I’m always excited to hear what new libraries field recordists are releasing. Part of this is hearing the cool, fresh sound effects people are recording.
I also find it interesting to see how these libraries come about. What types of libraries are people releasing? What sort of collections do people crave? I learned a lot about this while browsing the great libraries everyone has released in the past year.
That’s the cool thing about using Sound Effects Search. You can see these stats side by side in a tidy chart. I’m a bit of a stats junkie. I thought it would be cool to compare them to see the trends in sound library creation.
For example, which packs are popular? How many sounds do people release? Are HD recordings in demand, or will CD-quality bundles do? Today’s article explores these questions, and more.
So, this post is for library creators. If you’re thinking about creating a sound collection, read on. The info will help you design a captivating sound library for your pro audio colleagues.
Reading the Stats
The core of the Sound Effects Search website is a FileMaker document. That lists all the website data in a spreadsheet-style database. It’s offline so it’s easy to modify. It also talks to the website to update the listings everyone sees there.
Using the FileMaker database makes it easy to compare stats, too. So, here’s a list of some interesting sound library stats and my interpretation of them. You’ll have your own insight. Use the stats however you like.
Note that the stats aren’t meant to judge the libraries in any way. It’s impressive that independent sound pros are publishing these libraries at all. So, the charts below are aimed to see how sound pros are creating and sharing their work with the community, and to kickstart your own creativity.
Sound Library Hard Stats
The first chart is the size of the library. Click the image below for a larger view.
As you can see, a significant number of library Web pages don’t specify the size. Of those that do, the vast majority are split between the 1–5 gigabyte range and 100 megabyte to 1 gigabyte amount.
A lot of this depends on the number of sounds in the package, of course. So, how many sound files are in the bundles on Sound Effects Search?
A good deal are under 100: 32%. I was surprised that the 101–500 sound clip range was just as popular (35%). Why? Well, making a sound library isn’t easy. It takes a lot of time. Cutting, trimming, and mastering 500 clips is a significant time investment. It takes a lot of dedication to create any pack, but more than 100 clips is a great achievement. Given that, it’s no surprise that the 501–1000 clip and 1000+ clip ranges are on the fringe (5% and 3%, respectively).
The size of a sound library is also influenced by its fidelity. I split the following chart into 5 areas:
- 44.1 kHz CD-quality or lower.
- 48 kHz/24-bit broadcast quality.
- 96 kHz/24-bit quality.
- Ultra HD 192 kHz/24-bit quality.
Many will argue that 48 kHz is sufficient as far as sound quality is concerned. Whichever the case, the prevalent trend is to publish libraries at 96 kHz/24-bit. The higher resolution benefits editors who want to twist, tweak, and pitch samples. However, many of these 96 kHz libraries were not the sort sound design collections that would benefit from this. That makes sense in more global sense: 96 kHz is the basic expectation for sound effects libraries these days.
What are people charging for these libraries?
Well, it’s split evenly in certain batches. It’s interesting that the $11-$25 (22%) and $26-$50 (23%) brackets are evenly split. The higher-tier libraries are similarly matched. Both the $51-$100 and $100+ categories are close (18% and 17% respectively).
Of course, those numbers would be more helpful if compared to the amount of sound files or library size. Just the same, it’s a helpful way to begin thinking about pricing your own library, and for considering how much people are willing to spend.
Sound Effect Content
What sound clips are in these collections? As I added to the websites I noticed that some categories are incredibly common. What are they?
The Sound Design category is a clear leader with 176 out of 845 libraries on the site. Drones and whooshes make up the most of these.
Vehicles came in next at 138 libraries. This is mostly due to Pole Position Production’s massive vehicle collection tipping the scales.
Weapons, Ambience, and Human all tie for third at 68 libraries. I was surprised at the amount of gun sound libraries on the site. The number may be affected a bit by the tendency for gun publishers to release packages of individual guns, as opposed to a collection of many guns together.
The popularity of the Human category is expected. After all, the subject is quite common – we can just point microphones at ourselves and record away. Human sound effects are one of the most common foundation field recordings that build the backbone of our libraries. Foley footsteps made up the bulk of this category.
The Ambience category is a healthy split between urban sounds, room tones, with some other unique packs. Atmosphere sound effects are my favourite recordings, and there’s some cool, substantial libraries in that category.
What sound categories are under-represented?
The numbers climb a bit more with Office, Plastic & Rubber, and Wood categories. While we are seeing many more “elements building block” packs popping up (Glass, Dirt, Ice, Snow), these categories are some that rounded out the top 10. The lone exception was the Metal category, which has dozens of interesting libraries.
There’s been an incredible increase in published libraries throughout 2014. It seems to be dying down a bit, however I attribute the huge amount of collections to the launch of distributors A Sound Effect, Sonniss, and Wild Track Sound Library. There was also more talk about independent sound effects libraries than in any other year I can remember. Perhaps that has something to do with it.
First, let’s look at how many libraries each publisher has released.
I divided this chart’s brackets like this because creating your first library is quite tricky. Twelve percent of libraries have begun their journey sharing sound effects. The first library is always the hardest. It becomes easier after that. You fall into a pattern. You’re not learning as much about the publishing aspects, and are focusing on recording cool sound effects instead.
That’s why it’s extremely encouraging to see that many publishers have moved past the first, difficult library release. A full 60% of publishers have released 2–10 libraries. I find that exciting. My interpretation is that the amount of sound libraries are growing, and we’ll continue to see more cool sound effects in the future.
Creating any sound library is an admirable feat. Consistently producing collections is hard, though. Most of us work other jobs in game audio and sound editing. We can’t create new sound libraries every day. After a while, the number of libraries evens out. Only 19% of publishers create 11–25 libraries. The majority of these publishers have been around for years. That makes sense, however it also indicates two interesting things: success with sound libraries requires a “the long view” and patience. It also indicates that it takes quite a bit of time to complete a sound effects library.
The final two slivers support that with 26–50 libraries at 6% and 50+ libraries at 3%. The numbers are skewed a bit by the type of releases. While most publishers release hefty packs, there are a few outliers that release smaller packs, but many of them.
Publishing libraries is not a race, of course. Sound quality, rarity, and creativity are always prized. That being said, let’s see who the most prolific publishers are:
Pole Position Production offers an remarkable 90 sound libraries of rare and interesting vehicles.
The next closest publishers are Get Sound Effects and the Foley Collection. Both of these publishers offer smaller Foley-based packs, which may account for the large number of libraries in their oeuvre.
One of the first independent publishers in the game, The Recordist, offers a diverse collection of 49 packages.
Note: we’ve added more of The Recordist’s collections since the graph was made, bringing his total to over 50 bundles.
Congratulations to everyone who has published sound effect packs. Keep ’em coming! We need to hear your cool field recordings and sound design clips.
Improving Your Sound Libraries
I have a few more charts which I’ll save for next week. They’re aimed specifically at one thing: to help you spot ways to improve your sound libraries and your Web shop.
To stay in touch, receive free updates by email newsletter or RSS feed.