ELance for Sound Recordists?

I was reading this article by Derek Sivers the other day: How to hire a programmer and I got to thinking that there is a little start up to be created which I would certainly use occasionally, and that would be a site for commissioning sound recording. I think someone set up a site for freelance sound designers to bid on projects, but that has no appeal to me as sound design isn’t something I would consider farming out – I value the relationships I’ve built over the years with the local team I work with and there is a LOT to be said for sitting in the same room, listening & having a chat about work in progress that remote scenarios will never fully replace – whereas there are many occasions when we need a specific sound recorded for a film and it may be too far to travel… But finding a local recordist can at times be tricky… As per Derek Sivers article these sites exist for programmers eg Elance.com or guru.com or odesk.com or vworker.com but what about one for sound recordists?


I’m aware that there are production/film crew agencies in most cities but I’m talking more specifically for post and gathering sound effects & ambiences… If each registered recordist listed the gear/recorder/s and mics they had, along with their experience & especially their location then it could make for a powerful network of resources… As a simple example I need a good FX Recordist for some work in Johannesberg – please email me if you can recommend someone…

But to also try to solve the larger problem – is there a platform or existing solution? I don’t have the time or inclination to develop such a thing, but I’d happily be a customer!

14 Responses to ELance for Sound Recordists?

  1. Hi Tim, your ideas are very interesting to me, because I proposed a platform for sound pros some years ago here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-8nAQzbY5o (sorry, the pitch is in italian).

    We searched for funding for creating a web place in which collecting sound professionals ordered by skills, geolocalization and other informations in order to easily find the right person to do that job.

    We also made a business plan to propose to venture capitalists, but many people did not believe in this kind of market. Now I think that we were anticipating too much the problem. I’m seeing now places like Social Sound Design (but it’s an advanced forum in any case) or Audiodraft (but the crowdsourcing trend is attracting not-so-professional sound guys in the platform) that are in that direction.

    I guess that for a project like this there is only one keyword: community. That’s to say: sound people like us must believe in a sort of unified project to support. A platform like this is not hard to implement or create, but without the support of all the serious sound guys out there is nothing….

    • tim says:

      Its very true…

      I can see some of the problem, in that if it is a commercial venture how does it generate income? But more importantly should it be commercial? I’m sure its the same in Italy but there are plenty of sites where people offer to charge you to list your services, but that is only worth doing if it generates enough paid work to warrant the annual cost… I’ll have a proper look at ELancer etc and see how/what they charge as a guide at least….

      The proliferation of cheap handheld recorders mean anyone can say they are a recordist, but eg in my case with the FX recording I need done in Johannesburg there is a substantial cost associated with accessing the prop we need recorded, so it is not something I’d want an inexperienced recordist doing. But there are also cases where someone with a handheld recorder might be just fine and/or the only option…

    • With all due respect, Gianpaolo, I think that ‘the crowdsourcing trend is attracting not-so-professional sound guys in the platform’ is a rather unqualified, sweeping statement. As opposed to what? The deluge of ‘pro’ (whatever affirmation of quality you think that guarantees you) sound libraries? – many of which are just pale imitations of collections that Tim put together years back.

      I’m afraid I also disagree that we ‘must believe in a sort of unified project to support.’ I don’t necessarily think that this kind of homogenised platform is any more productive than individual networking / research and, in any case, if your talking in terms of business plans and venture capitalists then I can’t see how such a website can become anything more than a vehicle for generating advertising revenue.

      Best regards,


  2. Ian Palmer says:

    Hi Tim,

    I think this is a really good idea. Like you, I’m not sure how it could work as a business beyond covering some basic hosting costs. I could have done with this a couple of months ago needing some recordings from Iceland.

    Is this something Google Maps could help with? Perhaps we could create a group on there? Although I’d be reluctant to pinpoint my house to that degree of accuracy though.


  3. alexis says:

    Is mandy.com not generally used as a resource, then? I realise it doesn’t have the bidding-on-projects side, but can give, for example, a list of sound recordists in South Africa:


    There are also filters for credits (TV doc, feature..) and a map for more specific location, eg around Johannesberg:


    Be interested to know if there is something viable along these lines.

    • tim says:

      I don’t know of any post people that use mandy – i may be wrong, but thats why i commented above “I’m aware that there are production/film crew agencies in most cities but I’m talking more specifically for post and gathering sound effects & ambiences… “

      • alexis says:

        ah right, interesting – I don’t work in post (but I gather sounds for my work) so wasn’t sure about the network/sourcing side this (though I guess that’s partly the question of this post!).

  4. Hi Tim
    I think this is a great idea, actually something i’ve been thinking about for a while as well. Not too sure how to implement it but something like an add on to Social Sound Design, or even create Social Sound Recording. I’m sure that recordists from around the world will be happy to get involved, they will also be able to help in sourcing the prop, location etc as the likely hood is that they speak the local language.
    Would love to see this happen.

  5. Interesting discussion, Tim.

    To go against the tide though (or p*** on everyone’s cornflakes….), personally I think there are much more fruitful pickings to be had by simply talking to (as you have done here) the ever-growing online sound community we’re all investing in than setting up yet another database / forum. My opinion is that these formats reduce an interesting opportunity to forge new international links / working relationships (via research on google, twitter, ssd, etc.) to an automated form-filling experience. With your following, I would imagine this post alone will return many more leads than an online database. Commenters alone currently represent Italy, UK, Boston & Estonia!

    I enjoy a much smaller blog / twitter following than you but over recent years have needed to source good quality sound recordings from New York, Panama and likewise South Africa and have managed to do so quite easily without having to search much beyond the most well-known and well-trusted members of this community.

    I know New York is quite an easy one but my first field recording commission came about a few years back, when I’d just discovered your blog (and knew of few others). By simply checking out your ‘Great Sites’ list I was able to hook up with ol’ Rabbit Ears himself and get a great selection of specifically recorded NY street shouts for a very reasonable price.

    To be honest, I would have thought any sound recordists from places more obscure than South America or South Africa who aren’t discoverable through any kind of online presence are unlikely to even become aware of such a startup – designed to bring precisely those people to our attention – let alone sign up to it.

    In other words, I prefer to do my own curation and connecting. Our personal contacts / source lists can become as precious to us as our sound fx libraries. I’m not engaging in this kind of social media to find penpals, after all.

    However, I have incorporated my own slant on this idea into my own online venture, The Sound Collectors’ Club. All members are given an access link to a privately shared Evernote notebook, called ‘The Knowledge.’ The plan is to gradually build up this notebook together, not so much with names and numbers but with tipoffs and recommendations about interesting locations and sources around the world – tagged in order to make location and subject searches possible. Perhaps that completely contradicts my prior comments – we are clearly building a database too – but it is more about knowledge sharing than being a job listing, and it is secondary to the Club’s main purpose which is sound sharing.

    • tim says:

      I think you are presupposing a little much there Michael: “reduce an interesting opportunity to forge new international links / working relationships an automated form-filling experience”

      It would be a means of initial contact eg if I went to a Social Sound Recordists site or whatever and saw thats there 3 recordists listed in Johannesberg, I’d check their credits, gear etc and then contact the first one or two that appealed. and THAT would just be the start of discussing whats required & whether we can work together etc… why do you extrapolate it to some kind of automaton future?

      • True, I’m perhaps getting a bit carried away with my wording but I do feel that those contacts are already out there in a more independent, interesting, expressive, diverse (and free!) format (be it blogs, blogrolls, q&a sites, etc.) than a listings site. That said, I mean it as a literal fact rather than a provocation when I say that compiling a job listings site is partially automating the process of finding a recordist, and of recordists finding us – I’m certainly not suggesting that using such a site lies on the slippery path towards a future of humans farmed by robots!

        Having said all that, the mandy site (which I actually didn’t know about until Alexis mentioned it) does seem, to me, to reasonably closely fit your description. I’d certainly add it to my research process next time I’m looking for sounds from unusual locations, I just don’t think there’s a gaping void without it (I’ve managed ok so far). I did a test search for Panama (as I needed sounds from there recently) and found a guy who stated ‘field recording’ amongst his services, had done a course at Full Sail and worked on ‘Quantum of Solace’. Not bad for a first search!


  6. This is something I would both love to use and be a part of. My company exclusively captures footage all around the world, and brings it back for me to do sound design…with anything I can get nearby. Luckily, ‘nearby’ has awesome variety but the SF bay area cannot replace the jungles of El Salvador, or Downtown Paris.

  7. Michael says:

    I think that in this age, outsourcing some projects online is the way to go so having a community that caters directly to music freelancers is a perfect way to provide this service.

    In my opinion, it can’t be exactly like Elance or Odesk. It needs to have a way for freelancer musicians to offer their service without waiting for buyers to post projects and it needs to have a video chat with file transfer to allow people to interact and work directly from the site. But lake any website, there is a starting point and it must progress and mold to become more and more of an asset to the people using the site. Because at the end of the day, it’s not just a website, it’s an additional tool and resource. Artist, musicians, and producers spend a lot of time on craigslist, facebook, linked in, and twitter, but how much business do you think they are getting? If they have an additional tool like http://MusicLancers.com and the community supports a site like this in it’s initial growth by joining and inviting friends, then a site like this can one day become the primary means of income for some people.

    You also have to look at the fact the America usually outsources to countries like India, Philippines, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Romania, etc. But the USA isn’t the country with the richest people. Switzerland, Norway, Australia, Luxembourg, Denmark, Ireland, Canada, Sweden, and Belgium all have a median income higher than the USA meaning that even Americans can be the ones that other countries outsource to.

    Music is a universal language and there is plenty of room for growth. It’s all up to us to make things happen instead of watching things happen.

Leave a Reply

Please use your real name instead of you company name or keyword spam.