They’ve been creeping into email inboxes. They’ve slid into your Facebook timeline. You’ve seen them trickle into your Twitter feed.
Yes, that’s right. Black Friday promotions have returned. They’re ubiquitous. You’ll be flooded with a torrent of them from now until the new year.
You may be tempted to share a discount for your own sound libraries. But it’s not that simple. You thought recording sound effects would be the hard part. It’s tricky enough. What you may not have suspected is that sharing sound wisely is equally challenging.
There’s a risk involved. It is common to share sounds and unwittingly undercut your own brand, reputation, and the sound sharing industry itself. How?
Today’s post explains. It describes risks of sharing sound you must avoid. Don’t worry, though. It also outlines a solid strategy for sharing sound bundles wisely to protect your work, convey value, and delight your fans at the same time.
Promoting sound libraries well is a big topic. I’ve gathered tonnes of information here for an Ultimate Guide. It’s meant to be a reference you can bookmark and return to. By the end of this 5,000-word guide you’ll have learned how to share your sound library well. So, brew a coffee and settle in.
Please note, I explore these ideas in detail. This article should take you about 30 minutes to read. No time? No problem. Click the button below to email the article to yourself to read later.
The Risks of Sound Library Sales
In the past two weeks we’ve seen two ideas for how to sell sound effects for success: solving problems and distinguishing your sound libraries. They include tips for improving your collections and providing more value for your customers.
That takes care of building a solid collection. What about when it’s time to share it with others? How can you capture people’s attention? What can you do to showcase how great your work is?
For years the sound sharing industry has been dominated by problems: consistent sales, low-priced sound libraries, and mass giveaways. These predictable, unlimited techniques are terrible strategies for the longevity of your sound business. They undermine the value of collections and sound effects recordings in general with:
- Price wars.
- Eroding trust in your brand and make fans question value.
- Displaying lack of confidence in your sound library.
- Setting problematic precedents.
- Defining your creations only by price.
An earlier article coined these issues as The Downward Spiral of Sound Effects Sales.
The Long-Term Effects of The Downward Spiral
As the amount of independent sound library releases continues to swell, the long term effects of these bad practices is emerging.
Publishers with consistently discounted bundles are finding that there are no margins at the low end. It’s difficult to make any money at all when coupons have reduced the sale price dramatically.
It’s not all about revenue, either. Longer-lasting effects are being revealed as well.
For instance, percentage discount launch sales may seem wise. However, offering a half price discount during a customer’s first experience sears a caustic expectation in their mind: if they return to a sound shop a second time, they’re instantly paying double.
Endless discounts even affect a publisher’s stature. With frequent and predictable sales, a publisher may find themselves trapped with a reputation as a discount brand, an impression that’s often impossible to remove.
There’s a more troublesome effect of perpetual, deep-dollar sales. With the collective, relentless onslaught of sound library promotions, sharing sound itself risks being branded as a discount profession.
A downward spiral indeed.
How to Escape the Downward Spiral of Sound Effect Sales
Luckily, there is one simple way to exit the downward spiral: by preserving value.
The value of sound libraries comes into question when one important thing occurs: price fluctuations.
Not everyone can afford to buy a thunder sound library for $199. However, if the sounds solve problems and are unique, distinct recordings, many customers will be pleased to pay the price.
When the price changes, value becomes detached from the collection. After all, there’s very little reason for a digital product to be discounted. Bananas can be reduced if they will rot in a few days. Bread is understandably given away at the end of the day. Clothes can be discounted if they’re out of season or not in fashion. But digital products? They don’t alter before, during, or after a sale. So why discount them at all?
What’s more, when the discount amount changes or happens frequently, it becomes impossible for a customer to know the true value of a sound library. What they once thought was a solid value at $199 they realize could be an even better value at $99. Then why was it priced at $199? What should the actual price be? Customers will question the pricing, the products, and the motives of the publisher as well.
Adding Value to Sound Sales
It’s simple. Instead of reducing the price during promotions, add value to the offer instead.
This has a very important effect: it keeps the value of the product the same or improves it, but the price doesn’t change. The upshot? You create the perception of adding to the product, not taking something away from it.
The suggestions below follow this thinking. They use promotional events to increase the perception of value.
Most importantly, the ideas below don’t give away the value you’ve worked so hard to create. Customers won’t mind. After all, they’ll be thrilled you’re giving them something more. It’s a win-win: you don’t undercut your own work, and your fans get more of what they want. Let’s learn how.
Note: we won’t get into pricing strategy. That’s different. Instead, the suggestions below are about how your collections maintain value after you set the price, highlights that value, and resists reducing the value of what you already offer.
Let’s learn how:
- Pricing statements.
- Sound effect promotional strategies.
Sometimes the easiest way to win is to not play the game. A viable option is to not discount your products at all.
Do you know your customers well? Are you assured your sounds solve their problems and inspire them? Have you researched what these people are willing to spend and have priced your libraries fairly? If so, you can safely skip promotions altogether.
This radiates confidence in your work. It also conveys that the sound library is of exceptional quality.
Let’s look at examples.
Tip: notice how each company explains their decision, the benefits they offer, and the way they present the message.
It’s a confident message: “we’ll be here when you need us.”
Accsone, the makers of the crusher-X granular synthesizer, have also opted out of sales. Their pricing statement does more than broadcast their path forward; they use the opportunity to pledge what they will give to customers. Instead of disappointing fans, the statement creates excitement of what’s to come.
Sound Effect Promotional Strategies
Still certain you’d like to offer a promotion to your fans? There are dozens of ways to do this wisely without sacrificing the value of your sound libraries. I’ll include examples below. They’re all honest approaches where value is clearly defined. No slime-ball bait-and-switch tactics here. Instead they are honest propositions aimed to entice your fans, give them real benefits and more value, and ensure they are completely satisfied. For you, they preserve the value of your work and grow sales at the same time.
There’s one condition – none of these are a simple as a flat percentage or dollar-amount discount. That’s a good thing – after all, merely reducing price is the fastest way to enter the downward spiral of sound library sales. However, since they are a bit more sophisticated, they do require that you set up the promotions yourself. You’ll need your own store to do this. I’ll suggest plug-ins to get this done for the popular shops WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads, and Shopify.
Don’t have your own sound library Web shop? No problem. Use the sales strategies to learn how you can promote your sound effects on other channels like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. You’ll just need a bit more manual work to get it done.
Sharing sound with a distributor like A Sound Effect, Sound Effects Search, or Sonniss? Read over the ideas. We’ll learn how to approach distributors with these suggestions later.
How to Promote Your Sound Library on Your Own Shop
We’ll look at three approaches to promoting your sound library, and give examples for each:
Let’s take a look.
Promotions Before the Sale
This tactic works by inviting customers to pay before they get a product. Why in the world would they do that?
Well, the promotions add value for “early bird” customers. In return for committing to a purchase earlier, you give them a bonus.
This is best for sound library publishers that already have an established brand.
These promotions are safe because the increase in value is detached from a specific time, and no bundle itself is affected directly.
Announce your sound library a few weeks before it is on sale. Share a teaser video or audio preview of the upcoming bundle. In return for purchasing early, give customers exclusive free items available only before the sound library launch: images, movies, outtake audio clips. This is fantastic for building hype. Loyal customers are likely to pre-order because they know your quality and would buy anyway, but do so sooner to get the freebies.
- Customers get: freebies.
- You get: hype, early revenue, guaranteed sales.
- Shopify: Pre‑order Now (Free, $19+/month), Pre‑Order Manager (Free, $24.95+/month)
- WooCommerce: WooCommerce Pre-Orders ($129), YITH Pre-Order for WooCommerce (Free, €99), Preorders for WooCommerce (Free, $69), then add the freebies to your product page.
- Easy Digital Downloads: N/A.
Digital Gift Card
Offer fans a digital gift card. Style it like a real one with your branding and alter the design for each price point ($50, $100, $500). Customers can buy one for themselves or give a gift card to a colleague to use.
This also makes sales easier for some clients to use your shop. We used this at sounddogs.com when working with the Mayo Clinic team. The individual content creators didn’t have corporate credit cards. So, it was difficult for them to make purchases without hassling their supervisors. We set up a pre-purchase credit amount that their entire team could draw from. It saved a lot of headaches for their accounting department.
- Customers get: credit they can share, a balance they can draw from.
- You get: easy billing, guaranteed revenue independent from sales.
- Shopify: Shopkeeper Gift Cards ($19.95/month), Gift Cards & Loyalty Program ($19.99+/month)
- WooCommerce: PW WooCommerce Gift Cards (Free, $59), Gift Cards ($49), YITH WooCommerce Gift Cards (Free, €129)
- Easy Digital Downloads: PDF Vouchers ($49)
An all-access pass invites customers to pay one price to access many sound libraries. The pass can grant downloads for your entire collection or a small subset (e.g., your sound design libraries, but not others). Customers can choose what to download for whatever fits their needs. The pass is usually less than the full price of the libraries combined as an incentive to spend more. That’s OK, though, since any discount involved isn’t attached to a specific bundle. In that way, no single library’s value is diminished directly.
This is similar to the digital gift card, but instead of being distinguished by a price point, it’s defined by the libraries that are unlocked by the pass.
- Customers get: easy access to all sounds, or a subset of sounds.
- You get: larger guaranteed revenue, introduce fans to a broader selection of your work.
Similar to a digital gift card, a pre-pay voucher invites customers to pay up front with one change: they get a bonus with their purchase. For instance, a pre-purchase voucher of $500 adds 25% bonus: $125, for a total of $625 they can use towards any sound libraries. It’s a bit like purchasing credit up front. Because the bonus is not attached directly to one library or a single transaction, it can be used on any of them. The result? The value of your collections isn’t reduced.
This is best when the amounts are large, say, $100 or more (don’t offer vouchers for $10, it’s too much paperwork).
- Customers get: bonus cash they can spend.
- You get: commitment to a large sale, a customer invested in your work.
- Shopify: Gift Cards & Loyalty Program ($19.99+/month), Fresh Credit ($10+/month)
- WooCommerce: Smart Coupons for WooCommerce (Free, $69), WooCommerce Store Credit ($79), Advanced Coupons for WooCommerce Coupons (Free, $59)
- Easy Digital Downloads: PDF Vouchers ($49)
Promotions While Shopping
These promotional strategies are the easiest: they offer an immediate benefit while your fans are in your shop.
Gifts and Add-Ons
Instead of reducing the price of your collection, why not add something appealing to it? Let’s say your fire collection is priced at $50. Most of the time people would offer at 25% discount, reducing its value in a negative way. Think of it from the other perspective: keep the price the same but during the sales season add features to make it more appealing.
- Outtakes that wouldn’t normally be included (lighting the fire, dousing the fire, wood movement).
- Tutorials, screencasts, or how-to videos. Excellent for showing customers how to use your sound library to solve problems.
- Looped or premixed versions of the audio.
- Free gift. For the duration of the sale, get a bonus library, perhaps one of your less popular products, or a product from another category you want to draw attention to.
- Collated takes if clips are normally presented trimmed as individual clips, or vice versa.
- Videos, photos, artwork.
- Access to a private forum, Facebook group, Slack channel, and so on.
- “Meet the maker”: free phone, email, or Slack consultation.
- Partner discounts: include access to other services or software (“Buy now and get 10% off BaseHead”).
- Charity: give a percentage of the purchase price to a field recording friendly charity.
There are endless possibilities. Look at Kickstarter tiers or Patreon rewards for inspiration. The idea here is that instead of lowering the price of your collections, fans get something more. This keeps the value of your sound libraries intact. It’s also a very successful strategy since “free” is easy to calculate.
This is an especially good alternative for the typical 24-hour 50% discount launch sales. Instead of reducing the price of your collections at launch, give bonuses instead:
Buy Majestic Thunderstorms in the next 48-hours and get wind outtakes from the session and a how-to sound recording tutorial.
- Customers get: free bonus gifts.
- You get: increased sales without diminishing the perceived value of the sound bundle.
- Shopify: Gift Box – BOGO & Free Gifts ($39.99+/month), Ultimate Special Offers ($9/month), Free Gifts BOGO buy x get y ($29.99+/month)
- WooCommerce: native support, just add additional items to your product admin page. Learn how to add a free gift in WooCommerce.
- Easy Digital Downloads: native support, just add additional items to your product admin page.
Another popular strategy that doesn’t sacrifice value: buy one library, get another free. Known as buy one-get one (BOGO), this is just as easy to calculate as add-on gifts. After all, fans will be thrilled to get a sound library free.
This is the same as an up-to 50% discount, but expressed differently. The prices are preserved. The first library retains the same amount. The second one is “free”, however it’s understood that this is contingent on buying the first library. So it’s not really seen as valueless. The upshot? In the long term, neither has had their perceived value altered.
If you feel buy one-get one is too generous, use variations: buy two-get one, but three-get one, or stipulate that the free library must be the lowest priced.
- Customers get: a free sound library.
- You get: providing a discount without lowering price directly.
- Shopify: Gift Box – BOGO & Free Gifts ($39.99+/month), Ultimate Special Offers ($9/month), Free Gifts BOGO buy x get y ($29.99+/month)
- WooCommerce: Discount Rules for WooCommerce (Pro only, $59), Pricing Deals for WooCommerce (Free, $97), PW WooCommerce BOGO (Free, $59), Advanced Coupons for WooCommerce Coupons (Free, $59)
- Easy Digital Downloads: N/A
Volume discounts are often applied on the checkout page either by price or quantity. For instance, spending over $400 automatically deducts $25 from the total. $800 increases this to $60 off. Or, adding your 5th library calculates a $50 discount.
Naturally, this rewards customers for spending more. It can prompt customers to return to the shop to add items to invoke the savings. Because it works on the total in the shopping cart, no individual library’s worth is reduced.
- Customers get: a discount when ordering more.
- You get: higher sales, providing a discount without lowering price directly.
- Shopify: Get Sale Bulk Discount Manger (Free, $12.99/month), Bulk Discounts Now (Free, $9.95+/month), Bold Discounts ($19.99/month)
- WooCommerce: Dynamic Pricing With Discount Rules for WooCommerce (Free, $39), Discount Rules for WooCommerce (Pro only, $59)
- Easy Digital Downloads: Discounts Pro ($89)
Upgrades – also known as upsells in e-commerce lingo – are a way to offer a better version of your bundles to your fans. Perhaps your customer has added a whoosh sound library to their cart. You can offer them an upgrade to a 5-pack whoosh bundle, perhaps for a slight discount.
If a customer is interested in one pack of whooshes, it’s reasonable to expect that they may need more. If you structure your bundles well and offer good value, your fans may be delighted to download more of the same for just a bit more.
- Customers get: more of what they’re already interested in.
- You get: higher sales and more customer satisfaction.
- Shopify: In Cart Upsell & Cross Sell (Free, $19.99/month), ReConvert Upsell & Cross Sell (Free, $7.99+/month)
- WooCommerce: this is built into the software under Product Data/Linked Products. Learn how to add upsell products.
- Easy Digital Downloads: EDD Cross-sell and Upsell ($89)
Ever heard of the endowed progress effect? It’s an aspect of psychology that states people do not want to leave things incomplete. This is why loyalty programs are so popular. Think about it like a Starbucks rewards card: people return to spend to get 50 stars for a free coffee.
This is a way to reward customers who return to your Web shop over time. Have 12 releases planned this year? Reward customers who buy 6 of them with a bonus release or a VIP-only collection. Create a reward program that gives fans points for every purchase that can be redeemed for sound libraries or perks later.
- Customers get: rewards for being your fan, bonus content.
- You get: website engagement, consistent sales and traffic to your site.
- Shopify: Smile: Rewards & Loyalty (Free, $49+/month), Gift Cards & Loyalty Program ($19.99+/month), Yotpo Loyalty & Rewards (Free, $29+/month)
- WooCommerce: WooCommerce Points and Rewards ($129), YITH WooCommerce Points and Rewards (Free, €119), Gratisfaction (Free for 100 members), SUMO Reward Points ($49), MyRewards (Free, €99)
- Easy Digital Downloads: Easy Digital Downloads – Points and Rewards ($49)
Promotions After The Sale
Promotions after customers make a sale are for a single purpose: to ensure your fans come back! How can you do this?
Include a voucher inside your sound library zip files. Fans will discover it when they first use your collection. The voucher can offer anything enticing: store credit, a free download with their next purchase, and so on. A straight discount coupon isn’t a bad idea either, since the promotion is just for that sound fan, and the price reduction isn’t related to any one product. It’s an incentive, not a loss.
- Customers get: bonus if they choose to buy again.
- You get: increased customer loyalty.
- Shopify: N/A
- WooCommerce: N/A
- Easy Digital Downloads: EDD Purchase Rewards (Free)
If you’ve noticed customers adding sound libraries to your shop and then disappearing, you may be dealing with abandoned cart syndrome. Customers may disappear at checkout for any number of reasons: the price is too high, they don’t trust the website, or the cart itself is confusing.
Use software to send tactful emails to these people. Following up on abandoned carts have shown that 29% of people will finish the sale. Offer them an avenue to get purchase support and throw in an incentive for completing the checkout.
- Customers get: help completing their purchase, a discount.
- You get: knowledge of why people are leaving your store, a completed sale.
- Shopify: Rivo Abandoned Cart Recovery (Free, $15+/month), Abandoned Cart Recovery Email ($12/month)
- WooCommerce: Abandoned Cart Recovery ($59), YITH WooCommerce Recover Abandoned Cart (Free, €79.99) WooCommerce Cart Abandonment Recovery (Free)
- Easy Digital Downloads: Recapture ($29+)
How to Promote Your Sound Library with Distributors
That’s great if you can tinker with the software of your own site. What can you do if you only host your collections on a distributor’s shop? Perhaps you have your sound libraries in both your store and Pond5, A Sound Effect, or Sonniss. What then?
While you can choose to avoid the downward spiral of sound library sales on your own shop, there’s no guarantee a distributor will be motivated to do the same. However, as we saw earlier, the troublesome pattern of sound library sales affects the entire industry.
Partnerships with distributors are essential. They have the skills most field recordists lack: marketing, sales, customer relations, and many more. These are things we never have the time or aptitude to learn. Distributors have a challenging job balancing partnerships with recordists and also satisfying the demands of thousands of customers. Working with these people is an excellent team-up. After all, the type of people that record sounds are rarely the ones that excel at commerce. Building and nourishing partnerships with distributors is an invaluable way to blend the skills of two very different types of people. For the most success, it’s vital to acknowledge these differences, and use that complement each others’s skills.
One difference in particular stands out: most distributors can benefit from a more detailed perspective on sound libraries. Yes, distributors sell sound libraries, and sometimes very many and quite successfully. However, it’s not common that they actively record audio or use it. Because of this, it’s normal that they don’t fully understand why sound effects can be strong or weak. Yes, they can differentiate the value between another VLF library and rare tiger roars. Anyone can. But they don’t know firsthand the most valuable aspects of recording or using sounds: why a game audio pro needs sounds provided with endless variations while a podcaster needs that one perfect clip, or why sounds recorded closely work for YouTubers but a bit of extra air is best for post-production.
The upshot? Most distributors aren’t deeply aware of the benefits of sound libraries. They have trouble articulating how to solve the nuanced problems of professionals. After all, who can blame them? They probably haven’t cut 50 jaguar roars or tried processing them into alien voices lately.
But can you imagine trying to sell a Ferrari if you haven’t driven one? Yes, you may look at the product sheet and learn the horsepower, top speed, and price. It’s easy to talk about that. But if you haven’t driven a 458 Italia, you won’t know that it is an experience. You may not understand that what’s on the stat sheet is irrelevant to hearing the restless grumble of the motor, feeling the way it corners tightly, and the slick sensation of shifting gears.
This gap between surface details and focused experience is common for most sound fx distributors. Unfortunately, it creates a significant problem when sharing sound. If distributors don’t understand the sounds themselves, how can they properly promote them? When a distributor can’t describe themselves why a library is good, its benefits compared to others, or how it solves specific problems, they are left with only one way to promote sound bundles: with price drops. This is the most significant reason why sound effect library sales have swelled.
I know it sounds like I’m being a bit hard on distributors. Don’t mistake me. I know many distributors and they’re all fine people. I know they value their partnerships with us and the sounds we post in their stores. But how often do you see promotions that aren’t discounted holiday sales? How commonly are libraries presented to solve problems, and for whom exactly? There’s room for improvement here.
The truth is that distributors play such a big role in sharing sound libraries and they need to work with us to improve things for everyone. Let’s help them.
Don’t think of this as a criticism. Instead, it’s an opportunity. Let’s learn how to capitalize on it￼.
Three Ways to Help Distributors Promote Your Work
So how can you nudge distributors away from endless value-killing holiday sound sales? Here are three ways:
- Educate distributors.
- Offer suggestions.
- Question checklist.
It’s natural for distributors to treat sound libraries simply as “products.” There’s much more to sound libraries, of course. Distributors just need to be educated about that. They’re unlikely to realize why your collections are great without your help. So you’ll have to tell them.
Help shift their thinking from seeing sound libraries as interchangeable products to expressive and inspiring problem-solving tools made for special customers. Tell them which fans will want your sounds and the benefits they’ll receive. Express why your collections solve problems and are distinctive, especially in the product descriptions you write for their shop.
Distributors are busy people. Sound is difficult to describe well. Help smooth the process. Prep ready-to-use summaries for blog posts, create promo videos, and package text snippets each for Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Make it easy for them.
Use your creative powers to help distributors redirect simple sales toward more healthy ways of promoting sound.
Steer them away from interviews. Stories of how a collection was recorded don’t help customers. Help them resist relying on headliners only (“it’s a new lion sound library!”). Instead, suggest post ideas for showcasing the clips in the collection, their benefits, tutorials for using them, and why your craft made them stand out.
When a distributor brings up another seasonal sale plan, resist it. Counteroffer with the 11 promotion ideas from this article. Tell them about software they can use that protects your collections and still offers value to customers. Focus your suggestions for the shop type they use:
- A Sound Effect: they use WooCommerce
- Pond5: custom
- Sonniss: they use Easy Digital Downloads
- Sound Effects Search: they use Easy Digital Downloads
- We Sound Effects: they use Easy Digital Downloads
Here are some quick questions you can ask distributors when they add your collection to their shop.
- Do you already have other libraries that are similar to mine? How do they differ from mine?
- Which of your customers will like this library?
- How will you introduce my sound library on your shop?
- What do you think is a good way to promote this collection (without using numbers)?
- How can we make my library stand out on the shop?
- Who will benefit the most from the library?
- What about my sound library will benefit your customers?
The point isn’t to interrogate your partners with a list of questions. Instead, the idea is to make them aware of the benefits, features, and distinctiveness of your sound libraries, and help them to work hard on your behalf to share them with the right people. Be tactful. With a little luck, you may shift their thinking to consider wiser ways of sharing sound.
Wise Sound Effects Sales Strategies
Selling sound effect libraries isn’t easy. It’s harder still when the industry is bombarded with endless holiday price-slashing promotions that risk devaluing the sound sharing business and audio work in general.
There’s an easy way to escape the downward spiral: avoid reducing prices to promote your work and increase the perception of value before, during, and after purchasing instead. Work with distributors, too. Educate them, offer suggestions, and use questions to help shift their perception of your work.
The result? A safe way to share sound that protects your work, highlights why it’s special, and satisfies your fans, too.
Below are a few articles from the Creative Field Recording membership, a list of carefully curated articles that help you sell sound wisely.
- How to Create an Indie Sound Bundle
- Roundup: How to Choose a Sound Effects Distributor
- Roundup: How to Sell Sound Effects
- An Introduction to Indie Sound FX Web Shops