Voice Over Compensation: Everybody Talks
About It, But What's The Solution For YOU?
October 17, 2017
By Jim Conlan
Voice Actor / Coach
You'll find this discussion on any given day, in any given forum, online or in your own community: voice talent compensation is the pits.
I think we have a pretty good idea of the problem; my intention isn't to go into that today. What we need are solutions.
For starters, I should mention that I don't believe in win-lose scenarios. I'm not interested in fomenting rebellion. No T-shirts or shots across the bow. Instead, I'd like to suggest that perhaps we're looking at the problem from the wrong perspective.
Consider the following:
What's the problem, then?
Well, I can tell you what mine is: I still occasionally seek work through the painful and disheartening process of auditioning.
And who are these auditions for? People I don't know; people who often are looking for a deal first, good talent second. It should be no surprise that they don't pay well.
So if you feel you're underpaid, ask yourself these questions:
They have no problem paying me what I'm worth, because they know they're going to get value for what they paid. In return, I make sure I stay in touch with them. And perhaps most important, many of these clients are local.
BUT NOT PAID WELL FOR ...
Conversely, the projects I don't get paid well for are often (not always) those I audition for.
They are not local. I'm an unknown to them and they to me. I may never work with them again, even if I do get the job.
This isn't always the case, of course. I'll audition for a project if the fee is posted upfront and it's within my acceptable range. Naturally, given the huge numbers of talent with whom I'll be competing, this is not a high-probability game. I audition and move on.
ABOUT AGENTS & AUDIOBOOKS ...
If you have an agent, you have an advantage; they will hold the line on acceptable fees.
But remember, the job of getting work is up to you, not them. You can't sit around waiting for the phone to ring.
Luckily, I have a great agent: Pastorini-Bosby Talent. They make sure that, however I get hired – directly or through them – I get properly compensated. And my repeat business with these clients is exceptionally high.
The wild card in the business is, of course, audiobooks.
Few of us happen to live in New York, or near an audiobook production company. If we're serious about doing audiobooks and want to be compensated fairly, we're going to have to market ourselves to the high-paying players. Otherwise, we'll simply have to take our chances with auditions.
So what do I suggest we do if we have a compensation problem?
1. Market locally first.We're not going to change this commodity climate anytime soon; every sector of the arts is faced with the same dilemma. But with a little more focus on our business, we may be able to avoid it.
James Conlan is a narrator with nearly 70 fiction and non-fiction titles. He has trained dozens of extremely interesting audiobook narrators.
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