Voices.com Is Slapping Regular Members In The Face

Voices.com is doing it again.

They are making it harder and harder for regular (Premium) members to audition for, and book jobs.

How does “Voices” do it?

By creating yet another exclusive membership level, limited to a group of very special people who get preferential treatment. But before I get to the new program, let’s talk about the current situation. 

As a voice-over blogger and coach, people often share their frustration about voice casting sites with me. One of my students wanted to know: “Why does it seem almost impossible to land a job on a site like voices.com? I pay them $399 per year, and I audition like crazy. This year I have yet to book a single job. What I am I doing wrong?”

I told him: “You might not be the problem. It’s the system that is rigged against you. On purpose.”

Voices.com writes:

“We’re all about empowering you and your voice in this world of opportunities. (…) The Premium membership is designed specifically with the voice-over professional in mind.”

What many “ordinary” voices-members don’t realize, is that they’re being treated like second-rate citizens. Their annual fee does not give them access to all the jobs and exposure the site has to offer. That privilege goes to 100 Platinum members who pay a whopping $2500 each per year.

What does that get you? Supposedly this: 

  • the highest rankings in the Voices.com search engine
  • a one-on-one consultation with your very own Success Manager
  • two press releases per year
  • being invited to audition for select Professional Services jobs
  • Google marketing
  • higher directory rankings
  • bonus eBooks available for download
  • VIP customer service

 

A GOOD INVESTMENT?

The question is: Is such a membership worth it?

Here’s the problem: no one knows, because we don’t have data that can be independently verified. All we have is anecdotal evidence, and a multitude of marketing messages. 

I spoke to one Platinum member who asked to remain anonymous. She said:

“I have auditioned over 700 times in the past 12 months, and have been hired about 16 times. Out of those 700+ auditions, around 270 of them remained ‘closed’ with no action taken.”

By the way, these numbers are purposely vague to make sure the voice talent cannot be identified. What I can reveal is that she more or less broke even. In other words: she made as much as the cost of the Premium membership… by auditioning over 700 hundred times.

Imagine spending all that time trying to land a few jobs, and ending up making no money at all. Is that a good return on investment? Of course this is just one example of one member, so keep an open mind.

A NEW MEMBERSHIP PLAN

Now, are you ready for this?

The same person recently received a new offer from the Canadian company:

“I’m happy to tell you that we’re releasing a new membership called the Platinum Unlimited membership on September 1st, 2015. The Platinum Unlimited membership includes all of the features and benefits of a regular Platinum membership. (…) Additionally, the Platinum Unlimited membeship (sic) will include a Voices.com branding recording that would be provided to clients via email to give you excellent exposure while showing clients how impressive our talent can sound.

Currently, we have a system called VoiceMatch Invitations that controls the number of jobs you’re invited to. With the new Platinum Unlimited membership, we will essentially be turning this off. You will be invited to approximately twice as many public jobs postings. Our original Platinum membership gives you the opportunity to receive more private invitations because of the boost in your search ranking, while the Platinum Unlimited membership will allow you to choose from a larger amount of publicly posted jobs.

The Platinum Unlimited membership will only be available to our Platinum members. As always, we limit the Platinum membership to 100 people. This means that some people will have the Platinum membership, others will upgrade to the Platinum Unlimited membership, but in total between the two memberships we will never exceed 100 members.”

And how much is this Platinum Unlimited membership going to cost you?

How about five thousand dollars?!

No, I’m not kidding.

THE TRUTH COMES OUT

Here’s what I find particularly revealing.

In the invitation above, Voices.com admits that they are purposely controlling the number of auditions members get invited to, and they’re curtailing the number of public jobs their members receive. 

The only way to turn that system completely off, is to fork over five grand. As of September 1st, even Platinum members won’t be receiving all the job postings anymore. Remember, Platinum Unlimited members will receive “approximately twice as many public jobs postings.”

With this move, Premium members are relegated to a third tier position, making it even harder for them to compete with colleagues who get preferential treatment.

Talk about stacking the cards against you!

Let’s briefly look at a few other perks a Platinum and Platinum Unlimited plan have to offer. First off, there’s the highest voices.com search engine ranking, and higher directory ranking. 

This whole spiel about increased search engine ranking sounds very much like the snake oil sales people who are inundating my inbox with ridiculous claims and outrageous offers: “For only $500 a month we can get your website a top ranking on Google!” Everyone knows it’s bogus.

But let’s assume the creative minds at Voices can manipulate their search engine to give the Platinum & Platinum Unlimited members top spots. What this means is that neither competence nor experience matters if you want clients to see your name first. It’s all about how much you pay. 

In the world of Voices.com, money trumps talent. It’s a clear indicator of where their priorities are.

ARE YOU A VOICES-VIP?

Secondly, only Platinum and Platinum Unlimited members will receive VIP customer service, whatever that means.

I don’t know about you, but I teach my students to treat every client like a VIP, regardless of how much they’re paying. Why? 

Because it is the right thing to do. 

I believe these overpriced Platinum programs are a slap in the face of all the regular paying members who expect to get a fair shot at booking voice-over jobs. What’s more, these schemes are only guaranteed to fill the coffers of Voices.com. 

So, if you are in any way tempted to go Platinum Unlimited, take a moment and think of all the things you could do with 5K that would help your business right now. 

This is five thousand dollars YOU control, and not some greedy company in Canada.

I wonder what they will come up with next. 

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS Be sure to read the follow-up story, and find out how colleagues and clients respond: Voices.com: Unethical and Greedy? 

About the author

Paul Strikwerda

is a Dutch-English voice-over pro, coach, and writer. His blog is one of the most widely read and influential blogs in the industry. Paul is also the author of "Making Money In Your PJs, Freelancing for voice-overs and other solopreneurs."

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Money Matters, Pay-to-Play

123 Responses to Voices.com Is Slapping Regular Members In The Face

  1. Pingback: Stop Bashing Voices.com! | Nethervoice

  2. John McCann

    I understand the frustration that people must go through when auditioning over and over and not landing jobs. It’s hard on the ego to say the least. I, myself have been with Voices almost exclusively for the past 7 years and have had excellent results and customer service. I am grandfathered at the lower rate for my Premium membership having been with them for so long. I have been approached many times asking if I would like to upgrade to the $2500 plan but never really needed to, as I was getting a fair amount of work on my regular plan. My audition ratio is 2.5 jobs to 100 auditions and I’ve been hired over 800 times.

    When I first started it was three months before I got a job, but as time passed I found myself getting more work and learning more about the business and how to be effective, how to maximize my time and efforts and zero in on what the client was really looking for. Like anything, the more you do it the easier it becomes. I practice the fundamentals every day and always look for ways to improve. If there is anything I can do to help you who may be having a tough time with Voices or any other agency or service, please feel free to let me contact me. I can probably shorten your learning curve quite a bit, put you in contact with someone who can give you some networking tips and see if anything can boost your business.

    The industry is expanding rapidly and there is plenty of work for everyone at all levels of their career…you just have to stay with it and always be improving.

    PS…I’m just a regular guy working out of his spare bedroom…and if I can do it, anyone can.

    [Reply]

  3. Brent Abdulla

    Sing a song of Pay to Plays
    Some voice-overs…have tried.
    Four and twenty million dollars…banked in their pie.

    When the pie was opened,the voice overs began to cry. How could they take my money and poke me in the eye!

    The king was in his counting house,
    counting out his money; The queen was in the parlour, drinking tea with honey. The accountants told the king it seems to work just fine when down came Professional Services and chopped off all of mine.

    The moral of the story is their business model works. It returns the revenue to the…keepers of the books.

    If you do not like it find another way, because industries are changing every single day.

    There’s this thing called marketing that requires work. Pick up the phone and call another jerk. Keep on trying until…you make it so, because these Pay to Plays…have nowhere to go.

    It works for some people and they make some cash. Sure they had to pay a little of their stash. If you wanted too you could pay to play, but if you do not that’s perfectly okay.

    [Reply]

  4. Pingback: A Controversial Year | Nethervoice

  5. Mike Lee

    Voices and other P2Ps of its’ ilk, slap the entire voice-over industry in its collective ‘face’ – reducing a once orderly casting process into a virtual footrace where pros are pitted against amateurs in a ‘hands-on-buzzers,’ beat-the-clock game where talent can be selected like items in a vending machine. Legitimate agents fulfill a valuable role. This is a demeaning environment that ultimately lowers the bar for everyone and further weakens the efforts of Unions to uphold fair and reasonable standards.
    “Disruption” of an industry benefits no one but the stakeholders. In this case and as it applies to similar operations, it’s more a case of destruction. The nature of this model is such that very little thoughtful preparation time is allowed for audition submission and a countdown timer should not be part of the equation. If you enjoy an atmosphere akin to a Game Hunt where the Judge opens a gate and releases the hounds to chase after the meat – hey, you’re just the kind of contestant David and Alex are preying on.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I couldn’t agree more, Mike, but the large numbers of uncritical “members” are enabling these businesses to keep on doing what they’re doing. In fact, I believe many VO’s would be lost without their daily auditions from P2P’s. Online cattle calls have made people lazy, dependent, and unresourceful.

    [Reply]

    J.E. Burton Reply:

    Hi Mike,

    You are both right.

    As an experienced talent fortunate to have clients exclusively book me directly through my demo, I have seldom booked a job I’ve had to Audition for- except for on VoiceBunny. So no, Mike- ‘Game hunts’ don’t appeal to me any more than they might to anyone else looking to improve their SEO.

    P2Ps help clients find ‘unknown’ artists like me- artists that SEOs would easily overlook. Before Voices, I’ve been active on two others for years now.

    Initially, Voices seemed to be a great way to expand my visibility. However, this kerfuffle turned out to be a big wake-up call.

    As a voice talent you come to expect- and accept- that you won’t book about 85%-95% of all gigs on previous sites you usually book work on- especially in an industry saturated with talents of a certain age and voice timbre demographic.

    But when- statistically- you compare your booking rate with a 0% booking rate on more than 50 auditions on Voices- red flags should pop up- at least for critical members.

    [Reply]

  6. Jack

    “I have auditioned over 700 times in the past 12 months, and have been hired about 16 times.”

    Sounds rather standard to me.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Standard maybe, but isn’t that pretty pathetic?

    [Reply]

    Flo Mac Reply:

    thats working 59 jobs per month and only getting paid for 1.3 jobs per month, which eventually cover the fees one needs to pay in order to take part in this. it comes down to 700 jobs per year that leave nothing after the costs. wonderful concept.

    [Reply]

  7. Flo Mac

    From my experience they really got greedy. I registered (again after years) as a voiceover talent to see if it is worth the effort. Cancelled after about a month because it was not worth it for me. The cancellation seemed to work, but I did not receive any email (which I did not know was supposed to come, because: I did not get an email). Two months later I realized they had still taken monthly fees from my paypal account. I checked into my account and found out two contradicting facts: 1 – they said I still was a premium member and had not cancelled. 2 – their system said my next (!) payment was due 25th of July but it was already September.
    So a part of their system did cancel my membership (otherwise it would not have stopped as of July) but another part of their system continued to take money from me and keep me as a paying premium member. I contacted them and despite I asked them several times, they refused to answer how it would be possible that the next payment date stopped when I cancelled without me having cancelled. No refunded fees, no nothing. Just stupid answers to questions I never asked, like where I need to click to cancel my membership. Greedy and ignorant.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    You’re not the first one who has had this experience, Flo. It’s very easy to sign up for “Voices,” but apparently they have a hard time letting people go.

    [Reply]

    Mike Reply:

    This mirrors most scams, from how you phrased that and it is well put. Most scams are easy to sign up for but hard to cancel. If it were legit, they would be proud of their product and not be worried about people leaving, hence making it difficult to cancel.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Just to be clear: I never called voices dot com a scam. I just don’t agree with some of their business practices.

  8. mike lee

    “Disruption” is such a vague and self-important term to describe what this game is really about – the erosion of standards and collateral damage it manifests are essentially irreversible. In this case it clearly translates to “Cheapen,” on multiple levels, though i’m sure more than a few millennials shall weigh in with their vast expertise to the contrary; )

    [Reply]

    Scott Gentle Reply:

    Glad to see I’m not the only one who thinks those who chirp “we’re disruptors!” in every other interview about their P2P (which in reality does nothing but negatively impact the inflow into the bank accounts of the talent that forms the backbone of their business) are…well…let’s just see what the guy who invented the term thinks:

    “5. Disrupt

    It’s no longer enough to “innovate.”

    Now we must “disrupt.” The person who came up with the concept, Clayton Christensen, still “believe[s] in disruption,” but as far as how the theory (and word) is used, he says: “Everyone hijacks the idea to do whatever they want. It’s the same way people hijacked the word ‘paradigm’ to justify lame things they’re trying to sell to mankind.”

    As per Mashable’s “Annoying tech jargon to remove from your vocabulary”

    http://mashable.com/2015/06/16/annoying-tech-jargon

    [Reply]

  9. Keith Michaels

    Paul, just a few days ago I posed some “Devil’s advocate” questions in response to a post on a Linkedin group where I basically promoted the pros of P2P. At that time I had not seen your post and was not aware of the changes at Voices. Now that I have, and have spoken to a couple of friends on a platinum subscription, today I canceled my voices.com subscription. I too at one time was a huge supporter of Voices.com. But my goodness, the changes that have taken place over the last 3 years that work AGAINST voice talent are stunning. And the only way things will change is if WE change. I know it’s tough to “unsubscribe” for some. But you must do it. I cancelled my membership previously in 2013 for awhile. And I must say, it kinda sucked. Not because I lost business, but I felt disconnected. The problem is, you feel like you are “in the know” when you get tons of audition notices sent to your inbox everyday. It can be like crack ( I can only assume…) and because you sit in a room all day with no interaction with people in the industry besides your clients, the only way you feel connected to our industry is to post comments on VO blog sites, and get excited when a really cool audition comes through. I don’t know how else to describe it, but it can be hard to let go, especially for newcomers. BUT YOU MUST. you must cut the cord, and go through the withdrawals. Only then, will our industry come back to US, and not stay in the hands of people who don’t care about us, but use us like drug mules for their benefit. WE control this industry! In fact, WE ARE THE INDUSTRY. Without us, the $15 Billion quoted by the LA Times drops to nothing. There are some really big names who have replied to your post here and have taken action. But we need tons of small names to do the same.

    [Reply]

    Steven Reply:

    Hey Keith,
    Just a comment on one thing you said…Over the years I have seen journalists and websites write how the industry is a $300million dollar industry or $15 billion dollar industry.

    In truth, that is all a load of garbage. It’s not like 15 billion in jobs will be appearing on the website you paid 5K to use.

    Aside, there are so many variables that come into play and if there was truly that much money available, these sites would go after a piece of THAT pie, not subscriptions fees from talents. Some have gone after it with commission models, but it did not work as well as subscriptions. Why? Talent are more likely to pay $400 for a website yearly than a client is willing to spend $400 yearly hiring voice actors on lower end websites. Commission model sites have to sell their websites at Walmart prices to attract new buyers, but very few businesses require hiring voice actors every day all the time. If they do, it will just be for a project over a period of time. And voice actors cannot be in two recording sessions at once. (Can they? I dunno)

    You often get shown a bunch of data that looks pretty, but is a physical impossibility to achieve.

    In the end, the real money shows up in places you wont find in an online marketplace. But you should be online somewhere because people use search engines or connections more often to find people to work with.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I agree with you one hundred percent, Keith. There is a tendency in some circles to play the victim, and that role makes people vulnerable and passive. As you say, we are the industry, not the people in the middle. Without us, they would all be out of a job. The moment I said goodbye to my P2P memberships was the moment my business started to grow in leaps and bounds.

    [Reply]

    J.E. Burton Reply:

    Hey everyone,

    I feel like Paul is the protagonist in Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”. I’m the latest one to have his eyes opened. And they hurt!

    So after buying a $249 ($20.75/month) discounted membership in late June of this year with 60 auditions, 3 likes and no booking in 3+ months to shore for it, I went completely inactive. Then in early November I requested a refund with eight months left.

    After no response a tip from another dissatisfied Voices customer and friend put me in touch with the finance person there today.
    My friend had received her refund so I sought my prorated one. The finance person replied with an unfairly prorated refund billing me at $39.99/mo deducting the 4 months . So instead of getting me the $160, she refunds $89. So in other words, if I requested a refund with five months left, Voices dot com will CHARGE me $30 instead ($39.99/mo x 7 mo)!!?

    Before reading her response below,
    I present to you their ‘Policy with Integrity’ (which they updated this morning):

    https://www.voices.com/help/knowledge/faq/what-is-the-voices-com-refund-policy

    “Hi J.E.,

    Hope all is well.

    I understand you have requested a refund. When Voices.com does process refunds they are pro-rated based on the monthly rate.

    Since you signed up in June 26th of 2015 at a discounted rate of $249 you would be pro-rated 4 months at $39.95 which totals $159.80 since you only paid $249 for your annual membership I have processed a partial refund of $89.20 back to your credit card.

    Let me know if you have any questions.

    Best wishes,

    Rosa Villacob
    Finance Associate
    Voices.com

    rosa.villacob@voices.com | http://www.voices.com

    So I wrote back:
    “Simply put,
    My membership at the discount rate of $249/year- offered as a courtesy from (name withheld) cost $0.68 per day, or $20.75 per month.

    No where in the policy that I screen captured does a refund for a discounted membership prorate at the higher premium applied than the discounted price .

    A retro-prorate of $39.99 is unconstitutional because it assumes that I’d have paid $39.99/month for 12 months- equivalent to $480/year.

    With all due respect, I have never paid that much for an untested pay to play site. So I would appreciate greater consideration than what has been shown thus far.

    After all, I want to be able to mention integrity and Voices in the same sentence whenever it comes up in conversation.

    J.E..”

    I’ll put her response when she responds.
    It’s shady dealings like this that- coupled with the issues other talents have had- erode an already shaky trust in their legitimacy as a company at any level.

    Does anyone have anything to add, or have any insight for me (besides staying far away)?

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Thanks for turning me into a caveman, J.E.!

    I’m not sure what the Constitution has to do with refunds, but I’m not surprised that “Voices” once again has shown that its number one priority is maximizing profits over the backs of talent.

    Of course everyone has to decide for him- or herself whether or not a voices dot com membership is a good investment at this point in time.

    j. valentino Reply:

    Not sure what the Constitution would have to do with a company located in Canada either.

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    A person needs to have a strong constitution to deal with the antics of Voices dot con.

    J.E. Burton Reply:

    Here’s what was said:

    Pro-rated refund
    Nov 19, 2015, 11:47 AM
    From Laura Mastrandrea
    Details
    Hi J

    I hope my email finds you well today. I am writing in response to the emails you have been sending to Rosa.
    You received your Premium Membership at a discounted rate, when paying for Premium membership, one of the benefits is getting a better rate than if you were to pay for the monthly rate.
    Although our standard policy is that refunds are not issued unless under extenuating circumstances we are certainly willing to make exceptions. When we do make exceptions it is done so by pro-rating based on the monthly rate.
    When you choose to cancel before the year is up you are billed accordingly based on the time you have received and are billed as though you had paid monthly since when cancel a yearly membership you do not continue to receive the bulk discount you received for paying for a year upfront.

    I do apologize for any confusion and do appreciate you reaching out.


    Laura Mastrandrea
    Finance Manager
    Voices.com
    laura@voices.com

  10. Frank Eriksen

    I got suckered into this scam about 20 years ago. I dropped them after one year – numerous auditions and zero jobs booked. This is a opportunity for suckers.

    Don’t be one of them.

    As Paul said, don’t drop 5 grand to learn this lesson. Send me $2599 and I’ll do as much as they will. Actually I’d do a lot more.

    Stay clear. You’ve been warned.

    [Reply]

  11. Pingback: Voices.com: Unethical and Greedy? | Nethervoice

  12. Linda

    Thanks for all of this input. I’m one of those newbies you’re talking about and I’m not renewing my Voices subscription come October. It was fruitless, but it did serve the purpose Deb was talking about: a learning tool.

    I’m about to book my first two jobs and neither came from Voices. One of them is from a good old-fashioned contact I made by talking to a person and having the “fake it til I make it” attitude. I’m noticing that few if any of the discussions I’m finding on this topic are being defended by P2P proponents. Is that because there is no defense?

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Hi Linda, congrats on booking your first two jobs! Doing great work usually leads to getting more work.

    I can’t speak for the fans and owners of Pay-to-Plays, but some may believe that if you ignore something, it will go away. We’ve had many discussions about online voice casting services in the past, and the situation hasn’t gotten any better as a result. So, perhaps people are thinking that this wave of disenchantment will disappear magically.

    Time will tell.

    [Reply]

  13. Johnny George

    Great timing Paul.. You know I loved your article. The timing was great. 8/31 was my last official day after 11 years with them. And what a surprise to see my VISA billed for another year yesterday. $#@?!!
    That was all straightenned out today and actually very nicely done. So I’m back in the positive column.

    Thanks for your insight. I made sure I told them WHY I was leaving too.

    [Reply]

  14. Rob Sciglimpaglia

    I am so saddened to hear that voice talent pay $2500 or $5000 for a mere CHANCE to get a job via auditioning. No one that I know in the business who is a success says they enjoy utilizing their time and resources to audition; rather they say it is a necessary evil. So why PAY for that evil? It is akin to buying more lotto tickets in the hopes that you will win the big bucks. The odds are still the same regardless of how many tickets you buy. In fact, I am of the view that the P2Ps now ARE the VO artists lotto. Only the lucky few will win at it.

    If talent have an extra $2500 or $5000 lying around, why not produce their own project? That is a lot of money that can be put toward a project that can give the talent much better odds of making the money back, and further their careers. That empowers talent by putting their fate in their own hands.

    I know for a fact that the only one who truly cares about my career advancement is me. So why not invest in myself, rather than lining someone else’s pockets? In fact, why not get OTHERS to believe in me and my projects so that THEY invest in me too? Or maybe collaborate with other and invest in a producing something together. That sounds much better to me than playing any lottery.

    [Reply]

  15. Deb Munro

    Hey Paul and the rest of the gang. Couldn’t help but chime in as I know each of the creators of Voices.com and V123 and I’m one of those coaches that Frank Mentioned (sort of) who recommends starting on at least one p2p site. The reason I do however, is not to BOOK JOBS….the education in P2P is great for newbies. Learning what types of scripts are out there, types of companies that hire, getting yourself searchable in google/rankings, wrting bios, cover letters etc. These are all valid reasons to START on a p2p, but the BEST AND ONLY way to make a living is self marketing and aggressive marketing as mentioned. That is TRUE.

    I will share something with you though, that I think will add to what has been said. First off V123 was started as a result of a Voice talent who wanted to have a site to audition on, and her husband was a tech genius who made it happen, but his experience is tech, so hence why the site is based all on stats etc. THey had the right idea because we were all asking to hear how we were doing, therefore we got ranking scores, but now those scores affect your growth, so don’t think that’s working so well either. But they did start with experience in the industry a bit. Voices was created by marketing experts, with no VO background – true. I know them well, and because of a most unfortunate situation at their CANADIAN event a few years ago, my relationship with David and Stephanie was severed. They are wonderful people, that is true. I know them well, they have worked hard to care about each of us, but in the end this is a business to them and I know how wealthy they are as a result. Thats great for them. Smart on their behalf. They found an opportunity and they have made a substantial living off of that at this point. No one should fault them for this, however I hope their CARING nature will start paying attention to their bread and butter. P2P’s are in trouble and they need to take heed to those who affect their business.

    I was a Platinum member so I can speak through experience. I recieved more private auditions as a result and made my initial investment back, but not much more than that either. I am floored that they are offering another tier. This will be the demise of the site in my opinion, once more exposed.

    Again, I would strongly encourage NO ONE to be on the site to make money, but for the initial education of it, then remove yourself and stay on as a free member for the sites that allow it. Many have booked big contracts just because they were on as a free member.

    It is scary where the industry is turning. Budgets are changing at a rapid rate so now instead of large opportunities making your income, you are getting a little bit here and a little bit there. I worry for new talent. In fact I’m considering leaving coaching as I don’t have the heart to encourage others that they can make a great living off of an industry that is highly saturated, unless you are young or bi-lingual etc. People are starting new careers and assuming this is a get rich quick job and easy, but that is FAR from the truth.

    Talent are tired of bruised egos. Countless auditions with no return. Solution: Take control of your business and quit waiting for agents and p2p to do it for you. They were never supposed to do it all for you. ITS YOUR BUSINESS and if you don’t stay on top of it FOREVER, you won’t succeed. So if you’re not very driven – WRONG INDUSTRY to enter in my opinion.

    I’ve seen all the changes. Like Paul I’ve been in the industry for a very long time. I still love what I do, but if I don’t stay up on it, it declines at a fast rate. It’s like exercise….takes forever to get in shape, but it only takes two weeks to lose a year worth of work.

    I appreciate the concept of p2p. They helped launch my online career in a HUGE way, so I am forever loyal for that reward, but now the sites that pay $60 a spot and you don’t audition, are taking the lead. This is the new generation of talent, making alot of us pros sick to our stomach, but for many allowing them to keep paying the bills!

    Tough industry for the newbie right now. I worry for them and only want to set them up to succeed. So I am brutally honest with them about what to expect and that scares many away….which to me is probably a good thing. Advertisers are cutting back, almost all industries are cutting back and changing and as I’ve read on here, the sites are increasing in investment, while the return is going down. SOMETHING WRONG WITH THAT EQUATION, but so is our cable bill. 10% increase each year, but yet most people don’t get a 10% increase each year, so it’s not fair. Becoming a very greedy society and everyone is fighting to survive.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents for whatever it might be worth. Thank you Paul for sharing your honesty with everyone, something I respect you for very much and also something I take great pride in!

    Just keep voicing everyone. Love what you do, and don’t stop selling YOU!

    All my best
    Deb Munro (aka VO Chef Deb)

    [Reply]

    Wil Reply:

    Thanks for your insight, Deb!

    [Reply]

    Jay Kow Reply:

    Hi Deb! Thanks for the informative and truthful response! I’ve been dabbling in VO for a couple of years now, but starting to get more serious about it. I’ve been with V123 the whole time and did learn quite a bit from it and have made enough there to cover my investment in P2P, classes, and equipment. However, I’m surely not swimming in the dough yet. I literally just signed up for voices.com in August before reading all this bad press about them. I’m pretty much regretting signing up now, but I should try and make the most of it and audition for a few things. I’ll just stick with V123 going forward since they don’t seem as screwy. I’m now just learning how critical self marketing is and I’m really gonna focus on that part of the business. Thanks again for your comments!!

    [Reply]

  16. Bernard

    Great article Paul! Thanks. Frank, I think especially the USB mic/closet VOs are P2P sites’ clientele. They would not want to change that. Currently I am a premium member. I thought I’d try it for a year (again). Had next to no success. Time to get out. Bernard.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Would you be willing to spend $2500 or $5000 for an upgrade?

    [Reply]

  17. Matt

    If I could be honest, this article really got me scared… Don’t worry, I’m not scared of you or your article, what you wrote is nothing short of fantastic! It’s just now I feel scared for myself and if I ended up on a wrong path.

    I decided to start my career in voice acting by joining Voices.com with a discount for the premium just a few months ago. I guess I was very lucky enough to get a couple of small jobs through there, but this and all the comments have opened my eyes that it is true that I auditioned literally HUNDEREDS of times to get those 2 little gigs. Even worse, I do see some auditions that just end up closed, even a few that is still on ‘working’ after months (must be even worse for the person who got that gig).

    Also, this seems to be a clearer sign that Voices is really going downhill to give priority to those who are willing to pay more than talent. I’ve already given you the annual fee, do you also have to take 10% of my pay? Might as well go and get an agent so that I won’t pay a yearly fee AND do less audition for bigger paying jobs

    Now I feel like I’m in a bit of a panic and a bit bummed because I feel like almost everything I know about the business is just a lie. I guess I have the basic ideas like The technical and talent side, but now the business side is upside down. Any knowledge on auditions like getting them, how many do I do until I get a gig, the process and all that stuff are just from the messed up process of Voices.

    I’m sure you’ve gotten this a lot Paul, but all I’m wondering now is just, if I do decide to leave Voices, what should I do to start? Should I go get an agent and go union? Do I have to look for auditions myself? I don’t know, I feel like I lost the knowledge of the business side. I know this is what I want to do, but I don’t want to lose my determination to succeed because of I feel like I’ve been lied to.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Let me assure you Matt: most of the jobs you audition for you’ll never get, and you’ll never know why. It doesn’t matter whether these jobs come from voice casting sites, or from agents.

    I do understand your fear, though. It’s the fear every entrepreneur feels. When you take off on your own, you take a huge risk, and for taking that risk you deserve to be well compensated.

    Lots of freelancers are in the same boat: freelance writers, photographers, graphic designers… All face an uncertain future. Some call that “freedom.” Others call it “never-ending stress.” Not everybody is cut out for it.

    Just remember that many freelance professions don’t have Pay-to-Play sites that send job offers your way. Most solopreneurs have to create their own opportunities, and they find their clients in many different ways. And even for voice-overs it is bad business to solely rely on one source of job leads. Never put your eggs in one basket!

    Allow me to end with a bit of self-promotion. It sounds to me that you’re interested in learning about the business of running a VO-business. For that purpose I have written a book with the ironic title Making Money In Your PJs, Freelancing for Voice-Overs and other Solopreneurs. Click on the title to go to a website where you can read a few sample chapters at no charge.

    One of your colleagues just wrote me the following note:

    “I’m about halfway through your book, and I had to shoot you a message to tell you it’s fantastic! I’m recommending it to everyone I know, and it’s now the first book I insist people read when they tell me they want to get into voiceover. Thanks for writing it–everyone wants to talk about technique, no one really wants to talk about the realities of being a freelancer!”

    Once you’ve read the book, let’s talk again!

    [Reply]

  18. Mike Shepherd

    Paul, thanks much. Spot on. We need to keep driving home “the big picture” which reinforces the value and function of a guild or union’s role, and the inherent benefits it ideally provides. One point that’s often taken for granted; bear in mind that when you’re offering your talent inclusive of studio time and ISDN, you are essentially already discounting yourself significantly.

    One of the most damaging component of the P2P phenomenon is the whole “footrace” mentality it has generated in taking the orderliness out of an otherwise sane agent-driven audition process.

    When I see adamant defenders of a “right-to-work” state, many of whom are struggling paycheck to paycheck it’s mind-boggling. Were they to step away from the rhetoric of the corporate mouthpieces who propagandize about this concept they’d recognize that what they’re “fighting” for is actually ‘the right to work For Less.’ (And that of course only works against anyone other than those who will profit from paying lower wages). But that can be a heady concept for some to readily comprehend.

    “We now return to “The Wild West,”already in progress.”

    [Reply]

    Steven Reply:

    I don’t know Mike. As much as I have been pro-union over the years the heady concept Unions have not readily comprehended is why the Internet changed the game, not casting sites. On more than 3 occasions highly knowledgeable people, owners of sites included, have tried to offer assistance, sometimes lots of it for free. It was met with silence, dismissal and/or stonewalling.

    Point: Smart people have tried to help adapt unions to online life. No one in their right mind has time, money, or energy to keep dragging the old horse to water, only to feel like a fool for trying.

    The Wild West is not good, but neither is refusing to believe things can be like they used to be. Believing in… “if we just stick together everything will work out” does not work in today’s economy. The union mindset has to dare to adapt to something, or look like a localized force only found in major US cities.

    Even still…lots of starving artists in those cities and the first place they look for work? On the Internet. Why? Because it is easier, faster, and welcoming.

    Casting sites just hopped on an opportunity 11 years ago. Any artist seeing dollar signs of a large portion often does the same thing.

    [Reply]

  19. Darwin Strong

    I am like a lot of other Voice talents continuously looking for gigs. I have tried both voice123 and voices.com and to be honest with you I never landed a single gig. I think that it is just a numbers game the more you audition the better chance you have to landing a $25 to $100 gig. The time it takes to audition for all these online services and waiting, the money you would make does not add up to the time you spent trying to make it. I finally went back to the old fashioned way of looking for voice gigs and it has worked. I did a killer demo which I update at least twice a year. I can pick and chose the gigs I want to go for because they pay a lot more than what you can get using an online service. In some cases you audition in person with the potential client or agent. The pay is a whole lot better 500 and up for a VO gig. I thought it would be harder and more time consuming it actually is not. When you add up the money made (500 and up) to the time spent, it makes a little better sense.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Darwin, you’re actually saying what I’ve been telling my readers for many years. But your approach requires a great deal of effort, and most people prefer to be spoon-fed. It’s this “Business-in-a-box” idea that makes sites like Voices popular. In my chapter “Why Pay to Plays Will Implode,” I wrote:

    “Online casting services have grown exponentially in the past five years. Fast growing companies often fall victim to their own success. Quality and customer service are compromised and sacrificed in favor of rapid expansion as they’re chasing after the big bucks.

    It is no secret that more and more (pseudo) voice actors are joining Pay-to-Plays. That means that more dogs are fighting over the same bare bones. The chances of landing a decent job at a decent rate decline rapidly.

    Here’s my prediction. At some point in the near future, there is no point in joining such a service anymore. It’s not worth it.”

    [Reply]

    Lynn Foley Reply:

    Hi Paul, Thanks so much on your enlightening us on now the latest money grab from Voices.com. I work full time in Healthcare and have been growing my VO business for about 3 years. Originally I signed with Voices.com as just a regular/premium member and I got jobs and most importantly gained my clients from them. Then about a year ago as more and more of the VO jobs where then taken over for “screening” by Voices.com “account representative,” I noticed that the jobs I was booking were less and less.

    Often I would submit an audition for a job that went through a Voices.com account rep first and it was never even listened to. This really frosted my cookies, I mean, I’m paying them to not listen to my auditions? And how do I know if my auditions get to the clients at all?? So, I did a little survey of the account reps feedback pages, and I discovered that the same people over and over again were giving feedback to the account reps, which means the accounts reps are picking and choosing there favorite talents, not the best performances to send to the clients. Not only that, I know of one VO person with a regular membership that got a private invite from a client for a $750 job, but before she got her audition in, Voices.com took over the job and posted the job in a general invite at $500. And they charge an extra fee to the client for this service.

    So, let’s add this up: Voices.com charges the VO talent for membership, they charge the client for screening the auditions, and they also pocket the difference of the job between moving it from private invite to a general invite. I wonder if the clients are onto the fact that they are skimming off the top like that.

    I have dropped Voices.com, and moved over to Voice 123 where at least I know my auditions are going directly to clients and not some High School Senior who is screening my auditions at Voices.com. It will be interesting to see how this washes out. With these account reps a Voices.com playing the role of agent between VO talent and the Clients, I won’t be surprised if they don’t get hit with a lawsuit eventually!

    I use P2P as just one of the arrows in my marketing quiver. It does serve a purpose for me as I have gained some good clients over the years. But it is definitely not the be all and end all. I use it in conjunction with my agents and my own marketing. Thanks again for taking the time to open people’s eyes

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Thank you so much for opening our eyes a little bit further, Lynn. You’re not the first colleague who has told me that Voices is double, or triple dipping. And let’s not forget the 10% escrow fee they pocket through their SurePay system! It’s a clever system of skimming at all levels. If I were a paying member, I would so feel taken advantage of!

    In this blog I’m not in the habit of telling people what to do. That’s their decision. But thanks to information from people like you, we get a better picture of what’s really going on behind the scenes. This particular thread is about Voices.com, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the same tactics are used at other Pay-to-Plays.

    Eventually, the truth will come out!

    Gray Gleason Reply:

    My experience with Voices, in a way, mirrors Lynn – being that I do not live in the Continental USA – and have a VERY limited local market Voices, and V123 were a ‘godsend’… and frankly, I would not have been able to succeed in the biz as much as I have – and gain the clients I have gotten without them – more on that, in a minute.

    My experience with V123 going back about 3 or 4 years, when I tried to contact them to work something out, was that – at the time – they had NO interest in their talent or their concerns – they were curt on the phone to the point of almost being rude… HOWEVER – this has changed over the last year or two – – and they now seem to have done o complete 180 in that department – –

    Voices.com, on the other hand, seems to have gone the other way – – I was auditioning like crazy – and getting NOTHING – and their staff didn’t seem to know what their policies were on – well – just about anything…

    Finally, I quit Voices – mainly because I was getting MORE auditions – – AND LANDING more jobs than with Voices.

    I HAVE NO COMPLAINTS ABOUT V123 – which is why I am quite disappointed in the way this discussion seems to be going – what with predictions of the END OF PAY TO PLAY….

    V123 sends me as many as 150 auditions per week – so many that I need only audition for those that intrigue me, or that pay very well… and I land enough of them to grow my VO biz…

    Without V123 I would have NO entre into the world of voice-over – only the occasional local project – so while I may agree that Voices has really allowed greed and callousness take over their business – — I believe that V123 is doing it right….

    I must admit, though, it still bothers me when I see “We’re looking for a James Earl Jones soundalike…” and the job pays 100 bucks – anyone who can sound like JEJ should be paid according to his talent – as should we all…

    Anyway – end of rant – I hope SOME of you will take it easy on the P2P industry – and just single out the “baddies”. Paul, you have done the P2P industry – AND OUR INDUSTRY a great favor with this revelation about Voices – but let us not paint the entire industry with the same wide brush!

    Aloha
    Gray Gleason – voice guy – http://www.graysvoice.com

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Thanks for your insights, Gray. I just want to point out that my articles dealt with voices dot com, and voices dot com only. Some of my criticism in terms of lack of quality control, and low rates apply to other P2P’s as well. However, voice casting sites are not created equal.

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Gray says: Please understand that I was not “disappointed” in your article at all – and understand completely that YOU were talking about Voices.com and only Voices.com…

    Rather it was so many other comments that I was reading that began painting all P2P’s with the same brush, and predicting the demise of the whole industry… not you…

    Steven Reply:

    Hey,
    I can respond to Gray just to apologize for I know what he is talking about and what happened. His situation was unforgettable to me given the unusual circumstances. I was also envious writing him! He lives in Hawaii and he is a voice actor! And…*ahem* he probably dealt with me.

    But I offer this as an objective line of thinking:

    Be careful of thinking along the lines, “The grass is green on my lawn, so I don’t see the problem”. You see, when something does not seem right with a company the problem always starts with decision-making from the top and trickles down through the website to the front-lines people, who have been hired to either handle it well (or not).

    However, all companies go through changes and this blog may be a sign times are changing again. I started at one company when they were going through a rough PR period in 2007, while the topic of this blog was the darling of the industry. Now, things have flip-flopped. Did one company get better and the other suddenly get worse? No. They were ALWAYS different, even though talent group them under P2P.

    Do these companies pay attention to feedback?
    Yes. But they stopped replying to public feedback because they simply cannot say enough to make things better and the answer will surely be “No”. Social media and forums are dangerous mine-fields for companies with unpopular policies.

    They also pay attention to the feedback the public does not see, and closely enough that they remember people just like I remembered Gray Gleason for his unusual circumstance.

    For example, Gray talks about his feelings for one company, but describes a business that had a 97% satisfaction rating at the time, but…he was unhappy with it. So what does 97% mean if only 3 out of 10 people leave feedback, while public feedback represents less than 10% of the people who use the websites; most of them with no success? It means companies have to trust internal feedback. Trust me. I am sure talents with success records have written these companies privately to offer support.

    This all means there is always another unseen story going on. Your talking about this issue in public does help. Yet there is no humanly possible way to make everyone happy all of the time.

    What talent can use as measurement sticks:

    “Do I see their policies as healthy for career longevity within an industry?”

    “Do I see their policies healthy for my own quality of life?”

    “If not, why am I using the website?”

    I say this because online services and apps do not make financial sense to people in localized regions. Sadly, websites have fallen in love with a business model-template of:

    Ask freelancers to accept less pay (in the spirit of disrupting unfair businesses)…

    So, the website can grow and flourish….

    Meanwhile the website offers no accountability to freelancers…

    Even though they are the reason the website flourished.

    If you check your history books, because history is redundant, “high growth and low accountability” often comes with “tech innovation”, until people realize the common worker is getting tired, broke, and hungry.

    Then, things like unions, class-action suits, and other types of legal nightmares pop-up.

    Ultimately, things will play out as they were meant to play out, if people are truly making healthy career choices for themselves.

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Gray says:

    Really, our conversations were only a small part of the overall lack of any ‘service attitude’ that V123 had at the time. They just made it clear that they did not want to talk to, or deal with talent – at all…

    Things there, as you may know, for some (good) reason, have turned completely around, and you can chat with someone as soon as you log in – they’re sending out more audition notices than ever – and as many as half of them are for a decent amount of money… so, for me, that’s great…

    Aloha
    Gray Gleason – voice guy –

    Steven Reply:

    The way you feel all makes sense in so many ways and explains lots.

    Glad things have turned around for you. You did stay dedicated.

    Best to you

  20. Bryan

    Thanks Paul…. “Ouch” said the Nail, as it was being hit on the head!

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Ah… the ultimate human motivators: Pain and Pleasure!

    [Reply]

  21. dynomite reid

    WOW

    I am one of those people who is told, on a daily basis, that my voice is the sexiest thing they’ve ever heard. On the phone, I could get 10 times the dates I get in person. I can sing like Barry White, and talk like Britney Spears. Tons of voice personalities I’ve been doing for years. With a mic in front if a large crowd, i feel at home. Reading Dr Suess weekly to kindergarten classes I don’t ever have interruption from the kids, and most of the teachers come to listen.

    So, I signed up for Voices.com It’s been a year,not one job. I have decent equipment, and plenty of experience behind a mic. But not one voice job yet. The only thing I was offered was a job in male phone sex – NO THANKS, as it’s not ladies I’d be talking to.

    I’ve called then for encouragement, advice, hope and jobs, they often don’t call back. I can take responsibility for not working, as I relied upon their services. But now I’ve spent all my money and am desperate to just land ONE STINKING JOB

    I use my middle name, which is Dynomite, in hopes of getting attention.

    In summary. . . H E L P ?!

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    As I said to my student:

    “You might not be the problem. It’s the system that is rigged against you. On purpose.”

    As long as money is the arbiter of talent, money wins… auditions.

    Never ever make your career dependent on voice casting sites. Every freelancer should have multiple pipelines that produce opportunities and job offers.

    [Reply]

  22. Jay Preston

    This is such BS. I’m just going to nail auditions and quote $5,000 until my subscription runs out. I think we all should do the same.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Never underestimate the power of a hopeful but passive silent majority. That’s what these sites thrive on. As long as there are susceptible souls who are buying into a pipe dream, premium memberships will be sold, day after day after day.

    [Reply]

  23. Jeannie Stith

    Another excellent blog post! I was a member of a pay to play for exactly 1 year, could see that it was in no way worth it. I am a voice talent with a 6 figure income and I couldn’t seem to book a job to save my life on Voices123.

    So I continue to do what I’ve always done. I treat each great client I get like gold, work with high quality equipment, always deliver early or on time, and continue to love my job and my lifestyle.

    Newbies – get some training, get a great home setup (it isn’t that expensive) and make local connections! Get to know sound engineers, producers, and small business owners in your area.

    That’s how you get started!
    Jeannie

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Jeannie, if there is a single success formula in voice-overs, you’ve just coined it! You also pointed out what’s wrong with the P2P system. If a 6-figure talent can’t book a job on one of those sites, it’s clearly not the talent’s fault, but a result of how these sites are set up. This includes the way fees are determined.

    [Reply]

    Scott Gentle Reply:

    Similarly, I too consistently made lots more on one of their biggest competitor’s sites (not to brag, but to illustrate: multiple 4 figure gigs, with much higher quality clients), yet often was passed over, or never had my audition listened to on Voices for similar jobs at the same and lower price points.

    Still, reps from their “Professional” Services Department seemed to delight in inviting me to gigs in the $100-$250 range…well below the minimum price I set in my contact preferences, and always considerably less than what the jobs were actually worth.

    Nearly every time they did this, I e-mailed the rep back (CC-ed to David and Stephanie Ciccarelli) and told them in no uncertain terms that the rates they offered for such jobs/clients were ludicrous – and doubly insulting since not only did they ignore my bottom rate, it was below their own sub-standard rate card – and explicitly told them to not contact me again unless they brought something much more in line with reality.

    Last year, a particularly persistent rep not only e-mailed me multiple times about another $100-$250 bottomfeeder private PSD invite I’d gritted my teeth about and quietly ignored – but also left phone messages AND tried to connect to me on LinkedIn.

    Turns out, as I learned on a rare followup call with one of their code geeks, there was no connection between your stated minimum preferences and the PSD.

    No “don’t contact unless price >=$XXX” alert message on your profile to tell them you weren’t interested, nothing.

    If you matched the criteria for a job, or if the client wanted you, they’d just reach out to you willy-nilly, regardless of your pricing preferences.

    Apparently, they’d NEVER EVEN THOUGHT OF SOMETHING LIKE THIS…so the coder put this “new feature” on his to-do list.

    Apparently, he hasn’t gotten to it yet.

    I just got notified about another $100-$250 gig a few weeks ago…which is quite interesting, since I let my subscription lapse in June. And how that unfolded is a debacle for a whole other posting…

    (BTE, after years of being an increasingly very dissatisfied member, none of this really came as a surprise. See, I used to work for a software company, and found bugs all through their site, which I nearly always CCed directly to David and Stephanie when reporting – only to find them again a year or more later.

    Yup, a well-run, smartly-programmed racket they’ve got going there, which respects and cares about the talent, for sure…)

    [Reply]

  24. Bruce Kronenberg

    Without PTP sites like Voices.com – where does a newcomer to voiceovers with a new demo start looking for work? Agents have huge rosters and aren’t necessarily looking to fill them anytime soon with new talent. If a newcomer was to reject the idea of joining a PTP site – how would they get started? I know this is a little off the subject but I was just interested in hearing your thoughts about it.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Hi Bruce, that’s a great topic that I’ve addressed in other blog posts, as well as in my book.

    When I came to the States at the end of 1999, I had no connections, no studio, no agents, and no website. Pay to Plays didn’t even exist. And yet I managed to build a career as so many other voice-over colleagues have done.

    The trouble with P2P’s is that they can make a talent dependent and reactive. Successful freelancers are independent and proactive. They do the legwork for a number of years. They get training. They learn how to run a for-profit business. They invest in quality equipment.

    Many newcomers are not prepared to do that. They’d rather have everything presented to them on a silver platter. What could be easier than to pay a website $399, and receive auditions in your inbox every day? But that’s working on someone else’s turf and terms.

    What many people overlook, is the fact that they have to have a quality product, before they put themselves on the market. In our field that means having an authentic voice that can be played like a professional plays an instrument. Once a certain level of mastery has been achieved, we can start talking about sales and marketing.

    [Reply]

    Dana Detrick-Clark from Serious Vanity Reply:

    Connect with video producers, e-learning companies, etc. Wherever your sweet spot is, put yourself in contact with that niche. Take out the middle man.

    If you want an agent, call your local SAG/AFTRA branch if you’re unfamiliar with the agents in your area, and they can probably give you some direction on who to focus on and how to get in touch. That’s what I did. I’ve never heard of an agent not being open to hearing new talent to potentially sign – they want to make money, and if there is talent out there that can deliver, at least with the experience I had, they’ll hear you. And with my former agent, they didn’t just sign local talent, but many familiar faces from across the country were also on their roster. Working remotely opens you to many different territories.

    Don’t give up!

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Great suggestions, Dana! The bottom line is: pros are proactive. They don’t sit around and wait till the email invites come in.

    Secondly, pros don’t see auditions as a way to hone their skills. That’s the excuse I always hear when people don’t land a job on a P2P: “It was still was good practice!”

    Here’s the bottom line: You practice to audition. You don’t audition to practice. Period.

    [Reply]

  25. Dana Detrick-Clark from Serious Vanity

    Several years ago I received some phone solicitation for the Platinum plan. I was still using Voices.com as my predominant P2P and doing fairly well there on the Premium plan (not enough from that channel alone to earn a living, but booking regularly). I listened to the pitch, and honestly, I was curious as to what I was missing out on!

    The only thing I asked to seal the deal was the names of 2 or 3 Platinum members who would be willing to speak to me about how joining the higher tier benefited them. The salesman told me he’d ‘get back to me’ about that, and I followed up several times to see if anyone had popped up yet.

    He continued to contact me as well, I believe with some pricing discounts? I honestly can’t remember, but I know I was still in the funnel. He eventually told me via either phone or email that no, no one was willing to speak to me.

    That made my decision. Because if something is awesome, I want to tell everybody. If they’re going to have 100 signups no matter what, which it was back then, too, it wouldn’t have created competition for anyone to fear, because you already know the deal.

    I ended my P2P run earlier this year. I’m very glad for the clientele I met, but it’s been 80/20 rule consistent that most who hire cheap, want to stay cheap forever, and when there’s no relationship-building in the beginning, there’s no loyalty in the end.

    But the damage these sites have done (and I throw other freelance portals in other industries in, too) is create a mindset that newbies are buying a “Business in a Box” – i.e. all of their marketing is done for them with one signup and they have no where else they’ll ever need to seek leads. No matter how much we all have preached over the years that “P2P is just one piece of the pie!”, the bulk of them will never do anything else, and claim failure when there’s no ROI.

    They don’t understand that client budgets aren’t what they’re seeing, so even when they make the rare step outside of P2P, they’re taking those rate assumptions with them. Having to educate a client recently whose also worked as a VO talent, who wanted to argue back about “this is just the way it is” when their experience is only with these sites gave me a huge wake-up call as to how far reaching the wrong information has gone.

    I thank you again for your continued advocacy, Paul, and everyone else who keeps this industry worth caring about. Maybe it will take this level of multi-level marketing madness to hit the ‘reset’ button on what is a wonderful and valuable line of creative work.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I’m the one who has to thank you for sharing your experience and so much more, Dana. You make an excellent point about asking for testimonials from people you trust. After all, word of mouth is our bread and butter! People like being part of a success story. They want to talk about it. So, if no one was interested in sharing their experiences, what other conclusion could you have come to, other than the one you described?

    At the moment I am penning this comment, this story has been read over 1500 times. Isn’t it telling that none of the commentators has disputed my conclusions? Usually a few Voices-fans will chime in, and tell me I am bitter and biased. But not this time. Are people finally starting to see the impact the P2P-model is having on our business?

    I have to admit that I’m not very optimistic that things will change for the better soon. The whole concept of getting a “Business in a Box” as you so eloquently put it, appeals to beginners, and to those who are too lazy to do the legwork. And as you know, there are so many hopefuls who will gladly pay $399 for a chance to become a star.

    [Reply]

  26. Jason Lechak

    Man, I couldn’t get through all the comments though I am glad everyone is pitching in! I never have been on a P2P site, and I never will.

    Let’s see… what could I do with $2500.00 for my VO business:
    demo reel
    training
    marketing materials
    gas and refreshment money for face to face networking events, coffee meetings
    Investing the Right way in my voice over business

    Anyway.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I’m with you, Jason. I’m so glad so many people responded. Of course it is obvious that the company we would like to hear from, is keeping quiet. My guess is that they’ll ride out the storm, and continue doing what they’re doing. Tomorrow is another day with another headline.

    [Reply]

  27. James Anthony

    Chief Marketing Officer Stephanie Ciccarelli

    Stephanie seems like a good person and a Christian. Maybe we can reach out to her and get her side of it.

    “Hi James,

    I am very touched by your comment on my page. Thank God for you! You don’t know how much this means to me. Thank you. Life isn’t easy when you try to live for Christ, is it? Thank you for joining me on this road.

    God bless you,

    Stephanie”

    My experience shows that you can email people all day long and lots of times not get a response, but if you’re a friend on Facebook (I AM) they will usually respond. So, do you think I should send her a link to this page today?

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    This is what I wrote in my book “Making Money In Your PJs, Freelancing for Voice-Overs and other Solopreneurs: You can find it at the end of a chapter called Leaving Voices.com:

    “Some fans of Voices.com will no doubt tell me not to be so hard on the site. The founders David and Stephanie Ciccarelli are risk-taking, hard-working, church-going, sweet, and successful people. They have created thousands of opportunities and they provide a wealth of free resources to anyone interested in a VO-career.

    Voices.com is not the only Pay-to-Play out there and it’s not fair to make one company suffer for the sins of many. Nobody is forced to join their service and people are free to bid as low as they seem fit. (…)

    I don’t know David and Stephanie personally. We’ve communicated on Facebook and we’re connected on LinkedIn. But my observations have nothing to do with who they are as individuals. They’re an example of good people doing a great job working in a flawed system of their own making. A system that does not benefit my career or my community.”

    [Reply]

    fred Reply:

    er..what does being a Christian have to do with anything? Plenty of christians are horrible people and plenty of non christians are lovely.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I guess some people hold Christians to a higher standard, but I agree with you. Let’s leave religion out of the discussion.

    [Reply]

  28. Ed (Ed-VO) Waldorph

    let’s not forget the other elephant in the room: Voice123. They have recently changed their criteria (again) and not for the better. They also have Super Duper member plans (also, oddly enough, costing $5,000.)

    They play the game differently. They actually penalize their bread and butter regular members and give more than a ranking advantage to their Super Duper members.

    They are officially on record that their regular members are not expected to earn a living from their site (but they do everything they can to keep you from establishing relationships independently with clients.)

    Even though you are paying them for the privilege of auditioning and then paying them to pay you and finally paying them a hefty fee off any job you get, unless you pay them $5,000 up front they will limit you to three, yes three, auditions per day.

    Submit more than three and they will start turning off the flow of jobs you see until finally they cut you off entirely. That’s right, even though you are paying them 37 cents for each of those three submissions per day (more if you pay monthly) you won’t get a chance to submit at all.

    Now the Super Duper members? They not only get to audition as much as they want, and they see all of the auditions, they see them first.

    Ever wonder why when you hop on that audition that just seconds ago popped up in your queue and there’s already a dozen or so submissions? That’s because the SuperDuper members have already gotten the audition and only after a certain (undisclosed magic) number of them have submitted is the audition passed on to the hoi polloi; first to those who haven’t exceeded their daily allowance and then to the rest.

    The system is not based on talent, nor making a living, nor even being a professional. It’s based on money; how much you are willing to spend and how little you really need to make any.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    And as long as people are willing to put up with the odds being stacked against them on purpose, nothing will change.

    [Reply]

    Steven Reply:

    I wanted to reply to this comment: You know I spent 5 years trying to teach people how to use the elephant website mentioned. I am one of a few who actually spent the time to read the tech manual and work to improve it. Fact is, only about 1200 out of 4000 of the paid members took advantage of the education I offered or offered constructive feedback. I eventually got tired of saying the same thing day in and day out.

    Most talent hate to find out their system is an automated algorithm built around many things talent said they wanted on a forum from 2005-2010. I proved many times how talent stack the odds against themselves on that website. That “penalty” mentioned I believe was removed in 2012. Personally, I still think the algorithm is a great idea that never experienced its full potential. It is a balancing act determining when people get invited and what for, based on how talent taught the algorithm what to send them. But all algorithms reach a breaking point where the behavior becomes unfair to some, some will never work, and some will monopolize the system.

    Best video to explain for this is TED’s talk “The Dirty Secret Behind Algorithms”.

    Anyway, the talent who figured out how to use it (and heard me out) were getting paid well and grew their clients (some have commented here). They did so well in fact…the website changed in 2012 to offer something more affordable for clients. In 2013, when this happened, I saw another five years of explaining the business aka. talking to a wall everyday, and I moved on.

    Many of the talents I helped have since done the same. Good for them. I still believe the algorithm was a great idea, but like people, needs to change every so often, and people hate change. But oh well.

    ps- I was raised Catholic. LOL! But generally I do things because I am a guy who likes to help people succeed and avoid being treated like garbage. My motivation is based on honesty, character, integrity, and business ideals. I take issue with people mixing religion and business.

    [Reply]

  29. Donna

    Sooo, let’s keep re-posting this so that it doesn’t get forgotten as I am quite certain that many of the auditions do not get to the client. As an aside, I’ve been told that there is a great possibility that voices.com ‘agents’ may or may not receive a kick back of sorts to book work for certain members. The bio for one of the agents describes them as ‘sparkly’…that’s what I want – a ‘sparkly’ agent!

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    To be honest, I don’t know if voices-reps work on commission or not. It wouldn’t surprise me. Some people need a financial incentive to do a good job. Others do a good job because it is the right thing to do.

    I’m pretty sure some sparks are flying at the voices.com offices, today.

    [Reply]

    Christian Rosselli Reply:

    I was a member on and off of voices.com for about 2 years. I auditioned a total of 17 times and booked 1 small job through a regular client who hired me outside the site. There was a trust already in place. I have found that those high ranking members (front page and five star ratings) get preference over others who might be a better fit for the job. This is the result of inner corporate politics, a bit of nepotism and now deep pockets—and shouldn’t be the basis for hiring talent at all. I could be the right talent for the job and have a testimonial from a high ranking network/ad exec but without those 5 stars— I’m not getting hired. It’s all silly and a waste of people’s time.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    That’s a nice but sad summary of how the system seems to work, Christian. I’ve been in the same boat, and I eventually jumped overboard because it was a sinking ship.

    [Reply]

    Lauren Maree Reply:

    Christian’s comments echo exactly the reason The Voice Realm is now the premier website talent list themselves at. There is no preferential order determined by who pays the most money. Results are 100% random, giving everyone a fair opportunity to appear in front of clients. Which by the way is an ever growing list. We have lost count of the number of clients who have ‘jumped ship’ and now use The Voice Realm because of the amateur auditions they were receiving on other sites.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    As you probably have guessed, Lauren works for The Voice Realm. As a blogger, I do not recommend or endorse any voice casting websites. I encourage everyone to do research, ask around, and make a decision based on your own values, budget and needs.

    Christian Rosselli Reply:

    Classic response Lauren! You crack me up!

    Chris Mezzolesta Reply:

    Anyone considering using The Voice Realm need only look at the content of their tweets and how they respond to those who do not agree with them. This is part of the problem of all online casting sites, they exist to make money for themselves and not some altruistic wish to help voice talent. I’ve seen more mature comments from teenagers on Facebook. They spin it better than Bill O’Reilly. And when presented with facts, they deny it and tell one to do their research. Delusional. This post is about Voices, but don’t die one minute think Voice Realm is the white knight they put themselves up to be on social media. They co-opted my tweet of Paul’s article to promote themselves. Bad business.

    Lauren Maree Reply:

    Chris, I don’t know a business that doesn’t aim to make money. Do you not?
    Also in a recent survey more than 90% of our current roster of talent plan to stay with The Voice Realm for the following year. I think you’ll find by reading our blogs that many many many pro voice talent are booking regular gigs through us, and feel that we are the best site to be listed on.
    Sorry you don’t feel that way. You can’t please everyone!
    Lauren

    Christian Reply:

    If promoting your talents just to put your company on a pedestal against your competition and stop at nothing to do it at any cost (as is the case here), is your idea of helping people, so be it. It’s disingenuous at best. You’ve been successful no doubt and you’ve obviously made strides over a short period of time, but shark-like opportunism like this isn’t going to suddenly redeem you.

    Chris Mezzolesta Reply:

    Your approach to social interaction doesn’t do anything to recommend you. Your tweets are like a real life Monty Python Argument Clinic, unbelievably immature and self serving. If you were in a job interview and conducted yourself as you do on Twitter, how do you think you’d fare? It’s far from the first time you’ve gone on the attack while trying to play innocent victim. Even if VR was not double dipping and was operating totally for the talent, your online attitude negates all of it. It’s not just me, you’ve angered and insulted lots of really good talents and good people. Not the best way to do business.

  30. Andrew

    They have been like a small time crack dealer. Seduce the kids (new VO talent) with a taste of being a voice talent, and then get you addicted thinking it’s actually good. Then when you get a job or two barely breaking even, they hit you with cocaine. And offer better jobs. But it’ll cost you. I have not seen the value in voices for many years and found myself angry with all the people out there who seemed to have drink the kool aid.

    Most people act as if paying for an opportunity is good business sense. If you run a business you know what ROII means. Return on initial investment. If you make 500 dollars on a 400 dollar investment and are happy with that, you simply don’t belong in business. The practice they are in would be considered down right illegal for any legitimate agency in the U.S. But they hide behind the auspices of a website. They are millionaires through slave labor, and if anyone can’t see that then I feel badly for them.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I always tell my students: “It’s not how much you make, but how much you get to keep that matters.” Misinformed voices-members often tell me that by winning one audition, the site has already paid for itself. The question is: How much time and energy did they spend auditioning for hundreds of jobs, until they got lucky? But as you point out, if you don’t know what ROII means, you shouldn’t even be in this business. You fully deserve to be taken advantage of.

    [Reply]

  31. Bill Johjnston

    I looked at the stagewish site, but did not register. Why? I’m trying to make up my mind whether it is an email address harvester.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    It’s new to me too, and I haven’t had time to look into it. I have a special email address I use when I’m not entirely sure about a site. That way my regular email addresses stay pretty much spam-free.

    [Reply]

  32. Mike Brang

    First off, great article, Paul. I was once a strong supporter of voices.com. So much so that I argued with you on another blog. But over the past year or so, I’ve found them doing everything they can to drive a wedge between production and talent to have full and total control over the hiring process. They screen all projects and try to convert them to their professional services department. By doing this they accomplish a few things:

    1) They carve out a portion of the budget that was ear-marked for talent as their “professional services” fee.

    2) They act as the middle man and keep you completely anonymous from the client. This way, voices has control if you ever want to be hired by the client again in the future. I’ve even been told not to slate! Hmmmmmmm. Can we say suspicious?

    3) If that wasn’t bad enough, they still take the sure pay escrow fee after swimming your money off the top! What a joke!

    I called out a manager at the voices about this. I was asked, “would you ask WalMart what their mark up is?” Seriously!? They’re offering producers a premium, white glove service and making US pay for it! What a joke.

    So now, they’ll get $5k, skim a large percentage off of jobs AND take 10%. I understand it’s great for their business and I don’t fault them for wanting to grow their company. But stop acting like the talent is their #1 priority.

    I was also told by former voices.com employees that that converting jobs is their #1 priority, and if they had it their way, EVERY job would be handled by professional services.

    I miss the old voices.com. Apparently so do a lot of other two tier talent….they’re starting to jump ship. Pretty soon it will be hosting noting but Fivrr talent and VO wannabes. Any way, enough of my rant. Great article!

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Confession time: I was once a big voices.com believer! I even won the grand prize in a contest. You can read about this in The Most Embarrassing Moment of my Voice-Over Career.

    In part because of the very same tactics you are describing, I had to break free, and follow my own path. Like you, I have no problem with Voices being a for-profit business. But there are many ways to turn a profit. It seems to me that they are forgetting that without voice talent, there would be no voices.com.

    It is time they give every single member the VIP treatment they deserve.

    [Reply]

  33. Ed (Ed-VO) Waldorph

    Insightful as always, Paul. I’m having a difficult time seeing the benefits to these Uber Members.

    Voice match is supposed to benefit clients and talent by limiting auditions to those that fit your voice, style and range. Those with a higher match are presented first, in order of submission; so it still pays to submit early, but if you only match 80%, even if your audition is received first it will be listed at the bottom.

    This benefits both talent and client. What I don’t understand is how can turning off this system benefit anybody?

    Aren’t all members getting every audition that matches 100%? If not what criteria do they use to pick and choose which you see and which you don’t? If you do get all the top matches, how does anybody benefit from getting auditions that don’t match?

    As I see it the holy grail in this business is a coin; on one side the client wants to find the best voice for his project with minimum effort, on the other the talent wants the best job for his voice.

    There are two approaches to finding this coin. Boutique talent pools and agents do this by vetting every member of the talent pool and then using expertise and experience to forward the best talent. The Pay to Play sites have neither experience or expertise, so they sell on volume, price and (poor) technology.

    Considering their process was only fair to middling in the past, submitting more auditions that don’t match a clients specifications benefits no one. True, Super Duper members will get first crack at auditions and first crack at the clients ear but clients will soon tire of wading through inappropriate auditions—even if well delivered by a fine talent.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Perhaps they should rename the site “VoiceMatch.com”

    I can’t tell you how many jobs I have landed not because I matched the description, but because I didn’t. That’s why I rarely look at descriptions. The way to stand out is not to do what everybody is attempting to do. Most clients don’t want more of the same. They want to hear an original approach. That’s why I think this voice matching system is very limited and limiting. And -as we have learned today- it can be tweaked to benefit those who have money to burn.

    [Reply]

    Ed (Ed-VO) Waldorph Reply:

    I have to make one correction in my post. At Voices.com the Super and Super Duper memberships give you no advantage in submissions. Their submissions will fall in place according to VoiceMatch and time of submission.

    Their only advantage comes in seeing more jobs and in preferential placement in search results.

    I regret the error.

    [Reply]

  34. Steven

    Ten?!

    *insert double take*

    You have just described my experience at slot machines in Atlantic City….

    I pay 300, lose 10 times, then on the 11th pull…I win back 290 making me think in the moment that it’s worth it and I have won.

    That’s how it feels.

    Whats happening, however, is that the Dutch market is not abundant enough for you on these sites and it never will be because certain countries reject how the North American voiceover market has played out.

    To quote a survey response to me last year,

    “Steven, you’re a nice American, but most American voices will jump on any 75 dollar piece of VO meat. ”

    The talent who wrote that is from Italy.

    Anyway, where you see “slap in the face”, I see “struggle to reinvent and needing funds for it”.

    I have said before…talent control this online business by what they choose to invest in.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Your last line is something every voice talent should frame and hang on the studio wall. We’re not helpless leaves in the wind. Our purchasing power has the potential to move markets and those operating in those markets.

    [Reply]

  35. Michael Minetree

    Paul- you are right on top of it with this. The level of bad behavior had me bailing on these sites a while ago.

    The other thing you have to consider as a possibility is that just like dating sites having fake accounts to entice membership subscriptions, the opportunity has always been there for many of these “jobs” or “auditions” to be purely phantom work that doesn’t actually exist. Rather it is generated to “keep the buzz going” and make the sites look more active than they actually are…

    Occasionally people get some knockoff work for a “client” somewhere that’s nothing more than some money paid out to further the perpetration.

    Of course – I’m NOT saying anyone actually does it… I’m just saying the possibility is there and certainly not too far from the realm given what is common knowledge in the industry of dating sites – which is essentially what these P2P’s actually are.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I’m still wondering about the 270 jobs that remained ‘closed’ with no action taken…

    [Reply]

  36. Robert McNicol

    Hi Paul,
    First time listener and your comment of “In the world of Voices.com, money trumps talent. It’s a clear indicator of where their priorities are.” Is very true indeed. They are a London, Ontario based company that has received federal and provincial funding to hopefully create 35 full time jobs. That’s nice for them. News story from 2013 at http://blackburnnews.com/london/2013/02/19/federal-loan-could-mean-new-london-jobs/

    Helps them got jobs but not me. End of story.
    Cheers

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    As a business, their main objective should be to turn a profit. I run a business myself, and that’s my objective too. However, I don’t receive any federal or provincial funding. Everything comes out of my pocket, and I am very particular about how much I spend, and where I spend it.

    I’ve played the Pay-to-Play game for quite a few years, and as an investment it didn’t pay off for me. There are colleague who have different experiences, but people should realize that they are the exception to the rule.

    [Reply]

  37. Mike Harrison

    These pay-to-play companies are not much different (or better) than televangelists.

    FACT: Voices.com and Voice123 – at least initially – were formed/headed not by people with any experience in the voice-over industry or even any directly-related field, but by marketing (and IT) gurus who saw an opportunity (aka lots of people entering the voice-over biz) and jumped on it.

    From the 1940s and into the 60s, the tobacco industry (aided by their willing partners in advertising) were producing commercials featuring actors portraying doctors who told us that smoking cigarettes was actually good for us. And people around the world bought it.

    Beginning somewhere in the mid-to-late 80s, the pharmaceutical industry began heavily ramping up their marketing efforts and, today, there are people who allow TV commercials to diagnose their conditions. My doctor told me he has patients who leave his office annoyed if he refuses to prescribe the drug they asked for.

    And now we have people with no experience in our industry dangling carrots that are constantly being yanked out of reach just as we think we’re getting close enough to snare them.

    I did two years, one with each of these two entities, already a number of years ago at the $300 annual subscription. I wasn’t surprised it has since gone to $399. I fell off my chair when I read a new level is priced at $2500, and nearly choked at the idea of $5000.

    Y’know what? We have to stop believing everything we’re told and put our creative minds to work for ourselves. We can use the exercise and we certainly can use the extra money in our pockets.

    Let’s say buh-bye to the Jim and Tammy Faye Bakkers of voice-over for good.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Amen to that, Mike!

    Too many people still believe that the emperor is wearing clothes. When someone’s hungry enough, any carrot you dangle in front of his face will seem appealing, even if it’s a rotten one.

    [Reply]

    Billy Baker Reply:

    I have failed to land any work from voices.com in over six months, I will be dropping them today.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Congratulations, Billy. If you’ve given it some time, and there’s no return on investment, what else can one do?

    [Reply]

  38. Tom Conklin

    Hey there Paul… and everyone.

    I’m less concerned with whether or not those “upper tier” memberships are worth it… and MORE concerned with the fact that the Premium membership really isn’t “premium” at all anymore. Is it?

    I remember feeling that way when voices originally introduced the Platinum plan… which I remember getting an invite to as a premium member. If I remember correctly, the promise of being listed in the upper part of the search rankings on the site was made to would be premium members at first. So, Paul, your description of Premium members being “relegated to a third tier position” seems pretty accurate.

    It would be my preference that those platinum and ultimate (or whatever its called) plans… be non-existent, because I DO feel as the the cards are stacked against me, as you put it, Paul.

    My two cents… for whatever it’s worth. Maybe if we are lucky the voices.com people with read this post and at least pause briefly to think about it. Oh well.

    Thanks for this blog, Paul. Good stuff as always!

    ~ Tom

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    In marketing, when things are more exclusive, they become more desirable. At least, in theory. However, I have a feeling that this new level of exclusivity may backfire just a little bit. Based on the responses, I think many commentators would be quite okay with that.

    [Reply]

    James Anthony Reply:

    https://www.facebook.com/stephanieciccarelli?fref=ts

    Chief Marketing Officer Stephanie Ciccarelli

    Stephanie seems like a good person and a Christian. Maybe we can reach out to her and get her side of it.

    Hi James,

    I am very touched by your comment on my page. Thank God for you! You don’t know how much this means to me. Thank you. Life isn’t easy when you try to live for Christ, is it? Thank you for joining me on this road.

    God bless you,

    Stephanie

    My experience shows that you can email people all day long and lots of times not get a response..,but if you’re a friend on facebook (I AM)they will usually respond. So, do you think I should send her a link to this page today?

    [Reply]

  39. Lance Blair

    I never buy the hacks or advanced levels on my video games. It’s not satisfying to win that way. You have to earn it. The idea of buying one’s way into auditions is similarly unsatisfying. It’s better to take the $2500 or $5000 and improve demos and take classes. I’ve stuck with a regular membership because clients would contact me directly through it for jobs. I wouldn’t audition. Now they can’t even find me on the site search engine. The last few that did hire me complained that most of the talent on voices.com were just flat out terrible. This is the last straw.I won’t be renewing this year.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    You’re not the only one that won’t be renewing, Lance. Unfortunately, there always seems to be a new contingent of hopefuls, ready to give it a try. Within a few days, this story will be long forgotten, and it will be business as usual at Voices.

    [Reply]

  40. Joe Van Riper

    Excellent post, Paul. If we think of on line casting sites as another form of talent agency, choices become more obvious.

    Do you have to pay your agent a subscription fee each year?
    Are you limited in the number of auditions you get?
    Does the site advocate for you, personally, to get jobs?
    Is their success determined by your success?

    You get the idea… I still contend that pay-to-play sites are a blight on the industry, driving the value of our skills down while fleecing the more successful of their members. Unlike the “real” world, being good at your craft is not as important as your ability to pay for preferential treatment.

    Thanks for “keeping it real”.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    You’re very welcome, Joe. You made some valid points about working with agents.

    Agents actually screen voice-overs based on talent and authenticity, and not on the size of their pocket books. Plus, they have an incentive to work hard for you. When you get paid, they get paid!

    [Reply]

  41. Christian Rosselli

    Another terrific post Paul! Always appreciate your insights into the business of these greedy fat cats. Here’s what I might do with $5k.
    Either..
    1.) Invest in 2-3 new demos (with either Uncle Roy or Jordan Reynolds)
    2.) take a two week vacation in Italy.
    3.) pay off some credit card debt
    4.) throw some of it into a Roth IRA
    5.) give a portion to charity
    6.) invest in coaching sessions with my voiceover coach
    Or
    7.) take a luxury train trip from Toronto to Vancouver

    [Reply]

    Karen Reply:

    I dropped voice123 when renewal came ’round last year and will do the same with voices.com. #2 on your list is where my money will go next summer in celebration of a big birthday. It’ll be more soothing for my soul.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    As freelancers, most of us operate as soloists, and it is very important to feed the soul from time to time. Enjoy!

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Brilliant ways to spend 5K, Christian. ALL of them will probably be more beneficial to your VO-career, and this includes taking a vacation to recharge your batteries. Bon voyage!

    [Reply]

  42. Kenny wielk

    So what happens to voices.com loses out all of their premium members
    Do they start losing money? One can only hope

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    The thing is: people have short memories, and don’t do their homework. Once this story has been forgotten (which will happen in a day or two), it will be business as usual. And there will always be a new contingent of ignorant beginners who will fall for the various schemes these companies have to offer. I speak from experience, because I used to be one of them.

    [Reply]

  43. Chethan K

    All Voice-over artists must try stagewish.com

    It is a free international platform and doesn’t charge any fee.

    [Reply]

  44. Steven

    If you do the math, what you are seeing is an evolution of how these sites worked in the past going away.

    The party’s over for newcomers.

    Lets see:

    10 Members at $5000= 50000

    100 members at 400 = 40000

    But there’s more. Money is also saved:

    10 working members =

    less complaints,
    less customer service inquiries,
    reliable QA

    In short, the demand for quality online and talent saturation, plus voice talent starting businesses that compete and platform leakage is forcing what I predicted would happen back in 2011…Websites are turning into agencies for the best talents who enjoyed the most success.

    Oddly, Ubers successful business model taught market places it can happen.

    2nd class citizens?

    Welcome back to the industry they disrupted many years ago.

    Business as usual because the DNA of the business wanted it that way.

    Ps – 1000 working members at 5000 is easier to handle and pays better than 6000 at 400, and the idea isnt new. Look at their main competition. They did this 2 years ago (pay more shut it off)

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I didn’t get the impression that the exclusive Platinum Club is reserved for the best/most successful talent. The bar is as low as it is for regular membership: if you can pay the fee, you’re in.

    One of my contacts who is a Platinum member, is a relative newcomer hoping to increase her chances of winning an audition by paying more money to the site.

    [Reply]

    Steven Reply:

    You are in a different boat however, Paul. You speak Dutch. If you made bologna sandwiches for a living and wanted to do voiceovers as a hobby, they would still try to get you on board. Why? You are a vendor offering product, and you fill a rare demographic. These websites are “marketplaces”, so if aisle 3 is short of Dutch language product, especially those who can actually do the work and pay, they will seek more of them.

    There is an ethics thing here, that I rarely see anyone address. The fact is only people who get LOTS of work “should maybe think about” buying in, but they won’t stop people from buying. Why should they? Does a parachute salesman stop people who may never jump out of a plane? Would a coach turn down 5000 bucks if they knew the voice talent had no chance in the world? Not many will.

    The main reason: The majority of the life-blood of the voice over economy online feeds off newcomers. Why? Because there’s more of them than people who get work and newcomers are willing to spend more. When people are successful, they feel less obligation to pay for anything, deliver audio faster, and once they have become really exposed they think they should be able to use the websites for free. That is not a criticism. It is a fact proven to me and it makes as much sense as tourist buying a celebrity a drink in an LA bar. (They got the money to do it themselves, so they dont need the website anymore)

    As for the email you received, usually some people are emailed first about the platinum offer, but again they wont stop anyone with a wallet from buying in.

    What voice talents should be thinking of is just how much “rates” have gone down for jobs the last few years as these websites try to appeal to Walmart shoppers. Meanwhile, the price of subscriptions has gone up. Eventually, this model collapses because the cost of start up takes too long to recoup an ROI for a talent, and the website is fighting to make clients happy with lesser quality product for those who approach the internet with a Walmart-shopping attitude.

    But given these websites were more so “great to use when getting started, they will always have a beginner audience with money to spend.

    In the end, no one ever feels they should pay for anything, until ‘feel good’ promotions come along to make people feel important or dares them to think, “Are you professional enough?”. I certainly never forgot where I came from and remember dropping 5000 bucks on crappy demos back in 1995; demos which never got me work.

    If I may offer something, check out Dan Ariely’s video on economic behavior called, “Our Buggy Moral Code”. It may explain more how I am thinking. I am not slighting anyone for what they do. I am saying this business move is a sign they needed to change because the business model is not as effective as it used to be, and will continue down this path until a complete overhaul. Those who buy in are paying for whatever overhaul comes next.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Here’s a quote from my book Making Money In Your PJs, freelancing for voice-overs and other solopreneurs. The chapter is called “Leaving Voices.com.”

    “2009 was the year I joined Voices.com. I was naive. I was excited. I was determined to make it as a voice-over. “Voices” seemed to be the perfect place to hang out my shingle and conquer the world.
    Today, I have a five-star rating, well over 5400 listens (more than any other Dutch talent), and I have landed a total of… (are you ready?) TEN jobs, earning me a whopping $2,740.89. G-d only knows how many auditions I have had to submit before being selected.

    This can only mean one of two things. Either, I stink at playing the Pay-to-Play game, or I’m a talentless, misguided soul who should be doing something useful with his life.”

    So, even though I fill a rare demographic, voice castings sites made me pay, and gave me very little to play. Also, even though I’m a native Dutch speaker, most of my voice-over work is in English because of my European accent.

    I agree with you that P2P’s will eventually implode. Both of us have written about that extensively. Part of that has to do with an erosion or rates, while membership fees are going up. Some people are finally waking up to the fact that these sites may not have the best interest of the VO-community at heart.

    Thanks for the tip on Dan’s video. I will certainly check it out.

    Frank Sciacca Reply:

    Paul, what I’d like to know is why some of the well-known VO Talents, coaching personalities and sites are promoting P2P as a viable income opportunity along with coaching classes on how to work the sites, for which they charge for their service? I think that if change is going to come in the P2P arena, if it ever does, it has to come from the VO professional’s and reputable coaching companies. The message to the P2P sites has to be consistent. I also question what VO coaching services are putting out there. When I first research VO everyone, especially the experts were telling newbies you can record with a USB mic straight into your computer, in your closet and subsequently put yourself out there. This brought a deluge of untrained and inadequately equipped people into the market place which the P2P sites jump on as there business model. (So why is the industry now asking themselves where these untrained/unprofessional individuals came from).
    I see now some those same VO professionals and sites are moving away from suggesting the USB/Closet aa the way to go. My point is that the leaders in the industry created a lot of the current issues we are seeing today. The industry made it sound easy.
    I recently spoke to someone who contacted me about getting into the business. Gave him the whole deal, i.e. equipment, Website, training, marketing, etc. Never heard from him again. I did not intend to discourage him or anyone else, however, I think we all need to put a realistic message out there so they can make an informed decision. I think you will find the VO pool becoming more professional and putting out a quality work product.
    Paul you are one of the very few that consistently gets the realistic message out.
    We just need the entire industry on the same page and for those in the industry to rethink “their” business models.
    Sorry for the rant. Just thought I’d discuss the elephant in the room.

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Thanks for bringing in the elephant, Frank. I blog about that elephant all the time.

    I think it’s important for people to understand that the voice-over industry is completely unregulated. It’s literally anyone’s game. You don’t need a degree, extensive experience or quality equipment to start auditioning. As far as most P2P’s are concerned, anyone with a major credit card is welcome to the table. Money has become the arbiter of talent.

    I hesitate to comment about “the well-known VO Talents, coaching personalities,” who are promoting sites like Voices dot com. All of them are skilled communicators that can and should speak for themselves. Just like you and me, they run a for-profit business, and they wouldn’t be promoting a service if there wasn’t some kind of payoff involved. It could be monetary. It could be otherwise.

    Looking at it from their point of view, the vast Voices dot com pool of members is the ideal ocean to fish coaching clients from. Many members are newcomers to the industry, and could benefit from classes and individual sessions.

    Lastly, the purpose of marketing and advertising is not to put a realistic image out there. The food on the box of a TV dinner always looks better than the crap you usually find inside. So, if you’re looking for a realistic picture of the business, don’t fall for propaganda. It doesn’t matter which business you’re focusing on. Master marketeers will use every trick in the book to sell a tool to a fool.

    Many voice-overs make a living selling BS as best as they can, so I expect them to be able to tell whether the emperor has any clothes on or not. Once enough people have had enough of certain business practices, they will stop supporting it. Our wallet is a powerful weapon.

    Will the industry ever get on the same page? The World Voices Organization is trying to get as many people on board, but it’s a slow process, and elephants take up a lot of space…

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