Inspiration, Learning, Trends

What are the most commercially viable genres on AudioJungle?

Last week Peachysounds started a thread asking what the most “commercially viable” genres were for AudioJungle. Fellow author Stockwaves gave a really compelling reply so I decided to hit him up to go more in-depth about what genres work on AudioJungle, and how to pick the best genre for you.

How did you get started on AudioJungle?

When I first joined AJ in 2013 I had no idea what kind of music would sell. I had no clue as to who the typical buyer was. I started out by uploading a random selection of electronic beats and was happily surprised to sell a few licenses right away. I think I sold about 10-20 licenses in the first month, without any external marketing, and that was enough to get me hooked. I proceeded to try different strategies, different genres and engage more deeply in the small but interesting niches I came across. It took me about a year and about a hundred approved tracks before I really started to understand how AJ and micro stock licensing was different from other parts of the music business, and to feel comfortable that what I was doing was increasingly successful.

What are the most commercially viable genres, and how hard are they to break into?

I now consistently sell about 150 tracks a month and none of my 50 best sellers are called “corporate”, “inspiration” or “epic”. The “Popular Files” page, the “Top Authors” page, and the fact that sales were displayed publicly for all items were all powerful motivators for me in the beginning, although I quickly learned that there is no way to really “catch up” with the bestsellers that have already had a head start within a popular genre. Instead, I started experimenting in other, less trafficked genres. Because of how the search engine gives new items proper exposure, the first few days give a good indication of how well a track is positioned. Learning about the buyer side of the market, trying different things, uploading a lot and translating sales figures and market analysis into more efficient track production is, in my opinion, the best way to get ahead in the “jungle”.

Has it just been the one genre that’s been popular or has popularity shifted?

In 2013, the items on the “Popular Files” page were almost all a few years old, and garnered practically the same amount of sales from month to month. These “dinosaur” tracks still outsell most new items, partly because they are very well crafted, but also because they gained popularity early on. Some of these items had really good placements in ads, videos and VH templates which created more traffic, more sales, and more attention. The search engine also favored items with big sales numbers, even more so back then, and there was an obvious “snowball” effect where popular items carried on being popular for long periods of time. For this reason, authors were tempted to copy the best selling styles and genres, which in turn served to create a notion among buyers that AJ had a lot of this kind of music that proved popular in the market. Keywords like “corporate”, “motivational” and “inspirational” had become interchangeable and were closely associated with the best sellers at the time. Just by looking at the number of items for sale in each category you could easily see that the “corporate” category was dominating, closely followed by “cinematic”.

As of now (late 2015), this effect is more prevalent than ever, meaning many new authors cater to these massively popular categories by uploading incredible amounts of music that essentially sounds the same. While there is still a good number of sales, they are distributed over so many items that it has become practically impossible to gain exposure in search result listings. On top of this, having a search engine that favors titles synonymous with the search phrase, authors have been compelled to naming their tracks “Corporate”, “Inspiration” and so on.

As a result, we now have thousands of tracks that not only sound the same, but also have the same names. While this clearly creates frustration among authors, many buyers still to this day are coming to AJ to get that “corporate” sounding background track, and if they don’t find something they like on the first search page they will likely just sort the results by sales and get one of the top sellers.

Other genres will always lie somewhat in the backwater, but collectively they make up a for a good number of sales. Genres like “rock”, “ambient”, “classical” and “jazz” for example have shown quite steady progression but are far less overcrowded with similar items. Browsing through these tracks is likely a far more rewarding experience for a buyer looking for a specific sound or type of track, as the variety is considerably higher and the musical quality ranges from bottom to top.

It’s difficult to talk about a “shift” in genre popularity without bringing up the effect of specific top selling items. These items serve as “lighthouses” for both buyers and authors, and I’ve seen quite a few examples of “hits” shifting the attention of the market in different directions. Most notably, the shift is not always between genres but rather track quality. The new AJ hits of later years almost invariably bring a new level of innovation, effectiveness, emotional energy or mix into the game. They become the monthly bestsellers on the “Top New Files” page, and go on to stick to the “Popular Files” page, where they serve as new “lighthouses” for both authors and buyers.

It should be noted that this was practically impossible before the implementation of the “Top New Files” page, as reaching a critical level of sales per month would be almost unreachable without it.

In essence, the most popular genre on AJ is “background music”, and the majority of buyers seem to be quite indifferent as to which specific genre they end up buying. Exposure and track quality is what gives an author the upper hand. That being said, there are still big buyer groups that seem to have quite clear ideas of what they are looking for genre wise, and it’s only within these groups that we can discern shifts in demand. The most obvious effects are seasonal and related to big media events. Christmas music, big sports events and movie releases always create temporary fluctuations in traffic.

What’s the hottest genre at the moment?

In terms of both supply and demand corporate and cinematic tracks, in general, still move the fastest. Happy, positive and upbeat tracks are always on demand, as well as epic, dramatic and sentimental trailers and film scores. One current particular trend I’ve come across is the making of apps and YouTube videos for children. There is a need for high quality “kids” music, including public domain nursery rhymes, ABC songs and alike. Lately, for tragic reasons, there’s been a surge in demand for “sad” tracks suitable for documentaries and videos about disasters, wars or terrorist attacks. Big sports events always draw attention, not only to the games themselves but also to the countries in which they take place. Keep an eye on the upcoming Olympics in Rio, which is sure to give “latin” and “sports” genres a solid boost. And then of course it’s Christmas once again, so expect to see an uptick in sales of “festive” music.

What’s the hardest genre to try and stand out in?

It’s basically a function of how well an author masters the genre, the author demand and the author supply. The corporate and cinematic genres are so overcrowded that it’s down to a game of chance if a track is noticed, even if it’s of very high quality. Other genres may be even more challenging, but it depends much more on how well the tracks are made. If an author can produce excellent, modern sounding electronic dance tracks, being successful in the “Electronic / Dance” genre is a viable option, but it would be close to impossible if the tracks are just of mediocre standard. Typically, genres where buyers are likely to know good from bad, where there is ample reference music of high quality, demand more musical insight from the author. Radio pop, jazz, any vocal production, these are examples of music deeply rooted in our listening culture, and it’s harder to evoke interest with an inferior sounding track.

What’s the most underrated genre for sales? Is there one that quietly does very well?

There are many genres that over time can accumulate relatively good sales for tracks that stand out from the competition. Rock, Classical, Jazz, EDM, Comedy and Percussion Music are some good examples of this. In terms of sales though, it’s important to know though that genre, or “category” as it’s called on AJ, is secondary to using effective keywords and titles relevant for search. You can have a great “french guitar jazz” track for example, but if you call it something undescriptive as “A day to remember” and fail to capture the search traffic from your buyer group, there’s always the risk of your track never being found. Personally I’ve had some success with my “whistling” titled tracks. These are basically jazz/folk/upbeat/corporate crossovers, but if they weren’t using “whistling” in titles, tags and description I would not have captured the search traffic from buyers actually searching for “whistling”. I know this because I’ve had several similar sounding tracks in different categories and with different titles, but only the ones titled “whistling” were a good market match. I ended up retitling almost all so they contained the word “whistling” and it had an immediate positive effect on sales. Obviously I can’t do this with all of my tracks, since there’s no whistling on all of them, but it’s reasonably clear that buyers looking for specific things are prone to type specific keywords into the search field. The notion that a typical buyer will sift through hundreds or thousands of tracks and pick the best suited one is simply false.

How do you figure out what genre is best for you when you’re first starting out?

Many authors coming to AJ are seemingly trying their luck with some tracks they happen to have in their “drawer”. These are possibly great tracks within a genre they know well and have developed over many years. But since they know very little about the buyer market and how the search engine works, most are drawing blanks and simply drowning in the flood of new items, never to be found again. Maybe, just maybe, they sell a few licenses anyway, and they get pumped up about how to improve their results. Then what typically happens is that they learn about best sellers, popular titles and the importance of exposure, leading them into believing their best option is to do “what everybody else is doing”. They then spend weeks and weeks honing their craft producing “corporate inspirational” or “epic cinematic” tracks sounding more or less the same as their competition, and with identical titles, tags and descriptions. Most will fail production-wise because these genres are saturated and mature and they will need a lot more than a few weeks to reach an outstanding level of marketable sound quality. They will scratch their heads and head to the forums for advice and comfort, only to find hundreds of other AJ authors in the same predicament. Some give up their efforts at this point, writing off AJ as a one-sided, broken market, others turn to complaining about how the search engine works, or that Envato does not encourage or help new authors with exposure. This is unfortunate, as the solution to the problem has more to do with focusing on supply and demand, finding your strengths, working to understand the needs of your specific buyer group and their search behavior. Equal exposure for everyone is actually the worst thing that could happen to a marketplace like this, where the authors and their supply of items greatly outnumber the buyers and their demand. Itwould simply lead to a dilution of sales where no one would ever be close to making a sustainable profit.

How can you stand out in a crowded market place?

My advice to newcomers is to thoroughly investigate the market from a buyer’s perspective, rather than from an author’s perspective. Step out of the Envato mindset for a moment. Watch TV, advertising, YouTube videos, movies, listen to podcasts, radio and popular music and figure out where your music would really work. Then spend some time pretending to be the buyer of that music. Draw a sketch of the exact music you would be looking for, and then go on to actively search AJ for that music and see what you find. Make notes on the keywords you’ve typed in, how long it took you to find something similar, and what you could offer the market in terms of production value. Then go on to create a batch of tracks, similar, but with discernable variations, and upload them using any or all of the keywords relevant for a buyer looking for your kind of track.

Once you have 10 or 20 tracks online, within a few weeks you will be able to get a feel for how the market responds. Take your best selling items and study them in-depth, analyse why they outsold your other tracks and how you could improve your production, and then go on uploading a new batch using your newfound knowledge. This is about creating your own niche, knowing more than any other author about your specific buyer group, and most importantly uploading better tracks than anyone else.

The genre that is best for you is the one that you can dominate. This market is highly competitive, there is no free-for-all, there is no guaranteed pay-per-hour. Don’t be looking to cut a piece of some best selling author’s cake that everyone is already drooling over. In the long run, which should be your outlook, you can only sustain a profit if a good number of your tracks are uniquely positioned. Learn where you can shine, create your own set of tools and aim for perfection.

Check out Stockwaves’ profile on AudioJungle