Taji’s Frankenstein Monster Part 2: IT’S ALIVE!
Welcome folks… this could probably be one of the longest posts ever featured on TVE so put on your spectacles and get comfy.
I gave the previous post “Taji’s Frankenstein Monster : The Perfect VO Casting Site” a few days more as the feature on the blog than I planned… just to see how many more voice actors and agents would leave suggestions.
Not surprisingly the post received a great amount of hits …. many people contacted me directly and told me how excited they were about reading the comments and suggestions left in the previous post.
The frustrating thing to me, of course, is that so few people left their opinion. I’m sure the industry has thousands upon thousands of talent out there dying to speak, and although this perplexes me I still believe that “the show much go on” and the purpose of the post was not to see how many could participate but to see what ideas and suggestions could be derived from the comments to improve the Voice Over Casting site (specifically the p2p ones) experience.
My Original Question
What would the perfect Pay to play voice over casting website be like? If we were to take all the best elements from all the different pay to play voice casting websites in the market today and make a Frankenstein’s monster… what would it look like?
Also what elements missing in the currently available websites would you suggest adding?
To honor the folks that did take the time to participate in this endeavor I have decided to list their names and a link to their websites:
- Dave Courvoisier
- Peter K. O’Connell
- Anthony Mendez
- Bob Souer
- Wayne “Wanye Edwards” Nelms
- Paul Strikwerda
- TJ Jones
- Catherine Marshall
- Todd Schick
- Donna Summers (Owner VOplanet.com)
- Dan Roberts
- Debbe Hirata
- Heather Jane Hogan
As expected not all the participants stuck the criteria of elements in my questions. This is the case with all ideas that are shared by and involved a minimum of 13 people (14 including me).
Like many ideas that a group of people have taken the time to think about and share, the concept organically grew and morphed itself into its own Monster.
Only a few of the participants used the list of criteria I suggested in the original post to identify which of the elements of the existing P2P websites worked for them. What I go instead were a few tangents that surprisingly still fit the spirit of the post and reflected what part of the VO demographic wanted.
“…a faulty business concept”
Like many of the better established voice over artists (and voice over casting agent in his own right) Mr. Peter O’Connell could not get himself to approach the subject matter. I would have found this strange if I hadn’t met a resentment to the Pay to Play voice over casting paradigm from voice actor Robert Lee (the voice of the invisible Mythbuster in the famous discovery channel series). To Quote:
My wish list is clashing with my brain which is screaming “p2p is a faulty business concept”.
What I mean by that is the primary source of revenue for a p2p site are membership fees paid by voice talents…that’s where the p2p profit is coming from. P2P sites don’t promise or guarantee any of these voice talents will get any jobs for their p2p fee…only exposure. Compare that with the agency system when an agent is paid by both the voice talent and the client but only after the agent has secured work from one for the other. These agents also have web sites with voice talent demos on them like the p2p folks.
So a p2p site markets itself as the place for clients to go to find great voice talent. Some p2p sites (like Voices.com which is run by well meaning, upstanding business people) say they try and manage fees the clients offer voice talents for jobs (like a $100 minimum, wa hoo) and some others (like Voice 123) just take any clients that come, let them charge what they want and then throw those auditions out to the lowest bidder.
Mr. O’Connell sums up his wishes quite succinctly with the statement ” My wish is simply that the pay-to-play system go away because I believe their business model lowers the quality of voice over work specifically and the reputation of our industry globally.”
On the same side of the fence (although not exactly as dismissive of the whole paradaigm as Mr. O’Connell) is Mr. Anthony Mendez:
Everything that people want in a P2P is exactly what a good agent (and “good” is relative) will provide for you – whether virtual or brick-and-mortar.
The biggest hurdle is in the name. Once we stop calling it Pay-to-Play, and instead work on devising a business model for what it *really* should be – a virtual talent agency – we can more efficiently create an entity that will indeed meet and exceed the needs of both talent and buyer. The other “myth” we need to get rid of is that the agency model is no longer relevant. It depends on the agency and the relationship with your representation. Agencies exist for a reason, and those forward-looking agents (like mine at Vox and Atlas) will continue to exist for quite a long time in one form or another.
These so-called Pay-to-Play sites will continue to charge your credit card while keeping the clients (i.e., the talent buyers) happy. It’s the only way for it to continue to work. If they don’t keep buyers happy, there is no traffic. If there’s not enough traffic, the talent will be unhappy and – as usual – complain about the fact that they don’t get enough leads via that site. It’s an endless circle.
The users are those that have accepted the P2P business paradigm and have decided to give me suggestions with regards to improving the overall experience of the Voice Actors on these sites.
The first to comment and the one with the most participation in this post is Mr. Dave Courvoisier. Along with Mr. Bob Souer they were able to outline the most issues that seem to them as hurdles. Although those two were not the only participants, they were the first to work with my criteria and the ones who’s ideas were most cited as relevant by other participants.
So Let’s take a look at what the Perfect agency would look like now that we’ve presented a few of the points of view within the voice over demographic.
What They’re Doing Right
- We’ve Opened Your Audition (Voice123)
This feature is extremely helpful and has the potential, if developed further, of giving the voice actor a great “peace of mind” with regards to their audition. Especially if it was partnered with a powerful feedback system.
- Statistics (Voice123 & Voices.com and to a lesser degree bodalgo.com)
Each one of these sites uses their own different way of showing statistics. Demo listens and page hits is great but I would also like to see further elements like how many auditions submitted, demo listens, something like a client has bookmarked you for later, how much money made through the site (which would help with ROI stats). If information like the demo listening, the money earned, clients in pursuing future jobs with talent are displayed… these could provider further “peace of mind” in this investment.
- Feedback (voice123)
This one still needs allot of work. I would love to see feedback improved in several areas like… demo quality. If the site can ask a professional producer to listen to the demos the VO talent has uploaded and rated them according to how good the audio quality, clarity, creativity in line delivery and overall effectiveness and possibly give the talent notes on what needs to be improved… this would be a tremendous help
- Minmum Payment Fee (Voices.com & bodalgo.com)
Right now voices.com has a $100 cap on the jobs submitted through its website. Bodalgo doesnt have a minimum but Armin (the owner and operator of the website) reviews all the jobs posted and if one is lower than the industry standard he usually advises the client to rethink their budget… or not get their job posted. [UPDATE: Armin has also implemented a $100 minimum fee cap] The minimum payment system should be unified and raised to an industry minimum that takes into account equipment cost and audio editing since the majority of talent on the site do their own production work.
- SurePay System (voices.com)
Not a big fan of this system myself because it increases the quotation and puts it squarely on the voice talent’s shoulders… I believe this system can be improved if a general retainer is deposited by the bigger clients with the voice over site and the escrow can be withheld from that retainer. This gives the vo P2P liquidity as well as a means to weed out the scammers.
- Client Email Followup System (Voice123 & Voices.com)
What I mean by that is the reminder sent out via the p2p website that reminds the talent that a client has sent him an email and that he should answer it. I think there is major room for improvement here as well. The worst internal email system I have used is the voices.com one and that is mainly because of the odd way the system is setup… I’m sure with a little tweaking it can be improved.
The Upgrades Suggested
- Quality Control
Dave (Courvo) suggested some kind of Savoa like quality test. So did Catherine Marshall, TJ Jones wants “them demos to be put through the wringer” so that the resulting demos are authentic and do not reflect badly on the other talent. Bob Souer also proposed an audition process for the voice talent to assure quality recordings for the clients. Personally I think this is a great idea except that I did not have much success with Savoa. Their submission followup takes far too long and in the end I decided not to go through with applying for a membership.If a system is devised that can give some form of accreditation … through the website itself… a seal of approval through voice123 or voices.com that shows that the person has passed a quality control test then this can be an excellent step forward for quality control. If these sites want to take this issue further they can have an accent coach or specialist give points toward a higher accreditation or qualification by giving the voice talent a seal of his or her approval thereby verifying their authenticity.
- Talent Cap
For an Arabic voice over talent like myself having a cap of say 300 arabic vos per site won’t be a big deal for me since there aren’t that many of us in the first place. But for English language voice overs having a cap on how many talent can be part of any one specialization (Contributor TJ Jones says “300 of each voice type. (so, 300 British, 300 old lady, 300 monster truck announcer, 300 Christopher Walkins.)” This suggestion from TJ makes a little more sense to me than capping per language. One benefit that I can see from this is that if one is not able to join one site then another might have the space to accommodate him and so a bigger diversity of new sites can crop up that can handle the extra voice talent. Realistically I don’t know if the P2P sites will go for something like this mainly because as a business their job is not just to please everyone… but to make money.
- Who Got The Gig?
This one has several parts to it. First most of the contributors agree that it would be greatly beneficial for them to find out who got the posted gig. The second part is for them to hear the winning audition. Donna Summers of VOplanet.com suggests “As far as allowing talent to hear the winning audition, we used to do it that way and we feel it is counter-productive. Talent should spend their time developing their own unique style, not worrying about copying the style of the guy who “won”. We spent countless hours listening to talent say, “I could have done it better,” when we let the winning audition be posted. It’s not healthy or helpful, in my opinion.” The Voice Talent on the other hand believe that it would benefit their overall “Peace of mind” if they could hear the winning audition. Although as a talent I know that part of “who wins the audition war” and gets the gig is highly connected to how many auditions are sent in and how tolerant the producer is to find “Exactly that voice he’s looking for”. Whether this is positive or negative… this might be a positive thing with negative ramifications… or a negative thing with positive potential.
- Internal Invoicing System
This one is all me. No other talent suggested it and I just thought about it a few hours ago… how hard would it be for the P2P sites to integrate an invoicing system (or subcontract an existing site) to integrate an invoicing module into their site that sends out invoices automatically and can be customized to include the voice talent’s logo and rates? This system can be digital or (for an added fee) both digital and physical where the client also gets an invoice by mail. These modules can also include tax inclusion in the accounting for the VO talent depending on their location (US & Canada currently have the most sites so they can be the default.) For folks like me… you don’t have to deal with a tax calculation module.
- 2 Way feedback system
This suggestion was submitted by contributor Wayne Nelms who said “This should be a requirement, for both the client and the talent. On numerous occasions, the client has not provided feedback on the P-to-P site, although they gave excellent commentary in email correspondence. Perhaps I should have asked for feedback to be left on the P-to-P site.” This is an excellent idea because it works both for the benefit of the client and the detriment of scammers both the ones doing the hiring and the ones being hired. Scamming happens on both sides of the fence.
- Membership Pricing
Again this comment comes from contributor Wayne Nelms who mentions ” One site in particular (voices.com) has great disparity in membership level pricing. $300 is reasonable, but the jump to the next level is $2000. Granted, that level gets you listed on a number of specialized affiliate websites, but not all talents are going to be listed on every site. A talent may only specialize in two or three areas, not ten or twelve. An intermediate level would be good.I agree that the pricing at this point is an issue. VOPlanet and bodalgo have a good variation of membership levels. Voices.com has the second most versatile and voice123.com has the worst (only one level of membership) A more versatile pricing system for the site memberships can benefit both the site owners as well as the voice talent. I would personally have no problem paying extra if I was given access to an agent that I can talk to directly about concerns that I have or improvements I can make to an audition.
- Social Media Integration
This idea comes from Heather Jane Hogan and she writes ” we need a definite social media presence on all the current popular sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube: We need to keep our finger on the pulse of our demographics. All of our status updates, podcasts, blogs and vlogs need to be pithy, fun and informative, with a few interviews sprinkled here and there with experts, clients and talent.”This shouldn’t be that difficult. Integrating a voice actor’s blog feeds & twitter updates is a nice and completely optional way (for the actor) to make the voice actor’s profile page allot more informative and allot less static than what the current websites. Right now the profile pages does not reflect anything from the personality of the voice actor except what is written and that might not change for the duration of the subscription.
- Automatic Audio Watermarking
This suggestion is also just from me…and I don’t know how feasible this suggestion is but having every audition submitted automatically watermarked by the website so that the voice seeker does not have a chance of screwing the voice talent over is a great way of showing the talent that the site cares about what their needs are… especially the need to get paid and not feel ripped off.
I was going to make this allot more involved with actual mockups of how I would like the interface of the P2P website to be like to make things simpler for me to navigate in… and then I realized people get paid for stuff like. People also pay for the suggestions that are given above and the fact that these people were generous enough to take the time to give you their ideas to improve your business so that they can pay you to use your website.
Honorable mention goes to Mr. Paul Strikwerda of the doubledutch blog who decided to put together his own article about “The Perfect VO casting website” and came up with a completely different way of approaching the subject… you can read his article here:
Many thanks to all the great bloggers out there who were generous enough to both participate as well as blog about the post and allow other voice actors to join the discussion and participate further.
If any of the website executives / agents wish to give us their perspective on the matter and on our suggestions… please do so in the comments section. If any other VO talent wish to give their suggestions… its not to late… I might just make a supplementary article with further suggestions.
Also I might have forgotten a few elements that a few of the talents mentioned in the comments from the previous blog post… you can remind me of them below.
Thank you for visiting Taji’s Voice Emporium (TVE) be sure to visit the VO directory section as well as the Scammers section.
(Arabic Voice Over Extraordinaire and builder of monsters.)