YOUR INCOME / PART 1
Why Online Casting Sites Are The Future
Of Voice Over - But Low Rates Don't Have To Be
April 10, 2015
By J. Michael Collins
Voice Actor & Coach
In the past 10 years, the online casting marketplaces for voice talent have exploded.
Between Voices.com, Voice123.com, bodalgo.com and others, there are 300-500 jobs being cast daily through online sites, via public and private channels.
This number easily equals - and probably exceeds - all of the agency jobs being cast through more traditional means on a given day.
With this exponential growth have come the teething pains that accompany any game-changing paradigm shift within an industry.
The fear of change has been, and remains, quite palpable. Hyperbole is mixed with legitimate concerns about the business model, including rates, competition, ethics, and the direction in which the people behind the online casting sites wish to see the industry go.
Naturally, this kind of uncertainly leads to personal divisions among talent, and occasional sniping. Many of the loudest voices of antagonism can be found with surprising ease on the front pages of sites trumpeting cheap voice talent, and with hundred-dollar-a-holler rate cards hiding in plain sight.
None of us are saints in this regard. However, it is quite clear that wherever there is vitriol, hypocrisy will not be far behind.
MANY ARE GUILTY
Alas, I stand guilty. Infrequently, but too often, I have found myself tempted by the easy money of a low budget job that will only take a few minutes of my time. I offer no defense; It is sheer greed. Typically, once the job is completed and I have been paid, I find myself feeling a lot like I feel after eating fast food; Guilty, and a little sick to my stomach.
Every time I accept substandard pay - every time ANYONE accepts substandard pay - it harms all of us, and it sends the message to the online casting sites, and clients at large, that if they press hard enough, we will buckle.
The allure of quick and easy money is not only damaging to our industry, it is also entirely unnecessary.
We have been led, falsely, to believe that the business is inundated with talent, and that if we don't take whatever is offered, someone else equally qualified will.
Well, maybe someone else will indeed accept the bargain basement rate, but I suspect they won't be as qualified as you think.
HOW MANY ARE REALLY QUALIFIED?
It is a pernicious myth that the supply side of the voice over business is saturated. It is true that tens of thousands of people nationally and globally are positioning themselves as voice talent. It is equally true, however, that the number of these people who are truly talented, well-trained, technically savvy, and possessed of business intelligence is very marginal.
I would be shocked if more than 5,000 people in the USA are earning a full time living as voice talent. Even that number may be high.
A quick listen to the auditions on an average online job will show around 80% of submissions to be non-viable for reasons either technical or ability-based. Even the vast majority of talent with agency representation do not make a living in voice over.
What this means is that we, my fellow talent, are in control. We just don't know it.
I have said many times, and will say many times again, that there is far more work out there than there is quality talent to do it. In other words, we have pricing power, and it is up to us to exercise it. The time to do so is now.
COPING WITH THE FUTURE
Here are two thoughts that will terrify a lot of people.
1. The online casting sites aren't going away. They will only continue to grow and become more profitable, wielding proportionally more influence in our industry, and over how we do business.That doesn't mean that it necessarily has to follow the same structure as it does today, or that it will even be the same companies at the forefront - though it may well be. But it means that the idea of aggregating jobs through clearinghouse sites is the way this and every other freelance business is going, and we had better get used to it.
That means that it is incumbent upon us, as those who hold the trump card of supply, to shape the future of how we are presented to those with demand.
WATCH OUR BACKS
It is also our responsibility to watch our own backs, because no one else is going to do it for us.
The people in charge of the online casting sites are not bad people. I know many of them personally, and I can tell you that they are good-hearted, genuine people who love their families and kids just like we do.
Nevertheless, they are business owners, and they would be remiss in their duty to their employees and investors if they did not maximize profits to the best of their ability. If you expect companies to place anything above profit, I invite you now to return from the 1950s and rejoin us in the real world.
This means that we must shape the future of the system from within, not by assailing it from the sidelines. Far better to be the man - or woman - in the arena.
It means that we must make clear to the powers that be that the brightest future, from which they can generate maximum profit, is not a high-volume/low cost model that degrades quality and leads to burnout, but a world with fair rates and motivated talent.
Coming Monday: Part 2 - How To Draw A Line In The Sand On Pricing
ABOUT J. MICHAEL
With almost 20 years as a professional voice over artist, J. Michael Collins has worked with many major world companies, brands, sports leagues, and organizations. In addition to his work in the classic, agency-based world of voice over, he has established himself as a leading P2P (pay-to-play, online casting) authority. He is a top-grossing talent in the online marketplace, and also a voice talent coach and demo producer
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