VOICES-VOICEBANK MERGER - PART 2
Integrating Voicebank And Voices:
Speculation Abounds On What's Ahead
August 16, 2017
See Part 1: Voices(dot)com Rocks Voice Over Industry With Voicebank Buyout
See Part 3: Responding To Change: As An Individual and VO Community
By John Florian
What's ahead for Voicebank as it migrates to the Voices(dot)com sphere?
And what might the entire voice over online casting world look like in the not-too distant future?
'ONLY THE FIRST DOMINO'
J. Michael Collins (pictured) - a popular voice talent, coach, producer - believes "Online casting is a large part of the future of our business. The convenience provided to buyers is too compelling."
But he foretells major shifts.
Last October, Collins stopped working with Voices due to what he calls concerns over their business practices. And now with the Voicebank purchase: "I have instructed Voicebank(dot)net to remove my listings as a promoted coach and demo producer effective immediately."
Voices' success with the Voicebank purchase "will depend on the response of agents and buyers who use Voicebank," he notes. "In the long run, it is likely an effort to further move buyers to their business model and away from the classic agency-based model, though they may maintain the (Voicebank) site in its current form for the time being."
And Collins sees this as "only the first domino. Voice123 is likely the next target for acquisition, as Voices cannot effectively dominate the industry while a competitor exists which offers jobs of similar or higher quality and similar volume - but without monetizing every element of the transaction the way Voices does."
If that happens, Collins adds, a three-tier marketplace will result ... See J. Michael Collins' full comment.
SPECULATING THE STRATEGY
At bodalgo - a global online casting rival of Voices based in Germany - CEO Armin Hierstetter says "It is a bit early to understand the strategy behind this acquisition," yet he nevertheless has a theory ... See Armin Hierstetter's comment.
Graeme Spicer (pictured) - voice actor, industry advocate and former Managing Director for Edge Studio - expects "a transition of Voicebank's services to an improved online platform driven by Voices' well-established technology."
And that "would be a good thing for the industry," he adds. "Everyone acknowledges that Voicebank's technology was dated and inadequate."
A bigger question, he notes, is "How will the Voicebank revenue model be altered during or subsequent to the technology transition?"
Yet Spicer thinks "some of the alarm expressed by the (voice over) community will be proven unfounded.
"Talent agents, casting directors, clients and yes, hopefully SAG-AFTRA, will have considerable leverage so long as a united front with realistic demands is presented," he says. See Graeme Spicer's full comment.
Longtime voice actor, coach and producer Jim Conlan (pictured) agrees that talent agencies are key to the success of this deal.
"If transparency questions still linger about how Voices pays talent, Voicebank will now fall under that shadow," he says.
"How much of the client's money do they keep, and how much do they pay the talent?
"I'm also curious about how talent agencies will respond to this merger," Conlan adds. "Will agents now be forced to deal with Voices? If so, how will they be compensated? One possible outcome would be that agents will band together to force higher rates."
And like J. Michael Collins, Conlan is concerned about the effects of consolidation.
"This merger could create another monopoly, forcing other similar companies out of business. What will become of Voice123? Of bodalgo? Ultimately, will there be no other way to be hired (online)?" See Jim Conlan's full comment.
CASTING DIRECTOR: 'MAKES MATTERS WORSE'
Mary Lynn Wissner (pictured) - an in-person casting director, coach and owner of Voices Voicecasting - believes the Voices-Voicebank merger "will likely only make matters worse for talent and agents who rely on Voicebank for union and non-union work, as it seems likely they (Voices) will continue their business model on Voicebank."
Yet Wissner has never been a fan of Voicebank.
"I have always felt that there needs to be a clarification of the term 'casting' used by VdotCom and even Voicebank," she says. "This is NOT casting. It is basically 'crowdsourcing' auditions."
Wissner prefers personal contact with clients.
"I have never used Voicebank to cast a production," she says. "Why should I? My ad agency and production company clients have come directly to me.
"I have had numerous clients come to me after experiencing the impersonal approach of these sites, wishing to get hands-on, invested attention to their project, which they cannot possibly experience online." See Mary Lynn Wissner's full comment.
WHERE THE MONEY GOES ...
Voice actor/trainer Larry Hudson severed ties with Voices in November 2015 and fears the Voicebank merger will result in agents having to work with him through Voices, rather than Voicebank.
"VDC completely disregards and dismisses the voice over actor as a valuable entity," Hudson says. "With the Voicebank acquisition, this lack of regard now spills over into the talent agency world.
"Which means, the voice over jobs that came from my agents through Voicebank are now subject to the same abuse, lack of transparency and theft of up to 70% of the fee paid by the client."
And Hudson envisions more buys ahead for Voices, tapping a recent $18 million investment for growth from Morgan Stanley Expansion Capital. See Larry Hudson's full comment.
CONSOLIDATION IS INEVITABLE
Whatever Voices does with Voicebank - which ever way the systems and money eventually flow - the Voices-Voicebank deal is the inevitable mark of a growing industry. Players thin out as stakes rise.
"It's an example of the massive amount of consolidation and restructuring that has been going on in the wider world for a long time," says voice actor and VO sage Bob Souer.
Other longtime VO pros see the same.
Bettye Zoller (pictured), voice actor/coach who today focuses on audiobook narration, observes that "Things evolve and change, and it's no secret that Voices(dot)com has had imperial dreams of being a world kingpin - buying or building a huge headquarters and showing power!
"And it's owners are smart and clever, plotting takeovers," she adds. "That's the way dominant companies are built. So let this evolve. That's all we can do."
Dan Duckworth, voice actor/coach/producer, adds:
"I suppose it remains to be seen what will happen with the merger, and how that may affect the industry. Might be too much power and control invested in one company. Time will tell."
WHAT ABOUT RATES?
Most everyone's concern, of course, is how the new Voices-Voicebank combo will affect their own income. For voice talent in particular: what will happen to rates for VO jobs?
Graeme Spicer hesitates to label the recent deal as consolidation. "Other than this announced acquisition, I can't recall any meaningful takeover of one business involved in voice over by another."
Yet Spicer does see a "hollowing out of the middle of the voice over business."
High-end, high pay work will continue to be cast - largely in the union world - as it has been cast for decades, he believes. "And low-end jobs will always be low-end jobs."
But the middle spectrum is seeing "an unrelenting erosion of rates," Spicer observes.
"So long as reasonably competent voice actors are willing to record projects that would have cost $2,500 ten years ago for $250, then clients will opt for the lower cost providers."
See Part 1: Voices(dot)com Rocks Voice Over Industry With Voicebank Buyout
See Part 3: Responding To Change: As An Indivual and VO Community
John Florian is the founder/publisher of VoiceOverXtra, the voice over industry's award-winning online news, education and resource center, offering thousands of resource links, how-to articles, calendar of industry events, industry directory, webinar training and more. A former magazine editorial director/publisher, John is also a voice talent who merged those two career passions to create VoiceOverXtra in 2007.
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