Remember the commercial actors strike in 2000? Pay-per-Play was one of the big things the union was asking for. The business has never really been the same.
According to a white paper published by Villanova University the convergence of TV and the Internet was the “core” issue. The unions were aware of the technical tsunami approaching, that the distribution of the content was forever changing. Not the actual work, but the delivery of the product.
It is hard to predict the future, but being responsive to changes so that you don’t get so far behind that you can never catch up should be part of your DNA by now. But changes are not always good without understanding the past. Creative fields are slowly being strangled by over saturation and plummeting rates.
Part of it has to do with new younger producers who know nothing about the way things used to be done. And they don’t care. The Internet provides them with access to everything in the blink of an eye. Ask and you shall receive. But you really need to know the right questions to ask.
I am a dinosaur – producing, writing and performing as on and off-camera talent since the 70’s. But I am also an early adopter of technology and take personal pride in staying close to the bleeding edge.
When I started focusing on voice talent work in the late 90’s, I dove into the Internet and have been a Beta tester for several online marketplaces matching voice talent to producers. The growing pains were just that – painful. And still are.
The concept of streamlining the casting process is good. The execution is not as good. The big online casting sites – what we took to referring to as “Pay-to-Play (P2P)” because they charged a fee – began with a good concept that appeared to be advocating for the talent, but has instead (at least in some cases) been shown to be powered by pure business greed.
Giving away free information was (and still is) a way to gain traction in the search engines. I’ve had free stuff on my personal websites since 1996. I also joined many online voiceover groups and freely provided advice and information.
One group I supported early on was Voices.com (I am not putting a link to them here – I’m sure you can find them) because they had a lot of free information for voiceover talent. I created 2 podcasts that have been on their site since 2007/2008. I paid the fees to receive auditions from them and a couple of other developing P2P sites.
No more. I have not been a paying member of Voices.com or Voice123 for several years now. I have maintained a free profile on each site, but that has also changed as of today. I have asked that both my podcasts and my profile be deleted from Voices.com until such time that they recognize that their current business practices are simply not serving the professional voiceover community, nor helping the production community understand the value of the voiceover talent.
As the site grew larger and larger, the focus seems to have changed from providing an online “dating” service for talent and producers, to how much profit can be made on the backs of the people who are paying the fees to list themselves on the site. Frankly, they are acting as an “agent” and a casting director. I am not opposed to a streamlined system for this process. But if you are acting like an agent and/or casting director, then play by those rules. Go ahead and charge a commission (the escrow fee in the case of Voices) and even charge to coordinate large jobs (as long as this doesn’t undercut the rate to the talent in order to do so).
But as the “dating” service has evolved into functioning as an agent, the site should NOT be charging the talent a fee to be on the site.
The Internet has changed everything. We ask. Someone writes some code. And voila, we have an answer. But be careful what you ask for. Do your due diligence. Think about the consequences of what you are asking for.
In the case of online casting, more and more people claiming they are professionals with the result being fewer and fewer people who can make a full-time living doing the work. This isn’t unique to the voiceover business, all creative fields are suffering from lots of people lowering their rates (or being asked to lower their rates) to try to snag some of the work.
One group is trying to find a balance. World-Voices.org has an online casting site that has ONLY vetted professional talent – www.voiceover.biz. It is brand new, so there will be growing pains here as well. The talent listed on this site are all members of WoVo, which means they pay a small annual membership fee to keep this advocacy group for voice actors and the voiceover business in general functioning. A listing on Voiceover.biz is a benefit of membership. Less than $50 a year, as opposed to upwards of $400 per year for a listing on one of the big P2P sites.
It’s new. It doesn’t have a lot of activity yet. There are undoubtedly going to be some glitches, but it might be something you would want to try when you are looking for a voiceover casting site that is all about the voices and not about making a profit.
Be a part of the next new thing in voiceover – Voiceover.biz.
You might just get exactly what you are asking for.