Interview with Matt Anderson from The3Dstudio.com

 

Matt Anderson, the founder of The3dstudio.com, one of the largest and most well known 3d marketplaces agreed to do an interview for Cgdigest.com. He answers questions with regards to how much a stock 3d seller can expect to make selling 3d models, about the recent acquisition by 3D systems and also shares his vision on the future of the 3d stock industry.

What makes the3dstudio different from other 3d marketplaces? 

A variety of services and features set us apart from the crowd. For example, we’re a one stop shop for ALL things related to 3D and 2D and thus have 3d models, textures, stock photos, tutorials, plugins, and so on. Most other sites stick to 3d models because 3d models provide more revenue and most companies only thing about their bottom line. 
We’ve also pioneered most features that are common places on 3d marketplace sites like our affiliate program for example. And we continue to find ways to make sure our members get as much of the pie as possible and our Member Loyalty Program and Referal Program are great examples of this. With our MLP sellers get 70% of every sale (90% with MLP + Affiliate) and aren’t locked into any exclusivity.
For us, we take the approach of finding ideas that are good for both the buyer and seller and when you do that the profit and growth of the company will follow. It’s not a revolutionary idea, but very few companies in the world seem to operate this way and instead focus ONLY on their bottom line and are destined to be followers rather than leaders.
 
 
It is clear that you have made tremendous efforts to develop the stock photos side of t3ds lately. Do you see a synergy between stock 3d models and the stock photos market? 
 
We appreciate you noticing that!The stock photo / image side of our business is new but growing amazingly fast and we’ve had some awesome support by some big name players in the stock photo industry. This is where I think we are way ahead of the curve because you have to look at stock photo users and see that they use programs like Photoshop that are quickly adding 3D features. In just the past couple of years we’ve seen these 2D only artists dipping their feet into the world of 3D and many who have jumped right into high end 3D programs as well. There is a large cross over market between 2D and 3D and it’s only logical that it will grow over time so we’ve planned ahead for that and it’s paying off. It also let us do right by stock photo sellers since they can actually sell with us and get paid a fair wage versus the pennies most stock-photo-only sites pay.
 
 
You had an original idea with the MLP program. What percentage of the total users has joined? 
 
We don’t generally give out those stats but I can say that a very large percent of sellers overall have joined our MLP and many of them use our Referral Program . What’s more interesting to note is that the majority of our top sellers are in the MLP and most sellers find out that joining the MLP increases their overall sales as well as their overall profits. The MLP is really one of my favorite programs and is all about rewarding loyalty…and these days it’s hard for more companies to get any sort of loyalty out of their members/customers but we’ve really succeeded there. It just once again proves that if you treat those around you well they will treat you well too.
 
 
Do you plan to upgrade the seller’s reports page anytime soon? A lot of new things could be useful (ex. top categories that sell – in terms of number of sales, average sale value, overall sales.). 
 
Haha, YES, you bet. This is one of those areas that’s fallen behind a bit (and that’s nobody’s fault but my own) and we’ve had some ideas for an upgraded reporting section for a while now. In the past we didn’t have many resources in terms of programming talent but now that we’re part of a much larger company (3D Systems, see: http://www.the3dstudio.com/blog_detail.aspx?id=2904) we have access to things that can really help us grow. So, all I can say is stay tuned and that we have lots of stuff planned there. It’s all about getting useful data in the hands of the seller so they can then turn around and make smart decisions on what to make, sell, and profit from.
 
I have talked with many sellers so far and it seems that for most of them it is a mystery when it comes to who buy their models. Can you shed some light upon this and tell us what industries are most interested in buying stock 3d models? In what order would you place them in terms of sales value per year? 
 
This is another area I can’t be too specific on but might be able to shed some more light on this via reports updates that we are doing and/or some future blog posts I do. For now, I can at least say that some of the top industries that buy 3d models would be architects, game designers, ad agencies, and government / military agencies. There are a zillion little niche industries as well but those are 4 exampled of the bigger buyers when it comes to 3d models. I hope to be able to talk more about this in the future but right now can’t give away all of our plans ?
 
 
Another frequent question is “how much can you make selling 3d models?”. Are there any sellers that do this for a living on the3dstudio.com (assuming that 30k/year would be enough to live anywhere)? 
 
That’s a GREAT question and I hear it all the time. The answer is a big YES. Yes, you can do this and make a living out of it. Yes, we have quite a few sellers that make a living just from their sales on The3dStudio.com. So the next question is “how” and that really comes down to your skills (as a 3d artist) and how much time and effort you are willing to dedicate to your “business”. The key is treating it like your business if that’s what you want it to be. You need to get serious and put the time in, just like with any business. 
Step one is to get started. Go through your models that you’ve made over the years, clean them up, finish them up, etc. Then get them listed on The3dStudio.com right away. If they aren’t listed with us then we can’t sell them so don’t delay on this step.
Step two is to view some of the search reports we offer, browse our site to see what others are selling and find stuff that is missing. If we have 34 models of a rare African weasel then chances are good we don’t need ad 35th unless yours will somehow be different. So fill the voids in what we are selling and you are cornering the market!
Step three is to add, add, add. To some degree this is a game of quantities and if you plan to make a living from selling 3d models then you will want a collection of several hundred models and up. Or, you can instead work with a smaller collection if it is a higher quality collection. For example, really high end skeletal and medical type models can do very well and sell for very high prices.
The bottom line is that selling 3d models is like any other business on the planet and can easily make you an amazing living if you are willing to put in the time and effort. So start small but start now.
 
 
If you were to make a general profile of a top seller based on your stats, how many models and what average value per model one should have in the inventory? 
 
Hard to say exactly since it depends on the model quality / complexity (see my answer above about medical models). With that in mind, I would say that a top seller will have anywhere from 250 to 2500 models in their collection that likely range from $50 to $1000 each.
If I was going to do this for a living I would likely have a mix of both high end / complex models and more every day type models. That way I would be covering one side of market with very complex models (medical/anatomy models, high end characters models, highly detailed city scenes, etc) and the other side with everyday models like single buildings/houses, vehicles, aircraft, etc. Diversity is the key; mix your collection up with models in many categories.
 
 
Without revealing any names, could you tell us how much does a top seller make per month? (Could be anyone of the top 5 sellers on the3dstudio.com
 
Sorry, I can’t give out any sales stats like that but some of these sellers do truly well with us and a few have sent me pictures of the stuff that their sales has bought them. This can be a great way to make a living or even just a great way to have a side income.
 
 
All professional sellers are complaining about the under cutters, and it seems like their number is growing day by day. How does The3dstudio.com plan to tackle this problem? 
 
This is another area where we’ve set ourselves apart actually and we saw this problem start years ago so we implemented a program to make sure the marketplace remains fair (while years later most other sites haven’t done a thing). Every time a model is added or updatedon The3dstudio.com we actually have a human review it.One of the parts of our review process is to look at the price the seller set and if it is too low we will raise the price up to a fair level. We’ve been doing this for years and it works well for us and keeps our marketplace fair. We’ve even seen those sellers then adjusting their prices up on other marketplace sites when we do this so we’re having a more global impact which is great. Hopefully we’ll start seeing other marketplace sites doing the same thing one of these days.
 
 
Based on your data what would you recommend to a new seller: 
a) focus on making expensive but well elaborated models with clean topology, high degree of accuracy, etc. 
b) concentrate on making as many simple models as possible to cover a wide range of categories. 
 
Haha, I have been reading these questions as I answer them and see now I sort of answered this already. In short, most authors focus on one or the other and you can easily do well with either option (assuming you put the time and effort into it). But if I was going to do this I’d mix my collection up and split it between both options. Again, diversity is key here. Be diverse in model quality/types, categories, and so on.
 
 
Regarding the recent acquisition by 3D systems, where you looking for a cash infusion in order to compete with TS-FP-E3D alliance, or did the offer came and you took advantage of it? 
 
The timing on our 3D Systems acquisition was pretty amazing but we operate under the idea that “everything happens for a reason” in life and in business. We weren’t looking for that type of scenario at all right then and we were doing quite well on our own but knew that at some point in the future we would want to partner up with “somebody” to really grow and expand.
The 3D Systems thing came to us out of the blue really. We were actually really busy at the time and I almost didn’t give it much attention at first until I realized that the person who contacted me was somebody I had contact with years prior and sort of “knew”. Once I was able to actually talk with 3D Systems it sort of hit me that these people have the same morals and values that we have and they had a lot of the same ideas for the future of 3D that we have.
After that things happened very fast, it was just a natural fit and I knew that they would have the resources we needed to grow and expand while still doing right by our members. That’s a pretty rare quality for any company and it’s worked out really well for us and them and we have some REALLY cool stuff planned for the future. Really wish I could expand on that subject but my lips are sealed for now.
 
 
Have you noticed a growth in sales since the acquisition? 
 
We have seen some excellent growth since the acquisition and 3D Systems is able to open us up to entirely new markets (both buyers and sellers) that were previously unheard of to us. It’s not easy getting everything from our systems integrated into their systems but they’ve been awesome and we’re almost at the point where you are going to really start seeing why they want to acquired us and why we accepted and those who have stuck with us will really start to seeing the payoff over the next year.
 
Some people say that 3d printing and 3d models that are made for visualizing don’t have very much in common. How do you think the3dstudio.com will benefit from the association with 3d systems (besides the cash infusion)? 
 
Ah yes, I hear that a lot and I will be honest here…at first, I wasn’t sure how we get models intended for visualization to also work for printing but that was mostly for a lack of understanding the world of 3D printing really. I now have a better understanding of what it takes to make and sell a model as a “print ready” printable model and in most cases just about any model can be made printable with little work, and even less if designed that way from the start.
We’ll be announcing more information and tutorials on this in the near future but many authors will find it very easy to take their 3ds max (etc) model and export it to a printable STL format. This will allow our 3d model sellers to very quickly expand into a brand new market and allow them to increase their sales. And when you throw in the fact that 3D Systems has some VERY affordable printers (http://www.the3dstudio.com/3dprinters.aspx) you can see that 3D printers will soon be very common items and we’ll all be printing out our own toys, replacement parts, and who knows what else. As we establish this new side of the market I think you’ll see that render models and print models have more in common than you thought and you’ll basically be able to market your models to an entirely new audience now.
 
 
Do you see potential for further growth of the stock 3d market? As high end technology becomes more accessible, in your opinion, what new markets will start using stock 3d models on a regular basis? 
 
Absolutely. I think the 3D market is still very small compared to what it will be in the next few years and 3D models and 3D printing become more common place. I see the 3D printing side being the big game changer. Remember when the first laser printers came out (black toner only of course) and were $2500.00 USD? Offices had them but not many homes did. Then came color inkjets and that changed the game and eventually prices dropped and now every home with a computer likely has an inkjet or laser printer. 
Now that 3D printing is amazingly affordable (remember, just years ago this tech would have cost tens of thousands of dollars if not more) we are starting to see it appear in more and more homes. The “maker” crowd has really gone nuts with 3D printing and make all sorts of parts, projects, gadgets, robots, tools, etc. That area will continue to expand like crazy.
But then you have something like the toy market. Why do I need to go to the start to buy a toy for my kids when I can go online to The3dStudio.com, purchase and download a toy 3D printable model, and hit print and be playing with it right away. Toys, puzzles, etc will really use this technology a lot and when my kids break something (and they will, that’s what they do) I’ll be able to go and print a new part.
On the non-print side there is no question that more traditional 2D buyers will make the leap into full 3D for all sorts of advertising, visualization stuff, movie / tv special effects, etc. 3D is all around us already today and it’s only going to grow.
 
Some people say that in the future, the prices for stock 3d models will be as low as they are now in the micro stock market. Others say that this industry will be geared towards high end, complex and more expensive models. What’s your take on this? 
 
I hear those arguments a lot as well and I think both are true and I think there is a market for both. For example, today we have various cell phone app stores that sell $1 apps but we also still have high end software (3ds max, office, etc) that can sell for thousands and then we have everything in between. People get freaked out about the future of the market but fail to realize that it’s different end users that are buying 3D. As 3D becomes more accessible all of those teapot models will quickly become free or cheap but that high end cityscape with 86 highly detailed buildings, 34 cars, 67 trees, and streets will still be a high end model with a high end price tag that buyers are willing to pay for. 
 
Thanks for the interview Alex, I hope your readers can get something out of this and hope that those who haven’t tried The3dStudio.com will give us a try!
 

 

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