Asbjoern Andersen


How do you get started in independent sound effects? That’s the topic of a new book by field recordist and SFX creator Paul Virostek. He’s been working as an independent sound effects creator for many years, and I was curious to find out what his new book was all about – and what tips and ideas he has for getting started, and making it, in indie SFX.
 

Hi Paul, pleased introduce yourself and the new book:

My name is Paul Virostek. I’ve been field recording sound effects since 1996. Around 2000, I began sharing sound on the Web. Since then, I’ve continued capturing sound effects for feature films and for my own collection. I also consult for other Web shops helping them get their sound libraries online.

In 2006, I created Airborne Sound to share my own sound library of over 23,000 clips. Later, in 2010, I began writing about field recording, creativity, and sharing sound on Creative Field Recording.

The new book is called Sharing Sound Online. It features over 1,200 pages and nearly 200,000 words that explain how to create an “indie” sound bundle and share it from your own Web shop.
 

In addition to running your own indie SFX company for many years, you’ve previously done a book on independent sound effects. What made you decide it was time for a new one?

Yes, the first book I wrote about selling sound effects was called Selling Creative Sound. That book was written because I believe there’s a great opportunity for every sound designer to embed their unique, irreplaceable imprint within their sound effects. So, the first part of that book shares ideas for recording audio in a way that harnesses your unique skill, insight, and creativity. The second part describes how to wisely partner with existing stores to share that work with others.

Sharing Sound Online describes how to share a indie sound bundle from your own Web shop simply and inexpensively

My recent book, Sharing Sound Online, is the next step. It explains how to assemble your sounds together into an exceptional “indie” sound bundle collection. Selling Creative Sound explained how to distribute clips on someone else’s site. Sharing Sound Online describes how to share a indie sound bundle from your own Web shop simply and inexpensively.

So, Sharing Sound Online looks at sound in a new way. It examines how to bundle sound so it works more powerfully together. It looks at binding a collection of audio clips thoughtfully into a library listeners will crave. And, by building your own Web shop, it introduces a new concept of sharing sound: it brings the creator closer with the listeners to share powerful, helpful audio more directly.
 

What are some of the topics you’re covering in the new book?

The entire collection of books is nearly 200,000 words, so it covers a lot of ground.

Sharing Sound Online explores the indie sound bundle format: what it is, types of packs, and approaches to assembling them. It describes a step-by-step process to help you create your own.

It also looks at Web shops: what they are and how they work. It presents five types of shop and helps you choose one that’s best for you. It shares ideas for the design and structure of your shop.

There are also tips for starting your online business, crafting a professional identity, and a list of common problems and how to solve them.

The full version of the book also includes three companion guides that step readers through the process of creating a website and building an online shop with simple, daily tasks.
 

What do you hope readers will get out of the book?

Well, I believe that we all benefit when more exceptional sound surrounds us. So, I hope the book will help readers build strong, appealing sound libraries and share them easily with their fans.

I believe every field recordist, musician, and sound designer has an irreplaceable perspective to offer the world of pro audio. My hope is that the books will help them share their best, inspiring work effortlessly so they can continue to record the sound they love to create.
 

The two versions of Sharing Sound Online
The book comes in a Standard and an Upgraded edition. Here’s Paul Virostek’s explanation of the difference between them:

‘The Standard Edition ($42) includes the main Sharing Sound Online book. It is 130,000 words and over 700 pages long. It leads readers through the arc of starting an online business, crafting a professional identity, building a sound bundle, selecting a sound shop, and solving common problems.

The Upgraded Edition ($49) adds three companion handbooks. They are step-by-step guides that coach readers through the process of creating their online store in another 70,000+ words. There are also bonus files: code snippets to improve your website, Web page templates, and a worksheet for tracking your library releases.

So, the Standard Edition is best for people who already have a Web shop, or are confident building websites. The Upgraded Edition is meant to provide everything you need to create a indie Web shop completely from scratch.’

 

The market for indie SFX has exploded in the past few years – why do you think that is?

Indie sound bundles are remarkable for a few reasons. In the past, sound libraries were mailed to us by corporate distributors. In contrast, indie bundles are created by highly skilled pros already working in audio. They are thorough “sonic essays” of focused sound effects that other sound pros actually need. In other words, they highlight craftsmanship, creativity, and skill in a way previously unheard of in the sound effects community.

Also, unlike other sound libraries, they share collections in a way that sound pros need to use them. Most of the time when we’re working, we hunt for specialized clips to solve problems in our editing timeline. Sound bundles share premium audio from recordists who know the way we need sound served, and deliver it instantaneously so we can meet our deadlines.

They’re also popular because it’s pretty cool to support the friends and colleagues we see at work and online every day

They’re also popular because it’s pretty cool to support the friends and colleagues we see at work and online every day.
 

One challenge for SFX creators is coming up with ideas for new libraries that the market actually needs. How do you propose they go about doing that?

Yes, this is one the most common challenges people have when starting new libraries. What’s a good idea? Will it be successful?

There are many ways of looking at this. The book covers about 10 ways to solve this problem. I’ll share a few ideas here.

One suggestion: it’s important to have deliberate direction. Creating a random bundle and hoping that it will appeal to everyone will earn only moderate success. Selling Creative Sound explained the importance of finding your “audience.” That discovers what sound people want and how they like it served.

So, one way to find a library idea is by being part of a sound community. You can find many blogs, forums, and groups on my community pages on Creative Field Recording. Spend time listening to their needs. Every week or so I hear pros asking for sound effects that just aren’t available yet. Create these libraries. Deliver what they want, the way they want it. These are what I call “theme-based bundles.” Bundles that deliver audio this way are more powerful than “scattershot” concepts. Think about it this way: would you take your chance at a buffet or have an elite chef deliver a delicious meal of your favourite food directly to your table? It’s the same with sound bundles.

Other bundle creators take a different approach. The work in audio every day. They notice what clips work and which do not. They create collections to fix these problems or fill the gaps in existing libraries. Many great bundles have grown from a frustrated sound designer deciding they need to record a “proper” collection to suit their needs. There’s a good chance that if you see potential for a new spin on existing libraries, others will as well.

Many great bundles have grown from a frustrated sound designer deciding they need to record a “proper” collection to suit their needs

In Sharing Sound Online I call these “need-based bundles.” You can discover this by working with a wide variety of sound libraries regularly and keeping track of a wishlist of changes.

Let’s not forget that even the most common clips can be enhanced to create a fresh collection. The e-book shows how to do this by using what I call “The Sound Effects Star.” That’s a way of supercharging your recordings to create a unique pack that people will want. I wrote about that about that on my blog, and the book expands on the ideas there, too.

I realize that a lot of that is conceptual. So, here’s the short answer: if sound is rare, popular, distinctive, or difficult to capture, it will make a viable collection. Sharing Sound Online also lists pack topics to pursue and to avoid.

The most important thing is to simply get started creating. Waiting years for a golden bundle idea doesn’t help anyone. Get started creating. Bundles are virtual products. Building a pack requires no risk and little expense. Get going now.
 

Is there one mistake you repeatedly see SFX creators make when they start out in indie SFX? And how do they avoid that?

I hesitate to label anything as a “mistake.” Creating bundles and hosting them on a shop is a radically different task than capturing and editing sound. We’ve spent years editing audio, but perhaps not as much with Web production. It’s natural to specialize in one skill and have room to grow in another. That’s one reason I wrote Sharing Sound Online: to help sound pros get their bundles out there easily and inexpensively without needing years of deep Web experience.

I do think bundle topics would benefit from more reflection, as some topics are quite common now

I do think bundle topics would benefit from more reflection, as some topics are quite common now. I would hate to see a sound designer become discouraged from sharing sound just because the market for whoosh libraries is played out and as a result their own collection doesn’t get much attention.

This is actually easily fixed. Both Selling Creative Sound and Sharing Sound Online include ideas for creating remarkable sound libraries. After all, none of us want to think of ourselves as professionally irrelevant. Sharing Sound Online describes a way to build a bundle that carries your personal imprint. That makes your sound library irreplaceable and especially evocative, too.
 

What do you think is key to making it in independent SFX?

I think there’s isn’t a simple, one-word answer. That’s actually good news. The truth is that the answer is nuanced. Unlike other sound library types or methods of sharing audio, success in independent SFX isn’t “make or break.” Corporate libraries need marketing budgets, packaging design teams, and sales staff. Massive Web shops require pricey servers, shockingly expensive bandwidth fees, and more. Failure can be catastrophic if you’re sharing audio that way.

There are fewer barriers to starting out in independent SFX. Sound bundles can be created simply, inexpensively, yet have an immense impact. Overheads and risk are low.

That means success occurs more easily.

There are fewer barriers to starting out in independent SFX. Sound bundles can be created simply, inexpensively, yet have an immense impact

Because of this, making it in independent sound effects can occur anywhere along a slope. The first requirement is that the audio is captured well. That includes choosing the right gear, recording the tracks properly, and editing, mastering, and curating the collection to the unrelenting best of one’s ability. That type of success occurs at the beginning of the slope. Most packs today are like that, and they’re doing quite well.

I’d say another key aspect is being in touch with a community. No one will become a fan of your work if they don’t know it exists. A Sound Effect is a great resource for this, as are the communities I mentioned earlier. Also, sound libraries created with a specific community in mind tend to be more powerful and inspire a stronger reaction. The trick is that connecting with a community can’t be manufactured. Instead, communities take time to grow. However, when a library is in touch with the needs of a strong community, success will occur higher on the slope.

Finally, the sound library must be “exceptional” in some way. The Sound Effects Star I mentioned earlier is a way of making field recordings remarkable. This approach will place the sound library on the highest point of all on the slope. This is the most significant factor in a library’s lasting success. The cool thing is that every sound designer has the ability to create remarkable libraries inside them already – they simply need to unlock it and embed it into their clips.

I think a sound designer that completes each of those, broadens their content regularly, and radiates authenticity can’t help but succeed.
 

What’s been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from being involved in independent SFX?

Both field recording and editing sound can be methodical, task-based work. It’s easy to box yourself into thinking only about the merits of productivity and results. That’s natural. We need to capture audio accurately and deliver finished tracks to the theatre promptly.

However, selling indie bundles online helps you think about sharing sound in a different way. I’ve met hundreds of inspiring creators through my Web shop at www.airbornesound.com. I’m gratified that they use sound I’ve recorded. Since sharing indie bundles, I’ve begun to work differently. I always think about their needs when I capture every recording and master each clip. I want to provide tracks to help them create inspiring projects.

So, I’d say that one valuable lesson of working with indie bundles is that I’ve learned how much more direct the effect of your work becomes. More so than any other way of sharing sound, indie bundles and Web shops help bring field recordists closer to the sound pros that create every day.

 

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A big thanks to Paul Virostek for his insights on independent SFX and his latest book!

Get the Sharing Sound Online Standard Ed. for $42, and the Upgraded Ed. for $49 here.


 
 
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