why would you do this? Every sound pro has their own reasons. Here are some of the most compelling ones:

  • Low Impact. Web shop software is cheap and easy to use. That means you can build and run a store and still get out to capture the sound you love to record.
  • Community. When’s the last time you bought a sound library and felt you were supporting a creator instead of a monolithic corporation? Indie Web stores share sound bundles directly with fans from a Web shop you own. That brings you closer to your listeners. You’ll learn what they like and serve it to them however they prefer. Your bundles will bond you with a network of sound pros.
  • Cash. À la carte Web shops have immense expenses. To cover these, they must slice away up to 60% from every sound sale. Indie Web shops keep that cash. They cost less to run, too. That passive income gives you more financial flexibility that helps listeners eager to support you, too.
  • Creative expression. Maybe you have designed a unique science fiction pack with ambiences from space ships of all sizes. Is that viable? You decide. Corporate publishers and sound shop tycoons no longer dictate how you’ll work. Do you have a perspective on field recording you’d like to share with your peers? Web shop sound bundles bypass gatekeepers to share your ideas through sound however you like.

There are many other reasons why indie Web shops are growing in popularity. Dozens of field recordists and sound designers are creating online stores every month. What are these shops? How can you join these people?

What Is a Web Shop?

Multi Cart Pile-Up, Galye Nicholson_Small

A Web store helps visitors discover sound bundles, exchanges their cash for your sounds, then sends them collections afterwards. That sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, to do this, Web shops must complete a surprisingly complex process. Any Web shop must complete these steps:

  • Allow visitors to search for, find, and preview sound libraries.
  • Add bundles to a shopping cart.
  • Exchange funds for a sound library.
  • Deliver sound bundles to customers.

Even that doesn’t sound complex, does it? The challenge is that each of these steps must be completed quickly, easily, securely, and privately.

Visitors must be able to use your site reliably. It must be intuitive. Both your and their financial info must remain private and secure. Your sound library must be protected. Only certain collections must be portioned out after successful purchases.

So, in the end, a sound Web shop’s most important tasks are to complete a secure purchase, then deliver only some sound libraries via download while protecting the rest of your collection.

That’s a simplification, of course. There are dozens of other tasks Web shops complete. However, it highlights the most important Web store duties, which will help you choose a shop type, next.

Types of Web Shops

How do Web shops get all of that done? In the past, all of this needed to be coded by hand. Now there five pre-packed ways that share sound for you:

  1. Online store builders.
  2. One-click button ordering.
  3. Digital delivery services.
  4. Plug-in stores.
  5. À la carte websites.

I’ll explain what each does, and how they stack up against the others.

  1. Online Store Builders
  2. Online Store Builder - Scaffolding by tup wanders_Small

    Online store builders are the easiest way to create a Web shop. They are an “out-of-the-box” solution. There’s no need to have a server or store your collections on another confusing site elsewhere on the Web. Don’t want to agonize about menu design and background canvas colour? Online store builders were designed to make selling sound quick and easy. How?

    1. Log onto an online store builder website.
    2. Choose a visual design (or theme or skin) for your shop.
    3. Create a product listing for your sound library bundle including name, description, and price.
    4. Upload the sound file archive to the online store builder’s servers.
    5. Punch the “publish” button.

     

    And that’s it. Your collection will be available to millions in under five minutes.

    Online store builders charge monthly fees. They add more fees depending on how much sound library storage space you need, and how much bandwidth your downloaders consume.

    • Pros: ease to set up and use, feature-filled, no need for a Web host.
    • Cons: lack of easy extensive customization, large libraries can get pricey, must pay whether you sell or not.
    • Examples:

     

  3. One-Click Button Ordering
  4. One-Click Button Ordering - PayPal Button

    One-click button ordering was one of the first ways to sell on the Internet. You’ve probably seen it before: you order by clicking a PayPal “Buy Now” button. It’s easy to create one of these shop types yourself:

    1. Log onto PayPal.com.
    2. Create a button for each of your sound bundles. You will add a name and price during this step.
    3. PayPal will spit out custom embed code. Paste that code on your own website.

     

    That will plant a standard PayPal “buy now” button on your site. Shoppers will click that button, then pay you via PayPal. It is then up to you send the sound library to them.

    • Pros: quick and easy, free of charge.
    • Cons: no automated sound library delivery, must create a button for each sound library listing.
    • Example: PayPal.com.

     

  5. Digital Delivery Service
  6. Digital Delivery Service - Download Sound Library Now

    People choosing one-click button ordering shops were forced to hover over their email inboxes waiting for new orders, then manually send sound libraries to shoppers. That’s inconvenient for both store owners and sound pros who need to download audio immediately. Digital delivery services offer a major improvement to this: they automatically deliver sound libraries to shoppers after cash has been exchanged. How do you do this? The process is similar to online store builders:

    1. Log onto a digital delivery service.
    2. Create a product listing for your sound library bundle.
    3. Upload the pack to the digital delivery service’s servers.
    4. The digital delivery service will return some custom embed code. Paste it onto your own website.

     

    This, like the one-click button ordering, will create a custom button on your site that leads shoppers through a checkout. Unlike one-click button ordering, the digital delivery service button gives shoppers a bonus: private sound library download links are automatically given to shoppers seconds after they purchase.

    So, digital delivery services work by providing a slick checkout process and delivering just the libraries people buy while keeping the rest of your collection safe.

    Digital delivery services charge a monthly fee, or take a percentage from each sound library that sells. Like online store builders, they also charge for storage. They offer a bit more freedom, though, since you can simply plop a digital delivery service button on a website you’ve already created and designed however you wish.

     

  7. Plug-in Stores
  8. wordpress-logo

    The three previous stores controlled all the software needed to complete payments and deliver files. That means customizing those shops is tricky. Plug-in stores are different: you install the software yourself. This software does everything needed to run a store: register visitors, create sound library listings, provide a secure checkout, and deliver collections. This software comes in the shape of (you guessed it) plug-ins for the popular blog site software, WordPress.

    The advantage? Plug-in stores allow limitless customization. They’re usually free. The shopping experience for visitors is generally smoother. Other store types usually require shoppers to depart from a site, then return. With plug-in stores, this is all done on your own site. It’s also incredibly cheap.

    The catch? You need to build a WordPress site and install the software yourself. This means it’s more work. However, the result is a more flexible site that’s cheaper to run.

    • Pros: free, complete control over shop, unified user experience, inexpensive storage costs, extensive options.
    • Cons: some tech knowledge required, larger time investment, weak documentation, some advanced options require cash.
    • Examples:

     

  9. À La Carte Shops
  10. A La Carte - Search Results

    These shops are different from the other four. They are massive sound stores that list individual clips instead of packages of files. You may be familiar with sites like sounddogs.com, or soundsnap.com. Both are à la carte sites. They require custom code, powerful servers, and experienced staff to run them. This means they are expensive to operate. However, they offer the ultimate in custom shops while delivering individual clips, too.

Of course, those are the broad strokes. Each of the five shops has their own highlights. Some provide sales reports. Others allow you to create variations, such as selling your water library at both CD- and HD-quality, each with their own price scheme. Some allow you to sidestep storage costs in inventive ways. Discount coupon codes, confirmation email design, email marketing, and so on are common with most.

How to Choose a Web Shop

Well, which do you choose?

It depends on your approach.

Do you want to get your sound library online quickly, and don’t mind paying a bit more for an out-of-the-box solution? Don’t want to set up your own website? Not Web savvy and are not concerned about learning the ropes? Choose an online store builder.

Want more control? Already have a portfolio site or a blog and want to add a store quickly? Simply paste in a digital delivery service button’s embed code.

Prefer total control with the cheapest prices and don’t mind putting in some extra time? Plug-in stores are a good choice.

I’d suggest skipping the other two options. One-click button ordering requires manual work. À la carte shops are too complex, expensive, and demanding. Both of these options will take you away from the work you’re meant to do: capturing cool sounds.

It is a good idea to partner with existing à la carte sites. That way you can list your sound library on their site and merely pay a commission for each sale. A book I wrote last year, Selling Creative Sound, explains how to partner with these sites. Check it out if you’d like to know more.

In the end, the best choice depends on the amount time and cash you want to invest, your Web skill, and how much control you want over your Web store’s functionality and design.

Sharing Your Sound Library Online

Many of us have worked in sound for years. We know how to capture audio, cut it, and blend it with other clips to create inspiring soundtracks. Sharing sound online is a radically different way of working. You may have no experience with hex colour codes, search engine optimization, and product listing pages. You may be bewildered by the jumble of PHP, HTML, and CSS. That’s natural.

Don’t let that stop you from considering sharing sound. Bundle Web shops are an easy way to delivery your best creations into the ears of listeners worldwide.

Read More

Today’s post is an abridged version of a 55,000-word section from my recent book, Sharing Sound Online. That expands on everything here with ample detail. It also explains much more about crafting your Web shop design and structure. It shares ideas for Web shop guidelines and how to bring your store to life. Check it out if you’re interested.

Sharpest Tool in the Shed courtesy Lachlan Donald, Multi Cart Pile-Up courtesy Galye Nicholson, Scaffolding courtesy tup wanders.





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