Voices.com Is Slapping Regular Members In The Face

Canadian dollarsVoices.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." goo.gl/ihVpMc

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

121 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. J.E. Burton

    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.

    [Reply]

    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

    [Reply]

  7. 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]

  8. 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.

  9. Steven

    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

    [Reply]

  10. Paul Strikwerda

    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…

    [Reply]

  11. Steven

    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.

    [Reply]

    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 –

    [Reply]

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