Multi user sound effects licensing Asbjoern Andersen

When it comes to the sound effects, one topic is very rarely - if ever - discussed: Why it's so important to get licensing right, especially when it comes to multi-user licensing.

That’s actually a bit surprising, given that it can have huge consequences for both companies and individuals using sound effects, the projects those sounds are used in - and for those who've created the sound effects in the first place.

The good news is that getting proper licensing in place is a lot easier than you might think: In this guide, we’ll give you an overview of what to look out for, how to solve any current issues, why correct licensing (really!) matters - and why it's never been simpler to get licensing right than it is now:

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Getting sound effects has never been easier or more affordable: It’s extremely simple to just get a single user license for a sound effects library via a site like A Sound Effect, then go on to use those sounds in projects that are enjoyed by millions of people around the world and take in millions (and sometimes, literally billions) of dollars.

And – unlike traditional music licensing – the licensing fee for sound effects doesn’t increase just because those sounds are used on projects with such a huge reach and impact.

In the heat of the battle, it can be easy to lose track of whether the licenses actually fit the team size

One thing about those large projects, though, is that they’re rarely a solo effort. They’re typically done by large teams of creatives, including many in the sound department – and in the heat of the battle, it can be easy to lose track of whether the licenses actually fit the team size. That’s one place where multi-user licensing becomes something to keep in mind and get right.


When to think about multi-user licenses:

Multi-user licenses don’t just apply to the example above: In general, there are many situations where they’re something to consider. For example, you may be in a company where one or more of these scenarios apply:

– there are several audio workstations, or a team of sound designers.

– the audio team may have increased in size since the licenses were originally acquired.

– sounds are stored on an internal network, and no-one has an overview of who can access it.

– lots of single user licenses have been purchased, since this was a quick and easy way to get the sounds you needed (but several people are now using them).

– you have amassed a large sound collection over the years, with no clear overview of licensing.

– team members may have added their personal collections to the company database, effectively making it available to the whole company without even thinking about the licensing issues resulting from that (this is a very common issue)

Other licensing problems could be that.. well, there are no licenses in place at all, the licensing proof/documentation has gone missing, sounds are licensed to individual SFX creators rather than the company – and in case of mergers/company takeovers, licensed to the wrong company.

Those are all situations where the regular single user license likely won’t work – and the licensing situation definitely needs to be looked at. Thankfully, it’s a lot easier than it may sound.

Those are all situations where the regular single user license likely won’t work – and the licensing situation definitely needs to be looked at. The good news is that it’s a lot easier than it may sound

These issues rarely apply to freelancers/indie sound designers, but even here, it’s a good idea to check whether your licenses fit with your current structure and way of working:
Perhaps you’ve teamed up with other creatives since you started out and built your sound effects collection. Maybe some sounds have ended up in your collection that you aren’t completely sure where came from. Or it could be that you’re asked to work on-site where others can access your sound collection too.
In scenarios like that, give some thought to whether your licensing is right, to protect yourself and your clients, your work, and the content you deliver.

New, greatly simplified multi-user options on A Sound Effect:

To do our part in making it easy to get multi-user licensing right, we’ve greatly simplified the process for that here on A Sound Effect. Instead of having to contact us for a manual quote, you can simply pick the number of user licenses you need on checkout. Multi-user discounts are automatically added.

And, if your needs have changed since you made an older order, just find the relevant order on your account, click Re-Order and get the number of users you need for that order.


Single and Multi-users, defined:

So what’s the distinction between single and multi users anyway? Here’s a simplified guideline:

When do you need a single user license?
A) You’re a freelancer working on your own, or
B) you’re a company with 1 audio workstation and/or 1 sound designer
= A single user license is needed

When do you need a multi-user license?
A) You have multiple workstations or a team of sound designers, and/or
B) you run an audio server that can be accessed by multiple users
= each workstation/user needs a license

This is the basic multi-user licensing setup on A Sound Effect, and generally a good rule of thumb. However, there are other sound library suppliers and distributors that have specific rules that may differ from the way outlined above – check in with them to hear how it works there.

If you’ve got a multi-user usage case related to sounds from A Sound Effect which doesn’t fit with the one above, do get in touch and we’ll find a solution.

On a side note: One thing that people sometimes ask is whether the user count has anything to do with how many end-users can use a given product? The answer is no, a ‘user’ in this context means someone working with the sounds, not the number of people who will be using/watching/hearing the end-product or project you’re working on.


Get the 1-page guide to easy multi-user licensing:

Need a quick overview of how to get multi-user licensing right? Download the 1-page guide to easy multi-user licensing below:

Click here to download the 1-Page Guide to Easy Multi-User Licensing (.zip)

Click here to download the 1-Page Guide to Easy Multi-User Licensing (.PDF)


Why take the effort to get multi-user licensing right
(and what can happen if you don’t)?

First off, the sound effects community today largely consists of individual, independent sound effects creators who are using their skills and expertise – and spending hundreds of hours and dollars – on creating libraries.

They are often people who work in film or game audio as their main line of work, and library creation is then done on the side when time and resources permit it. Their work is driven by a passion for sound – and it sort of has to be, as the financial rewards are typically small.

This also means that each and every license sale goes a long way to motivate the sound effects creators to continue, help them support themselves in a sometimes volatile audio industry, and enable them to keep improving the content they create.

Each and every license sale goes a long way to motivate the sound effects creators to continue, help them support themselves in a sometimes volatile audio industry, and enable them to keep improving the content they create

Oh, and at the end of the day, one could reasonably argue that it’s fair that they’re getting compensated for the usage that takes place.

From a cost perspective, sound effects licensing typically only constitutes a small part of the overall cost of a production – while sound effects have a huge impact on the quality of the final product. So the cost involved are usually low, while the potential cost resulting from unlicensed usage can be pretty high.

From a time perspective, getting licensing right from the get-go also prevents any last-minute delays in getting everything cleared – delays that could potentially stall your product launch or project release.

And from a legal perspective, there are good reasons too – here are some of the risks when using improperly licensed sounds:

(Please note this is for information purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice. In particular, it cannot replace individual legal advice which takes into account the particularities of a specific case)

● The product in which the sounds are being used illegally can be forced to be taken off the market by the original rights owner. This can be extremely costly.

● The original rights owner can ask for damages & loss = retroactive license payments for the usage of the sounds (which does not necessarily cover any further future usages)

● The original rights owner can file a cease-and-desist, with the extra twist that if such misuse / unlicensed usage happens again, the damages increase with every case

Sound effects licensing typically only constitutes a small part of the overall cost of a production – while sound effects have a huge impact on the quality of the final product

● Both the content producer and the publisher could get into serious problems by making unlicensed sounds available to the public. This is a big risk to not only larger publishers, but smaller companies too, like audio outsourcing studios and audio freelancers:
If they provide assets to their clients based on unlicensed sound libraries, their clients will get into trouble first (because they are the ones releasing the content) and this will subsequently fire back on the originator. That will cause legal and financial issues and burn all bridges to a client for the audio freelancer / service provider.

● The risks are basically exactly like with unlicensed music, where technology has lead to tracking down such unlicensed usages more and more. The same is happening with sound effects now: Solutions exist that are able to identify specific sound recordings and sound effect masters, giving the rights holders the chance to check if the licensing is correct.

So there are many reasons to get – and do – things right when it comes to licensing.


What to do if you discover improperly licensed sounds in your company:

If you’re working as a sound designer, editor, audio lead, purchaser or similar, chances are you have a much better feel for what’s in your company’s sound arsenal than anyone else.

This also means that you may come across sound collections you’re just not sure about in terms of licensing: It could be older libraries, libraries brought in by external contractors – or maybe you know that your team has recently grown since you first got those sounds.

If you’re working as a sound designer, editor, audio lead, purchaser or similar, chances are you have a much better feel for what’s in your company’s sound arsenal than anyone else

If so, it might be a good idea to bring this up with your legal/licensing/purchasing division, or the person in charge of your department. Once resolved – and your company will be interested in that too, to avoid becoming exposed to any risks – you’ll know it’s safe to use the sounds you have available, and that indie SFX creators are being fairly compensated for their work.

And who knows, you may one day become one of those indie SFX creators yourself, too.


What if you’re working with freelancers – or you’re a freelancer yourself?

Contracting freelancers for your projects is a matter of trust, and the vast majority of professionals working in the audio industry will have their licensing in order. If, for whatever reason, you’re not entirely sure if they’ve got licensing in place for the sounds they’re delivering (or just want to double-check as it could become your headache too down the road if they don’t) – you can always ask.

If you’re bringing freelancers onboard to work on-site, and other members of your sound team can access his or her sound collection too, you’ll need a license for your team as well. So it makes sense to avoid getting the collections mixed up unless needed – and in cases where it is needed, to get proper licensing in place so your team can use the sounds too.

But what if you’re the one working as a freelancer/independent sound designer? As previously mentioned, it’s a good idea to go through your collection, ensure that licenses are in place for everything – and that you can document it upon request – , and that the user counts fit your current way of working.


How do you handle current collections?

A: Get an overview:
Do a license review by checking out what’s currently on your servers and workstations, and that licenses exist for those libraries.

Even with libraries where you’re reasonably certain that a license is in place; if you can’t find that license, you have no way of documenting and proving you’re in the clear, if someone should ever ask.

Also check whether proper licenses are in place for the actual number of users. Has the team size changed since you first got the license?

Once you’ve got an overview, it’s time to reach out to your distributor or the SFX creator to find a solution.

B: Clear up unlicensed usages and missing multi-user licenses:
It is extremely important to settle past unlicensed usages, to make sure already-released products are correctly licensed. In order to settle past usages, a general release is typically put in place that takes into consideration existing usage and already-paid licenses.

Updating to a correct number of licenses is usually not more expensive than getting the right licenses right from the start – and there are usually no damage fees if a client proactively clears up past unlicensed usages.


What can be done going forward?

The key is of course to ensure you get a license for the proper number of users when purchasing new collections. Most distributors allow you to get a custom quote on request, based on the number of licenses you need.

And on A Sound Effect, things are even easier, as a brand new system has just been put in place that allows you to simply select the number of users you need, once you reach the checkout phase.

This greatly speeds up the process of getting the sounds you’re after, and at discounted multi-user prices too – with the added benefit that you don’t need to wait around for custom quotes or manual deliveries.


Summing up

The good thing is that sound effects are a pretty inexpensive asset, so, while being important for audio-visual media production, they only represent a tiny fraction of the total cost. With that in mind, it makes very good sense to not take any major risks just to save a small amount of money relative to the overall cost of a production.

By getting licensing right, you’ll also support the sound community and independent sound effects creators. It may not be apparent from the outside, but each sale makes a massive difference to them and the whole community.

And if more sound effects users got multi-user licensing right, many more creators could do this for a living, support themselves and their families through their work – and ultimately, it would give them the resources to create even better sound libraries, to everyone’s benefit. Here’s to hoping!


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A Sound Effect gives you easy access to an absolutely huge sound effects catalog from a myriad of independent sound creators, all covered by one license agreement - a few highlights:
  • Sci-Fi Advanced Propulsion Play Track 1191 sounds included $99

    ADVANCED PROPULSION is a next-gen sound design toolkit built for creating dynamic sci-fi vehicle engines and passbys. The designed engine sounds are all seamless loops, making them perfect for use with various plug-ins and interactive applications. All raw source material used to design the engines is included, giving you maximum creative flexibility.

    Add to cart
  • Smartphone Notification Sounds is, as the name suggests, a collection of short ringtones carefully designed to fit the modern smartphones sonic aesthetic.

    This library focuses on short sounds that will suit your needs for text messages, in-app notifications, instant messaging, social networks UI, etc…

    Please note that all the included sounds are 100% new and original, this library does not contain any pre-existing ringtone, so feel free to use these fresh notification sounds without worrying about rights issue, plus they haven’t been used 1000 times before !

    Every sound includes multiple variations and comes in 4 versions with distinct characteristics  :

    • Original – Dry
    • Speaker A – 6t ( soft coloration )
    • Speaker B – 3t ( medium coloration with a little bit of room/air )
    • Speaker C – P8 ( even more saturated, thinner, “crappier” than A/B )

    The ” speakerized ” variants are made from homemade impulse responses created with 3 different phones and recorded from slightly different perspectives. These are meant to be used alone or combined with the dry version to fit what’s on screen.

    Some ” extra ” sounds are also included such as lock/unlock, keyboard ticks, UI menu sounds, sent/receive confirmation.

    – 1204 files / 301 sounds
    – 973 MB (uncompressed)

    48 kHz / 24 bits


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  • Genres Vintage Anime SFX Play Track 350+ sounds included $69

    The Vintage Anime Sound Effects Library brings all of the excitement of your favorite Japanese animated series to your fingertips. Inspired by classic cartoons from the 80’s and 90’s, these recognizable and versatile sounds will instantly enhance any FX collection. Vintage synths were used to create the auras, beams, mecha blasters, atmospheres, magic spells, guns, sonic blasts and explosives that makeup this pack of over 350+ custom 24bit/96khz .WAV files. Perfect for film, video games, podcasts and any project that could benefit from a power up!

    Both designed sounds and source recordings:
    • Classic anime sfx from the 80’s and 90’s

    • Auras, mecha, beams, blasters, spells, explosives and more! 350+ sounds!

    • Tons of source material for experimentation

    • Expert crafted metadata

    • Vintage Anime PDF

    Add to cart
Explore the full, unique collection here

Latest sound effects libraries:
  • Horror Giant Pinecones Play Track 500+ sounds included, 44 mins total $79

    • In Giant Pinecones, get a visceral collection of scraped and eviscerated pinecones from the gray pine trees of Northern California. Scrape the razor-sharp hooks of the cone petals and hear guttural scrapes crackling with energy. Hear rolling cones popping and fluttering with rich stuttering tones. Hear fully open cone pedals squeaking with woody vocalizations like supernatural animals and hardy crunches filled with organic grit.
    • This library offers you an extensive collection of sounds from a unique organic sound source. Digger pinecone sounds are incredibly soft and intimate in real life, but when recorded from two inches they morph into a unique wooden sound source brimming with powerful glitchy and stuttering textures.

    • Two percent of the price of this library is donated to an environmental cause, as an “artist royalty” for the planet!
    • Carbon offset credits were purchased to offset my field recording travel for this library.

    • Woody vocalizations
    • Rolling, scraping, and stuttering textures
    • Visceral and guttural scrapes
    • Fluttering and popping textures
    • Rich crunches
    • Chalkboard-like squeaks and squeals
    • View larger version or Download CSV
    • A spectrogram is included for each audio file. Double click on the photo to enlarge.
    • Read 40+ testimonials for Thomas Rex Beverly Audio
    • Read my Field Recording Mastering Rules and learn more about how these recordings were mastered.
    • Browse the Library Info Master List to compare specs on all my libraries.
    • Browse the Metadata Master List to search my entire catalog.
    • MD5 and SHA 256 Checksums are included for each zip file in my catalog. Use these hashes to check the integrity of your downloaded files.
    • Sennheiser MKH8040 and MKH30 in MS
    • Sound Devices MixPre-6
  • Recording of the American 2017 Polaris Ranger EV. Powered by an electric utility vehicle’s 48-volt high-efficiency AC-induction motor.

    The American 2017 Polaris Industries Ranger EV sound collection shares 44 sounds in 3.49 gigabytes of audio. It showcases the sound of an electric utility vehicle’s 48-volt high-efficiency AC-induction motor in 4 channels with 2 custom stereo mixes.

    The sound pack includes 4 synchronized takes of onboard driving. 4 channels of audio capture the engine and onboard perspectives, with 2 custom stereo mixes provided. Performances include driving slow and fast, with steady RPMs and ramps, starting, stopping, and more.

    The package includes Pro Tools and Reaper mixing sessions, full professional metadata, and metadata import files in 7 languages.

  • A crush on music

    Distortion and saturation play a very important role in music production. From subtle, clean and warm tube or tape saturation to the wildest multiband guitar amp effects: FabFilter Saturn 2 delivers.

    Saturn 2 introduces a host of new features such as a redesigned interface with modulation visualization, new subtle saturation and linear phase processing for mastering, many new distortion styles, and more.

    Warmth, harmonics, color and dynamics

    FabFilter Saturn 2 offers a range of different high quality distortion models, inspired by the vintage sound of tubes, tape, transformers and guitar amps. In addition, you get five creative FX distortion styles to mangle your sounds in weird and unexpected ways.

    With its multiband design and per-band feedback, dynamics, drive, tone and modulation options, Saturn 2 will bring a unique flavor to your music.

    Bring your sounds to life

    Add life and depth to your music using the extensive modulation section. By applying subtle modulation to crossover frequencies, dynamics, band levels or tone controls, great warmth and definition can be achieved.

    With all the XLFOs, EGs, XY controllers/sliders, envelope followers and MIDI sources you will ever need, you get practically unlimited modulation possibilities. Creating new modulation connections could not be easier: just drag and drop. And Saturn 2 visualizes all modulation in real-time to show exactly what’s going on.

    FabFilter goodies

    Finally, FabFilter Saturn 2 contains all the usual FabFilter goodies: perfectly tuned knobs, MIDI Learn, Smart Parameter Interpolation for smooth parameter transitions, interface resizing and full screen mode, support for Avid control surfaces, GPU-powered graphics acceleration, extensive help with interactive help hints, SSE optimization, and much more.

  • Cricket – Junior & Senior is our latest SFX library toolkit, created to cater to cricket specific sounds. We have covered a broad range of specific sounds that differentiate Cricket from other batting sports. Included are sounds for Cricket Gear, Movements, Batting, Bowling, Fielding and Other Miscellaneous sounds.

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  • An ice hockey game is an exciting, dynamic and powerful sonic experience. From the thunderous crack of a puck hitting the boards at full speed to the gentle scrape of a stick on the ice, this library contains a complete range of the game’s on ice sounds, all captured with natural reverb in an indoor arena.

    Included are a range of performances of skate, stick, puck, and whistle sounds, as well as rink door opens and closes, and various board, glass, and ice impacts.

    The skate sounds include starts, stops, turns, and pass bys, as well as single steps and scrapes for detailed editing and layering. Stick sounds include different kinds of shots, passes, drops and scrapes, and impacts with other sticks, the boards, and the ice. Puck sounds include impacts with the ice, boards, skates, the goal metal and net, and even goalie pads. Rink sounds include the opening and closing of doors, impacts with the boards and glass, and a goal horn. Two different types of whistles were recorded, with varying durations.

    Each sound effect performance was recorded from multiple perspectives – a stereo ORTF pair of Lewitt LCT 540s microphones, a closer wide XY from an Audio Technica BP4025, and a close mono Schoeps CMC6/MK41 – either stationary or following the action on a boom, depending on the type of sound. The ratio of direct to reverberant sound differs between these perspectives, offering a variety of options when editing to picture.

    Also included are quad-channel room tones from two different ice rinks, and a special onboard recording of a puck, made by taping a Sony PCM-M10 to a puck and sliding it across the surface of the ice.

    The actions were performed at a range of speeds and energy levels, with multiple takes for variety. Please refer to the sound list pdf below for details. Captured at a sampling rate of 96kHz, these recordings contain detailed information above 20kHz, expanding the possibilities for manipulation when slowing and pitching them down.

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