My first professional voice-over gig was in the winter of 2004. It was also my first principal booking in a union project. I was ecstatic. It enabled me to join the union *and* I felt like I had achieved some sort of next level in my career. Life was moving along. I signed with a top Los Angeles voice agent. An agency who had a booth and an engineer on-site full-time, where clients would come in daily (scheduled of course), to knock out their next round of auditions. It was one of my favorite parts of any day. An audition meant I got to pop in and say hi to my agent, to the booth engineer, to the receptionist, and my peers who were in the waiting room, in most cases auditioning for the same spot I was there for.
A lot has changed in the voice over world since then, and much like the on-camera world, voice actors are expected to have home recording set-ups to record and submit auditions. Additionally, there are clients out there who will expect the voice over actor to have a professional-grade home studio in order to record the actual job from home (with or without direction). Like I said, *a lot* has changed.
Today, I want to touch briefly on the pay to play casting sites that sprouted up over the last 10 years or so, and what I see as a better alternative coming back to the voice-over industry.
See, I was already working in voice-over and had agency representation when these ‘now infamous’ top 2 pay to play sites opened their doors. I was never tempted to join these sites. They seemed slimy to me (for lack of a better word), and being the pro-union gal that I am, I would rather find myself some side gigs, and other streams of income than to cheapen my work by working in the VO industry for lower than the wages I was used to.
And now, here we are 10 or so years later, and it turns out that these pay to play sites (which many actors have enjoyed, built strong client rosters, and made a decent living from) really are in fact slimy. One of the big P2P’s is now known more for its bad reputation than anything else, and the #2 dog in this game is flailing as well.
But here’s the thing, there’s 5 more pay-to-play, online casting sites, just waiting for their turn, their crack at the next wave of voice actors. Voiceover sites like these and so many others are literally destroying the middle-class voice over actors. You’ll find producers and clients paying $10, $20, $50 for something that is worth so much more- and let’s not forget those that are insisting talent produce, edit, mix and master their own work. Additionally, many of these pay to play sites are giving your work away with unlimited use, lifts, and edits… and some even with future conflicts. (As in, since you did their coffee commercial you can never do any other coffee ads again).
Voiceover acting is a skill, a trade, a talent, and it’s up to us – those of us who do voice-over and those of us that hire voice-over, to know what industry standard rates are, and to educate our peers and clients on this. The GVAA has a very thorough rate guide online, covering everything from radio to tv, to explainer videos and outgoing voice messaging systems. Seriously, and it’s easy to understand. SAG-AFTRA also has rates and contracts available on their site.
I’m a voice over actress. I’m passionate about this topic and it excites me to see other passionate people in the VO industry who are raising their voices, educating newcomers, honoring legacies and creating alternatives to pay to play casting. I recently spoke about this on a female filmmaker list – and the number of private messages I got – including a potential VO job – reassured me that the voice over community is just as strong as ever.
I don’t have the answers but…here’s a few industry-related things that I’m optimistic about:
- If you have a VO agent (or if you’re a producer looking to hire a VO) make sure that your agent is listed with www.VoiceCastingHub.com– it’s the VO industries version of Breakdown Services, and has filled the gap left behind by Voicebank.net being purchased by nefarious characters. As an actor your profile is free – but you must have listed representation to get the benefits of this site. No self-submissions here. My regional agents are all members of the “Hub” and they’ve secured me some terrific auditions from this site.
- For self-submissions (with a yearly membership similar to actors access or la casting), there’s a brand new site launching specifically for voice over jobs, vetted by VO professionals and insisting on fair industry wages for both union and non-union talent. It’s launching soon, and may be launched by the time you read this – www.voiceovers.com
- VOAA – The Voice Over Agent Alliance is a group of agents from around the world who have formed an alliance to help stop the erosion of pay and living wages for VO actors. Make sure your agents are fighting the good fight with the Alliance. Www.voagentalliance.com
- Don La Fontaine Voice Over Lab – This is available to union members in LA and NY. It’s part of www.SAGFoundation.org, and is priceless. Workshops, speaking events, hands on learning, and no-cost audition time slots in a state-of-the art booth with great engineers.
- Of course, if you are in the UNION – be sure to get on the mailing lists at www.sagaftra.org to stay up to date on voice over industry events, there’s been a lot of great movement with the union, for the first time ever SAG-AFTRA now has a specific voiceover dept, the animation dept recently avoided a strike and came out with a contract success, (Thank you Bob Bergen, David Sobolov, and team!), and just in general there are many great things happening that you can get involved with.
TheVoiceOverCollective.com based in LA, is run by a group of working VO actors who have vetted some of the best coaches, demo producers, and information around. This is a great community of helpful and eager to mentor professionals.
I’m not affiliated with any of these sites and this is not a paid ad. I’m passionate about the VO industry and fair working wages. I hope that the info I shared here will help you make better informed choices as to where you choose to audition, the rates you’re willing to accept, educate your reps about other alternatives making waves in the LA market and remind you that you’re not alone in this fight, even though it can seem that way at times.