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Hi there. After using field recordings prominently in my own creative work over the last couple of years and going on a few workshops I'm seriously considering it as a bread and butter work line. My only education is as an MA fine art graduate where all the guidance was based around ideas and I was left to find my own way with equipment. Consequently I have little understanding of sound recording as an industry and this seemed like the perfect place to ask for advice as to where to put my feet next. I'm willing to work for very little to build up experience if it's necessary and am happy to move anywhere in the world to get this going. Love nothing more than just putting on some headphones and exploring.

Thanks for your time

James

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4 Answers

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I think that it's easier to consider field recording as one way to earn income, but not to survive on alone. Many who seem to do it for a living still work in radio, editing, sound design, engineering, or any number of other fields (sometimes not even related to audio). I'm of the opinion that while specialization suits some, it's not for everyone, and those who can switch gears between different aspects of audio are more flexibly employable...especially early in their careers.

I think the way to set yourself apart in field recording is to take the time, effort, and energy to either record things people haven't yet heard, haven't recorded well or deeply, haven't recorded enough of, or haven't recorded in certain techniques or contexts. This is not easy, but that's how you'll get noticed above the rest. Consider that a lifetime goal, not something to get into right out of the gate.

How you use the field recordings may vary, too. Some field recordists are fine artists, sound designers, scientific researchers, musicians, et multiple cetera. This is perhaps the biggest variance in potential paycheck and how crowded the field is, competition-wise.

If approached with zeal and enthusiasm, hobbies and side projects can absolutely lead to personal enrichment and career changes. It's just important to do it for the love of doing it, and set your expectations around earning potential accordingly. The intensity of what you put in usually pays you back in some way, just be open minded what form that payback takes.

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Thanks for your reply - that's really helpful. "and energy to either record things people haven't yet heard, haven't recorded well or deeply, haven't recorded enough of, or haven't recorded in certain techniques or contexts" Thant suits me - I'm the kind of sad git that enjoys recording his dishwasher from 8 or 9 different perspectives then combining them to see where the nice little subtleties. I really like framing a location recording with omni's to get the same sense of a location that you would get from a painting. –  James Hubble Jun 30 '10 at 12:21
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I kind of make a living in field recording, kinda, sorta. Most of my career is in making "soundware" ie; instruments and sound libraries for musicians. All of my products feature field recordings predominantly, some heavily processed and others not so much. At the end of the day most of my customers are using the sounds in music productions and the bulk of them do scoring work, theatre, art installation type stuff etc. So while it's not necessarily straight up "dry" field sounds at the end of the day, field recording is where my heart lies and it's great to keep it a big part of what I do. Makes for a pretty unique product lineup too when compared to the typical stuff marketed to musicians.

Outside of the musician realm, there are a few other places to sell straight stock field recordings. AudioJungle.net is growing rapidly. There are other stock sound libraries online that will distribute third parties too. With enough spread it might pay the bills. Based on my little venture so far; unique sounds that not everyone can access are always a plus. *Almost forgot: Karen over at http://whitenoisemp3s.com/ sells her field recordings and they're just wonderful. I do believe she does a substantial amount of project work which is probably the bulk of her career. Still, people must be buying them.

Keep in mind most of my input is from the standpoint of a "products" guy. I have an idea, I develop a product and then I sell it and market it. Kind of a different world from custom project work. Any custom work I get to do is typically for installation art, meditation music or other flavors of "new age" audiobooks or the like.

So I guess it's theoretically doable, just might have to turn sideways and approach it from a weird angle. :)

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Exactly my point. I field record a ton in order to build up a better sound library and develop unique and interesting sounds for films, but I still rely on some other activity (sound editing and mixing) in conjunction to pay the bills. –  Justin Pearson Jul 7 '10 at 16:33
    
Thanks. I'm find most of this talk encouraging. I think my largest problem is in location as I currently live in a small town. I need to pick up sticks and move somewhere where I can engage with people who would be fired up by what I do. –  James Hubble Jul 15 '10 at 22:21
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Not to sound negative, but I doubt you'll be able to make a living just field recording sound effects. While there are numerous talented field recordists out there that get hired to record and provide sounds, John Fasal and Eric Potter are the only people I know of that are making their bread and butter day to day just doing this alone:

http://mixonline.com/mag/audio_location_sound_effects/index.html

Of course, I would never say that it is impossible...just difficult. You can certainly sell or market your recordings in library form, but I think you'd have to consider other lines of income in sound, like sound editing/design or mixing to pay the bills.

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Hey- thanks for your reply. I can understand that. I guess I'm considering my point of entry into the world of sound recording to gain experience with practitioners and equipment (beyond my limited experience with small lavalier omni mics and contact mics)- I wouldn't be above clipping microphones to random presenters or holding booms. For the past year I've been earning money to get by in a fairly rural area where these opportunities are hard to come by. I'm considering a move but just don't know where and I'm trying to get whatever advice I can get. –  James Hubble Jun 25 '10 at 17:27
    
Add Rob Nokes to the list too. –  Matt Cavanaugh Jun 25 '10 at 22:36
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Well, Ric Viers made it and says it in his book The Sound Effects Bible. I see one way to go about it: get out there and start doing it. I guess you'd find some sort of specialisation after a while (just like Charles Maynes specialises in weapons recordings).

The first thing will be to start making sounds. You need a mic, a recorder and some sort of DSP environment and as you go you'll build up your gear and get a wider understanding and knowledge of it.

The next thing is to sell them. With sources like Soundsnap and Sounddogs, or libraries like the ones that are around today, you'd need to be either recognized or fairly competitive to be mildly successful.

I don't know how successful this can get. The way Viers puts it makes it sound like it was an easy thing to do... But it was more than 10 years ago! I'd say: use of your free time and start taunting the fish!

Consider starting this with someone else you trust, it's healthier and you'll certainly get encouraging results faster! And you'll find out earlier whether it's going to work.

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Cheers - I'll have to check out that book. Doing workshops with Chris Watson has filled my head with a un/healthy romantic image of the job. I think he's one of the luckiest people alive. I'll have to look at Soundsnap and Sounddogs and see how they source their material. –  James Hubble Jun 28 '10 at 19:13
    
This is just a guess, but I believe SoundSnap is just a community sort of thing, where people upload their own SFX. You see quite a lot of famous people uploading their stuff there :) –  Justin Huss Jun 28 '10 at 22:38
    
soundsnap.com/faq: the last item of the "Sounds" section says there is potentially a way for users to upload sounds. I don't know if it has ever worked. –  Justin Huss Jun 28 '10 at 22:42
    
Freesound.org has a community of users who upload free sounds. I use them often. –  Hubert Campbell Jun 29 '10 at 2:52
    
Yeah I've heard of Freesound. I've been meaning to share a load of recordings I don't know what to do with there for a while. I might get on with that tonight. –  James Hubble Jun 29 '10 at 15:41
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