How does this market actually work?

thereus

Active Member
Most of the libraries that come out are very similar to other libraries on the market. The level of innovation is quite limited at this point. One you have a couple of orchestras, a bunch of synths, Komplete, a decent set of solo instruments, some drums and a collection of scoring and hybrid noises, you really are all set. Why would you ever buy anything else? Yet the instruments keep coming and the hype is going up rather than down.

It seems to me there must be four segments to the market.

1.) Old hands who more or less have everything they could ever need but have enough cash and enough child-like wonder to buy more.
2.) Old hands who don't bother so much these days.
3.) People legitimately gathering the above so as to have a workable arsenal.
4.) Students who will spend their loans but most of whom will never make a bean back from the industry.
5.) Hobbyists who just enjoy this stuff with varying levels of leisure money to enjoy spending.

I have been trying to match the hype to the market segment. Spitfire aim a lot at segment 4 and seem to be the company with the most cash to throw around, so I am assuming the sheer number of students makes that segment very profitable. Lower spend per head but many more heads. It would be interesting to see how it breaks down.

When is saturation reached? Can there really be profit in bringing out yet another orchestra?
 

NekujaK

Searching for the Lost Chord
People like bright shiny new things. And we love to buy stuff.

Why do guitar players buy so many guitars, foot pedals, and amps?

Why do some women buy lots of shoes?

Why di engineers have dozens of compressors, and always have to buy the latest one?

For creative people, it's often the case that some piece of new gear is often the source of fresh inspiration. The flipside is creative paralysis because we end up with too many choices.

And as composers, the Holy Grail is to have a perfect orchestra in a box. Something that sounds so realistic and expressive that a real orchestra merely becomes an optional luxury. I think we'll be chasing that one forever.

But I've also often wondered how long it takes for an orchestral library developer to recoup the costs of making a library. I'd love to have some insight into sales numbers and breakeven points.
 

d.healey

Music Monkey
But I've also often wondered how long it takes for an orchestral library developer to recoup the costs of making a library. I'd love to have some insight into sales numbers and breakeven points.
There are a ton of variables so it's not possible to give a general answer. You'd have to ask a specific developer about a specific library and this may have little relation to a similar library or even another library by the same developer.

Variables include things such as the type of library, the number of samples recorded, where they were recorded, the musician's costs, the engineers' costs, graphic design, sample editing, scripting, testing, demo writers, walkthrough videos, and marketing.
 

Thomas Kallweit

eclecticism
I don't get it either. But also have to be blamed of buying too much.

Thing is - where is that much talk about compositions / creations by people who bought all that stuff?
Seems to be possibly a search for beauty, to have the most weapons as possible around - so it's more about consuming, not creating. Creating isn't rewarded that much, consuming gives the opportunity to be part of what is trendy, new, betterbetter or other (eventually there was another library which was old, but could have worked, but without the buzzy features of another NEW one). And giving some money to the creators of the tools we all like to work with - if we need them or not. Playing and procrastinating or indeed finishing.
 

JohnG

Senior Member
Some version of this contention, that there is no need for new libraries, crops up about once every month or so, sometimes scornfully, sometimes bemusedly.

But when you have a group of string players in front of you and you ask them to play with a little more edge / rosin / harsher, they "just do it." And there you are.

That doesn't work with samples. You can shout all you want and they just play it the same way.

So it's nice to have gradations of this and that.
 
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prodigalson

Senior Member
I supposed I’d like to think of myself as category 1) slowly transitioning to category 2). This is the first Black Friday in quite a few years that I haven’t bought anything. How can I justify it when I have more than enough “gradations” (as JohnG puts it) than I need?

I have to say it’s very tempering when libraries like JXL Brass comes out. The shiny and new will always give me that dopamine hit. But I’ve learned my lesson (a little late) that the shiny new library will rarely give me something I couldn’t already do if I digged deep enough on my samples drives.

And it’s reassuring to come out of Black Friday without having taken out my credit card once.


EDIT: OK I lied. I bought PercX....and it immediately went into a commercial project and will pay for itself. Always a nice feeling
 

NoamL

Winter <3
I doubt samples figure as a significant business expense compared to assistants and computer hardware.

A single forthcoming Mac Pro for instance, when specced up for composer work - will probably cost a little more than today's Black Friday price of Spitfire Everything.

One assistant on salary for a year - unless they're living in the street, that's tens of $1000s.

Now let's talk about ridiculous composer studio rental prices in LA...

Just for fun:

The Megabytes Per [McDonald's] Mac Index

i.e. how much sample horsepower could you buy by skipping a few drivethrus at McD's?

EastWest Platinum Symphonic Orchestra = $1000 for 117 GB of samples in 2003 when a Big Mac cost $2.71.
Eastwest Hollywood Strings = $1700 for 312 GB of samples in 2010 when a Big Mac cost $3.58.
Spitfire Symphonic Orchestra = $1700 for 260 GB of samples in 2016(?) when a Big Mac was $4.93.

Crunch the numbers and you get:

EWQLSO Platinum = 310 MB per Big Mac on release
Hollywood Strings = 660 MB per Big Mac on release
Spitfire Symphonic = 750 MB per Big Mac on release


Junkie XL Brass is actually more than 2 GB of samples per Big Mac! Either burgers are getting expensive or samples are getting cheap ;)
 
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The problem with samples is that they’re a snapshot. You may really like a particular snapshot, but at some point a new enough snapshot comes out that inspires you. It’s less about the capability if a library, and more about how a different sound in a different room might inspire you in a new way.

That being said, it is getting a bit tiring to see so many companies putting out similar products. I’m hoping that in a few years down the road when 32GB is more standard in computers, we will start to see deeper sampling. I think one of the reasons you’re not seeing it much is because the heavier the specs necessary, the smaller the market. This means a much higher risk in recouping the cost of production. Spitfire sold a ton of BBCSO. Cutting down the sampling meant lower cost, and more accessibility.
 

Bluemount Score

Senior Member
What I found is that quite often, when e.g. a forum member posts a new track and it sound great, I want to achieve the same quality, which usually happens not by finding out how the backstory of the track works (melody, balance and everything you could imagine), but by asking which libraries were used.
Sometimes this goes hand in hand of course, but there always is that thought that a new shiny toy could fully replace all the amount of skill, effort and detail put into each of those compositions. Mixing is a huge part of that. But neither do you need another top tier expensive mixing plugin every two weeks because it‘s likely you didn‘t even used the previous one to it‘s full potential.
By the way, I bought Gullfoss yesterday.
 

Jimmy Hellfire

Senior Member
In a way, shopping addiction is one of the ultimate goals of a capitalist society. This works phenomenally well and the sample library market in such a miniscule element in the grand scheme of things that, looking at the big picture, it's not even worth mentioning. The whole entertainment electronics industry is crazy. Fashion and cosmetics too.

The interesting thing is that with musicians, the addicition is actually linked to the goal-oriented, albeit IMO mistaken idea of "inspiration" (which you don't find at all in compulsively bying more and more phones and accessoires, or "nerd culture" collectibles). Perhaps it's for this distinctiveness that the musicians' shopping addiction has its own name - GAS.
 

Mike Fox

Senior Member
Most of the libraries that come out are very similar to other libraries on the market. The level of innovation is quite limited at this point. One you have a couple of orchestras, a bunch of synths, Komplete, a decent set of solo instruments, some drums and a collection of scoring and hybrid noises, you really are all set. Why would you ever buy anything else? Yet the instruments keep coming and the hype is going up rather than down.

It seems to me there must be four segments to the market.

1.) Old hands who more or less have everything they could ever need but have enough cash and enough child-like wonder to buy more.
2.) Old hands who don't bother so much these days.
3.) People legitimately gathering the above so as to have a workable arsenal.
4.) Students who will spend their loans but most of whom will never make a bean back from the industry.
5.) Hobbyists who just enjoy this stuff with varying levels of leisure money to enjoy spending.

I have been trying to match the hype to the market segment. Spitfire aim a lot at segment 4 and seem to be the company with the most cash to throw around, so I am assuming the sheer number of students makes that segment very profitable. Lower spend per head but many more heads. It would be interesting to see how it breaks down.

When is saturation reached? Can there really be profit in bringing out yet another orchestra?
Even if the level of innovation is limited, it DOES exist, and that's the important thing, because it's those small, micro evolutionary steps that lead to progression and improvements in sample libraries over time.

And the fact that the market is completely over saturated with developers only serves as the competitive motive for them to work harder, and stand above the rest. It's this competition that will either make or break developers, and the ones that do make it will have something truly innovative to offer that did not exist in the past.

In short, I'd much rather see companies constantly develop libraries (even redundant ones) than have the "our work is done" point of view, because it's that perspective that completely destroys innovation, as well as the desire to strive for it.
 
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Lindon

VST/AU Developer
Actually I think there's a lot of really interesting innovative products out there. But.. if all you do is check the big 5 or 6 developers then you will for sure miss them.

Speaking as a (very) small independent developer I cant afford to build a product to compete with Spitfire Audio, so I have to come up with something that's different to their catalogue. So check the small independent developers - you may be surprised.
 

Polkasound

Senior Member
One you have a couple of orchestras, a bunch of synths, Komplete, a decent set of solo instruments, some drums and a collection of scoring and hybrid noises, you really are all set. Why would you ever buy anything else?
The casual hobbyist might be "all set", but not the professional musician/composer — not by a mile. This is simply because not all instruments and sample libraries sound the same.

The libraries we amass are often commensurate with our experience. For example, I specialize in non-cinematic, non-orchestral music, so I might own only a handful orchestral libraries but lots of guitar and drum libraries. Likewise, someone who specializes in music for movies and trailers is going to seek out every orchestral and cinematic library that gives them another tool for creating their next work.

Spitfire aim a lot at segment 4 and seem to be the company with the most cash to throw around, so I am assuming the sheer number of students makes that segment very profitable.
Spitfire is really just one more company. They're prominent on VI-Control because they're a top player in the cinematic/orchestral industry, but outside of VI-Control, there's a huge EDM market where Spitfire is just a passing thought compared to companies like Big Fish Audio, Loop Masters, and Native Instruments. I can't comment as to how many students use their products, but Spitfire is widely regarded as being one of the best at what they do, which certainly attributes to their success.

When is saturation reached? Can there really be profit in bringing out yet another orchestra?
You've probably noticed that the "This is London Calling" thread has received over a half-million views. There are a lot of pro and semi-pro composers on VI-Control, as well as others who fit all five categories in your original post. They are particular to the variations in features and sounds of each new orchestral library that comes out, and will always be ready to add something new to their arsenal. So as far as market saturation is concerned, the hobbyist market is more than saturated, but saturation of the professional market is a long ways off yet.
 
OP
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thereus

Active Member
Ok, so perhaps saturation is not quite what I mean. Perhaps another way to put it is the law of diminishing returns. While there is, of course, certainly value in the difference between libraries, that value is quite different from the value between having a fully-functioning template and not having one. I also agree that the market for smaller niche products is different again. I am interested in how each of the segments behaves for niche products too, but it is probably quite different. I take the point that there is a segment that I have missed:

6.) EDM and other electronic musicians who need some orchestral sounds but who do not see them as absolutely central to what they do.

I think my question still stands though within the “mainstream” orchestral samples market. Who buys what and how do the increasing number and convergence of the available products change that?
 

JohnG

Senior Member
Ok, so perhaps saturation is not quite what I mean. Perhaps another way to put it is the law of diminishing returns.

...
think my question still stands though within the “mainstream” orchestral samples market. Who buys what and how do the increasing number and convergence of the available products change that?
I grant you there's a bit of truth to diminishing returns if you stick solely to 'mainstream,' as you put it. But even accepting that constraint, there are so many, many variables in what it sounds / feels like, even for something as apparently saturated as strings or brass.

How many players in each section? Where are the microphones placed, exactly? How big is the room? How tight is the intonation -- because sometimes it's great to have it a little less bang-on depending on what kind of music you're writing.

I know that all may sound like fiddling about at the margins, but the effects are not marginal at all when you're dealing with music.

Sensitivity

Some people might argue, "only ten people on Earth can tell the difference." I disagree. I am continually astonished at the sensitivity of non-musicians to the subtlest differences in performance, arrangement / orchestration and, for lack of a better expression, the 'sound.' Even the amount of reverb matters to people (and hence the room size, position of mics, etc.).

Usability

Another matter is "usability," which can mean a lot of things, but among them I'd include "how much work is it to alter the sound?" That's why there was such a positive (it seemed to me) response to Spitfire's min-library of "Aperture," available on their sale last weekend. It sounds as though you can go from 'real small' to 'real big' with a single set of samples -- and not just any company's samples, but Spitfire's.

When you're really under time pressure, such flexibility is awesome. And even when you're not, there's nothing that kills the excitement / discovery of composing like digging through libraries.