Why Small Changes Can Amplify Your Sound Library


Joshua Tree National Park Sunset

In my last article I wrote about a book called The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. A “tipping point” is a small change that has a large effect. I applied the idea to downloadable sound effect websites.

This week I’ll look at what small changes you can make to cause a big difference in the quality of your sound library.

I’ll be writing mostly for people who want to sell or distribute their library, though I think the ideas can be applied to improving sound libraries generally.

In my next article I’ll share some examples of what specific small changes you can make.

Unexpected changes with my sound effects library

I first started thinking about tipping points and sound libraries while working with my Airborne Sound effects library.

I began my library by mastering my first DAT tape recordings, creating around 2,500 sound effects. I placed the library in some web shops as an experiment.

At first the library had a respectable response. I supplemented with a couple hundred sound fx here and there. But it wasn’t until the library grew to 5,000 sound clips that sales jumped.

One would think a 5,000 sound effect library would earn twice the amount of a 2,500 clip library. Instead, the response was exponential.

Somewhere while my library increased to 5,000 from 2,500 sound effects a tipping point occurred.

What happened? I made one small change.

What the change was

You may want a small change to make more sales. Maybe to get a sound library in more hands and ears. Perhaps you want to make a high-quality, specialized library quicker and better.

How you achieve any of this is by knowing your audience.

If you read my article Two Things You Must Know When Creating a Sound Library you’ll see that knowing your sound library goal and audience gives it distinction.

It will also help you know what small tweaks will give your library potency.

The most important small change that I made was picking an audience. I decided to make my sound fx more useful to a specific group: film editors. Every sound effect I recorded since has been with film sound editors in mind. (More about this in the next article.)

No matter who your audience is, there are two important things to know about them:

  • how they use your sound effects
  • what they use your sound effects for

Why is this important?

The danger of not knowing your audience

An example: some downloadable sound effects websites are run by people with no sound effects experience. They don’t use or even listen to the sounds they host. They’re businesspeople. Distributors.

Unfortunately it shows.

Sometimes these websites focus on quantity (as a marketing ploy). Their libraries will be packed with any sound at all instead of fewer though valuable sound clips. Sometimes the web site is built in a frustratingly technical way that doesn’t resonate with creative sound people.

The result is that these sound libraries don’t reach as many people as they could. These web sites aren’t built thinking about how (and maybe why) people use them. As a result they run the risk of alienating people. The sound library will be less useful.

Distribution itself is fine of course. Walmart does it and they are the most successful store on the planet.

But when it comes to creative work that you want to sell or share, I believe knowing your audience will help you easily make small changes to cater to their needs.

Why you need to know your audience

If you don’t know how people use your sound effects, you’re not going to deliver them the right way. Big files when they need compact, low-bandwidth clips. Force downloads when they just want to preview sounds in a web browser.

If you don’t know why they are using your sound effects, you’re going to give them the wrong sounds. Close perspective crowd when they need distant. Raw and transparent field recordings when they need polished and produced sound clips.

Apply this concept to your own sound library. Whether you are selling sound effects, recording for your in-house sound library or sharing sound clips on a blog you need to know who is on the receiving end of your creative work.

Knowing your audience is the first, key step you need. Every small change that will cause big improvements will flow from that knowledge.

The small changes

So what does this have to do with tipping points?

Often when starting a sound library you’ll wonder:

  • what do I record?
  • how many sound effects do I need to begin?
  • what microphone should I use?
  • how do I organize and offer the sound clips?

When you know your audience the answers to these questions will be clear. They are the small changes you can apply to achieve big results.

If you are beginning a sound library, these answers will give you the proper focus to record the right sounds. If you already have a sound library, it will provide the course-correction to turn your library in the right direction to be the most effective.

With only a small change of perspective you will achieve a huge impact on the quality of your sound library.

There are many changes you can try. My next post will have specific suggestions of small changes you can make to cause a tipping point to transform you own sound effects library from good to great.

I’ll also share why my library experienced a big response from a few small changes.

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