voiceover has changed, fortunately faffcon has not

FaffCon 9 Peter K. O'Connell badgeAt the end of FaffCon 9 this weekend in Charlotte, NC, I again did what I have often found myself doing at the end of a FaffCon…trying to take mental pictures of the people there while trying to harness the positive energy in the room.

The faces and energy of the people in the room fills me with hope for my voiceover industry.

Professional voice talents came from all over the country to FaffCon 9…maybe even further, cause I wasn’t checking passports. They each had all kinds of business challenges and insights to share as fellow voiceover business owners. They asked questions, they shared answers.

Some had been in the business as long or even longer than I have been. Some were only 3-4 years into the journey.

FaffCon 9 was wonderfully populated mostly by first and second time Faffers, including the most first time Faffers at ANY FaffCon event, even FaffCon #1.

FaffCon 9 Lunch, Peter K. O'Connell, Tracy Lindley, Debbie Jackson, Mike Lenz, Melanie Murphy, Christi Robbins Bowen

A pre-FaffCon 9 lunch with (starting on the left and going around the table) voice talents Peter K. O’Connell, Tracy Lindley, Debbie Jackson, Mike Lenz, Melanie Murphy and Christi Robbins Bowen

Even though FaffCon had vetted them long ago, some new participants felt, at the beginning of the unconference, that they didn’t belong at FaffCon 9 and that they would be found out to be voiceover frauds. They belonged, of course…they were just initially overwhelmed.

They were not frauds and to Sunday’s closing circle, each new Faffer brought with them a new confidence in their talent and their ability to run their voiceover business.

That’s one of the many wonderful things FaffCon does for every Faffer.

Of course, there are plenty of frauds in voiceover.

There are people who plug a microphone into a computer and with no professional voiceover or technological training (and certainly little discernable VO talent) call themselves a professional voice talent, usually at a dollar a holler.

There are companies within the voiceover industry who lie in wait for those brand new people who have a true desire and calling to be in voiceover but don’t yet know the pitfalls of running a voiceover business. Those disreputable companies (the number of which grows almost weekly) take the money of the well meaning, new VO people, promising them riches and successes that the disreputable companies never provide these new voice actors.

Inexperienced people passing themselves off as pros as well as disreputable companies making promises to new voice talent, taking their money and delivering nothing in return are both changing and hurting the voiceover industry.

FaffCon, to me anyway, is an island of legitimacy in a sea of voiceover frauds and wannabes.

2018 will bring the final FaffCon, FaffCon 10. I will look forward to that special, final event and, for now, try not to think too much about life in voiceover after that.

faffcon 9 charity

HandInHand_FaffCon9

Most everyone in voiceover knows about FaffCon, which starts this Friday. It’s a participant driven educational and networking event that positively impacts just about everyone who has ever attended a FaffCon.

Faffcon9 ipDTL

But beyond the learning and fun, FaffCon has had a charitable component to it. Often, we focus on an important charity within the host city where FaffCon is taking place. Simply put, we pass the hat, with no expectations and seriously no pressure.

The second nicest man in voiceover, Bob Souer, has been the leader of FaffCon’s fundraising efforts pretty much since the beginning…the beginning of FaffCon, not the beginning of time.

In 8 Faffcons, we have raised nearly $30,000. To me, that is wonderful and amazing and generous and and and and.

I bring this up not as a part of the FaffCon team but rather as an individual who is attending his 7th FaffCon and is gobsmacked by the generosity of people who give what they can, because they can. Not everyone can and that’s absolutely OK.

Give the timing of this year’s FaffCon, we are focusing on providing funds for those folks who are trying to recover from both Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. We will be making our FaffCon donation to Comic Relief USA’s Hand in Hand: A Benefit for Hurricane Relief. Our donation to this fund will benefit the Rebuild Texas Fund, United Way of Greater Houston, Habitat for Humanity, Save The Children, Direct Relief, Feeding Texas as well as The Mayor’s Fund for Hurricane Harvey Relief (administered by the Greater Houston Foundation).

Working together, these groups will ensure those most impacted by these Hurricanes have the help they need.

So if you will be joining us for FaffCon 9, you are not expected or commanded to participate just because you will be at FaffCon. No. If you do not want to or cannot or already gave….you need not be concerned. All is good. If you can support our charity efforts with whatever amount you are comfortable with…that would be OK too.

POST SCRIPT: At the conclusion of FaffCon 9, the voiceover unconference among it’s participants, had raised $10,100.00 for the charity…a new FaffCon Fundraising record.

‘help me for free but first, this insult’

don't burn bridgesFirst impressions, they matter.

Last weekend, another person looking to get into voiceover email me. Yes on a weekend and yes I answered (if I wait until Monday, I’ll forget).

I’d had absolutely no previous interaction with this person before they sent me the following email.

Hello Mr. O’Connell my name is (OMITTED) and I’m trying to figure out where I would start with Voice Over work. Many people have told me I should pursue this but I’m confused if I should talk to someone if I do have the voice or voices for this work, or take some training to hone in on what I want. If you have time to respond to this e-mail thanks and have a good day!

As I do with all these types of inquiries, I directed this individual to read the Voiceover Entrance Exam.

Hi OMITTED,
There is a free ebook on VO that I wrote – see if that helps you.
Best always,
–Peter

He read it and, in his professional opinion, was significantly unimpressed.

Tell you the truth I thought the ebook was lackluster and a warning more than something to guide you. No book can gauge ones drive and talent while seeing what they have over the computer. It wasn’t a waste of time but it was in a way, like how you said you get straight to the point I do too. I appreciate the Ebook warning and how long it took you to write that but if you have serious input to give on the matter pls email me thanks.
-OMITTED

He’s right on one count, the book ain’t Shakespeare. And it is a book with a direct point of view, because people who are going to make a professional and financial impactful change of career need to understand the reality. And it is just my viewpoint, it isn’t the Gospel of voiceover.

Further, I’m OK with criticism. You don’t have like my stuff, you can even dislike my stuff.

But this person, new to our industry, is looking for help. Free help. I didn’t email him/her, she/he contacted ME.

I’m reading this email thinking to myself ‘don’t come looking for help, “appreciate” my effort in writing a boring book and then tell me if I care to get serious about helping, you’ll be awaiting my email’.

It’s not the criticism I find fault with but rather the sophomoric arrogance with which this person communicates to a stranger. A stranger that he/she wants to learn something from.

My book is a warning that voiceover is a business and needs to be treated as such. And business is about building relationships with strangers to the point where strangers gladly give you money.

I’m thinking this person is not a relationship builder so much as a bridge burner. And one I will remember.

I moved on quickly from there.

If my book was lackluster than anything else I would say would probably be heard as the same.

Good luck and seek your help elsewhere.

Best always,
–Peter

No one, especially me, is expecting any kind of reverend deference from someone seeking business help, only professionalism and courtesy.

#voicestrong alliance

VO Agent Alliance_audioconnell

After the announcement a few weeks back regarding the purchase of a Los Angeles-based online casting service by a disreputable Canada-based pay-to-play voiceover service, I had the chance to speak with many of my voiceover talent agents as well as agents from voiceover agencies where I am not on the roster. All of them would be significantly impacted by this online casting service purchase. Those agents that I spoke with and many other used the Los Angeles-based online casting service to feed auditions to voice talents like myself.

#Voicestrong 4If the voice talent agents stayed with the Los Angeles-based online casting service after this sale, they would likely have been subjected to predatory fee reductions by the disreputable Canada-based pay to play voiceover service. But many voiceover agencies did NOT stay with the new owner. Voice talent agencies have been resigning from the Los Angeles-based online casting service in droves, so bad is the reputation of its new owners (the disreputable Canada-based pay to play voiceover service).

Before and during this sale, many voice over agents were not sitting idly by. Before the takeover announcement, some voiceover agents were in very preliminary discussions to see how they could combat the disreputable Canada-based pay to play voiceover service’s negative impact on the voiceover industry. The takeover announcement merely sped up the discussions.

Today, those agents made their announcement and it is an impressive one.

VO Agent Alliance_tall_audioconnellThey have introduced the VO Agent Alliance, a collective of vetted professional voiceover talent agencies committed to the highest standards the voiceover talent business has to offer, which should be viewed in stark contrast to the business practices of the disreputable Canada-based pay to play voiceover service.

The purpose of the VO Agent Alliance is to offer voice seekers (clients who hire voice talents like media producers, commercial producers, advertising agencies, network promo departments, radio production departments etc.) a free audition submission tool. The tool gives voice seekers access to all alliance member agencies at once. Voice seekers will then have access to some of the best voice talents in the industry (horn toot alert: including me) that seekers will not find on the recently purchased online casting site.

Further, all voiceover agents in the alliance have agreed to a strict set of promotional standards having to do with Fairness, Integrity, Confidentiality, Professionalism and Diligence. These are all areas in which the disreputable Canada-based pay to play voiceover service, now operating from a bigger platform, has shown itself to be significantly deficient.

As of this writing, the members of the VO Agent Alliance include In no particular order:

I am proud to recognize my long-term business relationships with Voice Talent Productions, Umberger Agency, Rockstar Entertainment and Ta-Da! Voiceworks – each has been my voiceover agent for many years.

If you are a voice seeker (media producer etc.) I hope you will consider using the VO Agent Alliance web site to book your next voice job. #voicestrong

another reason to love ipDTL

FaffCon9 ipDTLEver since In:Quality introduced their ISDN alternative service ipDTL, life in the worlds of broadcasting and voiceover have gotten a little better.

Whether connected, with ipDTL’s web based software, to another ipDTL connected studio or bridged to an ISDN studio, the recordings just work. As simple as that sounds, it hasn’t always been that efficient with ipDTL’s competitive predecessors.

So it is with great excitement that we received word from In:Quality’s Kevin Leach that ipDTL has agreed to be the Presenting sponsor of FaffCon 9 in Charlotte, NC from September 22-24, 2017.

FaffCon 9 is the second to last FaffCon, as it has been announced that FaffCon 10, to take place sometime in 2018, will be the final FaffCon ever.

Already sold out, FaffCon 9 was the last chance for new, vetted and professional voice talents to attend a FaffCon. FaffCon 10’s attendees will consist solely of alumni from previous FaffCons as well as FaffCon 10 corporation sponsors.

Welcome ipDTL to FaffCon 9! See you in Charlotte!

#voicestrong courage

#voicestrong for voice agents

History has taught us that it is NOT easy.

Experience has taught us that it is rare.

Life has taught us that it is within each of us in large and small ways…but it IS in there.

The mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.

– The definition of courage

Courage_audioconnell_350

History books and movies are great at depicting amazing and even dramatic acts of courage.

But the truth is, in comparatively smaller, even daily acts, courage can be just as profound.

Profound because showing courage in almost any situation is hard.

One example.

To wake up one morning and find that, completely outside of your control, a key profit center of your business has been significantly altered in a way that is antithetical to your core business beliefs is a situation no small business in any industry wants to face.

But that’s what happened this week to hundreds of voiceover talent agencies and casting directors when a Los Angeles-based, central voiceover casting web site announced it had agreed to be acquired by a generally disrespected Pay 2 Play voiceover web site based in Canada. This Canadian company is known for and has admitted siphoning money budgeted for voiceover talent into their own corporate coffers under the guise of project management, unbeknownst to their paying clients.

Putting aside for a moment the ethical dilemma faced by agencies having to consider having business dealings with a disreputable company like that who now controls a key lead generation tool used daily by agencies, for these small business owners there is an important and hard financial decision to be made.

If agencies stay in partnership with this new ownership, they risk working for even lower commissions based on lower fees likely to be offered to voice talents on project posted by the Canadian company that now owns this popular casting site  (which is something the Canadian company, as a P2P, has been documented to do for some years now). But if the agencies drop the relationship with the new company, they will get commissioned on 100% on nothing. A key revenue source will be gone. How will they replace that lost revenue?

An ethical and financial quandary at the doorstep of voice talent agencies around the globe, all before breakfast.

These voiceover agents are small business owners just like you and me. Some are bigger than others and each has their other lead sources and contacts. Nonetheless, a decision either way impacts their bottom line.

A very hard decision, with unknown and unforeseen consequences, was before them. Take less of something or 100% of nothing.

I would like to introduce you to some people.

Erik Sheppard of Voice Talent Productions

Jeffrey Umberger of The Umberger Agency 

Tanya Buchanan of Ta-Da! Voiceworks

These are three of my voiceover agents.

Liz Atherton of TAG Talent

Stacey Stahl of In Both Ears

Carol Rathe of Go Voices

Susie DeSantiago of deSanti 

These four folks are not my voiceover agents but like Erik, Jeffrey & Tanya, each faced a very tough business decision following the Canadian company’s purchase. And decide they did.

Each has notified the casting website that they are leaving and will no longer be a paying member. Their collective lack of respect for the new ownership and it’s reputation for depreciating voice talents, agents and their services seems to have helped them make their individual decisions.

There may still be more to add to the exit list, but right there are seven (7) examples of small business owners who individually faced a business problem head on, individually had a tough decision to make and individually made the decision to walk away from a table with money still on it (less though it will likely turn out to be).

The chance for them to lose significant income is very real. So are their mortgage, car and school payments. Doing the right thing can be very difficult on many different levels.

Everyday courage doesn’t often make it to the big screen. But that doesn’t make these specific acts any less courageous.

And courage like that, from people voice talents have trusted as partners in our careers, deserves our unwavering support. #voicestrong