Web Success: Why Are There So
Many Un-Booked Online Auditions?
By Paul Strikwerda
©2009 Paul Strikwerda
John was a Realtor. The past couple of years had been the toughest ever.
Plenty of prospects; very few buyers. John had to work twice as hard and twice as long to woo aspiring homeowners.
One day, his boss called him into the office and by the look on his face, the boss was not a happy camper ...
“John," he said. “Do you have any idea how many leads you lost in the past three months?”
“Well, maybe a few here and there," said John. “I don’t really keep track."
“What?” answered his boss angrily. “Are you telling me that you’ve spent hours researching homes and showing your clients house after house, and you have no clue how many sales opportunities you missed? Are you serious?
"How about the Taylors? They seemed ready to buy and they bailed out at the last moment. What went wrong?”
“Oh, I remember them,” said John. “They backed out because they said the escrow fee was too high.”
“That might be true,” said his boss, “but do you want to know what really happened?
"After you had put in all your time and found them the perfect house, they walked out of our office and contacted the sellers directly. Two days later, the property was sold.”
JUST AN ANALOGY?
Of course I made this entire story up, and yet this scenario happens in voiceoverland each and every day.
If you’ve taken a good look at your audition submissions of the past couple of months, doesn’t it seem like a majority has disappeared into a gigantic black hole?
As I mentioned in my Part 1 about this topic: most of my submissions didn’t result in an actual booking - not because the job was awarded to another talent, but because the voice shopper never became a buyer.
How did I know? Because months after the deadline for a project had passed, still no talent had been selected for the job.
ASKED SITES WHY?
It turns out that I’m not alone. That’s why I brought the matter up with three pay-to-play sites.
I specifically asked them about their “conversion rate.” That’s the term marketing professionals use when a prospective consumer takes the intended action.
I particularly wanted to know the percentage of voice seekers who had become voice buyers. And here's what they told me.
Mike Gomez is Account Executive at Voice123. He replied:
We have around 4,000 active Premium subscribers on the site and these are the stats we keep regarding hirings:
50% – book at least one a month
30% – book between one and five a month
20% – book more than five a month.
Since we don’t control who gets hired (or) why and when, we currently have no accurate way to account for this.
Although we do know most jobs are granted on the site, because we see talents are renewing constantly since our sales have been growing constantly through the months, and the only way talents have money to renew is if they get work.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Voice123 has earned its spot in the marketplace. But the fact that people continue to renew their membership doesn’t tell me a whole lot about the effectiveness of the service Voice123 provides.
Donna Summers is the president of VoiceCasting and partner at VOplanet. This is what she told me about her company's conversion rate:
Because we deal with large production companies and ad agencies for the most part, virtually all the auditions we do are for actual jobs.
It is rare that an ad agency would take the time, effort and money it takes to put together an ad campaign, hire a copywriter to write the script, get as far as voicing it, and then completely dump it.
If one of our talents gets the job, we are of course, thrilled. If the client books elsewhere, we do call and thank the client for the opportunity and ask who booked the job.
In answering your question, Paul, I would have to say that 100% - with a little margin for error - would be the number of auditions that actually become jobs.
Back in 2003, David and Stephanie Ciccarelli created Voices.com out of their condo. Now they have eight full-time staff and four computer developers on contract.
David estimates about $11 million of business goes through the site annually. If you’ve ever used their services, you know that Voices.com makes money from your subscription fees and from an optional 10% SurePay escrow fee on top of whatever the talent’s fee is, paid by the voice seeker. According to the site:
This Escrow fee is kept by Voices.com to cover the charges that we incur from holding the deposit for a period of time in a secure third-party account.
Stephanie Ciccarelli summarizes my unease regarding audition submissions as follows:
You’ve noted that many people are concerned to see that some of the past jobs they’ve auditioned for months ago have not yet progressed to awarding a talent, leaving them to wonder if a client is merely window-shopping or kicking tires, possibly also wondering if auditioning online is a waste of time.
According to a snapshot of statistics from the last four months (April 2009 through July 2009), tracking the completion rate of jobs posted at Voices.com, we can confirm that at any given stage, half of the open jobs are still being reviewed by their client, and the other half are completed (that means a talent has been chosen), with over 2/3 of those completed jobs being verified and processed via SurePay.
Although this information is reassuring, we are aware that there is still room to improve and to grow.
Stephanie cites a number of reasons as to why it appears that many voice seekers on her site never seem to select a candidate. Allow me to paraphrase:
1. Some clients, regardless of their deadlines for finding talent, may not have a pressing need to have their voice-over recorded instantly. In other words, they file away the auditions until they are ready to hire. Sometimes this could take many months, but eventually, someone gets the job.
2. Some clients use sites like Voices.com to find talent, and they prefer to work with them off-site, leaving their job in an “Open” status. This explains why there are fewer “completed” jobs than there truly are.
3. Some voice talents and/or voice seekers don’t want to use the SurePay system. If that’s the case, the job won’t be registered as completed.
FORMER CASTING DIRECTOR
What do voice seekers make of all this? A former casting director for a nationally-known ad agency gave me permission to share his or her thoughts as long as he/she would remain anonymous:
Agencies will do a lot of casting for projects they “hope” will become a client. They will hold auditions ... actors will hold their breath - after creatives fawn all over them ... expect a hold or booking ... alas ... no call!
Of course it happens that another (voice actor) is booked. But it does also happen that no one is booked, as the agency did not get the account or the budget was cut.
It also happens that an audition is used as a demo in a pitch for the account. The performer never knows about it. Top brass may not even know this practice is going on at his or her agency.
The head of production is calling the shots without others in the chain of command knowing anything about you (performer) being screwed.
You may have been instrumental in getting an account. When the time came to cast for the account, you may have been forgotten for a more high-profile talent.
I protested this practice, to the shock of the production chief. It was an uphill battle to have any effect on this practice, but I did make some headway.
In short, we don’t have many options in regard to this practice. Many agencies or agents don’t participate in this practice. But it does happen.
As a former journalist, I have to add that there is no independent way of verifying the statements from the online casting sites.
There actually is software to keep track of conversion rates, though. QVC uses it and so does Amazon.com. In fact, most e-commerce sites track their transactions at least on a daily basis.
So, how would you evaluate whether or not your investment in a particular pay-to-play site is worthwhile?
Without a clear conversion rate, you can only base your decision on:
- Previous personal experience
- Anecdotal evidence
- Testimonials & recommendations
- The reputation of the company
- Trust and gut feeling
The size of your wallet
There you have it. Were these answers satisfying to you? As you have noticed, the online casting sites are listening to us, and they don’t shy away from controversial topics.
They are following up with job seekers, and they too have to work with ad agencies that are only using their service to test the waters.
And finally: as every matchmaker knows, no matter how carefully you select two interested parties, not every match ends in matrimony!
ABOUT PAUL ...
Paul Strikwerda is a 25-year veteran of the voice-over industry whose Nethervoice service features German and Dutch voice-overs, translation and evaluation services. Born in Holland, he has worked for Dutch national and international radio, the BBC and American Public Radio. Although 90% of his work is in English, Strikwerda also records in Dutch, German and French. Clients include Novartis, Johnson & Johnson, and the Discovery Channel. He also publishes an informative and entertaining blog, Double Dutch.
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