Much of the appeal of field recording comes from how the craft changes. One day you’ll be crawling under a car lashing microphones to its chassis. The next you may be wrangling puppies to record dog vocals. Perhaps today you’ve piled up a creative stack of plug-ins to create a shimmering, unearthly drone.
You’ve captured, mastered, and organized impressive sound effects. Now you’re excited to share them. How can you do this?
I suggested some ideas in my book, Selling Creative Sound. That showed how to share your sound effects library on existing Web shops. What if you want to build your own store?
That’s trickier. It introduces a new challenge. The Web is vast. How do fans find your work?
Last week a new option emerged to help: A Sound Effect. It’s a website that catalogs independent sound libraries. It helps recordists list their work, and helps fans find them.
A Sound Effect was created by Asbjoern Andersen. I reached out to Andersen to ask him about the site. He kindly answered some questions about his background and his vision for the site. Today I’ll share our conversation, as well as my experiences test-driving the site, and its impact on the sound effects community.
New Field Recording Skills
When you think about it, field recordists need a surprisingly large skill set. Recording good sound effects requires a deep knowledge of sound theory, equipment, and technique. And that’s only the beginning. Many skills are learned away from microphones outside of the studio: knowledge of props from lumber types to gun calibers, a smattering of physics, and evoking creativity. Each shoot differs, and recordists must adapt.
This has been especially true for independent field recordists in the last five years. It’s an exciting time for them, and their fans, and listeners. It’s easier now to find and share new libraries in sound effect bundles. Tonnes of great material is emerging.
This means field recordists must evolve again. They’re discovering they need to add web design, e-commerce, and marketing to their skills. These are foreign ideas to most of us. It makes sense. You’ve been scampering around the world recording boats and birds. How do you switch from performing creative metal shimmers to getting a ZIP file noticed on the Web?
It’s precisely this idea of exposure that inspired Asbjoern Andersen to create the website A Sound Effect.
How A Sound Effect Works
Launched just last week, A Sound Effect solves two problems: one for fans, and one for field recordists.
A Sound Effect allows new sound libraries to list their collections alongside their peers. Their collections are no longer buried under endless pages on the web. It gives their work exposure.
Now, fans no longer have to scrape through Google search results to find independent sound libraries. There’s no need to hop across many sites to find cool new sound fx. They can preview them all in one place. When they find one they like, a link will redirect them to each library’s site. They purchase the sound there.
So, A Sound Effect is more like a Web portal, or a catalog. It helps sound libraries list their work, and helps fans find them.
Andersen explained more.
Q & A With Asbjoern Andersen
A. My name is Asbjoern Andersen, and I’m a composer in Epic Sound, a Danish audio production company I co-founded with two colleagues about ten years ago. I’ve worked as a composer on a lot of different projects, from games, commercials and presentations to film and sound branding projects.
In addition to my work in Epic Sound, I’ve just launched A Sound Effect – a new site where independent sound designers can showcase their sound libraries. It’s essentially the world’s first catalog of independent sound libraries, listing libraries from sound designers across the globe.
For sound users, it allows them to browse, search and preview the libraries in one place, so they get exactly the sounds they’re after.
Q. As someone who comes from a musical background, at what point did you begin working with sound effects in your projects?
A. It’s been part of my work process for quite a number of years. Sound effects play a large role in many of the projects we do, so I frequently think about how music and sound effects work together.
I guess it also comes from working closely with David Filskov, my sound-designing colleague here in Epic Sound. Our process is a very collaborative – and sometimes overlapping – one, and we often give feedback and input on each other’s work.
Q. When did you become interested in independent sound effect libraries, in particular?
A. David had been running his guide to sound effect creation on a separate site for many years, and a while ago, we decided to move it to the Epic Sound pages. I helped him integrate it on the site, and I could see from the response that there was a very lively and active community surrounding indie sound effects.
When I picked up blogging on the Epic Sound site, I also had great response to our posts about sound design. So I really liked the community spirit I was seeing in the indie sfx area.
Q. I see that Epic Sound offers a service to provide soundscapes or single sound effects. Do you have a music or sound effects library of your own?
A. David has an extensive archive of his own recordings, but I don’t think he has any immediate plans of building a library for sale out of it. Who knows, maybe he will some day – but right now, our focus is on creating custom sound effects and full soundscapes for our clients.
Q. What in particular inspired you to create A Sound Effect? Was it one moment, project, or idea?
A. The idea actually came to me a couple of years ago. I liked what was going on in the indie sfx community but I found it a little frustrating that I couldn’t get a proper overview of what was out there. Sure, I could look at long lists of library creator websites, but that wasn’t really the most helpful overview in my book. And what if you wanted to find a particular sound or library? There just wasn’t a system in place for doing that.
That was a real shame, as, combined, the indie sound community offered some really astonishing material – rivalling pretty much everything else out there in terms of sound libraries. The material was just too hard to find.
I toyed with the idea of creating a wiki-like sort of page, where sound designers would add their own libraries. I even registered a domain name for it, but then I let it go again, as the wiki platform seemed less than ideal for this purpose.
So even though it didn’t get off the ground there and then, I still had the idea in the back of my mind. After building and running our company website for a while, I had gradually gotten better with WordPress and thought it would be a fun side project to get the sound effect site up and running on that platform. So I gradually started putting the new site together – and last week, it finally launched.
Q. Right now A Sound Effect hosts dozens of sound libraries (I counted 50). What is your long-term goal for the website?
A. Yes, it’s really fantastic to see the number of great libraries being added every day!
It’s still early days, of course, so just getting the site off the ground, tweaking it and helping creators getting their libraries listed is my primary focus at the moment.
Long-term, well, I hope it’ll continue to grow to become an increasingly useful platform for both library creators and those who need sounds for their projects.
Q. Is A Sound Effect a “web store?” Are you selling the sound effects, or taking a commission? In other words, is it a commercial enterprise, a community service, or a “portal?”
A. A Sound Effect is a free service – there are no fees, no commissions to be paid, and I’m not selling the sound effects. I essentially provide a catalog of what’s out there – and the actual hosting and sales is done on each sound designer’s own site, on their own terms, from their own store.
The site is a side-project to my normal composing work in Epic Sound, and if it takes off on a big scale down the line, I’ll logically have to devote more time to it then. If that happens, I’ll have to think of some sort of balance between what everyone’s getting out of it, and the hours, energy and resources I’m pouring into it.
But there are no concrete plans in that regard. Right now, I’m just excited by the positive reception to the site – and if it indeed becomes too much to run as a side-project, I’ll of course talk to the sound designers involved to hear their views on what the best way is to proceed.
A. Well, you manage your own libraries and profile on the site – essentially, it’s up to you how you want to present yourself to visitors. How little or how much information, that’s up to you.
You don’t need to provide any personal information (other than your name, so I know who I’m talking to, an email address so you can log in) to get up and running – and what you need to take part is very simple:
- Your own store where you sell your libraries – this is where interested visitors will be sent
- Cover art for your libraries – they’ll look pretty dull without images 🙂
- A SoundCloud demo for each library – to give visitors a taste of what you’re offering
That’s pretty much it. Fill in some descriptive text for each library that’ll captivate potential buyers, add a link that goes straight to your store, and you’re good to go.
I’ve set up a Quick Guide to help sound designers up and running – and if you’re curious about the process of adding libraries, check it out here.
Q. The website has been live a week. How has the response been so far?
A. It’s been great! I’m getting a lot of enthusiastic feedback from the community, sound users and library creators, so that’s really encouraging. Of course, I hope people will help spread the word about the site, so it’ll reach those outside the community who’re looking for sounds as well.
So please tell your network, colleagues and any relevant media connections you have about the site so we can get the word out.
Oh, and if you’re a sound library creator and you want your libraries featured on A Sound Effect, contact me.
Thanks for the support so far – I’ll continue to make the site the very best I can!
Listing Your Libraries
After writing to Asbjoern, I decided to try out the site myself. I listed four of my sound effects libraries there. I can report that it’s just as easy as Asbjoern’s description implies.
Andersen created an account for me. He emailed me PDF instructions. I logged in, and created a profile of Airborne Sound. This included information about myself, and about the Airborne Web shop.
Then, for each library I added a description, library image, home page URL, and SoundCloud link. The instructions were simple. It’s mostly a matter of pasting information into WordPress fields. Andersen’s guidelines explain where to add the information. There’s a list of existing sound fx categories you can choose from, and five tags you can add. You can preview each library’s page, and, when you’re ready, submit it for review.
At that point Andersen checked the submission, and touched up a few things behind the scenes. He was quite prompt, and pointed out a few ways to improve my submission, and to add some information that I had missed.
My libraries were live on the site in under an hour. They were grouped with other vehicles, and also had their own page with preview, and extended description.
Are you looking for one spot to find indie sound libraries? A Sound Effect lists over 50, and it’s growing. He recently added an RSS feed that allows you to learn the instant new libraries are published.
It’s a promising development for sound library owners, too. It allows field recordists to sidestep learning marketing and sales. A Sound Effect takes care of that exposure. That means you can get out from behind your monitor and return to creating more cool sound effects.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect is that A Sound Effect suggests a change in sound effects work. Beyond the function and impact of the site itself, it indicates that field recording and pro audio is growing. It is a sign that listeners crave good, unique sound. They just need a way to find it. It proves that field recording is a viable craft that fans are eager to support.
And, most importantly, it’s a promising sign for those of us who work in pro audio: that our contributions are desired, and valued, and that sound itself is taking a larger role in the projects we create, and enjoy.
Many thanks to Asbjoern Andersen for participating in the Q & A.