The Answer to the Best Question Anyone's Asked Me So Far.
Over the years, I've received a lot of questions via email. Most were from people looking for a job. Some were from people trying to sell me something. And a few were just crazy. But, back in 2007, someone sent me a question that stood out. Basically, he had been researching on the internet, looking for information about recording and sound for film careers. So, far that's not a standout. But, it's where he went from there. He told me that just about everywhere he went on the net, my site kept showing up. And his question to me, the "best question I've been asked so far" was: "How did I do it?".
What? You were expecting something different? I mean, a 3 year old can ask that. Right.
Well, I answered his question but, I figure that I'd post my answer online because it could be helpful to other people as well. Here's my answer to "How did I do it?"
"Your question is just about the smartest question that I've been asked. Usually people ask me for a job or ask me to buy something from them, but never "how did you do it?". Now, take what I say as just one possibility because there are many ways to "do it", but the pitfall comes when trying to exactly replicate someone else's way of "doing it". In other words, the basics can be adapted, but each person must integrate their own unique personalities and qualities into the execution.
Well, it's not that I did one thing and got someplace or to some endgame. I went to recording school (Full Sail) after college to learn how to professionally produce music (I had been making music and strange sounds for years prior). But, you don't have to go to a recording school. And, just going to school is never enough. You've got to be determined and not let mistakes and disappointments stop you. For one thing, all successful people (no matter what field) don't let "NO" or a "failure" stop them (and believe me, I've made more mistakes than just about everyone - oh, and this is not to say that I'm very successful, though I base my "success" on simply being in business and selling my "wares", taking the hard "financial" numbers out of the equation with the exception of being profitable). Enough of that "babble", simply, I've "studied" hugely successful people because I wanted to be successful doing what I enjoy and doing it based out of my home, Tampa. That makes things pretty difficult when everything in "the business" happens in LA or New York. But, throw in this new thing called the internet... and most importantly, TIME.
So, "How did you get into sound design and field recording for films and sample cd's?". Well, I just created the CD-ROMs. On my own time, when I wasn't doing work for outside clients and freelance sound/video work, I created these sounds. Back in the mid-90's, there were few sound effects libraries out and I figured if I created something that was unique and marketed it on the internet, that I could sell some - and that's what happened. The market really opened up and as my sounds hit, others started creating competing products. I released my first Concept:FX ROM in 1997, and they are still selling 10 years later, which I feel very fortunate about. Now, there was nothing complicated about this. I just created it. My requirements were that my sounds would sound every bit as good or better than the highest end collections available at that time, AND, if my stuff wasn't selling then it was because I was not effective in marketing them. AND, marketing sound effects (and music) on a limited or "no" budget (or any budget) is much harder that the actual creation of the sounds/music. So, I dove into marketing and learning from my mistakes. I judged a mistake as in "no sales" and success as in "sales". That was it. No sales, then back to the drawing board. Since I hit my goal of a quality product (and notice that I didn't say "perfect product" though striving for perfection is good) then any failures or disappointments came from marketing. With a generous budget, I could have hired outside agents to market my sounds and they probably would have done a much better job in a much shorter time. But, I'm hard-headed, cheap, and I like to do things on my own, which brings me to the most important thing... my websites.
I'm glad that my websites keep popping up. That's a result of what I've learned and applied in marketing. I've done that all myself (see above for why) through trial and error. I filled a need through my sites. People interested in sound recording and music production need information, tips, how to's, product reviews, and entertainment. That's all I've done - oh, and add "time" into the equation since this is an ongoing process that started in 1997 (my first .com website launch). Businesses are successful when they fill a need (and efficiently use their money). My philosophy and strategy on "no budget" internet marketing are evident through my sites. I spend only hosting fees (which are very low) and NO advertising costs for promoting my sites. This is a far cry from the .com businesses that spent millions and millions on advertising only to go bust. Their mistake, I believe, was that they wanted everything FAST and left TIME out of the equation.
As far as sound for film, my sites have gotten me all of that. I've been contacted by people who were looking for something specific or something that was on one of my CDs and we've worked out agreements for their use in films. Most stuff has been low budget independent stuff where my cut was in line with the budget. "Pirates of the Caribbean" was different in the budget and the agreement since that film has worldwide distribution. No, I didn't get a royalty or a credit, but I did get paid (can't tell you how much - contract issues), and no it wasn't enough to retire on or life changing amounts. In fact, I'd have paid them to put my stuff in the film, but fortunately for me it worked out the other way. That's what I call a "side benefit". I released my audio CDs "Suburban Thunder", "Sound of a Dying Hurricane", "Night Sounds" and others not to be used in films, but just to be listened to. "Suburban Thunder" had a side benefit, that I hadn't even considered when I released it which was that it could be used to desensitize dogs to thunderstorms. I had no idea that was a problem that many dogs had, but I adjusted my marketing of that CD to include "dogs". And then "Pirates" came calling as their sound supervisor wanted thunder that hadn't been used in major films. Long story short.
That's pretty much "it"."
And that was my answer verbatim to the question asked in early 2007. So, a year and a half later, would I add anything to "the answer"? Yes, I'd add that there is no difference between those who are "successful" versus those who aren't other than that the "successful" people NEVER QUIT - NO MATTER WHAT.
Many readers of this may not be aware that in addition to my interests in recording, I also train in martial arts. I was awarded the rank of 2nd Degree Black Belt in December of 2007 and have been extensively training since August of 2001. There's a saying that we like to use in martial arts, and that is "The Definition of a Black Belt". And, here it is, "A Black Belt is a White Belt who NEVER QUITS!". I believe that if you truly want to acheive something and you act on that - not letting anything stop you along the way - you will find a way and you will get it.