In our continuing series profiling the companies on our Audio Market page where we offer smaller developers the opportunity to reach the Pro Tools community at a much lower price, we profile Sample Diggers run by Danny Wincott.
PTE: How did you start? Tell us about your journey to setting up your company.
Danny: Well my dad was in a folk band called the Amazing Blondel that was signed to Island Records in the 70s. So in my early years I was surrounded by instruments and studio equipment. I remember my dad making an R2D2 type sound effect on an old synth and from that day I was hooked.
From the age of 7 I was recording my own sounds and songs to tape and that progressed. In the 1980s I built my own turntables and mixer and learnt how to mix and scratch. Being heavily influenced by 80s Hip Hop, sampling was something I was drawn to very early on. By 16 I was DJing the clubs and by 1993 I was experimenting with 4 track tape and sampling on the Commodore 64.
In 1994 I put together a small project studio and started making songs using Notator on the Atari and a Casio FZ1 sampler. How time have changed, I only had 2mb of sampling time to play with then, but limitations made me work harder. By 1995 I set up a label with my brother called Lab Logic Records which received regular support from John Peel, DJ Hype, Fabio & Grooverider, Andy Kershaw and many of the other big DJs of the time.
As momentum was building and with over 25 commercial releases on vinyl and CD, I decided a move from the North to London was needed to further my career in music. Sadly at that time the music industry moved into the digital age and vinyl sales started to decline, so I had to get a regular job to help pay the bills.
I worked for a company called Turnkey (Soho Soundhouse) on Charring Cross Road. Working as the manager of the Loop Station, I sold studio equipment and Sample CDs from Time+Space, this was way before you could buy samples online. I also had access to the Synth Museum, which was exactly that and had been bought by Turnkey to hire out, to big name producers or customers who bought samplers.
Whilst there I spent a lot of time sampling the equipment and built up a nice library of samples to be used in my productions. As vinyl sales kept falling, I decided to spread my wings, and taught myself web design. In 2001 I set up a website called Dto4music, this was one of the first websites to offer a subscription service that offered downloadable samples.
The timing was premature as broadband speeds where slow and my development skills were still being honed. I decided to shelf the project and for the next 10 years I developed my skills and experience as a web developer, working for leading digital agencies in Brighton and London.
By 2011 I was working on big projects for Disney, Kuoni, P&O Ferries, Excel London and more. I also started my own development company that built websites for record labels, with the focus around delivering digital content. After a while I got tired of agency life and decided I wanted to move fully back into music and sound design.
After repositioning myself back into sound, I got a job as Artist Liaison and Product Manager for a leading sample provider, unfortunately that role didn't work out, so I thought it was a good time to revisit the idea I had 10 years previously with Dto4music and Sample Diggers was born.
PTE: Tell us a bit about your company and the products you produce?
Danny: Sample Diggers create niche sample packs for producers, post production houses and DJs. The aim is to offer sample libraries that are affordable and easy to use. We tag all our samples by tempo and key, plus we organise them in a way that inspire ideas and creativity. Our product range is growing and currently we offer a wide spectrum of content. From live instrument loop packs, electronically produced packs and even Kontakt based sampler instruments. Most genres are covered and this will expand as our library grows in the future.
PTE: What challenges are you facing at the moment?
Danny: There have been a lot of challenges in the last year. One of the biggest was dealing with the VATMOSS saga that came into play when I was just about to launch the website in Jan 2015.
I had initially set it up without taking VATMOSS into account. My accountant at the time and HMRC failed to inform me of this and I only found out about it through Facebook. This meant I had to do a lot of testing and redevelopment to adapt, it was worth it in the end though and we now have a stable e-commerce platform to sell products.
Another big challenge is how to expand the business without investment from 3rd parties. I have funded this project myself and have saved money in key areas of the business by building the website myself and I also cut costs by doing our own marketing and SEO.
As a new business, there have also been initial costs for equipment and software, but these are needed investments to speed up development. In 2016 the aim is to put more money into content and lower the other business costs to increase turnover and profit. There is still so much to learn and it’s a constant challenge to keep up to date with technology and trends in this industry.
Recording is also a challenge when it comes to time management. When recording session musicians, most of the time, we only get a day to record, making sure sessions runs smoothly takes a lot of preparation. When doing outdoor field recording sessions, planning for weather and equipment issues also has to be factored in to make sure the day goes well.
PTE: What plans do you have for the future that you can share with the community?
Danny: In the future Sample Diggers have plans to do more packs geared toward Post Production, Foley and Sound Effect Design, these will be larger packs that offer pre and post produced content, that can be used in Game Audio, Film and TV work.
We also are working on some new libraries for Kontakt and are starting to dabble with JUCE to create VST plugins, but there is a learning curve and there are still challenges to overcome until we are happy to release something.
Max 4 Live is something we are also looking to develop for, I have a couple of great MSP guys now on the team and we are just looking at ideas to create sample based instruments and effects that can be bundled with samples from our range.
PTE: What is your favourite audio tool (excluding any of your own products)?
Danny: There are so many great tools out there at the moment and it amazes me how far we have come in just the last 10 years. It’s great to see that analogue equipment is back on the rise and that with the advancements in computers, we are now able to bridge the two with minimal latency.
I love working with plugins. For sound design, some of my favourites include GRM Tools, Glitch Machines, The Mangle, McDSP, Acoustica Audio Nebula, UAD plugins and Sound Toys. For sound creation my favourite two tools are Native Instruments Reaktor 6 and Falcon by UVI.
Reaktor 6 has really stepped up it’s game, making it easier to build patches and in all honesty has dampened my need for a Euro Rack set up, as you can achieve the same results now easily in the box.
Falcon is a new kid on the block, but it’s definitely now becoming my go to for hybrid synthesis methods, you can build up rich sounding instruments very quickly using it’s plethora of synthesis oscillators and effects. UVI are also my go to for reverb and delay. Sparkverb and Relayer are stunning.
I have recently been using the VIP bundle from Plug & Mix, there are some great plugins in that product and they are quick and easy to use. I also work with Max MSP and Max 4 Live, there are a wide range of instruments and effects available and if you want to get your hands dirty, you can build your own patches.
DAW wise I use Ableton and Push 2 for creation and Pro Tools or Reaper to finish projects off, however I do find myself using Reaper more, as it has great batch rendering capabilities and better management of sample databases.
PTE: What one thing gets you annoyed about the audio business?
Danny: Nothing really annoys me about the industry. It is a tough business and having worked over 20 years in it, you have to be driven and thick skinned, as you will get a lot of knocks. But by keeping focussed and having a passion, you can achieve if you stick with it.
Saying that though it would be a better industry if artists, developers and creatives got paid more fairly for their hard work. However I think we are in a paradigm shift and until we get a handle on illegal downloads, better delivery and monetisation there are still tough times ahead for creatives as a whole. This is why I spread my wings, having your fingers in many pies and gaining multiple skills is the best way to succeed.
PTE: Anything else you would like to share with the Pro Tools Expert community.
Danny: I would just like to thank Pro Tools Expert and the community, your website is my go to for all news relating to music production and Pro Tools. The website has taught me many things that have been useful to my business and I really enjoy the comments from the community members who act in a more responsible way than on most other forums. PTE is also a great place for freelancers needing tips and interaction with other professionals in what can some times be a lonely field of work. Thanks for your support.
PTE: Thanks Danny for sharing about your journey in the creative world.
Remember to visit the Audio Market page and support all the small developers, all trying to punch above their weight.