How does this market actually work?

Thundercat

Member
Such great points you guys are making!!

One sort of obvious thing to point out - this entire forum is SAMPLE TALK! So of course we are going to be buzzing about all the latest/greatest libraries. Another forum might be more geared to just the creative aspects of actually making music. So we're a self-selected bunch of sample junkies, but that doesn't mean that's all we are!

But the flip side argument is important - actually using the tools instead of amassing them. String libraries do no good sitting on an SSD gathering digital dust.

I am new to the sample acquisition game. I bought Spitfire SSO last year during Black days at a killer deal, and this year have bought tons of Cinesample, Cinematic Studios, and will get some good percussion libraries too before year's end. I'm rather new to the party but for me Metropolis Ark 1 sounds like an utter revelation; I swoon at the power and excitement I hear from this library and will get it too before year's end. I met the OT guys at NAMM a couple years ago, and they were so cool.

Someone in an earlier post said it: as creatives we like to be inspired, and new sounds do that. And new articulations do that. There's a reason keyboard players have 12 keyboards. Well, I have 4, soon to be 5 lol.

There is also something to be said for mastering the tools at hand.

I remember years ago when I tried to orchestrate, the results sounded like carousel music. I had no clue how to orchestrate in an effective way. When I started really listening, using notation software, and insisting, things got better. NotePerformer was a revelation to me, and continues to be.

I have a friend who uses Sibelius to compose exclusively. I used to do that way, and I'm learning to use Logic for scores.

But my friend's scores always sounded mediocre IMHO. Mine sounded better to me. The difference was, I would take the time to go through each part, each line, add all articulations, set dynamics, etc. The result was orders of magnitude better.

Point being, I think we can wring a lot more out of our libraries too if we just get really good at them.

I think of each library or patch as its own instrument that I have to master. Nevermind I know how to use the CSS cello patch; this is the Bohemian Cello patch and I have to think of it not as "another cello I know how to use" but literally another entire instrument.

Anyway, thanks so much to you all for your terrific posts, ideas, tracks, and inspiration. It's wonderful to be a part of such a terrific community, even if only virtually.

Blessings,

Mike
 

Wally Garten

Senior Member
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?
I'm not sure that a professional orchestral composer is the "mainstream" in the VI market, though. The majority of users, I imagine, are in categories 5 and 6 (assuming 6 includes more than just EDM), and the majority of products are not full orchestras. So the full-orchestra-for-orchestral-composition market might actually be the niche!

I can use myself as an example. I make experimental electronic rock music, and I like to use a lot of orchestral colors. But aside from one project, I've never written straight orchestral music. It's usually the synths that are carrying the ball in my music, with accents and colors of orchestral or other sounds. I don't actually need, and don't actually have, a single orchestral package. But to do accents and colors, I use a lot of libraries. When I want a bassoon, it's helpful to actually have two or three bassoons to choose from, because the color and specific sound is so important. The bassoon isn't just blended into dozens of other instruments; it may really have a prominent role among five or six instruments. So I need it to sound exactly how I want it to sound.

In other words, even though I'm in categories 5/6, I still buy a lot of libraries. (Albeit mostly in the smaller, cheaper end of the pool.) And I suspect that may actually be the majority (or at least a sizeable chunk) of use cases.
 
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thereus

Active Member
I don't disagree with a word of anything that anyone has said. All these tools are fantastic.


My question lies somewhere else though. I am interested in attempting to understand the economics. There are probably not that many professional orchestral composers and even though those happy few might buy everything, that is still not going to cover the costs of creating a new full orchestral sample library with 1.5m separate perfect little files at 800 bucks a shot. The hobby/student segment has many more people but with a lower spend per person and a greater turnover of buyers at any one time. Those people may buy one or two libraries before they realise that despite whatever Christian Henson says, they are not about to become best friends with Hans Zimmer. Five years ago, they had probably five libraries to choose from. Now they have maybe fifteen. Clearly, there is a dilution. Spitfire have led the charge to widen those market segments and I am sure that the "universal starting point" trope is an attempt to capture as much of the spend from the people that they are pulling into the market as possible. The price of the BBCSO reflects this also.

Suppose I ask a more specific question. Let's imagine that all the new students come and go in a 3 year cycle and buy two full orchestral sample libraries. At what point are things so diluted that it becomes less attractive to make another one to sell across all of the segments?
 
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Thundercat

Member
I think there is a core artistic drive at work here, besides economics. Many sample library companies are run by composers who themselves are pursuing the holy grail of sounds. I read somewhere that one company made an internal library for their own composers’ use, and they shared it with a few others who then demanded it be a full blown library.

I think at the heart of each one of us lives a little boy or girl who just wants to bang on their drum all day. But not just ANY drum. A NICE sounding drum.
 
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?
Can the market really support selling a new guitar? There have been so many made at this point by so many manufacturers that any new guitar seems redundant. Yes it can, and it can support new libraries as well. They are just instruments when it comes down to it.
 

Mike Fox

Senior Member
Can the market really support selling a new guitar? There have been so many made at this point by so many manufacturers that any new guitar seems redundant. Yes it can, and it can support new libraries as well. They are just instruments when it comes down to it.
Right. And being a guitarist, i can say that not one size fits all. I currently own 4 different guitars, and each one has a slightly different purpose. It's the exact same with sample libraries. Each one has its own purpose, strength, and weakness.

Don't get me started on amps, lol!
 

Wolfie2112

Senior Member
Developers need to continually reinvent themselves, this can include new innovations (even tiny ones), and also ways to repackage their older libraries into newer "improved" versions. If they don't do this, their sales will eventually diminish. Afterall, they are a business, just like any other.....it's all about marketing and making a profit. For me, I'm always looking for a library that can offer a different sound to what I already have. I'm not going to to use BBCSO for an action film, nor am I going to use Caspian Brass for a somber, melancholic piece. As a working composer, I have justified all of my GAS, all of those libraries have paid for themselves I spades. For what it's worth, I have Komplete Ultimate and RARELY use any of it....but sometimes there's something there that I can't get anywhere else. We live in a great time for composers, it's great to have so many options out there. Back "in the day" I had a choice between my loaded Ensoniq ASR or my Roland JV-2080. For what I paid for both of those and my 486SX pc, I could buy the Sptifire "Everything" collection, an iMac, and have $$ left over for a coffee.
 

Wally Garten

Senior Member
One way to think about this is -- why do library makers (or pedal or amp manufacturers) make more than one product of a given type? Why make five different reverbs? Apart from Thundercat's excellent point about it being a labor of love, I think in all those cases vendors are correctly perceiving that there is a market for multiple versions of the same thing.
 

givemenoughrope

Senior Member
One way to think about this is -- why do library makers (or pedal or amp manufacturers) make more than one product of a given type? Why make five different reverbs? Apart from Thundercat's excellent point about it being a labor of love, I think in all those cases vendors are correctly perceiving that there is a market for multiple versions of the same thing.
Right. Imagine if SF put most of their focus on adding to SCS instead of making other kinds of string libraries. Not a great business move but that would be the Selmer Mark VI of string libraries.
 

ka00

Senior 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?
At the 30m10s mark of this podcast, the author Cal Newport explains a big facet of the mindset that drives this industry and most of the discussions on VI-control, I think: the maximalist mindset.

 

dpasdernick

Senior Member
Let's get something clear. You buy samples dammit. You buy them all. When you think you've had enough you reach down deep and buy some more. You think you've got enough cellos? Think again. There's always room for a dozen more. Drums? Are you kidding me?! Eat those snares, swallow those hi-hats and make room for the kick drum. It's an Octaplus set with 9 toms and I ain't got all day. Get to it! "Gee Sarge, I don't think I need another piano". For the love of God what are you a man or a mouse? I don't give a rats ass about you're budgets. There a 7-11 around the corner and you have a ski mask for crying out loud! Improvise! Sell your sperm and blood like we had to do in the old days when we were eyeing that Emulator II. If I catch any of you passing up Black Friday deals again I'll have you cleaning up hard drives in the latrines with you tongues. Dismissed!
 
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thereus

Active Member
Right. Imagine if SF put most of their focus on adding to SCS instead of making other kinds of string libraries. Not a great business move but that would be the Selmer Mark VI of string libraries.
Imagine if everybody on VI-Control had put as much time into engineering the perfect phrasing and orchestration using SCS as they did into imagining how good their phrasing and orchestration would sound after they had bought BBCSO.
 
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thereus

Active Member
So it seems that there is an answer to my economic question arising from our discussion. My question was predicated on the assumption that in the micro-economics of this market demand is driven by rational requirements. What we seem to be saying is that my assumption is completely wrong. Demand in this market is in fact primarily driven by a mixture of other factors, some good, some ugly. These include “inspiration”, fun, artistic variation, discernment and taste but also by FOMO, laziness, vanity, fantasy stoked by hype and conversely by a lack of discernment.

Maybe I am exaggerating, but it is an interesting thought.
 

rgames

Collapsing the Wavefunction
There are certain types of musicians who (think they) need a lot of guitars or sample libraries or amps or compressors because they're searching for "that sound".

But there are also a lot of musicians who don't.

For example, I spent years performing professionally as a clarinetist, mostly in orchestras. I know a lot of orchestral musicians. We tend to buy one or two instruments per decade. Currently I have a Bb and and A clarinet that I purchsed 14 years ago. That's pretty typical for a professional clarinet player. I don't have 15 different clarinets hanging on the wall in my studio. I've never seen anyone who does. Nor have I seen a professional with 15 oboes or flutes or trumpets.

Is it because we don't care about finding "that sound"? No - we do. Do we create crappy music? Not to my ears.

Regarding the economics and the market, it's as predictable as any other in a developed economy: Create a religion and you'll make a lot of money. Markets in developed economies are driven as much by emotion as rational thought.

rgames
 

mralmostpopular

Active Member
There are certain types of musicians who (think they) need a lot of guitars or sample libraries or amps or compressors because they're searching for "that sound".

But there are also a lot of musicians who don't.

For example, I spent years performing professionally as a clarinetist, mostly in orchestras. I know a lot of orchestral musicians. We tend to buy one or two instruments per decade. Currently I have a Bb and and A clarinet that I purchsed 14 years ago. That's pretty typical for a professional clarinet player. I don't have 15 different clarinets hanging on the wall in my studio. I've never seen anyone who does. Nor have I seen a professional with 15 oboes or flutes or trumpets.

Is it because we don't care about finding "that sound"? No - we do. Do we create crappy music? Not to my ears.

Regarding the economics and the market, it's as predictable as any other in a developed economy: Create a religion and you'll make a lot of money. Markets in developed economies are driven as much by emotion as rational thought.

rgames
To be fair, a professional orchestral instrument isn’t exactly cheap. Guitars (and associated gear) can often be had at a fraction of the price.
 

VinRice

... i am a robot ...
The economics in this market work in exactly the same as every other market. Why apply it specifically to this very small and specialised space?

Why do people by pick-ups when they have no intention of ever clearing a tree stump or re-tarmacing a driveway, or buy 4 x 4's for taking the kids to school?

People who buy professional tools are a: professionals, b: want-to-be professionals c: people who want the potential to one day to produce work like a professional, d: completists and collectors, e: people who like to belong to community they are interested in, and f: reflected status (though I don't think that applies particularly in this market). These are not mutually exclusive categories.

Guitars, synths and even sample libraries are instruments, and every instrument has a different sound, user interface and use-case. Every instrument can inspire in a different way.
 
There are certain types of musicians who (think they) need a lot of guitars or sample libraries or amps or compressors because they're searching for "that sound".

But there are also a lot of musicians who don't.

For example, I spent years performing professionally as a clarinetist, mostly in orchestras. I know a lot of orchestral musicians. We tend to buy one or two instruments per decade. Currently I have a Bb and and A clarinet that I purchsed 14 years ago. That's pretty typical for a professional clarinet player. I don't have 15 different clarinets hanging on the wall in my studio. I've never seen anyone who does. Nor have I seen a professional with 15 oboes or flutes or trumpets.

Is it because we don't care about finding "that sound"? No - we do. Do we create crappy music? Not to my ears.

Regarding the economics and the market, it's as predictable as any other in a developed economy: Create a religion and you'll make a lot of money. Markets in developed economies are driven as much by emotion as rational thought.

rgames
I would venture to say that if you are a professional who is expected to produce works of music that sound as if they are performed by an entire orchestra (and often times other instruments as well), you need a lot more than 1 or 2 oboes to accomplish that goal.

In addition, I also tend to think that sample libraries tend to only have a set number of articulations or sounds they can produce, where as wtih a traditional instrument (such as a guitar or oboe) a skilled player can achieve MUCH MUCH more variety and nuance. This is another reason why we collect so many libraries, to capture that range of expression which does not yet exist in sample libraries.
 

Wally Garten

Senior Member
I would venture to say that if you are a professional who is expected to produce works of music that sound as if they are performed by an entire orchestra (and often times other instruments as well), you need a lot more than 1 or 2 oboes to accomplish that goal.

In addition, I also tend to think that sample libraries tend to only have a set number of articulations or sounds they can produce, where as wtih a traditional instrument (such as a guitar or oboe) a skilled player can achieve MUCH MUCH more variety and nuance. This is another reason why we collect so many libraries, to capture that range of expression which does not yet exist in sample libraries.
Yeah, I agree with all of this. For electronic/virtual instruments, the appropriate comparison might be a high-end synthesizer. You probably could make a whole career just playing a Moog modular or
a Buchla, or maybe certain very powerful soft synths.

I don't think @rgames is wrong that there are other factors (many VI, synth, and guitar people are definitely gear heads and collectors as well as musicians), but I think even the best sample library would not allow one the lifetime of possibilities that an acoustic instrument does. When you're an electronic musician/composer, generally, it's the whole system that's your instrument -- not any single library.