Pay: Voice Actor / Attorney Fumes At
Online Casting Company's Contract
By Rob Sciglimpaglia Jr.
Voice Actor & Attorney
May 3, 2010
You were just hired to be the voice for a 30-sec national TV commercial for a new soft drink.
This commercial will air all over the country, for YEARS! You are ecstatic!
You are contacted by the company producing this spot, and told you have two hours to turn the script around. You record the commercial and send in the file.
Whew, finally they are satisfied.
PAY DAY ...?
Now, here comes pay day on the first of the month, and what are you paid for that spot that is airing on TV at that very moment?
A whopping $55. That’s right, $55!
Oh, but WAIT A MINUTE, it’s not really $55, because you owe a 50% commission to the company that sent you the gig.
You read that right. I didn’t add an extra zero. I didn’t say five percent. I said FIFTY!
The above scenario is NOT a nightmare! Not something of my imagination, nor one that I dreamed up.
This is a real life scenario from a new company - which I will not name publicly at this point - that is “producing” voice-overs.
The above scenario raises the immediate issue in my mind as to how a respectable voice talent could agree to work for such a low rate.
And it also makes me scratch my head as to why a talent would do so, and run the risk that they are conflicted from doing a voice-over for a competitor's product while the spot for which they were paid $27.50 is running.
Just think about getting called in for a career-breaking audition for a national SAG commercial opportunity from Coca-Cola that will pay thousands of dollars in residuals.
And when the auditioner asks, “Do you have any soft drink commercials running?” you answer that indeed you do - the one for which you were paid a measly $27.50.
STUDY THE CONTRACT
This nightmare gets worse. In fact, it puts the “Nightmare on Elm Street” sequel to shame!
I carefully reviewed the rates and contract that is posted on the web site for this company, and it is straight out of the dark ages concerning protection of the rights of the working voice-over artist.
I liken it to a SWEAT SHOP for voice talent.
Here are some of the highlights, or more aptly, lowlights.
First, the rates. Mind you, these rates are flat and do not take into account USAGE. So, the rates are the same if you record a commercial that will run in a two-person local market, or nationally.
The contract states: “Rates are based on a single purchase with 3 re-reads if necessary.”
TO BE ELIGIBLE ...
The prerequisites to applying to be in this company’s roster include ...
So, they can pay you the above little fees IF they want to, less the 50% commission, of course.
So, obviously, delivering the file, with up to three re-reads, is not enough “reasonable substantiation” that you actually completed the work.
I am going to try this one next time I go to a restaurant and am “dissatisfied” with my meal.
I SUE MYSELF?
I personally LOVE this next provision:
So let me get this straight. On top of the company taking half of my $55 for my national voice-over job, I am also agreeing to pay for their attorneys to defend the company in court should something negative happen that causes the company to get sued!
Well, that seems fair to me!
The more likely scenario is that the company will ask me to do a “celebrity impersonation” or a “product endorsement” which will get ME sued, and then, OOOPS, I agreed to indemnify THEM, and not the OTHER WAY around, so guess I’m on my own for my $27.50 job.
NO CLIENT CONTACT
But wait, it gets way better:
So, even when I am done not being compensated properly by this company, I am still tied to them for 12 months because I can’t do any direct work for any of those clients who used me as “their voice.”
THIS IS PROFESSIONAL?
Do the clients hiring this company know that the voice they used to build their brand can be gone at the snap of a finger?
Is this really the “service” we wish to provide to our clients?
Better yet, is this the company’s definition of being “a professional"?
THERE'S MORE ...
But we’re just getting started here:
So, if you miss the deadline of getting your file back, even if it is only by one second, you:
INTERPRETATION, PLEASE ...
Of course, there’s more:
So, if you get stiffed by this company, even though you agree not to compete with them in the territory where they do business (the entire continent of North America), you will have to hop on a plane and get to Nassau County, NY to collect on your $27.50.
Or if you missed your deadline by a second, and that caused the company to be sued by the client for missing a deadline, guess who is going to be on the hook for that?
A hint: it is not the company!
WHAT A BREACH
It gets SOOO much better:
Are you kidding me? So, not only can this company sue you in Nassau County, NY if they think you breached the contract, but they can also slap an INJUNCTION against you as well, requiring you to perform under the contract, or preventing you from competing against this company.
IT'S A WRAP ...
We’re getting to the finale here:
OK, so we not only will work for ridiculously low rates, we will violate the good ole capitalistic notion of competition and make sure that no other companies pop up and undercut these rates.
And here is the punch line: Compensation.
OK, so now, here we go. You will be paid only 50% of your work, and if the company gets stiffed by a client - i.e., bad debt - you won’t get paid either.
And you also agree to do free advertising voice-overs for this company, which is taking 50% of your pay!
How many voice talent would allow a 50% commission demanded by a talent agent?
There is about only one good thing I found in this contract: it can be terminated by either party with 24 hours notice to the other party.
I would recommend the talent who are signed up with this place to exercise this option immediately.
And I must say I was quite surprised when I perused the roster for this company to see how many well known, “big name” talent who have agreed to all of those above terms.
They must not have actually read them. Or else how could they agree to these things?
There is much debate about whether or not one should become a union talent, or whether unions are still necessary.
But one thing is for certain: unions exist to protect the talent from the abuses noted above.
Granted, unions may have swung the pendulum too much in favor of the Talent.
But a contract like the above illustrates why unions came to be in the first place. And it illustrates how the pendulum is starting to swing completely in the other direction.
IS THIS THE FUTURE?
We are at a critical time, in the very early development of our industry.
Let’s face it, the home studio has only been around for a few years, so this industry really is very young.
If we can’t police ourselves and figure out what is good for our own profession, and ultimately our own livelihoods, then I am afraid that Companies and Contracts like the above will become the norm in the non-union world, as we're flooded every day with “newbies” who will work for these rates - or even for FREE!
I ask you: is this the beginning - or the beginning of the end - of the voice-over profession?
ABOUT ROB ...
Rob Sciglimpaglia Jr. is an attorney with the firm of Kerin & Canty, Norwalk, CT. He is also a voice-over artist, on-camera actor, and owner of All in One Voice – a company specializing in voice-over instruction, demos and business services.
Internet Movie Database: http://imdb.com/name/nm2215197