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INCOME / FEES
Voice Over Pay: Yesterday, Today
And ... What's Ahead Tomorrow?
July 7, 2015

By Bobbin Beam
Voice Actress

Iím thinking more than ever these days about voice over pricing and competition. 

It struck me while reading a story in a recent Sunday paper about the Meijerís grocery store chain from Michigan thatíll be building stores comparable in size to a football field at several locations in Wisconsin.

The headline is all about how the move could drive down area grocery store prices. The article focuses on the increased competition, and all eyes around the country are focused on how the dynamics will play out in the groceries marketplace here. 

And of course, how great it will be for consumers and how the ingredients are present for an all-out price war.

Gone are the days where there were the only the traditional retail grocery and corner stores. Now added to the mix are Target, WalMart, Aldi, Costco, plus natural and organic food chains, drugstores, convenience stores and, even home improvement stores that sell food products.

VOICE OVER MODEL MAKEOVER


Iíve thought about some of the parallels in this story to concerns voiced in forums about increased competition in the voice over space and how there are so many new options, dynamics and places to hire a voice. And the economics resulting from this competition.

Those already established for several years in voice over are looking for growth in their respective businesses. And newcomers to the industry find they are having a harder time finding organic growth. So they are trying to take it from established voice artists.

There is an explosion of online hiring halls, AKA "pay to playĒ or five dollars a holler sites, which many blame for dragging down industry prices.

HELLO, NEW BOSS

There was a time when hiring a talent to perform a voice over was the domain of talent agents, studios and the unions, which set the rate structure. It was the traditional business model. And the traditional business model was B-to-B or B-to-C.

Collective bargaining agreements served the available basics: Television and radio commercials, industrials, and network announcers, and some film and television programming.

There were only three networks. Now, there  are more than 50 national broadcasting networks, hundreds of cable stations, shows, and online offerings, like YouTube. And donít forget apps, like Periscope or Meerkat.

There are more right-to-work states in the USA - Wisconsin and Michigan more recently instituting the law that is the absolute bane of the unions.

Huge are video games, explainer videos, e-learning, audiobooks, and voice gigs for the Internet of things of almost anything and everything.

GOT A GOOD VOICE?

The sky is the limit as technology has lowered the entry into voice over, and someone was told he or she had a good voice.

Some of the new voice talents are pretty good, others not so much.

But technology is perfecting text to voice so well that it sounds almost human. So maybe that might not even matter some day (I kid).

Now thereís a plethora of online superstores, mega malls of self-baptized performers, from every corner of the world in the mix. There are added opportunities for new as well as established voice talent.

The majority of voice over actors today mostly do business C-to-C. Internationally. Good SEO and Google are the kingpins in attracting and procuring voice over talent, and the talent agents are feeling the pinch.

PRICE PRESSURE SQUEEZE

We are all consumers and enjoy getting our best price. Thanks, Amazon and eBay! The walls are tumbling down, as are prices, pressuring for "cheaperĒ voice over talent due to increased competition.

Many of my peers are finding ingenious ways of finding new business in this brave new world, all intent on holding the line on pricing, increasing customer base,  talent agency representation, or all of the above.

The good news: competition helps keep the real pros sharp. There will always be someone new coming in. And consumers always want it fast, cheap and high-quality. The old adage was to pick two of those options

But now the game has changed. Itís all three:
  • best service,
  • highest quality, and
  • lowest price.
WHAT'S AHEAD?

Where such massive changes will lead us is anyoneís guess. There may be a tipping point where all the newcomers to the voice over or grocery businesses at a certain point are not able to operate profitably that they can manage to stay in business.

There could be a day of reckoning on the horizon, but I suspect weíre not there yet.
-------------------------
ABOUT BOBBIN
Bobbin Beam has been a full-time voice over talent / voice actress since 1985 and is currently based near Milwaukee, WI. She's a signature voice of dozens of television stations and the imaging voice for radio stations worldwide, and steadily works in radio and television commercials, promos and programs, corporate videos, narrations, audiobooks, e-Learning, documentaries, web explainer videos, and online apps.Her alto female voice has been heard on ABC, Disney Channel, Discovery and other top media outlets around the world. Bobbinís commercial clients include Disney, Toyota, Citgo, Nivea, St. Judeís Childrens Cancer Research Center, Sports Authority, Pro Flowers and LA Times.


Email: bobbin@BobbinBeam.com
Web: www.BobbinBeam.com


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Comments (6)
Rebecca aka LoveThatRebecca
7/8/2015 at 6:29 AM
Thanks for the article Bobbin - nice insights.

The biggest paradigm shift for me is the 'pick two' to 'pick three'. When I entered the industry, Pro Denny Delk gave me that 'pick 2' adage and it made so much sense. I'm not sure it's shifted completely away, but price has become a much larger factor.

Regarding some comments: I agree with Joel that J.Valnetino's comments about books and albums are incorrect. I live with a musician who's seen his income substantially shift with the digital revolution. And personally, I know book buying for me has gotten much cheaper overall for the same reason.

I haven't been in the VO biz as long as Debbie or DC, but having worked in a corporate and small biz environ as an employee for most of my professional life, I will say that I prefer my VO life now, circumstances as they are.

Thanks again for the article Bobbin!
Debbie Grattan
7/7/2015 at 7:40 PM
I'm with DC in feeling like if I was toying with the idea of moving into the VO world today, knowing what I know, I'd pick something else. It's gotten so competitive, the tenacity and marketing knowledge needed to stay on top is exhausting, even with a stable of regular clients, and the ranks continue to be infiltrated.

And new folks are coming in with talent as well. But they find out pretty quickly that booking a few gigs does not a career make. It's a marathon, and most get pooped out before the first 10K. At least I hope enough poop out to allow for the rest of us to still keep the flow moving.

I read an article today by Steven Lowell who quoted some stat of over 100,000 VO profiles online, only 5000 have daily work. I'm not sure where this came from, but it's daunting. Maybe if more folks with hopes of being a VO-preneur would heed this stat early on, they'd find something else to chase.
Joel
7/7/2015 at 5:19 PM
Actually, j. Valentino you don't pay the same price for a book or an album that you used to and those industries have been shaken to their core. You can now get both, buffet style, for much less and even per unit prices on many of those items has come down (or stagnated for many years).

I do agree that the skill and investment in time and learning is still substantial, but I feel like we're headed for a world not too far removed from the absurdist film, "Holy Motors."
Bobbin Beam
7/7/2015 at 4:36 PM
Hi J,
I agree with just about everything you've said. However, the talent pool has indeed increased exponentially in let's say, the past 15-20 years.

Technology has lowered the entry of cost to get into just about any business today. And yes, there is an abundance of work and good talent will rise to the top and command better rates. Well-stated. Thanks for your insight.
DC Goode
7/7/2015 at 3:48 PM
Spot on as always, Bobbin.

I would disagree on the "tipping point." I believe there will most likely be MANY of them; in the process. I think we have already had several. You mentioned many of them in your post.

I have been advising newcomers for many years to not get into VO, if you are expecting to make a living (or anything close to it) from it....no matter what "Making a living" may mean to you. Of course, each person has to make that decision for themselves.

If I were new to the biz today, knowing only half of what I do... and doing my homework on the rest, I would not "go for it" based on business stats and pricing alone. Unless, perhaps, I was looking for a Non Profit hobby. If that's the goal...Theater can be pretty fun and rewarding I'm told...AND it's truly "interactive". :-)



j. valentino
7/7/2015 at 2:45 PM
This is great. You wrote: "technology has lowered the entry into voice over." While this is true, it hasn't really increased the "talent" pool. For those that have real talent, not to worry, there's plenty of work, and you can ALWAYS command your own rates.

Think of it this way: There is software today that allows anyone to easily make music on their computer (Garageband, etc.), there is software that enables you to easily write an ebook and publish to Amazon, there are programs that allow someone with no design experience to easily build a website for free, and even TV shows that allow anyone who believes they have talent to audition. Heck, anyone with a Youtube account can create their own regular program.

But still, you pay the same price for the latest album from your favorite artist that you've been paying for years. You pay the same price for a book from your favorite author that you did 20 years ago. Professional corporations very rarely use free templates for their websites, they hire web designers, and there have only been a handful of artists that have had enduring success from being on AGT or American Idol, etc. TV show hosts still command millions of dollars despite Youtube.

So, I think this technology that allows anyone to be a vo artist, is a really good thing. It makes a true artist's job easier, and it beautifully weeds out good vo talent from the hacks and wannabes. A talented VO artist will always stand out. And real talent can always command a good rate.
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