And The Sound Effects Industry

The original Sounddogs company was created in Toronto by Greg King and Nelson Ferrera, as an editorial company. In '95 Greg and I moved down to LA and we partnered with Bob Grieve, and we formed Sounddogs USA. So there's Sounddogs Canada and Los Angeles, and about 8 years later Steven Barden and Craig Hennigan formed Sounddogs New York. Those were the editorial companies.

Now, was a different entity. We were in LA in '95 and we were surrounded by these giant companies such as Skywalker, Soundelux, SoundStorm. So the idea for originally, was to be a calling card for picture editors. We had great sounds, we recorded all our sounds, we had no CD's, mostly our own sounds. It started as a marketing angle and what we had hoped was over time, it would become a profit center as a publisher.

We started creating our library on magneto optical discs in 1990. In 1996 Greg, Nelson and I conceived this plan where we would nurture this internet company and start publishing our own sounds on it. We released it in may 1997. Back then the web was tiny compared to what it is now, we had a lot of people still using modems back then. I remember our first tower was a Raid 5 and i think it was 4.5 GB or 9 GB and it costed like $5,000, expensive. So got notoriety, we provide a lot of sounds for a lot of important movies, a lot of picture editors made good introductions because it was something the picture department needed; to get sounds right away, specific to their movies.

The first 5 years of the company were very difficult, sales were small and expenses high. The work was hard, we had to run the company and run servers, do marketing, all while spending nights in the server room fixing things.

After we did "The Insider" and the movie got an Academy Award nomination for best sound, my partners started to see the company was a drain over the successful editorial company and they had a point. So in 2001 we parted ways amicably and they moved on with Sounddogs LA and I moved on with I knew the results were going to be there, because I knew how happy our customers were. Things got better, I got to travel the world, record sounds and meet people. I was once in Iceland and I met these people that were saying how great was and they had no idea that I had co-founded the company. Same thing happened in Thailand, I remember meeting someone who loved and this was back in 2001. So, without even prompting, people were talking about how great was.

The novelty of that era is gone, and now what Sounddogs has to be about is quality service and quality sound, because the sounds themselves are becoming somewhat of a commodity, unless they are really very distinct, say for example the recordings on northern Vietnam or Antartica, those sounds have distinct value. We also have to be about providing quality service. We work for professionals that have important jobs and these people want to get their job done and go home. So what we're doing is providing a broad selection of high quality sounds while helping them getting their job done faster and better.

Part of the cost of individual sounds is the service, providing the service so the job gets done quickly and professionally. If we had designed the site to have no support or help, we could lower the cost of sounds but if you're a professional working in a studio and you need to get something done, and you have a director behind you then support is going to help you out a lot. It's really hard for us to provide that quality support when you don't make enough income to financially support people to be at the phone ready to help you out at all hours of day or night.

The biggest thing I've noticed in the evolution of the industry is that piracy is enormous. When someone buys a SFX or copies it they immediately think that's their own property. Let's imagine I bought a Beatles album and suddently I think this is my music and i can go sell it to anyone on any website. It doesn't work like that, their material is copyright, and so are sound effects. Maybe people don't know that when we do a car series, record on a jet carrier or record guns in Montana, the work of editing and the cost of microphones and hardware goes from around $20,000 to $25,000. So lots of people take recordings, adopt them as their own and sell them or give them away for free. Copyright material is owned by someone and shouldn't be given away, it should be protected and fairly licensed. What I hope by talking about this is that people will understand that there's a reasonable license and fee to purchase the libraries and that stealing is wrong. We are working in TV and movies in a world of copyrights. When sounds get pirated, production companies lose money. That means sound people that work on those jobs get less pay or don't get hired to offset the cost of piracy.
Piracy affects everyone.

I guarantee studios will never support a sound editor pirating sounds because they're also adversely affected by piracy. I recommend people record their own sounds and produce their own material to avoid piracy.

I also now see a lot of more cottage industry in sound. SFX recordist releasing their own sites with their own sounds. It's a nice thing but maybe not too practical as a business itself. What people want and need is a broad selection so having a couple of items for sale is not really going to fulfill the needs of the general user. If any people that are reading this would like to join and publish their material, we welcome anyone who shares passion for sounds and good recordings. You're welcome to place your sounds on our site anytime.

The next evolution are libraries on hard drives such a Soundstorm, which I bought in 2004. It's a giant compilation of material, over 55,000 sound effects. What I find due to the piracy issue, is that eventually, lots of the CD libraries or hard drive libraries are going to go away because it's not worth putting out all that material to be pirated.