Roundup: How to Choose a Sound Effects Distributor

2017/05/03

A few months ago I began a new type of series here on the blog: article roundups. Why? Well, we’ve covered a lot of topics on the site in the last six years. The roundups are meant to gather similar posts in one easy-to-digest serving.

The first roundups covered the two most popular questions I receive from readers: How to Sell Sound Effects and Sound FX Library Ideas & How to Choose Them. The third most common question follows a similar theme:

Where should I sell my sound effects?

How can I choose the best sound library partner?

What is the best website to distribute my sound clips?

How do you find good sound fx distributors?

So, today’s article will share previous posts about sound fx library distributors. It will also include new tips that will help you learn how to choose the best sound stores to sell your clip collections.

The Challenge of Choosing A Sound Library Distributor

Why is it so difficult to find the best sound fx library distributor?

  • It’s difficult to know all sound library website options.
  • It’s hard to tell them apart.
  • It’s not easy to know which distributor to trust with your precious field recordings.

Of course, once you’ve begun selling sound a while, the options are easier to decipher. However, this isn’t evident when just beginning sharing your first sound library.

Because of this, there is some element of risk. Field recordists have worked hard finding, recording, and preparing their sound effects. Partnering with a Web shop begins a significant relationship. It’s one that requires a commitment that often lasts years. Is it wise to trust them with your hard work? Will they represent a sound collection well? Will the website promote your creations faithfully? Will you earn money? When first visiting a sound shop it’s impossible to know. It’s natural to be cautious about choosing a distributor.

Who are these distributors? Can you trust them? How do you find out? What’s the best sound effect Web shop for you to share your sound library?

The Quick Answer

Here’s the quick answer, and it may be disappointing: there is no single best distributor. There isn’t one correct option. This post will not recommend a sole website that everyone should partner with. Why?

  • Technical changes. The best websites change frequently. How? Well, there are technical reasons. Sometimes a keyword quirk or Web page design may sink a website’s PageRank and push it off Google’s first page of search results or raise it, significantly impacting its ability to attract customers.
  • Purchasing habit changes. I’ve watched the sound library industry grow through CD to DVD to a la carte sites and finally to indie bundle formats. Each new evolution left the previous ones scampering to adapt. Few did. Right now independent sound effect bundles are popular with sound pros. This won’t last forever, though. A new stage of sound library sharing could appear on the horizon at any time.

Not too long ago major websites Sonomic, Sound Effects Library (UK), and Sound Effect Dot Com were powerhouses. The first two collapsed. The third has faded from its position as a substantial distributor. They’re not the only ones. While compiling my notes of current websites, I discovered a half dozen had vanished. The market is brutal. Web shop turnover is high.

Because of this, hard recommendations I’d give today could change in a month. What works better? It’s wiser to give you tools to find the best websites you want for your own goal whenever you decide to share sound.

Don’t worry, specific sites will be shared below. You can use them as a starting point for your research. The most important thing to note is that you will be more successful if you analyze choices before deciding. How do you do this?

The First Step to Choosing A Sound Library Distributor

The first step is to decide how you want your sound library shared. Now, it may be tempting to simply carpet bomb the Internet with your sound library. After all, isn’t that the best way to make the most amount of cash from your collection?

In theory this appears true. Having your sounds in more spots would seem to increase the odds of someone finding and buying your sounds. However, I’d recommend against this. When I first began sharing sound in 2006, this was the technique I tried. It doesn’t work. Why?

Well, when you begin sharing sound on a distributor’s shop you are beginning a relationship. This is vital to understand. Any decision either of you makes will affect the other, for better or for worse. How? Let’s imagine the scenario from both sides, the distributor and the sound library owner.

  • Decisions impact the distributor: Let’s say your library begins selling well. Soon, a major DVD sound fx publisher contacts you and offers to buy out your library for an attractive price. They need you to remove it from all other websites first, though. This creates heat with your old online distributor: you had a term with them and now you want to exit early. That impacts their ability to earn cash, and sours the relationship in the community.
  • Decisions impact the library owner: Or, let’s imagine your online distributor decides to compete with similar cutthroat sites by offering a shockingly high discount on all sound effects, site-wide, for a month. You have no say in it, and can only watch helplessly as your profits are undercut for a month-long sale.

I have witnessed both situations in the community. Each of them created fallout for everyone involved and affected the relationships negatively. The bottom line? Choose partners carefully.

How to Find Sound Library Distributors

How can you discover Web shop options? There are two main ways to find sound library distributors:

  • Recommendations. Keep an eye open for recommendations on the Web. Popular places:

    This is something that is best done over time. Watch each of the channels over a few months to see what shops are mentioned prominently and positively.

  • Web searches. I found my first distributors with Web searches. Tips:
    • Discover websites by using specific keyword strings (e.g., “dog sound effects -DVD -CD -free”).
    • Review the first five pages of Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo search results. Which sites commonly appear at the top? Which pages are attractive and useful?
    • See who is paying for ads. Are the ads sensible or slimy? Ads can convey desperation or confidence and affluence. Review the ad content and decide.

When beginning, make a list of 10-20 options. You’ll narrow them down, next.

How to Decide Your Distribution Style

So, how do you decide upon the Web shops you’d like to partner with? How do you choose your distribution style? Here are ideas to get you thinking:

  • Distribution type. How do you want to share your sound effects? There are a handful of types of sound shops: CD and DVD stores, a la carte Web shops that sell single clips, indie sound fx bundle stores, and sharing through apps. Two previous articles explored these options (article one, article two).
  • Distribution scope. Do you want your sound effects on one, selective website, or spread across as many options as possible? Two older articles discussed these choices in depth (post one, post two).
  • Goals. Are you interested in making cash at all costs, want a more artistic representation of your work, or an approach in between? Choosing a hardcore sales website when you’d like to have your work selectively and creatively displayed will create friction over time. Choose distributors who have the same goals as you. Ask yourself: what type of people do you want to work with?
  • Control. Do you want to be deeply engaged with your distributor? Interested in a hands-on method of selling sound? Or, would you prefer to let the partner assist you with every step? Maybe you’d like to relinquish all control and simply hand over the files to your distributor.

It’s important to note that there isn’t a perfect answer to any of these options. The correct choice depends on how you want to represent and share you field recordings.

How to Review Sound Library Distributor Options

The distribution style options are what I call “soft” choices. The best choice depends on your inclinations. Are there any “hard” facts that can help your decision?

Yes. Let’s take a look.

  • Review the company. Check out the website using whois and traffic analysis sites. Examine how they present and market themselves. Look at their impact: how they are perceived in the community?
  • Look at the stats. Use tools like BuiltWith, GTMetrix, and SSL analyzers to learn about the technology behind the websites. Supplement this with meta tag analyzers to learn if they practice good search engine optimization practices.
  • Evaluate the Web store content. What do you think of the store design? Is it attractive or cumbersome? Is the site easy to use? Does it include vital pages like a privacy policy, copyright statement, an accessible end user license agreement, and others? What about the sounds themselves? Is their catalog packed with exceptional sounds or slathered with low-effort clips? Are the sounds updated regularly or has the site been stale for years? If you’re not impressed with the content, customers won’t be either. Translation: your sounds won’t sell there.
  • Search results. There’s no point in listing your sounds with a distributor if no one can find them, or the store stacks search results by showing their own clips first. Test the search function to ensure it returns accurate, speedy results.

Taken together, those stats will help you decide if a distributor is technically suitable to partner with.

Current Sound Library Distributors, Spring 2017

Here are examples of distributors from each category:

DVD and Hard Drive Distributors:

A La Carte Web Shops:

Independent Sound Bundle Distributors:

Software:

  • Soundly. This metadata app distributes independent sound libraries through the app interface.

Now, it may be tempting to simply limit your search with the options above. Remember, this is a snapshot of sound fx library distributors from spring, 2017. It may not be current by the time you read it. I strongly encourage you to research your options in depth using the ideas above.

Also, please note this isn’t a list of endorsements. I have my own opinion of which shops impress me or not. So, use the shops above as a starting point for your own research. Apply the hard and soft choices mentioned previously to decide upon a partner that’s right for your own distribution style. Compare them, and learn from the differences.

Learn More

I originally wrote about this subject in my e-book, Selling Creative Sound. It expands on each of these ideas in detail. It also explains what happens after you partner with a Web shop, including negotiating contracts, ingesting files, and more.

Check out Selling Creative Sound for more info.

Do you have suggestions to help others share their sound fx libraries? Share your ideas in the comments below.





To stay in touch, receive free updates by email newsletter or RSS feed.  |  Follow on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or SoundCloud.