How does this market actually work?

zircon_st

Lead Developer
Maybe it's different for other developers, but our customer surveys show only about 20% of our customer base identifies as students. While of course that's not trivial, the largest segment - in general - is hobbyists as a whole. Think about how many people play the piano or play guitar, vs. people that do it professionally.

The music gear industry is worth many billions of dollars in sales annually according to Music Trades magazine. You can look at hundreds of retailers (not counting developers or manufacturers, JUST retailers) all doing anywhere from millions yearly to billions (Guitar Center). Few are focused exclusively on professionals. The ones that seem most successful cater to the widest possible audience which includes hobbyists.

Of course, catering to hobbyists does not mean making cheap or low-quality products. Nobody gets excited over a $150 starter guitar, they want what the pros use! So regardless of who the tools are designed for, it makes sense to make something that appeals to professionals, because everyone will want that level of quality anyway.
 

Sears Poncho

Senior Member
An unscrupulous salesman could exaggerate the likelihood of success in the industry that these students are likely to achieve and then encourage them to erroneously direct their spending towards libraries rather than classes for instance.
I can't begin to tell you how many people in music and other artistic venues have "made it" to an extent and have minimal talent.

There's a guy in my area, gets more gigs than anybody, by far. He's also the worst player, by far. I don't think he's getting "good" gigs but that's kinda hard to determine as to what is a "good" gig, and a gig's a gig. He has chutzpah and the gift of the gab.

So, that salesmen might not have any idea, none of us do. We all know it's a tough biz, no doubt. But.. it's a nutty biz and sometimes not even remotely close to "fair". And there are so many aspects involved. I'm sure all of us know of a "star" and think "Geez Louise, he/she has no talent whatsoever". There are people on YOutube with a million followers who can't play their way out of a paper bag. There's nepotism and cronyism in all the arts. I assume there are many businesses with this theme: the good restaurant can't make it and Waffle House next door is crowded. Some well-written TV show gets the axe whilst some stupid reality show thrives.

There is one "celebrity" out there that just boggles my mind (I won't mention names and have no desire to disparage anybody). I just don't get it. Maybe I'm old and cynical, or maybe the world is just nuts and likes people with no talent. :)
 

mralmostpopular

Active Member
This question for me is whether this market depends to some extent on the unethical exploitation of those in the student segment to support the professionals, both composers and developers.

Hobbyists can look after themselves and their money. Let the buyer beware. The relatively smaller number of professional composers are benefitting from the prices available due to the costs of creating and selling libraries being spread across all the sectors.

The students, perhaps, represent the biggest segment in terms of numbers and turnover. They are also the people to whom the opportunity cost of buying a new library is greatest, since they have the least cash to throw around. Selling each student one more library than they actually would need, even if they were never to use it could therefor reap benefits to the whole market but it could also do harm to the individual student.

An unscrupulous salesman could exaggerate the likelihood of success in the industry that these students are likely to achieve and then encourage them to erroneously direct their spending towards libraries rather than classes for instance. The integrity and authority of a genuine educator or “community guide” is therefore essential to each student. Such an authority owes a duty of care to his students to be guiding them in their best interests without misleading them. If somebody were to mix the role of educator and salesperson and thus mis-sell libraries to students then the whole industry could be seen to be resting on quite an ethically rocky foundation.

The more sincere and beneficial the education, the more trust can be built and the more careful one would need to be to ensure that there was no conflict of interest creeping into the teaching.
Do a lot of students buy libraries? Maybe, and I’m not entirely sure I believe that it’s unethical to market to them. Nobody knows who is going to be successful and who isn’t. There might be a ton of turnover, but if it’s unethical to sell tools, then it’s probably unethical to charge them for the education they might not use when there isn’t a job lined up. Sample libraries are just tools, and I have yet to hear any marketing that specifically implies that they’re anything more than that. Being able to experiment with sounds, and mock-up pieces is tremendously helpful.

Realistically sample libraries aren’t that expensive in the grand scheme. A professional orchestral instrument can cost thousands, and a fair amount in regular maintenance. Music tools are expensive.

I feel like some of those online “learn how to make it as a composer” courses are much more predatory than any sample library company. Every one of them seem to take a similar of approach of implying that they have some hidden secret secret to success. Then they offer a discount, but only if you act right now.
 

markleake

Recovering sale addict
the largest segment - in general - is hobbyists as a whole
Yeap. From comments other developers have made, including the real big brands, I think by far the industry now cater most to hobbyists. Most of the population here on VIC I think supports that also.

It makes sense. What happened to photography, writing, video, vlogging, etc. is the same as what has happened with music production, recording, etc. It's the almighty computer and the digital age that has democritised it for the common man. The market is maturing for VIs, and so we now have a substantial mid to prosumer level layering of the market that has grown hugely from 10 years ago.

I think a lot of the current market would have drifted over from other music related areas. People who have some music background, or have been into the hardware / real instruments, now exploring soft instruments. And there are a LOT of those people in the world still yet to tap.
 
OP
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thereus

Active Member
Maybe it's different for other developers, but our customer surveys show only about 20% of our customer base identifies as students. While of course that's not trivial, the largest segment - in general - is hobbyists as a whole. Think about how many people play the piano or play guitar, vs. people that do it professionally.

The music gear industry is worth many billions of dollars in sales annually according to Music Trades magazine. You can look at hundreds of retailers (not counting developers or manufacturers, JUST retailers) all doing anywhere from millions yearly to billions (Guitar Center). Few are focused exclusively on professionals. The ones that seem most successful cater to the widest possible audience which includes hobbyists.

Of course, catering to hobbyists does not mean making cheap or low-quality products. Nobody gets excited over a $150 starter guitar, they want what the pros use! So regardless of who the tools are designed for, it makes sense to make something that appeals to professionals, because everyone will want that level of quality anyway.
Thanks Zircon_st,

Ah, That is interesting and makes a lot of sense. A hobbyist-driven market that wants professional-quality gear and wants educating in the ways of the professionals and in some ways is probably much keener to spend and “keep up” than the pros or the students. That does account better for how the whole thing appears than my theory and presents no moral dilemmas.

It allays my concerns about how Spitfire markets the BBC thing also. The different advice about templates was for different segments. “Can anyone crest orchestral music?” And “universal starting point” are slogans that make much more sense if you think of them at aimed towards guitar addicts instead of music students.

The line-up of VI-Control contributors is probably mixed in terms of segments but skewed towards pros in the way the market is not. I wonder if many of the arguments on here stem from the different expectations each group has.
 
Hyperbole but broadly true. Do you think they like playing the same pieces? It's dictated by the audience who will pay for those concerts (which are bloody expensive to stage).
It's tough but there has to be a balance. My fiancee is a flutist for some orchestras here in NYC. One of them I've gotten very friendly with the conductor. One time at a post concert hang the conductor was lamenting to me how it's so hard to get anyone in the seats and how money is scarce. I told him in exchange for letting me guest conduct a piece I'd help him out (see how that works? ;)). I ended up programming a pops concert for him of all film music, which is something this hardcore classical orchestra has never done before.

I didn't just program the surgery John Williams stuff, but stretched it out a bit to reach all generations and added some great stuff like the Warsaw concerto and the theme to the Magnificent Seven. The end result was the concert was virtually standing room only and the most packed the orchestra has ever had. Of course they went back to classical programming, but they've included one pops concert annually since. They got some more audience who weren't really aware of the orchestra before. On top of it, the musicians were thrilled to play something radically different than what they were used to. Many of them were talking about how excited they were to play the concert leading up to it.

You have to give the people what they want, but it doesn't always have to be boring or uninspiring. I'm friends with the Duke Ellington family and I've gone over their place and Duke's grandson has shown me what Duke has in his vault. Tons of music no one's ever seen or heard, all written and filed away. One time I asked him, "I can't believe your grandfather has so much stuff that no one's heard!" He told me, "My grandfather used to say that you have to give the people what they want, and they want to hear 'Take the A Train'!" Duke had an understanding of art vs commerce and even though he had to keep playing "Take the A Train" his whole career to maintain an audience, it didn't stop him from being inspired to write new stuff.

A lot of non-public domain music is expensive to rent, that's one big aspect of it. Some composers (Menotti being one) are going to lose their legacy because the rental fees are too high. Some of it is playing the "hits" for the audience. Some of it is instrumentation, it takes a lot of extra musicians to play most Mahler, R. Strauss etc., while it doesn't take any to play Beethoven and Brahms.

Most of it is Music Director apathy. They do repertoire they know because it's safe. Copland wrote tons of music. "Hey, let's play Appalachian Spring!". Again. And again....
I was amazed at how much rental fees are. If not for my fiancee who's in quite a few orchestras I would have never heard about this stuff and what the fees actually are. The way she put it when I asked basically the same question (why do you always play the same stuff?) she said that pretty much when the conversation of programming the new orchestra season comes up, the first thing the conductor says is basically, "I need to see what's available in the Lincoln Center library."
 

John Lehmkuhl

PlugInGuru.com
It's important to remember, that once a company gets to a certain size, they have bills that they need to pay every month. If you saw the sales curve of most products produced, it's very short and getting shorter all the time which means..... something NEW has to arrive often. If you announce it as "yet another product like the one I did 4 months ago", you're not going to pay your bills!
 

DSmolken

Senior Member
I wonder how much the sales curve differs for, say, a string ensemble library vs. a hip-hop drum kit. I'd guess that the flattest curves would be for niche ethnic libraries that people rarely need, but when they do, there aren't a ton of choices.
 

Lindon

VST/AU Developer
I wonder how much the sales curve differs for, say, a string ensemble library vs. a hip-hop drum kit. I'd guess that the flattest curves would be for niche ethnic libraries that people rarely need, but when they do, there aren't a ton of choices.
I've built drum romplers, loopers, orchestral ensembles, esoteric wild off the wall things for a wide range of clients over the last 10 years, with varying budgets and marketing approaches. The volume of sales differ but the curve(shape) doesn't seem to so much. It seems to be a lot less (but not entirely) about "needs"; where we might see a fairly flat curve, and more about "new! new! new!"; which gives us a steeper drop off. Of course the curve flattens and lengthens if the developer applies some sort of authorisation(yes yes we all know this is breakable) to the product, otherwise an early purchase will find its way to the pirate sites and its a frightening fall from grace from there...