Taji’s Frankenstein Monster Part 2: IT’S ALIVE!

January 31, 2010  |  Articles

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?

The Participants

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:

  1. Dave Courvoisier
  2. Peter K. O’Connell
  3. Anthony Mendez
  4. Bob Souer
  5. Wayne “Wanye Edwards” Nelms
  6. Paul Strikwerda
  7. TJ Jones
  8. Catherine Marshall
  9. Todd Schick
  10. Donna Summers (Owner VOplanet.com)
  11. Dan Roberts
  12. Debbe Hirata
  13. Heather Jane Hogan

The Answers

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

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Honorable Mentions

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:

http://nethervoice.com/nethervoice/2010/01/28/pay-to-play-dracula-or-frankenstein/

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.

Mahmoud Taji

(Arabic Voice Over Extraordinaire and builder of monsters.)

www.mahmoudtaji.com



12 Comments


  1. Mahmoud,

    Thanks for the thoughtful post.

    Be well,
    Bob

  2. This was an important topic – thanks for introducing such a lively debate… I’m sure now that it’s alive you will continue to welcome contributions – the challenge is you have such an esteemed readershp (as the previous respondees demonstrate) one wants to make a highly original comment! Good job, Taji!

  3. Hi Taji,

    first of all: I’d like to thank you that you take so much time to get to the ground of improvements in the voice over p2p market. Surely enough this effort is highly appreciated by all of us.

    Here are some add ons/feedback of what bodalgo will take from all of this:

    “We have opened your audition”
    Probably voice talents don’t know about this: At bodalgo a voice seeker sees ALL offers for a voice job on ONE SINGLE PAGE with the *last* offers sent on TOP of the list. This might look not logical at first sight, but: Voice seekers are informed by bodalgo about every single offer coming through (if this option has not been unchecked). So if a seeker visits the page with the offers more than one time, he does not need to scroll DOWN to find offers he has not seen already. This procedure nicely balances the exposure of early and late offers. We do not want to punish talents that send offers later than others because we believe that the timing of an offer is not a quality benchmark.

    “Statistics”
    Definitely something to improve. We will look into that.

    “Minimum payment fee (budget)”
    bodalgo actually changed the budget scheme for voice jobs a few weeks ago. A job needs a minimum of 100 USD to get posted. “Open” budgets are not allowed since then. Also, as you mentioned (thanks for that one), we review every job posting before it get’s sent out.

    “Surepay”
    Personally, we think that the escrow service makes the whole thing far too complicated. To make sure talents get paid, we have a different and very simple approach: We check the integrity of the voice seekers information before sending out jobs to talents. Also, we recommend to watermark any work sent to FIRST TIME customers. In two years we had only ONE occasion of fraud (and the b***ard really was very clever – but we learned the lesson).

    “Who got the gig”
    Difficult one. Not all clients (and not all talents as well) want their names being made official. But: There is a forum with bodalgo where we could integrate a section: “I got the gig!” Then again: It could well be that only very view talents will take the time to write about jobs they got with us. This could fall back on us with other talents getting the impressions that kinda nobody gets jobs. This would not be great as well … tricky one.

    Improvements suggested

    “Quality control/Feedback”
    As bodalgo is not after numbers, ie. not trying to get as many talents as possible, we review each and every new member profile and will not activate amateur profiles, profiles with low quality audio files (ie. recorded with computer mic, in a living room) etc. To this day, more than 4.100 talents signed up with bodalgo, but only about 1.800 profiles got activated. The rest has been deleted (sending a nice, explaining mail before, of course). It has to be said, though, that we are native Germans and might not always spot amateurs in others languages (especially when the recording is technically well done). But so far: no complaints, so we think we are doing okay.

    If we find a pro talent with a suboptimal demo (technically), we simply write to her/him and ask him for another one. We do not communicate this, we simply do this as a service.

    “Talent cap”
    As we have far less talents than other sites, a talent cap is not necessary at this time. Also, that one is not easy. Who determines which talent is “allowed” to send an offer and which not. Speed, again, is not suitable for choosing, we believe.

    “Social Media Integration”
    bodalgo is on twitter and Facebook although the activity could improve. Also, twitter and skype are integrated on bodalo’s talent profiles if the talent wishes to do so.

    “Auto watermarking”
    A great idea, but: If bodalgo integrated this it would be only for voice seekers with no jobs history ie. first time seekers. We will look into this.

    So: Thanks again for putting the finger where it hurts. bodalgo is about to finish a complete restructure of it’s backend to be able to launch some more language versions of bodalgo. Once this job has been completed we will look into new features.

    Thanks again, Taji, for your efforts.

    Best

    Armin
    Team bodalgo.

    • Thanks for taking the initiative and running through our list as well as discussing the matter with us. It seems like this is far more than some of the other sites are even willing to do.

      Keep up the good work

  4. Taji – thank you for jumping in on this topic. I’m a little weary of the whole issue or you would have heard from me as I have participated on other blogs in the past.

    But the issue where I really have AIM and am frustrated is about ‘who got the gig’. I really DON’T care WHO got the gig… I want to know that it was won, and that of the jobs posted, X number were complete on that site. I would also like to know how much the job was paid. I want statistics – real data.

    This can be done through a simple list of buttons including “hired Talent from these auditions” or “Didn’t find talent needed” or whatever the primary standard choices could be for the VO Producer. No VO talent has to be named. It should be a requirement on the VO Producer’s part to share this follow up – especially if they get all this casting done for them for free.

    Even better to understand how much the VO Talent was paid for the gig. All can be ‘anonymous’ so that the info will be provided and statistics can be garnered.

    If systems on these P2P sites can be constructed to search for VO talent nuances like “French speaking with lisp” they can sure as heck be created for compiling stats on the completed gig. Come on?!

    • Hi Rebecca,

      thnks for your comment.

      All of this can be done – no doubt about. The only thing: We would rely on the seekers providing this information as we can not see for sure how much was paid (voices.com might be able to do because of their escrow system).

      We will look into this.

      Best

      Armin
      Team bodalgo.

  5. Hey Taji,

    Thanks for the thought-provoking question and lively interaction with colleagues. I hope we continue to draw up blueprints to reinvent the wheel, or at least put our heads together!

    Take care,

    Catherine Marshall

  6. Hi Taj- This was a very informative and interesting topic to address. Virtually all of the suggested improvements would benefit the “virtual agent” marketplace.

    Perhaps the thing to do now is create a new site and call it “Virtual VO Agent.” You can begin with an advisory board (and perhaps investors, as well) made up of the people who so thoughtfully added to the argument in this blog.

    Full disclosure: I currently subscribe to Voices.com and also to Bodalgo. I like them both and have booked work at Voices.com. However, I believe in competition and the rewards that go to those that “build the better mousetrap.” If nothing else, perhaps a new entrant in the market will spur the established sites to make the suggested improvements.

    PM me if this is something you’d like to explore further.

    In the meantime, great job on this!

    Curt

  7. Thanks so much to Taji & all of the talent who participated in this thread!

    Your time and thoughts are very valuable to us. It was interesting to find that many of the things suggested are tools we at VOplanet and VoiceCasting already utilize. We are looking at all of the suggestions in depth and will consider implementing the ones we feel will benefit our talent and our clients as a whole. As you might imagine, every suggestion has to be looked at intricately regarding what we feel in our best estimation is going to bring about the highest good for all concerned. Below are some musings from us at VOplanet and VoiceCasting; Donna, Robert, and Michelle. Feel free to input or give us suggestions or feedback.

    Generally speaking, it is noted that many talent feel that client feedback would be great. We completely agree and it helps us as agents too! It is unfortunate that we cannot force clients to comment on auditions. Think of it from their perspective. They listen for what they need and once they find it, they are on a deadline to get the job done. It would be a great luxury of time to go back and listen to each audition to give feedback. Of course we as agents would love it, too, because then we would have a better sense of how our talent are doing in the field. Regarding paying a producer to listen to and critique talent demos, we could do something like that. Of course there would be a fee, as the producer would want to be paid for his or her time. And each producer would have a different opinion. Are you going to run out and change your demo because of one producer’s opinion? Or would you want to pay for a committee of your peers to listen? Isn’t this what SaVoa does? We are affiliates of SaVoa and each of their members has a SaVoa seal on our site. Let producers know what SaVoa criteria is and that should give some credibility to your work. We let them know on our end as well. Also, being a member of VoiceCasting is a very credible “seal of approval”, as it is by invitation only and there are strict criteria to be invited to the agency side. If anyone out there has a suggestion how to further solve this, we are open to hearing it.

    Let us state this thought that talent rarely have. Clients WANT you as a talent to do well. They WANT you to get the job! They WANT you to be the best so that they can stop listening to the nameless rabble of VO demos and auditions they get bombarded with every day and go do something more fun! They WANT you to be the hero so that they can be the hero to their clients. If you agree, then WHY would a client NOT listen to auditions? It just doesn’t make any sense! What if they failed to listen to your demo or audition and you were the perfect talent for his or her job? We listen to auditions every day and I’ll tell you now, I don’t take the risk of not listening to everyone! That might mean the other agent’s talent gets the job and we are not going to take that risk! Many times a client will listen and just save the audition to his desktop instead of “Favoriting” a talent. We do that all the time. Talent assume that the client didn’t listen if this happens and it’s just not so. Talent should assume that ALL their auditions get heard unless they have a reputation for really bad auditions and in that case, their agent should tell them. If you as a talent feel that you are never getting heard, ask your agent. Nine times out of ten you will be told that yes, you are. Or you will be told there is an issue that needs fixing. Be prepared to hear the feedback and act accordingly. This is a business. When we work as agents on a project, we listen to every audition & make recommendations to our client. We also leave feedback for our talent & make calls when a talent does a fabulous job. We also take the time to call or leave a comment when the auditions is lacking in some way – whether that be their read, audio quality or whatever. We find that by offering our feedback – our bookings thereby increase and have seen proof of the pudding. We have actually had talent provide not so great auditions but had the perfect voice to meet the client’s needs. With a little guidance – they resubmitted their audition and YES! booked the job! It’s rewarding all around when we work as a team.

    Regarding item #2, all VOplanet members can login to their Control Panel, where they will see buttons to add/edit their profile, add demos, post blogs, look at their posted blogs, create ads for our marketplace and see how many and what auditions they have done. They can see if they have been saved to favorites or if comments were left. If a talent’s page is static, it is because talent are not taking the time to add blogs and share them, they are not updating their demos and alerting their prospects, and they are not adding updated info on their profiles and sharing it with potential clients. Also, did you know that Kryptonite members can get a FREE WEBSITE with FREE WEBHOSTING as a part of their membership with us? No – not http://www.FirstLastname/VOplanet – their very own unique URL that uses YOUR NAME or whatever you choose. All of these are tools that talent can use to help market themselves. Be honest with yourselves, talent. How many of you are using them? We make calls daily when we see missing information or a demo won’t play or we see typos or changes that can be made to better present themselves to talent. Talent profiles aside from your demos and auditions are an opportunity to sell yourself to the client. Create your profile to the best of your ability. Thingk – as a client, what would make me want to hire this talent and create your profile accordingly. We are always here to help you figure out ways to use the tools that are part of the packages at VOplanet so utilize our experience as well.

    Regarding capping fees, Donna stated in your blog and we will state again that the entire reason for opening VOplanet was to fulfill the needs of talent who said they wanted to bypass us as agents and book themselves. We happily worked first as Donna Summers Talent in Atlanta (A full service talent agency) and then as VoiceCasting online for decades as agencies whom clients used to book VO talent and others and we still do. But VOplanet is a P2P talent clearinghouse, as is Voice 123, Voices.com, Bodalgo and many others. There is a BIG difference in the way an agency and a P2P operates. As agents, we feel that we gave talent what they said they wanted by opening VOplanet and now they are unhappy with the outcome. The nice thing about VOplanet that sets us apart from other agencies is that 99% of the time, our rates have already been negotiated before-hand. This is a great advantage to you the talent that other sites do not offer. You never have to bid for a project – let alone under-bid each other. This is just not the way to do business and we will not support that method. Mind you, if a client contacts you directly for rates etc. and you call us to help you negotiate those rates, we expect an agency fee. It has taken many years and much experience to gain knowledge about talent rate negotiation. We gave talent what they asked for and we feel that under the circumstances it is up to each individual talent to set his or her own rates. We as agents get paid for our experience in negotiation rates. Our setting rates for you for free is kind of like asking you to do your VO’s for free.

    Regarding SurePay. Every site, agency etc will have their own methods utilized to ensure talent payment. We use PayPal and we have other very surefire systems in place to assure prompt payment. First, let us state that if you can find the client who will pay up front for jobs not yet performed, we will give you a nice finder’s fee for that referral! Do you pay for your groceries or your car repair or your haircuts up front? Neither do clients. Here is what we use as a surefire method to get payments; BEFORE each VoiceCasting job is done, the fees and usage are negotiated by agent and client with the talent being fully informed and his input considered. Then a Deal Memo is drawn up by our accounting department and sent to the client and the talent for a signature. It is then faxed back to our accounting department. NO JOB is done before this happens. That way there is never any question about what a talent is getting paid or what a client is paying for. These are legal documents and we have NEVER had an issue being paid in the almost three years we have implemented this system. ALSO, at the end of the year, 1099’s are issued to each talent who has earned enough to get one so you have a complete record for tax purposes. This is all just part of the services we offer when you book a VoiceCasting job. At VOplanet, as stated earlier, talent and clients go directly and are responsible for all paperwork and contracts. We are discussing adding a deal memo template to the site for talent and clients to use for themselves. But again, be reminded that talent were the ones who asked to leave out the agent. In that instance the burden of collection and weeding out scammers SHOULD be put squarely on the talent’s shoulders. Don’t you agree? After all, that is what agent’s are paid for!

    Regarding a client e-mail follow-up system; We have chosen not to have site mail therefore we cannot monitor the messages between VOplanet talent and their direct clients. Nor do we choose to monitor it. That is why in the blog Donna stated that we have no way of knowing exactly what gets booked at VOplanet. It is strictly a P2P clearinghouse that is simply another TOOL for talent to use to do auditions, have their own page, build their own website, blog on our site and share their blog, and store their demos for their direct clients. Do you think it would be helpful for us to do a tutorial on how to use the tools at VOplanet? We could set that up if it would help. Also, we really want talent to start to take responsibility for their own success and use us as just one of the tools they have in their toolbox for marketing and advertising their craft. With all due respect, we are not babysitters nor at VOplanet do we act as agents and we and feel that if talent needs to be reminded to talk to their clients, they must not want the work very much. Of course as mentioned earlier, VoiceCasting talent who use us as agents get more hands-on treatment because we get a commission on each job we get them. VOplanet talent have chosen to go directly with clients and do not pay a commission. That is why we expect them to do the legwork for themselves. It is what they asked for, isn’t it?

    Let’s address quality control once more. As stated above, VoiceCasting is an affiliate of SaVoa. We take a hands-on approach with each VoiceCasting talent, offering demo critique, course recommendation, studio upgrade suggestions, moral support, audition direction, website design tutorial, and marketing input, among other things. On our site, all talent who are SaVoa have the SaVoa shield next to their name, and along with all VoiceCasting talent they are heard and considered first. This is because we feel that they have been through not one, but two rigorous processes (VoiceCasting and SaVoa) to prove themselves as professional VO talent. We could certainly add a third layer of credibility as suggested in your blog, which would be to have a producer or a group of producers critique each talent demo. However, we feel that just by virtue of being accepted as a talent at VoiceCasting, clients are familiar with us enough to know that we rep only the best at our agency. That, along with a SaVoa accreditation should be enough for most clients. As a side note, we did a LinkedIn Poll recently regarding what clients sought first in VO talent. It wasn’t experience or price, as one might guess in the responses we received. It was hands down a certain sound that the client was listening for coupled with ease of direct ability and ease of interaction and cooperation with the talent. You can see this poll at http://www.linkedin.com and search for VOplanet. And not to be disparaging here, but what kind of seal is worth anything when given by folks that have been in the VO business for very few years as compared to those of us who have decades of experience with clients, coaches, and talent?

    Re: Talent Cap; 300 in each category sounds fair to us. But we represent far less than that at VoiceCasting so talent’s chances are a lot better.

    Who got the gig? This was addressed before in your blog. You stated that it would give a talent “peace of mind” to know who got the gig? Not our experience at all! It’s like being the bridesmaid watching the bride walk down the aisle and having “peace of mind”. That’s not going to happen. And it is so true that there are just so many variables as to why a client chooses one talent over another. Not being chosen does NOT mean you are bad or wrong. It just means that someone else fit the client’s picture and filter of what they thought they wanted. It is all very subjective and we know this is a hard pill to swallow. Our suggestion is just do your best always. And know that you are loved and appreciated at least by us for trying! Again, we do let our talent know who got the gig when a talent was chosen through VoiceCasting. It on our talent’s control panel, we

    Re: Internal Invoicing; We addressed our VoiceCasting system. We are going to explore the possibility of setting up something more comprehensive for VOplanet talent.

    Re: Two-Way Feedback System; We can’t figure out a way to force clients to comment. Talent can comment via e-mail to us always. If you have a solution to have client comment, let us know. We do get feedback via e-mail from clients regularly who use a specific talent to do a gig and of course, we share the e-mail with the talent who got the job. We put it in our blogs, social networking, newsletters and other marketing material.

    Re: Member pricing; this is where Donna got in big trouble by stating what VOplanet and VoiceCasting offers! You thought she was being “aggressive” when she just told the truth and was completely transparent about the two entities. It truly does take a lot to run a site and more to run an agency. We appreciate if talent want to do it all on their own and we offer a venue for that, http://www.voplanet.com. But do not expect us or any other Talent Agency to offer services for free. We feel that we are actually far below fees for what we offer, with an opportunity to be repped by VoiceCasting for FREE as a result of your VOplanet membership. PS…What in the WORLD does Voice.com offer for $2,000?

    Re: Social Media Integration: Aside from what we have already mentioned in your blog, Donna is now studying with a group at Social Media Magic University to get certified as a Social Media Advertising Expert. http://www.socialmediamagic.com. Heather Jane suggested it was a piece of cake to do this. Quite the contrary. It is a full time job. And we at VOplanet/VoiceCasting are immersing ourselves in this new media technology. Also, we have the VOplanet site set up so talent can add their blogs and Share it elsewhere. This is GREAT FREE Publicity for them IF they will use it!

    Re: Watermarking. We have polled our clients who say that watermarking is a distraction and many times clients will not listen to watermarked auditions. I have to agree as do many talent even. We at VoiceCasting work with the best and most reputable in the industry with whom we have established a solid relationship and have never had an issue that would require us to use watermarking. “IF” we have to use watermarking, we would like to find a standardized one that is not evasive or obnoxious. But right now, that is not our choice or need.

    Thankfully, we have never had to worry about getting ripped off. We have done our due diligence and we believe that most folks are out for the best. Therefore we attract and work with the best. We have been very lucky and blessed to create a very positive experience for ourselves and those clients and talent who share our vision.

    We wish you the best. Please let us know how we can best serve the VO community.

    Sincerely,

    VOplanet/VoiceCasting
    Donna, Michelle, and Robert

  8. Thank you a lot of useful information, there is much to learn here!

  9. Taj,
    Thanks for this article. I’m only sorry that you slipped under my radar until now and that I didn’t have a chance to contribute to the article itself.

    And after reading this article in full, I would say that the only truly forward thinkng and different suggestion is Jane’s, regarding the integration of social media with these online casting sites.

    I don”t like the term “Pay2Play” or “P2P”. It is degrading and the term “online casting site” is descriptive enough. The modifier “fee based” could be used to further distinguish sites like Voice123, Voices.com, etc.

    Let’s also get rid of terms like custom demo. The word is “audition”. “Voice seekers” is another one that bothers me, although the way some talent speak about our customers, you’d think that “opponent” may be a more fitting title.

    What I find so disappointing about the bulk of these suggestions is that they are the kinds of things that self-serving, small minded, fearful individuals think of. None of these suggestions takes into account the needs and wants of the clients (oh, sorry, I must mean Voice Seekers).

    John Maxwell, in June’s issue of Success discusse the three questions that customers ask themselves about you.

    1. Do you care for me.
    2. Can you help me
    3. Can I trust you.

    We actors, as service providers, need to ask if we are doing this in our own businesses. As consumers of services (online casting services), we must ask if these services meet these three criteria for us.

    Without the people who hire voice talent, these communities fail to work. As an actor, if I must spend a few minutes more to perform an audition submittal online, becuase it will make life easier for those who ultimately will be choosing the talent, then I am happy to do so.

    Improvements on these sites should take into account the unique and evolving needs of the body of individuals who hire actors. And while actors tend to often exhibit diarrhea of the mouth with regards to what hey feel is fair and just, producers and directors tend to offer scant few words and simply go where they feel most welcome.

    Additionally, when you try to design a community that is composed of such a diverse population, it’s conceivable that “pleasing some of the people some of the time” is the best you can get.

    As for Mr. Mythbuster,Robert Lee, your comments sound exactly like a description of SAG or AFTRA.

    When you say “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.”

    With the exception of the fact that the unions don’t give anyone exposure, you’ve just described SAG and AFTRA perfectly. In fact there’s a lovely article in the last ACTOR (SAG publication) that talks about dues and initiation fees being the life’s blood of the unions. Given that 98% of those union members will fail to make $10,000 this year, it seems that the “P2P” sites may be offering more bang for the buck.

    It’s way too easy to operate in a myopic little world of our own. It’s another to really drill down to a deeper understanding, that encomasses comprehension of history, competitive forces, unique selling propositions and the wide variance of participant that falls under the giant umbrella of voiceover. But then again, how many actors have anything that even resembles a business plan?

    So then,for many it remains a shoot- from- the- hip, battle for survival, which appears each day to demand more and more of the voice actors time, energy, money and skills set.

    If I were looking at entering the field of voice over at this particular time in my life (as opposed to having done this for 20+ years), it is highly likely that I would choose a different way to make my living. Like so many cockroaches huddled around a few pantry crumbs in the dark, there are simply too many people competing for too little reward.

    That to me is the saddest part of our industry. Shall we blame the ever expanding universe of voice teachers, gurus and coaches? Shall we put balme on the online casting sites? Are the numerous writers and bloggers who pitch the false galmour and riches of our industry to blame? Or shall we blame the many individuals who use the ease of entry into voice acting, along with personal entitlement as an excuse to toss their unprepared and unwanted hats into the ring?

    As an actor, my expectation is that when an opportunity is given to my agent, casting service I belong to, etc. that an appropriate percentage of those opportunities, based on my perceived abilities is passed along. Booking is up to me. Nothing else really matters much.

    –j.s. gilbert

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