Entries Tagged as 'voice 123'

a recent review of the voice over business

David Ciccarelli from Voices.com sent along to me a summary of his company’s past year in business, including how many voice over jobs were awarded, average payments, highest payments and total voice over earnings for voice talent who secured business all through Voices.com.

A couple of disclaimers here: I consider David and his wife Stephanie to be my friends and that both are highly ethical in their company’s operations. I trust what they say to be true and I think they run an above board operation. I have said in the past that if I subscribed to any pay to play (P2P) service, I would immediately subscribe to Voices.com based on their credibility alone. I respect the owners and their company.

I am not a paying member of Voices.com. I do have a free profile page. There is another service in the P2P industry where I had a free listing but I had it removed because I believed that group’s credibility to be so suspect that I didn’t want my name or brand associated with them in any manner. And there are other companies in this category whose reputation also precedes them and also not in a good way.

In short, the “pay to play” voice over business model does not work for me. I don’t believe or financially support any service in which voice talent “pays to play” i.e. pays a subscription to receive auditions. I believe such services lower the rate expectations of potential clients because so many voice talents who swim in the pay to play pool low ball their rates out of what I feel is a kind of sad desperation for revenue of any kind.

The pay to play model negatively impacts the voice over business and its practitioners, in my opinion.

While each individual has the right to run their business has they see fit (even or especially in desperate times), that low balling adversely affects my business and is degrading to my industry. I choose to play elsewhere.

The results of the Voices.com survey are:

• $39,290,580 in Total Earnings by Voice Talent at Voices.com

• 155,915 Voice Over Jobs – This figure represents the total number of public, private and direct message job opportunities that have been awarded to voice talent at Voices.com.

• The Highest Paying Voice Over Job awarded via Voices.com that the company is aware of was $37,000

• $252.97 Average Payment for a Voice Over Job (among all possible VO job categories): David noted that projects posted at Voices.com range between $100 and $500, thus resulting in average payments of $252.97.

This last figure illustrates my point better than anything else I might say regarding how ALL pay to play services lower the rate expectations of potential clients. I also have a sense that at other services, that average fee might even be lower.

Taking the Voices.com figure ($252.97) though, as a P2P industry average – that figure, I believe, doesn’t reflect what the voice over customer market “dictates”.

I believe it reflects what the voice over customer market “can get away with” with the help of the pay to play (P2P) business model.

There is no filter of voice over quality or talent abilities within the P2P model – legally I don’t think there can be and as a business model I don’t know why the P2P owners would want there to be. Anyone can sign up, pay the subscription fee and audition with P2P companies. It’s assumed that if someone has no talent, that fact will be reflected in their audition submissions and therefore the talentless won’t get the work (survival of the fittest).

But the nasty truth is, regardless of any supposed audition filter or cut off limit a P2P service may ascribe to, the sheer volume of auditions combined with lower average quality of the combined auditioners (note: they ARE talented and highly compensated voice talents in the P2P mix…somewhere…I guess) means that all the power is in the client’s hands…they can smell the desperation in the auditioning herd and they capitalize on it…to the determent of the voice over industry as a whole.

Think about not just the local or regional radio commercials…but the 10-20 minute narrations, e-learning projects, sales and marketing videos. These long form pieces are a vital part of the industry. Take a minute to do some average calculations on what those fees should be in addition to the local and regional spots.

Then add national commercials, TV promos, radio imaging fees, bigger message on hold projects.

By my calculations, $252.97 is well below what I would expect an overall average fee to be. And for those who would say that’s on par with “my” fee structure or that “I’d” be lucky to get that for a fee, I guess I’d ask you to take a long hard look at your business model. And even dare to say – self worth as a voice over talent.

To mis-quote the old hair commercial, I’d say, “You’re ‘not’ worth it. You’re worth more.”

And for those who’d say it’s none of my damn business – I’d say on that count, you’re probably right. We all have to choose our own paths and mine may not be right for you.

taji’s at it again

Mahmoud Taji pinged me to say he’s got a new voice over directory started (this seems to be a trend) called the The Voiceover Pavilion.

It’s a pay-to-play directory (you won’t be sent leads ala V123 but you pay to have a listing). He also advised he’s going to be spending some of these proceeds on advertising to end users who do the hiring.

voice 123 is now 3, 2, 1, gone!

voice123.com

My business resolution in 2009 was/is actually only one word: execute.

Too often in a business day, I’ll get started in six different directions and lucky if I find the finish line on two of those starts. Same thing the next day to the point where (if you follow the math) lots of stuff didn’t get done.

Well on day to day business, that’s going to happen sometimes but this year (he said with vigor and emphasis!) not on projects or important tasks – not related to clients (their stuff always gets done…money first!)

But like every business person, I’m always studying my business’ trends, activity in the industry etc.

While doing that, a thought occurred to me…should I keep my listings on the pay to play (P2P) voice over web sites?

I do not have a paid listing on the pay to play web sites like Voice 123 because I think these sites qualitatively, quantitatively and financially devalue the voiceover profession. I could rant forever on that but will spare you unless you ask in the comments.

I did keep a free page for SEO/SEM considerations. But the thought had occurred to me on more than one occasion: am I hurting my brand through even a free association with such sites?

Further, by being listed even in a free listing, am I offering an implied endorsement of these types of sites?

Today I got my answer.

On the VO-BB, there was yet another debate about the P2P sites. In the thread I brought up my conundrum. A voice talent friend of mine offered this observation:

“The way I see it, if people in the biz that I look up to are on them (and there are a few folks that are… and do gigs from them) then it’s good enough for me.”

I highly doubt that this person was referring to me in the quote but after reading it I did not doubt that one could see my participation on a P2P site as an endorsement. It was time to execute (I love when the signs are crystal clear).

Voice 123 was very helpful in their (possibly third-world based) on-line chat room with the deletion of my account. In fact, in my history of dealings with the company, this may have been their most impressive display of customer service. For that only, I thank them.

a voice over year in review

voices.com_logo_all_rights_acknowledged

I was pinged this morning (and I think we all know painful that can be …ba-dum-bump) by David Ciccarelli who, with his wife Stephanie, own Voices.com. David asked if I would review, post and comment on his annual “Report on The Voice Over Industry 2009”.

OK then, a review with some general perspective and information upfront.

• While I am not a fan of the pay-for-play voice over model upon which Voices.com, Voice 123 and others have built their business, I have stated that if I were to choose one service of that ilk it would be Voices.com because even before I knew the Ciccarellis personally, the customer service and responsiveness their Voices.com offered me when I was an early member was better than any competitor.

• This is at least the second if not third year David has done this report and I give him great credit for seeing an opening for information sharing and promotion of his own business and going for it.

• I also give him credit for daring to ask the opinion of a loud mouth putz like me ‘cause he knows I pull no punches on industry issues or in reviews. He and I must ascribe to the same theory that some publicity is better than none at all.

• Over the years I have become friends with David and Stephanie and know them to be honest people whose opinions and talents I respect. Others in their business, not so much.

So enough preamble, on to the meat-

The 23 page report is more PowerPoint than e-book with each slide offering one or two nuggets of information ranging from various market overviews to drilldowns on pertinent business segments.

My likes:
• I like that David’s established an annual tome that summarizes the industry. It adds credibility to the business but to be taken seriously it needs some additional info (see dislikes).

• I have seen “state of the industry reports” or prognostications from Voices.com’s competitors and comparably this is the most credible and informative of all of them at this moment in time.

• Information like $4.05 for the ad word voice over on Google is good to know (a stupidly high price to pay when its competitors who do most of the clicking on such ads but let’s not kill the messenger here)

• I like the format for both conveying information and for its readability.

My dislikes:
• The content has only a few bits of information that I think are new or enlightening to the industry. To become a must read it has to reveal trends and statistics that offer more insight for voice talents and producers. That requires a great deal more research which this document does not have and it shows rather clearly.

• Some topics struck me as grossly self-serving: a report on Social Networks conveniently notes the growth of a Voice.com sponsored group on Facebook and the Time Spent Online chart had Voices.com’s site crushing Voice 123’s statistically and visually while also noting most industry players spend most of their time on Voices.com. This smacks a bit more like a sales presentation than a industry report.

• The salary statistics chart – probably the most important page for both talent and producers – had no quoted sources for the stated figures (which were much too broad) and was only one page (versus three pages on podcasting). This was a big miss.

• The Touch Graph tool wasn’t simplistic enough or easy enough to immediately digest key information (like a good graph should). As just one (possibly self-serving in keeping here with a developing theme) example this graph had the audio’connell web site listed on the web site graph on “voiceovers” and on the same graph an Oxford biography link to Peter O’Connell who I think is a professor or a Bishop but sure ain’t me (no, I do not believe there are any other Peter O’Connell voice overs but me). The graph was gimmicky and not informative.

In summary, I believe that this report reads more like a sophomore’s term paper rather than a senior thesis. What it can, should and I truly hope will be in the future is a report that has a lot more facts in it, much more pertinent data and more information to help talent and producers manage their businesses. It will take much more time and research from Voices.com to make this annual report a widely respected annual state of the industry. Today, the report is not yet there but there is a foundation of a good idea.

We need that “stuff” as well as the promise of what this report could someday be.

are you one of my 315?

linkedin_logo

During my morning Reader reading (remember when we used to read something called a newspaper? Ha! How passé) I came across (Oh, well, yes I still do read a newspaper too. Anyway…) a blog post on Linked In allowing new applications to be integrated on to someone’s Linked In page. Very tight restrictions, as is the LinkedIn way but I went and saw a video about the apps to see if I wanted to add one or two.

There was a Word Press app that I kinda understood and since my blog is a Word Press blog, I added it. Or I think I did, I’m not sure. Nothing really happened when I added it so you may see it on my profile or you may not. Sometimes my button pushing on computers is less than stellar. In real life I can be an excellent button pusher but that’s not always seen as a good thing.

Any way, goodness such rambling today….the point I was trying to get to before these tangents in my head kept over taking my fingers on the keyboard was that I was surprised to see I now have 315 connections on LinkedIn. I didn’t think it was up that high but I also wasn’t following its growth like a tote board at a telethon either.

I’m a pretty open connector / networker on LinkedIn, I guess a Lion or LION (their emphasis) is a group nickname for it. Yet I am not really aiming for the 500+ moniker, the magic number where LinkedIn stops tallying one’s connection count (I guess that makes me a bit of a remedial Lion, possibly the runt of the litter). Once you learn some tricks its really not hard to get heavily connected. I think its fine if somebody WANTS to do that but for me I always come back to one question.

Why?

Why not grow somewhat naturally, organically to use the search term, with people you have a connection with in real life, already have a connection with on-line or have a reasonable or likely opportunity to develop a business relationship in the future? Occasionally I feel like I might be connecting with someone just to be polite. Damn you, Emily Post! 😉

Strictly for purposes of example, I’m connected with a couple of LIONS who are Human Resource Managers (lots of those professionals live on LinkedIn it seems to me) who may want a shot at connecting with my contacts but I’m not going to likely do business with any of the HR folks. I sometimes wonder if I’ve made a (very minor with no disrespect intended) mistake simply accepting that kind of connection. Or maybe they’ll offer me a million dollar job that will change my life.

Granted, LinkedIn allows you to use your database to communicate via email outside of LinkedIn in a professional way. I let people know in my profile that I will communicate with them in this way (although one person long ago evidently couldn’t read and accused me of spam; it was no one of any consequence anyway) and I do update these folks on my businesses.

My goal though is to have my business communication mean something to them, to have it seem logical (i.e. “Oh, I have a video production company and this voice talent just sent me his newsletter and since we use voice talent on occasion, receiving this newsletter makes sense!”) Worse than being accused of spam, I would hate to be accused to wasting someone’s time.

If LinkedIn is to have professional value to all of us (and certainly it can also have personal value as well) quality should be the prime directive not quantity. But if I get to 500+ contacts….be assured it will only be because quality begot quantity.

And if you actually read through this entire blog post, especially if you didn’t feel like commenting, just type in the word “finished”. Then I’ll have to think of some prize to give you for muddling your way all the way down here. I’ll start with saying thanks! And of course I want to connect with YOU.

never bored with the voiceover boards

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I think there are bulletin boards (boards) and interactive forums established for just about every industry and interest on the net and in voiceovers, we have plenty of them. Some of the popular ones dealing with voice over in general (as opposed to animation voice over, etc.) are

• VO-BB.com – Run by my friend and a great female voice talent named DB Cooper, this is (if not THE first) one of the first boards about voice over and likely the best moderated.

• Yahoo Groups Voice Over Board -There are frequently some interesting discussions on this board. It’s certainly time well spent (although I’m not as keen on the graphic format/layout of this board, but its a minor thing).

• Voiceoversavvy.com This is run by the voice talent supported Voice 123 and has more drama in it than a soap opera and more fights than a Rocky movie, more on that in a second

• Voice-overs.com/forum – Voice talent Julie Williams runs this one and it’s fairly new but so far seems to be growing.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I don’t have a ton of time to spend on forums between work and family, but when I do, it is enjoyable reading…for the most part.

Voice over talents like me don’t work in a building with fellow talents (say, for example, like accountants might or computer technicians might). So these forums are a nice way to chat or communicate or network with fellow pros or the occasional newbie who’s dipping his/her toe into the VO waters. Board participants are usually pretty welcoming, especially if we spot real talent (remember, we’re not competing against our fellow VO’s, we’re competing for the ear…and sometimes against the budget…of the producer.) But if you’re a new voice talent willing to take totally honest criticism and build on it…some boards can be a real learning tool.
But sometimes there is way silly drama in them there posts!

What I try and remind myself when I read some of these voice over board posts is:

• voice talents work alone mostly so they often want/need to have some kind of human contact…even virtual…and thereby can sometimes get a bit too involved in board life

• we are called voice over artists and thereby have our drama built-in…at no extra charge to you the consumer…which may be another reason these posts sometimes get catty or over the top

• people are people and just about any jackass can post on a forum…as I have proven time and time again

But what I have noticed and what has been opined in conversations with my fellow voice over pros is that if you want to the finest in snarky, childish and sometimes boorish voice over forum behavior, head to voiceoversavvy.com.

Full disclosure: I am not a fan of the Voice 123 (V123) system (they own the voiceoversavvy.com board) and had decided not renewed my subscription just before their version 2.0 with SmartCast came out (I just keep the free page). In my opinion, the V123 site is a low ball (cheap price) casting directors’ dream with new “voice talents” (note quotation marks) seemingly willing to work for next to nothing. Other people really like the service and, not that they need it, but I offer God-speed and best wishes.

This board that V123 set up was to include the opportunity not only to participate in discussions about voice over topics but also to share input on the new version 2.0 web site that the company had introduced this summer. As with any beta (new) project, it had trouble at the beginning. Currently there seems to be a great deal of expressed dissatisfaction with the company’s new SmartCast system. It’s only the board’s most recent drama but we”l use it as a point of reference for this blog post.

At first, it seems, the clients (the voice talents who annually pay to be a part of V123) expressed their dissatisfaction (paying clients certainly have that right). But then some voice talents started hurling insults and disparaging the owner and staff to the point where the “Talkback” section of the board had to be shut down. The rest of the board’s forums are open and functioning but the owners had had enough “talkback”.

I don’t blame Voice 123 one bit for closing it down and I am sorry for them for the crap they had to put up with from some bone heads calling themselves VO pros. I am no saint and have been known to hurl a virtual stone or two but some of these posters were making a sport of it and that’s crappy. Not that my opinion counts for anything because based on the customer service I received from V123, they didn’t really like me anyway.

So what does this all mean?

Summary opinion one: The voice talents offering the insults on any boards and within these forums must be forgetting that their name and insulting posts can find their way to casting directors and that they are risking the only brand they have…their name…by coming across as (at best) unprofessional. If I was casting for voice talent and came across the posts of these whiney and carping voice talent posters, I wouldn’t even think of hiring them. Opinions are fine, even impassioned discussion is OK…but whoa on the name calling.

Summary opinion two: while I applaud Voice 123 for trying to adapt to the web 2.0 concept of openness and transparency by having this particular forum on their board, better moderation and even more importantly better customer service to address initial customer complaints would have saved them significant damage to their own brand’s reputation (and make no mistake, the Voice 123 brand IS now damaged). When you are dealing with people who talk for a living as your business’ primary source of revenue, you’d better quickly realize that if you (V123) even appear to screw up…the voice talents ARE going to talk (or post).

Summary opinion three: when the majority (not ALL) of the talents involved in Voice 123 are too willing to work at ANY price and are involved in a service (V123) that is just a costly cattle call, at least a few of your clientele (the voice talents) are likely going to lack a certain maturity both personally and professionally. With some immature clients, Voice 123 was bound to attract immature posters.