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What's Ahead? It's Already Happening:
Unions, Agents, P2P, Talent & More
November 9, 2010
 
By Roger King
Voice Talent Agent
Performance Network Agency
 
Given that Iím a wildly successful voice talent agent - and by wildly, I mean I am able to make the occasional mortage payment and cover my regular dental check-ups - people often ask for my opinion of where the voice over industry is headed.
 
Okay, not that often ... but after 10 minutes of careful deliberation, Iím ready to offer some opinions.
 
TRENDING NON-UNION
 
First off, I may be biased, but I think the industry is trending non-union.
 
Now, just because I run a non-union shop does not mean I am anti-union. But I think for voice work, the union model is outdated.
 
Producers on tight timelines donít want to have to fill out three different contracts and deal with complicated rate structures when theyíve simply got to get a radio spot produced and on the air by Wednesday.
 
MANY RATES COMPETITIVE
 
And I think there is a perception by some in the union world that those of us doing non-union work are giving our services away.
 
But Iíve actually found that in many cases, our rates are competitive, if not higher than union rates. But of course, we usually have a buyout rather than residuals.
 
On occasion that can be frustrating when a client plays the hell out of a TV spot for what seems like a decade.
 
But commercials most often only run for a short time, so residuals become a moot issue.
 
In general, there is just more flexibility budget-wise in the non-union world, and we are set up to respond to booking requests at a speed that matches the fast-paced world in which we live.
 
AGENTS LOSING?
 
Yes, there are some home studio folks voicing spots for $50, but there are bottles of wine that sell for $6, too. I think you know what Iím saying.
 
Some have predicted that the advent of the home studio and now, pay-to-play sites like Voices.com and Voice123, may spell an end to the agency model of voice representation.
 
But after initially hyperventilating at the success of these sites, I recognize that there are many different types of clients.
 
FOR BUSY PRODUCERS
 
I know a producer who listened to over 700 auditions to cast a voice for a series of web commercials.
 
Aside from all the cocktail parties he must have missed, the problem with this approach is it Ö hmmm Ö how shall I put this?
 
Takes too much damn time!
 
HOW AGENTS HELP
 
A busy producer may not have time to listen to 7 auditions, let alone 70. Those are the producers I love, as the owner of an agency.
 
We are a solution for them. Everything is organized. We know the talent.
 
We attempt to and often succeed in making the producerís job easier so he/she can deal with other important aspects of the project like editing, reworking the budget or locating a decent sushi restaurant near the recording the studio.
 
NARROW THE CHOICES
 
On the other end of the scale, I know another producer who on each and every project asks me to only audition four people.
 
He doesnít want his client to have too many choices, or it will take forever to complete the project.
 
I get the feeling he has read The Paradox of Choice - Why More Is Less.
 
My point in all this, is that just like any other area of life - the range of producer styles and personalities runs the gamut.
 
Which means there will continue to be work for both agencies like mine and pay-to-play sites.
 
LOOKING AHEAD ...
 
On that note though, I do have some other thoughts about what to expect in the world of voice-overs in the next five years.
 
In fact, Iíve come up with a list of 10, without pre-determining that I was making a Top 10 list.
 
Now, you may feel that some or all of these are already happening, which means you wonít give me much credit for being prescient. Hey, I never said I was Kreskin!
 
1. I think pay-to-play sites will have to move to a business model that is more commission-based. It is not sustainable to just make money off membership fees.
 
2. The recording studio will never die as long as there are good take-out/delivery places nearby. Producers need a place to take their clients and justify their existences.
 
3. Budgets are shrinking. Not necessarily at the top end, but in the middle. This doesnít mean that voice talents will make less - as much as it means producers will turn to suppliers (talents) who can make their jobs easier.
There will be more overworked producers, as theyíll be doing the job of two or three people. So those who can potentially help them with one or more aspect of the production process will win the day.
4. Clients will always pay for quality. This is the part of the biz that wonít change, and one I quite enjoy.
 
5. Like any profession, the pretenders eventually fade away or are weeded out. We are experiencing a peak in people pursuing voice work. But most people still donít know itís even a career option. Shhhhh Ö
 
6. People who can spot talent and present said talent in a coherent way will be more valuable.
 
7. It will continue to be a bit like the Wild West in terms of pricing, but see #4.
 
8. Demand for foreign language voice overs will explode. This is good news for anyone who just happens to have some involvement with an ethnic voice talent agency: www.ethnicvoicetalent.com.
 
9. Acting will become even more a key to securing voice work. It will be less important to take ďbroadcasting coursesĒ and more important to take improv and acting classes.
 
10. More people connected to the voice over industry will write web articles and blog pieces about what to expect in the voice over industry.
 
ABOUT ROGER ...
 
Roger King is the president of Peformance Network (PN) Agency, which provides voice over talent to the radio, television, film, multi-media and animation industries. In 2004, he launched a sister agency, Ethnic Voice Talent (EVT), and now represents over 100 voice over talents and translators in more than 15 different languages.

PN Agency: www.pnagency.com 
Ethnic Voice Talent: www.ethnicvoicetalent.com 
Email: pnagency@pnagency.com 
Blog: www.voiceovercanada.ca
 
 
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Comments (18)
Tom Conklin
12/4/2010 at 9:07 PM
In my experience, companies wanting advertising and ad agencies are willing to pay the "going rate" if you will ... but radio stations generally are not - and expect you to work for much less. I would love to know how other vo's handle this.
Maria Howell
11/13/2010 at 10:58 PM
Great article. Helpful too. Much continued success.
Maria
www.mariahowell.com
www.facebook.com/mariahowellfanpage
dc goode
11/12/2010 at 12:43 PM
Always enjoy your posts, Roger. To the point, no BS and a light coat of "Self deprecation." '-) Hope all is "goode" with you!
Dawn Harvey
11/11/2010 at 12:34 PM
Great article, Roger. Love your sense of humor.
Tom Conklin
11/11/2010 at 9:20 AM
Interesting article, Roger. Thanks for taking the time to share this with us!
Paul Strikwerda
11/10/2010 at 10:26 PM
As a multilingual voice-over professional, number 8 is my favorite! I can underscore Roger's assessment 100%. I have noticed a dramatic increase in demand this year, and I'm a very happy Dutch camper!

I also believe that I am contributing to number 10. My blog stats just told me that I'm getting very close to 40,000 views this year, and that too makes me jump for joy!

All in all, there are many reasons to be optimistic. Thanks for sharing your insights, Roger!

Dave M
11/10/2010 at 9:02 PM
Excellent insights into the 'murky' world of casting.
Point #4 will always be true.
I hope you're right about p2p sites but they would close their doors within a few weeks if they only earned a commission on jobs awarded. And they could be cut out of the picture too easily by talent.
Rab Rouse
11/10/2010 at 6:52 PM
Great article Roger - thanks for your opinions.
I have a question of Steven of V123 who writes:

"I also tend to disagree that Voice123 is headed towards commission-based because if voice talent can make $5,000-$100,000 a year on Voice123, which 10% - 40% of paying subscribers do, commission-based means they will actually be paying more than a subscription fee right now ... MUCH more."

I'd like some clarification of those numbers please - 10% to 40% is quite a range. I'm sure if stats can be pulled, they can be far more accurate than that. And what % of that 10-40% are at the $5,000 level versus the $100,000? I 'm pretty sure that a lot less than 0.1% (that's one in a thousand) earns a 6 figure income from any pay to play site. And I'm also confident that less than 10% earn even $5,000. Can you please clarify your numbers?
Lynn Benson
11/10/2010 at 1:20 PM
Hey, good stuff and style. Thanks for sharing. Really liked #10
Lynn
AL B Conahan
11/10/2010 at 1:08 PM
Well! I do relate to all you have said and pointed out. As I morph into this end of the BIZ, it is clear I am at the right place at the right time.
Todd Schick
11/10/2010 at 12:52 PM
Interesting .... and a very different POV from Alex over there at V123 a few years ago. He predicted we'd all be in our booths 8 hours a day working for $10 an hour while V123 grows to a million subscribers.

Indeed, once "the pretenders" realize that flipping burgers is a better way to make a living and stop attending conferences (numbers have now started to drop significantly), P2P sites will have to face other revenue streams or close up shop.

And Roger is right ....only those who pursue acting will rise to the top.

TS
Jane Ingalls
11/10/2010 at 11:08 AM
Your opinions about union vs non-union track with my recent experiences. Streamlining the process and quick turnaround are more valued than ever. Thank you for your insights and the encouragement!
BP Smyth, Narrator
11/10/2010 at 10:03 AM
Roger,

I believe you are correct in your "educated" observations. Thanks for posting them here. I especially like the point about "the pretenders" eventually fading away. That taking place will certainly help those of us who are legitimate contenders.

Steven Lowell
11/10/2010 at 9:48 AM
Roger,
I think you make the same mistake many voice talent make by lumping paid subscription sites together just because one pays to use it.

Keep in mind:

Voice123 is not successful because of Voice123.

Voice123 is successful because voice over talent pay one fee, never pay commission, never wait for a phone to ring, and everything the talent makes goes in their pocket. If it all goes sour, deduct it from taxes. There is no intermediary to say, 'I wont pass along this talent because he wont make me money'.

All Voice123 did was set up a system that said, 'Here voice talent. You are smart enough to find work yourself.'

Voice123 is not anti-agent. In fact, some of the most successful talent on the site have agents. It is a business tool to find work.

The true root issue here is that many voice talent believe they are betraying some older method of finding work, or such people involved in those methods; simply because they tried it.

It is also a mistake to lump Voice123 in with other websites. It has a completely different business model. Voice123 does not 'sell auditions'. It sells 'technology services'.

I also tend to disagree that Voice123 is headed towards commission-based because if voice talent can make $5,000-$100,000 a year on Voice123, which 10% - 40% of paying subscribers do, commission-based means they will actually be paying more than a subscription fee right now ... MUCH more.

As for Unions, they use Voice123 to find talent and sign contracts directly with the voice talent. Follow the Twitter posts and you will pick up on it.

There is MUCH more going on than meets the eye, and challenging conventional perceptions is in order to grow with the future of the voice industry.

Best,
Steven
Community Development Manager
Voice123

ps- When a shy guy like myself gets confident and outspoken about what he believes, I can guarantee you I know what I am talking about.
Jim Conlan
11/10/2010 at 9:18 AM
This is a great article and timely. You hit a lot of the top issues. In fact, people may ask for hundreds of auditions, but they'll usually crap out and pick one of the first 20. Moreover, unlike P-to-P services, the talent agent knows you, can relate to you as a person. If you can get signed, do it. Also trending: more and more call for African-American voices. Thanks, Roger.
Paul
11/10/2010 at 8:31 AM
Inciteful and practical. Now back to my blogpost ...
Dan Hurst
11/9/2010 at 6:56 PM
Excellent article! Thanks Roger for writing it.
And thanks John for publishing it!

Cliff
11/9/2010 at 5:48 PM
Right on. Some good news, some not so good, but I feel you are right on the money, and I rarely agree 100%.
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