AudioMicro lands funds for stock music, sounds

AudioMicro, an online library of stock music and sound effects that can be downloaded for a small fee, announced today that it brought in an undisclosed amount in a first round of funding led by DFJ Frontier.

The Los Angeles-based website borrows the concept behind stock photo sites like Fotolia Images and Shutterstock. Basically, content providers — in this case musicians or sound effect technicians — upload files to the site that can then be downloaded and used by anyone else for a small fee. AudioMicro says it charges $1 per minute of downloaded content. However, this really means that a 15-second effect also causes $1, and that a song lasting 61 seconds costs $2. Any revenue brought in by a particular file is then split 50-50 between the company and the artist that provided it.

Once a sound or song is downloaded it can be used in films, advertisements, video games, anything, without any copyright strings attached. Founder Ryan Born says this makes AudioMicro a great launching pad for musicians just starting out. Uploading their files could give them the exposure (and the quick cash they need) to stay in the industry and maybe get discovered. Even so, more than half of the 22,000 files currently available on the site are short sound effects. Founded five months ago, about 300 files are uploaded to the site per day, but Born says this figure is climbing.

While aggregating stock music is still a relatively new idea, AudioMicro isn’t alone. It’s two top competitors are eStockMusic, a subsidiary of well established Jupitermedia, and iStockPhoto — a stock photography site that hopes to branch out into music and sounds. It’s owned by Getty Images, which was recently acquired by Hellman & Friedman. In short, AudioMicro is the David to its rivals’ Goliaths. Then again, its sole focus is shared music, which might give it an edge. It also accepts .wav, .mp3 and .aif files, which the others do not, and pays a higher commission to artists on all sales, Born says. iStockPhoto also restricts artists who belong to performing rights organizations like the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) because they are technically not allowed to share their work royalty-free.

AudioMicro has also benefitted from the attention of some high-profile content providers. In particular, Born points to its deal with Asylum Entertainment, a production company that elected to have its library of music added to the site. This contribution included pieces by Grammy-nominated composer David Arkenstone, and 1,000 other scores used regularly on ESPN and MTV, Born says.

The young company plans to use its new funding to continue developing its site and to market the concept to both artists and customers.

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