There was this thread awhile back, "How to Make money with sound design."

I wanted to delve back into the issue if anyone cares to share their expertise or experiences. I would love to start a website like Tim, Chuck, and the other 'boutique' guys that have been popping up, but I don't really have the knowledge of website design or the money to pay someone else to do it.

Which website do you sell your sound effects through and why? I looked through the various websites listed in the thread and it seems difficult to figure out which ones are more profitable. Some don't have any information at all about how much money you will make. Audiojungle starts you at 40% if you give them exclusive rights to a sound effect. That seems like a ripoff to me, 25% for non-exclusive rights might be better if you can sell it to all of the sites. Thoughts?

6 Answers 6


First, I have never "sold" a sound effect, but I do license them, make sure you understand the difference before you get into business with anyone. In addition to the libraries offered on my site, I have licensed sounds to Soundsnap.com. I won't go into specifics about the actual rates, but it is a non-exclusive deal. I will not sign an exclusive licensing deal with anyone. But that's just me.

40% for an exclusive license sounds like a bunch of BS to me. You can sell music on Itunes, non-exclusively, and keep 70%, so why do THEY need to keep 60% for an exclusive deal? Plus, does anyone actually use that site for FX, I've never come across it? 40% of little to no sales doesn't sound like a great deal for giving up the right to take your stuff elsewhere.

I worked with Soundsnap because I felt the deal was fair and I like what they are doing. It is a great resource to get sound effects from sources that are not big name. And they have a couple of the bigger names too (Blastwave and Frank Serafine). If they had asked for an exclusive deal, I would have walked away.

Sounddogs is another place I would check out. I don't know what their deals are like, but they are the biggest name in downloadable FX. I do know people who have licensed with them before and they seemed happy with their deal.

  • Right license, not sell, I was a little off this morning. I'm glad that you agree that exclusive licenses are a rip-off. Soundsnap seems like a well put together site but it appears you can't contribute for the moment? Sounddogs has been around for awhile so I'll definitely check them out as well; good to hear people are pleased with them. I'm also interested in the below question of how worth the Wordpress effort has it been to cut out the middle man?
    – bpert
    Aug 6, 2010 at 2:16
  • The Soundsnap contribution process is not very clear by looking at their site. It's best to contact them directly and they can help you along. If they are interested they'll want a list of sounds then want to hear samples. Aug 6, 2010 at 4:08

@ Chuck, I'd like to mine you further on this. I've been really inspired by what you and Tim Prebble and a few others have been doing, and am putting together some field recording events with local recordists with a mind to licensing collections.

I love your model of licensing them through your own portal, and using Soundsnap as well. What I'm particularly curious about is how you're finding www.chuckrussomfx.com? How worth the Wordpress effort has it been to cut out the middle man?

Here are the challenges I'm anticipating based on what I've seen with you, Tim, Michael, etc.:

1) Regular updates. Since you put out a library pretty consistently every month or two, I'm always pretty excited about what you'll come out with next. Putting up a library once a year seems like it'd be a waste of time.

2) Getting those recordings!!!! This is a scheduling issue.

3) $. I.E. if I'm going to be recording pyrotechnics, I want to be able to make that money back.

4) Name recognition. You guys have been very vocal in the online community, we trust what you produce because you keep an active blog and offer intelligent responses to questions like these :-P. And you're a veteran of game audio - that doesn't hurt! Conversely, I'm pretty new to the scene and don't have an established reputation.

Another concern I've had, though this may be unfounded, is that I don't want to step on the toes of my role models. I'm involved in the fire performance community here in Austin, and my first session is going to be fire based recordings - which are of course already pretty well represented.

  • Good points. We have a lot in common. I'm not planning on recording anything that costs money until I make some money from 'free' recordings. Name recognition/reputation can always come later, right now I'm all about just getting some good recordings and getting them out there. I'm also actively trying to decipher this whole wordpress deal-e-o, and blogs in general...
    – bpert
    Aug 6, 2010 at 2:29

Robin, let me address your points:

  1. Regular updates are a huge challenge. This isn't my day job, so I have to balance the libraries vs work and family. I have 2 libraries that keep getting pushed off because work has been very busy lately. These libraries also take a LOT of work to plan, record, edit, promote, etc. It's not a quick and easy process.

  2. You have to do as much recording as you can when you have the time. I have 2-3 libraries recorded, sitting in the editing que now.

  3. I start every library expecting to lose all of the money I invest. Since my day job is sound design, it benefits me to have these recordings, so I'll risk a loss, to some degree. Some things I just won't dO, because of the investment (ie guns). There are a lot of things you can do for little to no money that people will find useful.

  4. I agree that it helps that I've been in games for a while. I also spend a great deal of my time ensuring that my name is out there, it is necessary for both my businesses.

I wouldn't worry about stepping on toes. if you're doing you own thing and not straight ripping others off, then why not? we always need new fire :)

  • Glad we are not stepping on toes, rather just trying to learn from the experts... Sorry if I'm asking too much because I know that knowledge can often come from a lot of trial and error, so I really appreciate your input.
    – bpert
    Aug 6, 2010 at 2:38

A few thoughts:

If I hired someone to create, design & implement my HISSandaROAR site I suspect it would be five to ten years before I broke even. So be very careful before hiring someone else to do it... There are plenty of designers & IT people who will happily take your money, and will undoubtedly do a great job... I've been using wordpress for 4 years now with my blog and I still spent over a year developing my site and learnt a HUGE amount in the process... and am still learning lots. Reaching an audience is the same for everyone - it takes time, so being in it for the long term is important.

  • 1
    I agree with Tim, there is no way I could hire someone to do the web stuff for me. Also, I feel the web development end is an important part of this business model. You need to be able to adapt your site quickly and add new content quickly. You don't want to be in a position where you have to call your web guy in every time you add a new product, or find a typo or bad link on your site. Aug 6, 2010 at 0:19
  • It's true. I've "webmastered" the Toxic Bag site its whole life. I don't think I'm a great designer by any stretch but I don't have to pay anyone, I don't have to wait on changes and I have learned a whole bunch about coding, design etc. Aug 6, 2010 at 1:04
  • Chuck - Good point, being able to make changes quickly is a huge advantage to building your own site. Do all of you use wordpress to develop your websites? I'm not scared to build a site on my own, just not quite sure where to start. I know this stuff doesn't come easy and it might take awhile (both building a decent sfx library and marketing it), but all I have on my hands is time and the desire to succeed. I don't expect to get rich off of attempting to follow in others footsteps, I just want to do what I love doing and hopefully eventually be compensated for it.
    – bpert
    Aug 6, 2010 at 2:46
  • @bpert I just moved to Wordpress, before that I was using Rapidweaver. Any platform that you can become comfortable with should work. Wordpress is very powerful, and it wasn't that hard for me to get going with, but this isn't my first time building a site. If you've never built one before, it will take some time. Aug 6, 2010 at 4:11
  • I did take some web-building classes in college and have some experience programming in flash, c++, max/msp, just haven't done it in years. I guess it's time to start!!
    – bpert
    Aug 6, 2010 at 13:55

I have seen the 40% and 50% models on a number of stock fx/photo/footage sites. It seems more standard than we might prefer.

Currently I have sfx for sale at Audiosparx.com (which is non-exclusive at the moment), and am working on selling them directly from my site as well (I have a bunch of my sfx for role-playing-gamers up there in mp3 format and iTunes-esque pricing, but I hope to have at least 48kHz/24-bit .wav downloads available soon). But it's a question of finding the time to sit and set up the site. Since I just got down with a couple of major projects I may dive in over the next couple of weeks.

  • How did you build your site? Did you have experience with web-design prior?
    – bpert
    Aug 6, 2010 at 2:30
  • Originally it was hand-coded (I started working with websites around 1996 and the software to do it was prohibitively expensive). I had no previous experience in web design. The site was hosted by a guy I knew from college who started his own company and I asked him LOTS of questions about HTML. I also looked at the code from other sites to see what was going on. These days I use Dreamweaver, which is not the hippest car on the block but it seems to get the job done. I still hand-code a lot though. That said, I'd never offer myself up as a pro web designer! Aug 6, 2010 at 15:51

I use AudioJungle and offer them exclusive rights to many of my sounds. I have been extremely pleased with the amount of sales I've had the last few years. I also have sounds that Soundsnap license from me and sounds on Pond5 as well.

Best of luck! They are amazing possibilities when you have the world at your fingertips to purchase sound effects. It's a huge market. Especially if you offer pro quality sounds.

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