Last month, Sound Effects Search featured an article called Sound Effects Library Report: Early 2015. That explored independent sound effects library stats. The post compared size, price, and the content of the bundles to reveal trends and patterns amongst the sound fx collections released to date.
This week’s article looks at the stats from a different perspective: it uses the stats to discover how you can improve your own Web shop. So, this post is meant to help sound library creators offer their creations to the community more wisely.
How Stats Improve Your Web Shop
How can stats help improve your sound libraries and Web shop?
Imagine you’re in a supermarket. You’re staring at a wall of bottled olive oil. You need to pick a bottle to help make a great feast at home. However, there are dozens of bottles. You’re overwhelmed. You don’t know which one to pick. Bottles are different shapes, and different sizes. It’s hard to decide which has more value. Some look a little bit more flashy. In the end, it’s really hard to tell which one to get. You don’t want to make a mistake and buy the wrong bottle and ruin your entire feast.
This is the choice sound pros face every day they visit your Web shop. It’s hard to know what’s inside your sound bundles. Often fans can’t interpret or understand the information on your page properly, and leave disappointed.
Your goal is to make it extremely simple for them to choose the ingredients they need to create their audio feast.
Using Stats to Improve
A note before we begin: this article looks at the stats from a perspective of what is missing from Web shops. This isn’t done to judge any store. After all, a missing feature may be a deliberate choice. Also, let’s not forget that Web shops are digital creations. They’re easily modified. Five minutes of work can drop a feature into a shop that will considerably improve the store. Others take much more work for a richer payoff. So, think of the info below as a series of ideas to improve your store.
Why do I highlight these 11 tips? I’ve shared sound on the Web since 2001. I’ve seen Web shops soar. I’ve watched others falter. During the past 14 years, I’ve uncovered patterns amongst these shops. So, many of the comments I’ll include here support everything I’ve learned consulting for Web shops and building my own store, Airborne Sound.
Do you need to follow every suggestion I include here? Is a Web shop a failure if it misses a few things? Not at all. However, it’s important to acknowledge that sharing independent sound libraries always includes three constants:
- They share digitized audio in bundles. In other words, we’re not selling video, text, or anything else. The bundles are primarily based around audio.
- They are created by field recordists and sound designers, not professional merchants. Why is this important? Well, indie Web stores are mostly a part-time endeavour. In addition, not all of us are savvy marketers or promoters. We’re sound pros.
- Their creations are shared over the Internet. While this may seem obvious, it’s still important to recognize. As we shall see, many shops can benefit from embracing the Internet more fully.
The stats I include below reflect these three facts, and build upon them.
Missing Data – The Hard Stats
Hard stats are sound library facts. They include:
- Library size in gigabytes.
- Number of sounds.
- Sound library fidelity.
- Sound file channels.
- File format.
The chart below tallies these hard stats. The bars display the number of collections that are missing hard stats, out of a total of 876 independent sound libraries that were on Sound Effects Search when the charts were created.
Library size. Almost 42% of sound libraries on the site do not state the size in gigabytes. That’s a considerable number. Library size is an important way to gauge the heft of a collection. Of course, this can be affected by fidelity. A pack recorded at 44.1 kHz will be smaller. However, generally speaking, comparing price with size is an impulsive way fans determine a pack’s value.
It’s actually more significant than the number of sounds. Why? Some sound libraries list the number of sound files in a pack, and also list the number of takes in a collection as well. Each publisher is different. What this means is that fans can’t use the number of sounds or takes as a reliable indication of the scope of a pack alone. So, when fans need a quick overview of the bulk of pack, the size is the first thing they look at.
Without the library size, a fan will wonder how much “bang for their buck” they are getting. It’s a significant barrier to purchasing a pack. Imagine not knowing the library size and being delivered a 85 megabyte pack when a fan expects more. That’s disappointing. They may feel cheated.
Help sketch in the scope of the sound library by including its size.
Number of sounds. Over a quarter of libraries don’t list the number of sounds in a collection (26.9%). While I mentioned that library size is important, the number of sounds complements it to give a more well-rounded perspective on the pack. After all, a 10 gigabyte library isn’t as valuable if it has only four files, is it? So, while the library size indicates heft, the number of sounds loosely describes diversity.
It’s vital to include this stat. Without it, visitors won’t know the breadth of the library.
Fidelity. Another vital stat. Almost 28% of collections don’t list the sampling rate or bit depth. Why is this important?
Fidelity loosely correlates with a sound’s richness and utility. Of course, excellent sounds may be recorded at 44.1 kHz. They may find their way into a fan’s work regularly, so they may be useful as well. However, as far as resolution is concerned, a 24-bit file will sound better than a 16-bit one. Sounds captured at higher sampling rates are more useful. How? HD clips can be twisted and warped without revealing the aliasing lesser sampling rate files display when processed extensively.
The current trend is to release a sound library at 96 kHz, 24-bit. The chart in the last article shared that 43% of collections are at 96 kHz/24-bit fidelity, four times as many as the two next largest rates (44.1 kHz and 48 kHz, respectively). Maybe that’s why some Web shops don’t mention fidelity. It’s assumed.
Avoid ambiguity and list the sampling rate in your sound library’s product page. That ensures a fan won’t be startled by opening up a 44.1 kHz collection when they expect higher fidelity.
Channels. A surprising 71% of sound libraries don’t list the sound file channels. It’s probably because most files are recorded in stereo. Web shops expect that a visitor will know that. I think that’s a reasonable assumption. However, there is only one problem with this: receiving a collection of mono files when one expects stereo tracks will leave a fan feeling shortchanged.
Mono files are still useful, of course. In many cases they are better than stereo files. However, receiving mono files when expecting the standard stereo clips will give the impression of providing half a library. Without deliberately stating the number of channels, a visitor is forced to gamble.
File Format. Is the collection provided in AIF, WAV, MP3, or others? Over 36% of indie libraries keep visitors guessing.
In many cases this doesn’t matter as much. Lossless audio formats are easily be converted to others in editing software. The only issue is with MP3 libraries, or sampler-based collection formats (REX files, for example).
Missing Data – Bonus Data
Bonus library information isn’t technically required, per se. Why? Well, missing hard stats are more likely to make a sound fx collection feel “incomplete.” In contrast, bonus library data adds more value to an existing collection or a Web shop.
Bonus data includes:
- Embedded metadata. Extra text information fused to each sound file in a collection.
- A SoundCloud preview. A single audio overview or “preview montage” of files from a collection, hosted on a sound sharing website.
- A dedicated collection page. A page that displays detailed information about a single sound bundle.
Here’s how the current crop of independent sound fx libraries trend for these bonus features:
Metadata. Metadata is bonus, hidden info buried in each sound clip. It’s displayed when the sound files are dropped into metadata apps such as Soundminer or Basehead. (You can learn more about metadata in a series I wrote on Creative Field Recording.)
Metadata adds great value to a sound collection. It helps pros find and select sounds easily. This is especially important since pros have tens of thousands of clips to choose between. Collections without metadata are significantly harder to use.
It’s also important to embed the metadata. This locks the bonus info into each file. By contrast, external metadata such as Excel spreadsheets and text files may become severed from their files, making the metadata useless.
Metadata-enriched collections appear more professional. Use metadata to give your sound fx collections more value. Fully two thirds (66%) of sound libraries do not include embedded metadata. Give your collection an edge by enriching it with embedded metadata.
SoundCloud preview. Many Web shops or storefronts are able to play audio directly on their websites using HTML5 or Flash players. This is a great start. In fact, it’s essential to include audio with a collection. Every sound bundle on Sound Effects Search has an audio preview. However, 276 packs (nearly 32%) do not use the sound sharing website SoundCloud’s audio player.
Why should people use SoundCloud? There are two reasons:
- Features. SoundCloud previews display a waveform, comments, and provide powerful playback features. Audio can be displayed in a variety of ways.
- Networking. SoundCloud previews can be shared on social networks, “liked,” and reposted elsewhere on the Web. They also have the potential to be discovered by other people on SoundCloud who would never have discovered your Web shop otherwise.
SoundCloud’s free plan offers all of these features and 180 free minutes of audio hosting. While SoundCloud can fail and leave you stranded without audio (I’ve seen it happen once), its benefits far outweigh the risks.
A dedicated collection page. The best sound shops will have a page dedicated to each collection. This page will list specific details about that pack. This is common (only 11% lack this), but is worth mentioning.
Why bother having a dedicated collection page? It makes finding sound bundles easy. A dedicated page has a specific link just for that sound bundle. That helps others link to that specific pack. Search engines also appreciate this.
Missing Data – Network Information
The final chart looks at Web shops as a whole for a single reason: networking.
Networking is essential. Why? Well, many indie Web shops are operated by sound pros. They may not have experience in marketing or promotion. Networking tools are a good alternative for reaching fans. In most cases these tools are free.
I examined each Web shop for three types of networks:
- A blog.
I didn’t include LinkedIn (it’s resumé-driven) or Facebook (used for predominantly personal, not professional reasons).
Let’s see how well the 86 indie sound fx stores on Sound Effects Search network:
Twitter presence. Almost 28% of Web shops lack a Twitter presence. Twitter is a great tool for constraining Web shops to short, value-packed messages. It’s simple, free, and quick. Messages are concise and digestible. Twitter requires little time investment. The hash tag feature can share messages with people far beyond your own network. Retweeting can spread your message to exponentially larger audiences. The game audio, field recording, and sound design communities are particularly strong on Twitter.
SoundCloud account. Nearly 20% of Web shops have no SoundCloud account. A shop-wide SoundCloud account can accept followers. That allows listeners to be notified of every audio clip you upload. Of course, that includes your collection preview montages that will direct fans back to your new releases on your home shop.
Blog. A blog has a huge impact upon a Web shop. A blog provides info about a shop, its owners, and the collection it provides. It shares website changes, updates, and announces new sound collections.
Creating a blog is easy. Maintaining it is not. Blogs need fresh content to keep fans involved. It’s tough to write insightful articles week after week. It’s no surprise that almost 57% of Web shops lack any kind of blog or news page.
Why is a blog important? There are many reasons, but here are three important ones:
- A blog allows you to control traffic. Traffic is the lifeblood of any website. A blog is a fantastic way of generating traffic. When you communicate on third-party platforms (e.g., Facebook), they control this valuable resource. A self-hosted blog ensures that you control the traffic yourself.
- Blogs shows that a Web shop is current. It lets visitors know the shop is active and still working in audio. I’ve visited many shops without a blog and wondered who they are, and if the Web store is in fact still working at all. A blog shows that a store still has a pulse. That helps convince a visitor that their purchase won’t be stranded, and any concerns they may have will get a response.
- It helps a visitor learn to trust a shop. A blog shares more detail than a basic Web shop “About Us” page. Articles give visitors a better idea of who is sharing the packs. This is one of the most powerful ways to help visitors get to know you. This generates trust. Without trust, a visitor will wander away and download other collections.
Why “Splitting Hairs” is Essential
Remember the stat that 71% of sound fx libraries don’t mention if they are mono, stereo, or surround? That’s a huge amount of collections that don’t list the number of channels. Is that too strict? Surely I should just assume that each library is stereo, unless specified?
I wouldn’t blame you for thinking this. But this was my thought when making these graphs: if a hard stat wasn’t overtly displayed on a product page, I didn’t list it. I couldn’t assume. What if I added a listing here on Sound Effects Search with assumed, incorrect info? It could mislead people. That may mean someone would waste money on a mistaken assumption.
And this fact alone reveals how important this “missing” information is.
How does this “missing” information affect indie sound fx libraries? The tips above work under a single concept: more information makes it easier to make decisions. Think of it this way: would you buy a used car if you didn’t know its milage? What about its age, or model? It’s not likely. However, once you know a car is two years old and has 200,000 miles on its odometer, a decision to buy becomes incredibly easy.
It’s important to think about sound libraries the same way: sound libraries with missing data prevent sales. Or, to think about the idea from another perspective: more information about your sound library makes it easy for your fans to purchase them.
I’d encourage every sound fx Web shop to add as much information to their libraries as possible. The hard stats are essential. That helps visitors understand and choose your packs more quickly. Include bonus information to supercharge a bundle and add extra value. Finally, add the Twitter, SoundCloud, and blog networking tools to connect with your fans.
Each of these tips will ensure your creations are shared easily and enjoyed by hundreds of sound pros worldwide.
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