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ONLINE CASTING
How Much Are VO Pay-To-Play Sites Really
Paying You? WoVO Demands Transparency
November 16, 2015

(VOXtra) - When you book a job through a subscription-based ("pay to play") online voice over casting site, are you being paid what's actually in the client's budget for your voice over?

Are you being paid even close to what you'd earn if you'd booked the job independently?

Maybe not.

Anger that's been smouldering for years about additional fees - deducted from the voice actor's payment - has exploded into a social media firestorm.

This follows two public interviews with online casting giant Voices.com - and the discovery that voice actors who subscribe to that service might receive far less than one half of what's in a client's original budget for the voice over. As a result, many voice actors have posted on social media that they are unsubscribing to Voices.com.
See below to hear the November 3, 2015 audio of Edge Studio's Graeme Spicer interviewing Voices.com CEO David Ciccarelli. Thanks, "Clark W" for recording this and posting on SoundCloud.
Many of the voice actors who are irate about this belong to the World-Voices Organization - a volunteer association of more than 500 voice over professionals - and WoVO jumped quickly to condemn what it calls excessive and hidden fees in a statement titled Transparency Now - A Call for Transparency in Subscription-Based Online Casting Sites (read it below).

WoVO charges that except when a voice purchaser specifically requests a casting site's help in handling a transaction, "both purchasers and talents are being kept purposefully unaware of the project's financials" by the casting site.

"Pay-to-Plays are not going to go away, but we expect them to play fair," says WoVO president Dave Courvoisier. "Our response was written and re-written many times over to hit the right mark."

VOICES.COM: 'ONGOING IMPROVEMENT'

At Voices.com meanwhile, CEO Ciccarrelli says the company is "in a state of ongoing improvement to create a platform that will continue to advance the industry we are all part of."

Responding to a VoiceOverXtra invitation to comment on the furor, he adds:

"We value the feedback from our talent and client customers, and appreciate the constructive conversations we are actively having. We will continue to communicate with our community as we refine our products and processes, working together to carry this industry forward in a positive, thoughtful way."

And now, the WoVO statement ...




TRANSPARENCY NOW
A Call For Transparency in Subscription-Based Online Casting Sites

Background
We are individual freelancers in the voice over industry who have joined together to focus attention on, and find solutions for, the challenges in our business. We are members of World-Voices Organization (WoVO), an association of voice actors that works to inform and educate those in the voice over industry about best practices, standards for ethical conduct, and professional expertise.

Our most recent challenge concerns the displeasure of a great many of our members, as well as other voice talent across the industry, with the business practices of subscription-based online casting sites, also known as "pay-to-play” sites. Originally, pay-to-play sites were created to provide a service to both voice talent and voice purchasers (producers, casting agents, directors, etc.) by acting as a match maker for talents and purchasers. The voice purchasers do not pay to use the pay-to-play site; it is the voice talents who pay a yearly subscription fee to receive posted audition opportunities.

It has come to our attention that a very popular pay-to-play site has been taking unfair advantage of their voice talent subscribers, by inserting an extra layer of so-called "managed services” between the voice talent and the purchaser, and then deducting a significant percentage of the purchaser’s budget to pay for these "services”. The purchaser is not made aware of the extent of the deductions, and the talent is unaware of the purchaser’s original budget. The job opportunity is posted (or removed from listings and re-posted at a lower budget) with either a fixed budget, or an invitation to bid at a rate far lower than that which the purchaser and talent expected. The pay-to-play sites may maintain that it is a "fair rate”, but it is not uncommon for it to be far less than half, or even approaching one quarter, of the purchaser’s original budget.

The expectation from both purchasers and talents is that a middleman’s deduction be within the 10-20% range. In some cases this is dictated by law. It should be noted that the pay-to-play sites already take subscription fees between $395 and $5,000 per year from talents. The pay-to-play sites’ claim that "the purchaser pays no additional fees and the successful talent always gets what they bid” is fundamentally self-serving and misleading. The ill-defined nature of the charges and fees associated with these "services” are the cause of the current concern among voice talent.

Although there have been a few cases where a purchaser has specifically requested the pay-to-play site’s assistance in handling the transaction, it is where the service is proffered, rather than requested, that there are the major areas of concern. Both purchasers and talents are being kept purposefully unaware of the project’s financials. For a given project, for example, the purchaser may think he is getting talent commensurate with his $2,000 budget, and the talent may think there is only $500 on the table. Both are being misled. This is gross misrepresentation and a disservice to both parties. The pay-to-play sites have become self-serving, no longer provide an equitable service to voice talent, and are misrepresenting what the voice purchasers are paying for.

A Well-informed Business Decision

WoVO believes that our members should be presented with all of the facts pertaining to each pay-to-play site before choosing to do business with that site, and due diligence by the members in gathering their own information is also a best business practice. We also believe that our clients (the producers, agencies, studios, etc.) need to be able to make well-informed decisions. If these decisions are about the use of a middleman, then the fees attached to this service should be understood by all parties to the transaction.

We Support and Urge Full Transparency

To accomplish this, WoVO supports transparency and full disclosure of the charges made against a purchaser’s budget. This is for the understanding and protection of both the purchaser and the talent. Every business offers different services, and these should always attract the appropriate fee. If a company is being contracted to provide project management or casting services, then they should be quantifiable and openly priced. To hide these costs and imply, or even openly claim that they are talent costs is, as stated before, gross misrepresentation and a disservice to both parties.

Take Action!
If you are a pay-to-play site:
We at WoVO strongly urge you to institute a policy of transparency. When project pricing is clear, then both voice purchasers and voice talent can make their own well-informed business decisions.

If you are a voice purchaser:

We encourage you to inquire about policies at pay-to-play sites. We urge you to inquire as to what percentage is taken from the budget and kept as a fee for commission or managed services. Please understand the level of compensation being paid to the talent, and how that reflects your overall cost.

If you are a WoVO member:
We strongly urge WoVO members to contact pay-to-play sites, request immediate transparency in business transactions, and ask for a full explanation of how compensation is structured.
With best regards, The World-Voices Organization Executive Board

Note: For more about The World-Voices Organization, please visit www.World-Voices.org.





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Comments (2)
SpongebobTrianglePants
11/27/2015 at 11:44 AM
I landed a $300 live session job via voices.com today. At the end of the session the client was saying how as a video producer he's used to paying buyout fees when dealing with voice artists directly, so it makes voices.com much more economical for his business.

He then checked with me that I was happy with the $650 fee. $650? What? Oh. I didn't explain that he's paying over twice my fee just to be given a selection of auditions over all audition submissions. He wasn't aware that he was even using Professional Services as it was all offered to him as he setup the project itself. A teensy bit misleading.

If he knew he was paying $350 more than he needed to, which includes the 10% "Surepay" fee (voices.com commission in real terms, including any transaction fees), he would most certainly not be impressed.

This has happened a few times when the client has innocently discussed my fee with me. I am always astounded by the markup voices.com decides to add for no value add. They were not producing or editing the audio nor were they needed for audition screening.

If auditionees really are so poor, then perhaps they need to screen applicants like a few other p2p sites do rather than accept anyone with a valid credit card.

I am happy with my $300 fee for this job, but would obviously be happier with a larger slice of the pie considering I'm paying to be part of the site, they're adding 10% fee for handling the payments... and then they are inventing an additional amount on top of my fee! This is not good, not good at all.
JD Cannon
11/22/2015 at 3:09 PM
i will speak from personal perspective with a P2P. I was a talent that requested a refund. The statement made that the concerns are taken seriously seems far from reality. I was told that refinds are not with in the policy. and no remedy was provided. Transparency is an issue and there is no way that the math adds up concerning the p2p's reported revenue vs the payscale for the average job that the P2P is only collecting 10% and membership fees. if we are not willing to stand in solidarity, we deserve to be victims of financial abuse that is dealt at the hands of any organization. P2Ps are only as good as the talent that contract with them. In closing I'll say...MY MEMBERSHIP HAS BEEN CANCELED! I value my time and effort more than the crumbs that fall from the master's table. I'd rather stop doing voiceovers than be used and devalued. Know your worth.
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