Three years ago wrote a case study entitled “Exclusive Vs. Non-Exclusive Finally Answered”. In this study, I explored whether it was more beneficial to sell stock audio on a non-exclusive contract with multiple companies, or exclusively with a single company at a higher commission rate. This is now the third installment of the series, and I have to say that it has grown into passion. I’ve seen this experiment evolve over time from a simple concept into a multi-faceted project, tracking not only sales data, but changes and developing trends in the stock media industry. And while I’ve answered the question of exclusivity in every installment, I keep getting closer and closer to my inevitable end game—my statistical holy grail. That is to answer whether or not selling stock media can serve as a stable form of passive income. Having tracked daily sales data for a total of three years, I've now been able to delve deeper into this topic than ever before. The stock audio market is fickle though—a constantly evolving ecosystem that requires review from year to year. That being said, here are some changes to the stock audio market in 2015.
Changes to Markets Over Year 2015
In 2015, there were several changes to AudioJungle and Pond5. These companies are the two major players in the crowd-sourced stock media industry. I've listed the changes below.
AudioJungle Announces Tiered Pricing
This year Envato Marketplace introduced a tiered pricing system that scales in price based on the intended use of the product. On AudioJungle there are now two licensing tiers: “Single-Use” and “Multi-Use” (otherwise referred to as an extended license). An extended license allows the buyer to use a single licensed sound effect on more than one project. If you are music contributor, your tiered pricing options go even further. The music tier system starts with a “Standard” license, then goes up 5 tiers total to “Broadcast & Film”. The average pricing breaks down as follows:
- Single-Use = $1.00
- Multi-Use = $3.00
- Music Standard = $19.00
- Music Broadcast (1 Million) = $38.00
- Music Mass Reproduction = $76.00
- Music Broadcast (10 Million) = $152.00
- Music Broadcast & Film = $304.00
What does this all mean when comparing AudioJungle to its competitors? The significant increase in price for higher tier licenses could provide substantially more income to an AudioJungle author than before. Though authors still have no say in the default pricing of their products, the tiered pricing model helps legitimize Envato as a stock media business. It also gives authors on the notoriously low-priced AudioJungle platform additional opportunities to make money. (Update: In 2018, Envato opened AudioJungle up to author-adjusted pricing. It is a major change, but is outside the scope of this article)
Website Revamps, Population Explosion, and the Waiting Game…
The two highest selling stock audio libraries, AudioJungle and Pond5, both had major site renovations this year. While the changes to Pond5 seem largely cosmetic, the makeover on AudioJungle also included a revamping of the search tool. The changes were met with overwhelming frustration from the community, claiming that the search algorithm was weighted heavily based on the title of a track. Newer files, which used to land high in a search queue, seemed to drop much lower in favor of older tracks. Envato released a statement in December acknowledging the search engine issues, and pacified authors with the promise of ongoing tests and changes to provide fair search results. They would not discuss all the details of the algorithms, though there will be a reduction on the weighting of titles, and higher randomization of results containing popular keywords like “corporate” and “inspiration”.
The full post from Envato can be found HERE.
Author Population and Wait Times
The author population, and thus the number of sound effects available for sale on AudioJungle has continued to increase. Some high-volume players in the stock sound effects industry have continued to rapidly upload effects to AudioJungle, pulling a large portion of the market share away from the average author. The mass of new sound effects and music being uploaded have also caused a bottleneck in the Envato review process. Wait times for review were continuing to grow in excess of 30+ days. In an effort to control the amount of material in the review queue, Envato imposed a 5-item maximum queue limit to AudioJungle author submissions (10 items for Elite authors). The limit led to a gradual decrease in review times, and helped protect the market from being inundated with effects from major producers. A post from Envato with further information can be found HERE.
THE ULTIMATE QUESTION
If you have read my previous articles on this topic, "Exclusive Vs. Non-Exclusive Finally Answered", and "Exclusive Vs. Non-Exclusive: Year 2", you should be well acquainted with how my stock audio experiment operates. I’ll save you the explanation and skip right to the material.
The ultimate question for this article, and likely any future articles on this topic will remain the same:
“Does selling on a non-exclusive contract remain the more profitable option for contributors, and is it a sustainable form of passive income?”
After 3 years of tracking sales data, the answer to this question of exclusivity has been and continues to be a quantifiable “yes”. The changes to the pricing structure on AudioJungle are relatively new as of this writing. They have long-term potential though to narrow the earning gap between selling exclusively on AudioJungle vs selling on a non-exclusive basis. Do keep in mind though, that Envato has not lowered the sales amount required to achieve the highest exclusive author rate (currently $75,000 in total sales). There is significant ground to make up to compensate for the loss of Pond5 income if you sell exclusively through AudioJungle, and my data in Figure 1 just does not support the notion of exclusivity as the higher paying option.
Furthermore, if we examine total income earned between AudioJungle, Pond5, AudioMicro, and ProductionTrax as a percentage of market share, the percentages in Year 3 are nearly identical to Year 2. This suggests that the changes in AudioJungle’s pricing structure have had little to no impact in the company’s overall performance against its competitors. Again, this change may take time to reveal its true impact.
REVISTING THE QUESTION OF SUSTAINABILITY
When analyzing the data from last year, I came to the conclusion that the total income earned per month was beginning to trend downward. This was the result of increased competition and a lack of new material being added to my portfolio. The cumulative monthly chart from Year 3 (Figure #3) seems to suggest a continuation of the slightly downward trend.
When viewed as a cumulative weekly chart, however, the same set of data tells a different story. The data point from each new week bounced back and forth between a high and a low weekly total, but the general trend line (indicating the sales average) has formed a remarkable flat plateau. In a discrepancy between the two trend lines, it would stand to reason that the more finite set a data from the weekly chart would yield a more accurate prediction of the trend. This suggests that my initial sound effect offerings have weathered the industry changes well, and are, in fact, providing a stable and predictable level of income over time.
What began as a one-year experiment in stock audio sale patterns has grown over three years into a living and evolving document, expanding and contorting with the ebb and flow of a young growing industry. Many truths have been discovered, but each article only seems to be as accurate as the time frame in which it was written. Hopefully this series has given you some insight into the trends in the stock media market. I cannot predict what this industry has in store for the future, but rest assured I’ll be there logging the data.
Until then, thank you… and keep selling.
Read the Other Posts in this Series