Entries Tagged as 'voices.com'

#voicestrong

#voicestrongBefore I talk about #voicestrong and it’s impact on the voiceover industry, two quick observations.

You know the great thing about life? Everything is always changing.

You know the problem with life? Everything is always changing.

Three examples.

When audio technology improved to allowed more affordable, professional audio recording into people’s homes, it was a revelation. For the voiceover industry, it helped voice talents build better, very professional home studios. But it hurt recording studios who had to find new streams of revenue lost since voice talents were not recording in the studios’ booths.

With that audio technology update, more people could live their dreams of being a professional voice talent. But many of those folks were only dreaming, because they had neither the training nor the talent (or even business savvy) to operate a voiceover business. These less knowledgeable new voice talents also negatively impacted the economics of the voiceover industry.

Advances in Internet technology also allowed companies to create on-line casting sites (known now as Pay 2 Play sites ((P2P)) for voice talents that allowed voice seekers to get hundreds of voiceover auditions with only a few mouse clicks and no in-person meetings. But voiceover agents, who for decades had managed those auditions and booked those castings, now have to work especially harder to secure those auditions and castings. Oh and the P2P model has also negatively impacted the economics of the voiceover industry.

retail onlineThese examples are business realities in the voiceover industries. Change happens in every business. The old General Store lost to the local department store, who lost to Macy’s, who lost to Wal-Mart, who seems to be currently battling with Amazon.

Ones personal reaction to change in business is usually based on whether you’re being eaten or you’re doing the eating. So change, while not always pleasant, is always present.

But in the voiceover industry, there have been a few of these P2P players who have grown to be the biggest in their business category and, because of that scope, naturally have an impact on the industry.

I had been a member on both of these bigger P2P sites and have long ago since resigned and pulled my profiles from them.

In their infancy, both sites offered opportunities. But then their business models changed, adding elements of control to money transaction and job management that were at the least questionable and, in many states, likely illegal when it came to requirements of imposed by actual professional agents and managers – which is the category these new P2P business models put these P2P companies into (although they have denied such assertions).

I found their practices improper and unethical (to BOTH voice talents and the hiring companies) and I left the P2P sites I’m referencing. But their models still exist and thrive to the detriment of novice and (strangely, to my way of thinking) more experienced voice talents.

One has to respect that every voice talent has the right and even the obligation to run their business as they see fit. If they have a financial need to try and make money via Pay 2 Play voiceover sites, then the discussion is over for them.

Voiceover P2P Ethical Business audioconnell

They will not consider the downsides of Pay 2 Plays because they cannot do so…to do so would mean they would have to either drastically change their own business plans or even cease working in voiceover. I understand the financial imperative to them personally and I respect the argument.

And it also needs to be said that there is at least one other, smaller Pay 2 Play voiceover web site, run in Europe, that I believe is ethical and is not having as negative an impact on the voiceover industry, save for some projects with ridiculously bad fees that I personally noticed.

So if change is a constant in business and change has created large P2P companies who are negatively impacting the voiceover industry, what options do the rest of us have in what historically should be just another cycle of change, albeit what I and many others consider unethical change?

A simple answer is to publicly and repeatedly expose the unethical business practices of these large Pay 2 Play sites. Doing so will help new voice talents better understand the P2P playing field (and let them make their own decisions). It might also allow established talents to understand what their business relationship with these unethical P2P companies really mean to their business and the industry they hope to thrive within. They too will make their own decision.

My friend, Erik Shepard, who is also one of my longtime agents, has recently resurrected #voicestrong . The purpose of this campaign is to foster discussion about, and even put pressure on, the unethical business practices among Pay 2 Play voiceover sites. Erik made a video about his opinions (many of which I share – not all).

I believe the history of this particular hash tag in the VO industry came about after a rather unprecedented interview that voice talent Graeme Spicer of Edge Studio held with the CEO of possibly the most questionable and unethical of all the Pay 2 Play voiceover sites.

The interview, pretty infamous among those of us in the voiceover world, was a total public relations #fail for the CEO, who offered inconsistent and embarrassingly thoughtless answers to direct and reasonable questions about his own company’s documented and dubious business practices. A later presentation by the same P2P company at VO Atlanta in 2016 confirmed the company’s complete lack of respect for the voiceover industry and those who work in it.

Full disclosure – at one time, early in its creation, I was friendly with the CEO and his spouse who also works as an executive at this company. As their business methods changed, so did our interactions. There’s that change again.

If #voicestrong can help bring to light the unethical corporate business practices of those who I believe take certain advantage of people in my industry who might not know better, then I too am #voicestrong.

from the frustration of voices.com comes humor

@notvoicesdotcom

By now, most people in voice-over have an awareness of the controversy involving the Pay To Play web site Voices.com.

How the company has done everything from limiting communication of their paying voice talents with the clients who’ve hired them, to escrowing money from voice talent jobs (and taking a 10% commission – like an agent though not being held to those industry standards), to the introduction of a Project Management service where up to 50% or more of a client’s voice-over budget is taken by voices.com for “production” services (the same services provided by recognized and accredited talent agents for an industry standard average 10% commission).

It’s a fiasco.

Voices.com makes no apologies for their practices and certainly little concession for these practices to their paying voices talent. It seems that the company has enough wanna-be voice talents and existing voice talents who are tolerant of the company’s practices that they can still be profitable from membership fees, Canadian government business grants and monies secured from Venture Capitalists (who care little about bad publicity, evidently).

For myself, I dropped the service years ago and have moved on.

From the sidelines, I certainly feel badly for those whose income has been lessened because of Voices.com’s practices, which I personally consider shady (I’m not a legal expert, just a business executive). Further, I have seen good people on both sides caught in the middle of this whole thing and be pretty torn up by it. That’s hard to watch. Adults behaving badly. Again.

I’ll let the courts settle it all should the State Attorneys General in New York and California suddenly recognize that Voices.com is operating and profiting as an agency in those highly regulated states with without honoring the rules and standards in place in those states for the operation of a talent agency. Until such time as the courts or the majority of their clients (voice talents and media producers) say otherwise, Voices.com is free operate in anyway it sees fit.

But now a ray of light, a glimmer of hope. Humor.

I got pinged by Twitter the other day that a new account has been set up there called @NotVoicesDotCom. No, I do not know who owns it and no, I am not affiliated with it in anyway (well, except I’m following the account on Twitter now).

It’s a parody account poking fun at the Voices.com situation by tweeting about “what goes on behind the scenes at @voices, the #1 marketplace for taking money from voice actors and their clients.”

I’m not sure if it’s the kind of fame Voices.com and its venture capitalist investors wanted from their business practices, but they’ve got it now anyway. Hey, what’s the old axiom “any publicity is good publicity”?

I think that was written before the internet was invented.

i thought i quit already

Peter K. O'Connell Voices.com profile Sept 2013

Some months ago I requested that my free profile be taken down from Voices.com. I waffled on this idea for many reasons but came to the conclusion that the Voices.com business model and brand was harmful to my brand.

Last night, while doing some Googling, what do I come across but my Voices.com profile. Yikes! So I sent an email to customer service to request it be taken down. Again.

This morning comes confirmation that they’d be doing just that but also asking for feedback on why I was leaving. Now if there is one thing that Voices.com has become infamous for, it’s asking for feedback. They IGNORE the feedback but they always ask for it.

At first, I thought about just ignoring it because I know Voices.com (home of the very profitable – for Voices.com – and ethically questionable for voice talent SurePay program) will dismiss it like a gnat. The company didn’t seem to be this way when it started out but things evolve. They are not evil people but they interpret professional business practices and models differently than I do.

So after thinking about it, I thought, OK Voices.com, I will articulate my problems with your business, you will disagree with them and nothing will change.

I’ll let you grade me on whether I clarified my points well enough.

Hi Kelly,

You asked for feedback and I’ll provide it but I can assure you it will likely be quickly dismissed by your ownership.

Issue #1 would be customer service since I already requested my Voices.com free profile be taken down months ago.

Issue #2 – the P2P model, as it has evolved primarily through Voice 123 and Voices.com, has significantly devalued the Voice-Over Artist almost to the level of Fiver.com. While profitable for the P2P companies themselves, the flow of unprofessional work has hobbled the industry’s professional image in the eyes of many of our consumers.

#3 and most importantly, as Voices.com has evolved, it clearly today has as it’s sole mission the profitability and promotion of the company, which is a mission of most companies. The difference being that the execution of the Voices.com business model is completed at the expense and detriment of its members specifically and the voice-over industry generally.

There is absolutely no value for me in debating this with company officials – whom I’ve known for years – as the public and investor documentation for the company prove my point. Further, testimonials from my fellow voice-over professionals both directly and via social media, make it clear that – in spite of public corporate posturing to the contrary – such Voices.com consumer opining and discussion falls on deaf, disinterested company ears. The sweet sound of money is too overpowering.

Multiple reviews from attendees at last year’s Voices.com event in Toronto – how it was an extended commercial for Voices.com and how horribly the producers treated some of the event’s speakers – solidified for me that Voices.com was not a brand I could professional afford to be associated with going forward – even in a free way.

Every company, including Voices.com has the right to run their business as they see fit. And potential customers have the right to do business with the brands that suit them. We will simply agree to disagree on these issues and now part ways.

Thank you Kelly.

– Peter

a voice-over white paper in the making

Say you are a voice-over pay to play site and you’ve got a pretty good reputation as far this particular business segment goes…those that like P2P sites use you and believe you treatment them fairly; those that don’t like P2P sites are never going to be won over so why bother with them. A reasonable strategy.

So say one day you decide that you want to change your Terms of Service (TOS) – the rules that you as the P2P site owner operate under and that users of your site must abide by if they want to use your site. Most every interactive site has them and there are updates made on all of them as business dictates.

But imagine you are a voice-over P2P site with this good reputation and you want to change your terms of service in what might be considered a controversial way…a way that might dismay or upset you primary revenue source – your voice talents who pay a membership fee.

For example let’s say via your revised TOS you’re going to:

1. Change your P2P site from a relatively open format where a VO can list his/her contact information on the site for prospects to view to, under the TOS revision, a site that bans that VO talent contact information from being posted on the talent’s paid page (as part of their membership fee) on the P2P site.

2. Change the P2P voice-over web site in such a way that any links to outside web sites would be removed on any communication between VO and client (for example, in a template proposal available within the P2P site and used to communicate to the client).

3. Finally, in this scenario, let’s also imagine that all financial transactions between the client and the voice talent on this site must now use the P2P web site’s proprietary payment system that pays the P2P site a 10% fee on the value of the transaction (previously service this was optional). This is in addition to, not in replacement of, the voice talent’s yearly membership fee paid to the site. The P2P site gets paid twice if there is a business transaction on the site.

All of this is legal. It all falls under legitimate business practices. There is open notification to all parties that this change is coming.

The questions always are:

What will the the customers (in this case the voice talents) say?

What will the customers do?

How will this all turn out?

And so the business study (the White Paper) begins.

dan friedman and how not to screw up your voice over career

Voice Over Talent Dan Friedman

Audio Engineer, Producer, Voice Talent and Author Dan Friedman has a business card about 3 feet wide with all those titles but he’s earned the “cred” so the “cred” shall be bestowed (unlike my business card which lists “male model” as my title – people either giggle or look a little sick when they read that).

Anyway, back to Dan who on Wednesday, November 30, 2011 will be the featured speaker on a Voices.com webinar beginning at 7:00 PM (EST).

Dan will offer a sound engineer’s perspective on proper studio etiquette and some common mistakes that hinder people from becoming a successful voiceover artist.

Now, I believe I’ve made most of those mistakes and probably some Dan hasn’t even considered but that only means you should listen to what Dan says and sign up for his webinar.

the great voices.com experiment – cancelled

Great Voices.com Experiment Cancelled

My choice and my decision, with no external pressure put upon me.

Why?

A reasonable question for the many who had been following this journey.

In my mind and in my heart, I thought this was an unbiased, even handed, thoughtful way to look at a voiceover service that I had once used, decided against using for many reasons a long time ago and then recently reconsidered following a special offer email from Voices.com.

I thought ‘maybe I should rethink this and try it again.’ Things can change and improve and I hadn’t recently used the system (Pay to Play) that I have been critical of…take a look with fresh eyes, I decided.

I wasn’t going to write diatribe against Voices.com nor would it be a commercial for them – it would be my experience as I went through it with the resultant thoughts and feelings I encountered.

I also knew it would be interesting blog reading and provoke discussion (one of the hoped for results of any blog). I monitored all of that so that comments were not antagonistic or personally insulting. None were and neither was my content.

One in-depth comment during this series, that I did not agree with, gave me pause this weekend. In brief summary, it was accused that the series and the comments directly and indirectly attacked Stephanie of Voices.com. That accusation was and is flat out wrong.

I’d tried to make it exceedingly clear that I considered Stephanie and her husband David my friends and that in my past criticism of the Voices.com and their competitors, my problem has been with the P2P business model only.

Further, (also stated) this experiment was meant to possibly prove me wrong; I committed to trying the new Voices.com with an open mind – maybe I could increase my voiceover revenue by booking business on Voices.com. (Note: I’ve also stopped auditioning on the site as well – the conceptual fun of it all is over for me.)

But to be sure this commentator was wrong, I sent an email to Stephanie last night explaining my point and making sure that we are all good.

We were not.

While noting that she fully understood that nothing was written with the intention to hurt or misrepresent anyone or anything, the sum of the series was (using my words here) a bit unpleasant for Voices.com.

I made an offer in that same email that if this series caused them any problems, let me know and it would be gone…poof!

She took me up on my offer and I am glad to comply.

Poof!

Most days I’m not sure what this blog is or what it is supposed to be about but I know absolutely what it is not supposed to be: hurtful. If anything in this series resulted in hurt, stress or agitatation for anybody, I’m sorry about that – it truly wasn’t the intent of the posts. I can be a fairly direct person so if that negativity was my true intent, I promise I could have done a much more effective job.

But I don’t want to be that kind of person. Yes, I have opinions, yes I can and will continue to offer them here (and some of those opinions may rankle David and Stephanie) but the format of a series of posts, as this was, obviously had a kind of “pile on” effect that in no way intended. Communication, I often remind people, is not so much about the transmission as it is about the reception.

I want to reiterate that at no time did anyone at Voices.com reach out to me with a complaint, a whine or even a whimper. I brought the issue to them, I made the offer and I killed the series.

Also worth noting, neither Voices.com nor anyone affiliated with it can have any impact on my business – so I’d no need to worry about repercussions from them had I completed the series. I could have easily carried on here through the end, complete with a wrap up post.

But my company has a code of conduct and I believe in it (hell, I wrote it, I better believe in it). And in this case, after I realized I’d unintentionally hurt some friends, finding the delete button wasn’t a problem at all.

Thanks to all who followed the series and who commented. Your intentions were as pure as mine and your contributions were sincerely appreciated for just that reason.