I thought it could be useful for all of us to start a discussion about what type of issues start to move music/sound away from having potential as stock audio?
What are the common faults? You could think in terms of: Mix/mastering Composition/arrangement Style/mood Length/structure Choice of instruments/samples Quality General appeal, popularity of style Suitability for the likely end use, etc How current/relevant is the music?
I’m just trying to think about all the issues that might factor, I’m really interested to hear some points of view, and it would be great if anyone would like add to, or expand on these?
As well as being a seller I’ve purchased quite a few things here on AJ.
PRODUCTION QUALITY (recording / mixing / mastering / sound + sample quality)
The number 1 thing for me that kills commercial viability is production quality. If your track doesn’t sound like it was made professionally, there is no chance I will buy it. However, what’s important to remember is that a lot of people who are buying stock audio don’t know anything about production quality (and don’t care) – which means what they are most likely to be influenced by is….
Look at all the top sellers. There is a certain feel to them that resonates with more people. The common things that the top tracks have in common is that they have good production quality and good feel.
Of course, what constitutes a track feeling good is debatable. But usually it comes down to structure and flow, and then the production quality. The reality is, a bunch of things have to come together for a track to be really good. It’s difficult to analyze, but some tracks just feel better and have an X factor that others don’t.
As has been debated many times on the forums already. So much of the stock audio here is trying to copy ‘established’ stock audio. If I want that established sound, I’m going to go to the author who originally established that sound, not some knock-off. I guess that doesn’t mean the tracks I’m missing out on are bad, but they are not going to be successful if they don’t have something that draws you to them in the first place.
Those are my early thoughts, I’m interested to see what other authors have to say.
Good idea. Here are few points that some of my past clients brought up:
1. Sounds / instruments that conflict with the voiceover. 2. No clear and clean transition points (to cut the track into smaller sections or loops) 3. Too many variations from the original theme / mood. 4. Instruments or sounds not common for given genre. One person actually told me “stick to the genre, don’t try to look smart”
Hope that helps.
In my experience, complexity and intrusiveness lead to low sales. Simple songs that set a feel but don’t distract or call too much attention to themselves sell better.
Paradoxically, strong memorable melodies seem to sell well too. Out of my top 10 selling songs, about 7 fall into a more “background-y” category and 3 have a distinct melody. However, the melodies are very simple and repetitive, so even though they’re sort of in the forefront they’re not overly distracting and are certainly not complex.
I’ve found songs that have an instrument that gets too busy don’t sell as well in general.
One other more esoteric thing – I’m sure we’ve all experienced tracks that you start with really good intentions but end up struggling with, or you’ve added one too many instruments but when you take one away it just sounds too thin, or have just taken too much time on, or felt like it was more work than play. No matter what the end result is, these tend to not sell as well for me.
On the other hand, without exception, my top 10 selling songs came easy to me. For instance, my best seller was actually conceived as a bit of a joke in response to one of the original ukulele/clapping/whistling bashing threads, so the entire composition and recording process I felt silly and whimsical, and just had a good time with it. My second best seller was the result of not being able to consciously come up with any compositions while sitting in the studio, so I just recorded some simple fingerpicking and layered a couple of instruments over it.
So I guess in a nutshell what has worked for me is to not overthink things and have as much fun as possible when composing and recording. I’m sure that won’t work for every genre or author, but I’m mainly in the folk category which means that there is latitude for simplicity that you won’t find in, say, cinematic.
Great stuff here. I really agree with you JHunger, one of the main things I have realized that I needed to change in my Stock writing material is simplicity.
Sometimes I feel like I add too much, too many changes, melodies, instruments. It gets too busy. This is my goal for 2012 is to “Dumb” things down a bit.
Related to a lot of what was said earlier I too felt that if there is too much purpose or intention behind a piece, it can really kill it’s groove and perhaps condemn it to poor sales. Also, I too have experienced that some of my better sales were with tracks I did purely out of fun and it shows on the piece. Whenever I try to “re-capture” the energy of the song in a similar genre I often fail.
One thing that I think is really important is to not stay in your comfort zone. Yes it’s true it is good to specialise so you’re known in certain niche markets but at the same time, sometimes you end up writing something amazing because you stepped out of your comfort zone, tried out new things and just did really well.
I was thinking of this stuff, as I submitted a new track today. I ve just two months experience in the marketplace and I feel very identified with this post, mostly with JHunger and Garethcoker.
Bad Mixing/mastering, sample election, complex ideas and “computer” sound/groove, move the tracks away from being commercially viable
But, we all have some tracks, simple and concrete, that we think are going to be a success and fall in disgrace. And perhaps the tracks have all the “top 5 points to be a hit”, but luck or bad timing don´t help.
Andy, awesome thread!
I agree with everyone so far. Gareth, you explained it so well.
I’m big on making things sound great. I think the music production and mixing/mastering both plays an equal role in commercial success. I am rather new here, but I have been creating music for years now and I constantly study and take notice to music everywhere, from the grocery store, to the music in every movie i go see, to “radio Top 40”, to that cheesy jingle that for some strange reason works in a Television commercial.
So to add on to what everyone already said, I think when people create music without purpose but just out of pure inspiration is risking failure because we are in the “business” of music selling. Business is strategic and about the consumer and what their needs are. We can be ignorant to assume that just because our track we just created that was inspired and we feel is the greatest doesn’t mean the consumer feels the same way. IT DOESN ’T TAKE AWAY FROM THE BEAUTY OF OUR CREATIVE WORK OF ART , but maybe just the commercial worth to consumers. With that said, if we want to make money selling stock, we need to study and know what sells. If we want to take a risk and start a new trend in stock audio (which is totally awesome), then we must understand that it may not get accepted by the consumer. So it’s nothing personal against us. It’s “business.”
I know I know…there are many who would say it’s not about making money, but making music from the heart. Agreed….to a certain extent. Because we are in this business, if we want to make sales, then we have to find out how we can bring something to the table without compromising who we are as composers and it be commercially successful. If you don’t want to make sales, then that’s totally cool. But why are you on a site that sells stock audio? If you want to make music purely for art’s sake (again which is totally awesome), then I feel that you don’t need to complain if people aren’t buying. I hope that makes sense
I for one love the fact that I can make a potential living/career out of something I love. I want to always keep that balance. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to make money doing what you are passionate about. But as with anything else in life, it’s hard work and continual growth.
So I’ll try to answer Andy with my humble experience.
What are the common faults?
As much as AJ is trying to clean up its catalog, way to many items have poor production.
Lots and lots of good compositions are suffering from this. They sound cheap and that is a deterrent for me.
Just because it is stock does not mean the songs have to be horribly kitsch.
I will add the little thumbnail pictures to that equation. Some look so bad that I don’t even want to click and listen.
Lots of items have too much going on… like Joel said, the tunes need to be simple and yet catchy
I produce institutional videos for a community college so all has to be inviting in order to draw the students to the video, but not too crazy that they would miss on the message.
Cheesiness mentioned above can easily distract viewers as well…
Well… I won’t buy it if I can’t edit it down to fit my project… plain and simple!