On October 15, 2014, Susan Truppe, the Canadian Member of Parliament for London North Centre, visited the offices of Voices.com for a second time. She did not come empty-handed.
That day she announced that “Voices” would be receiving $900,000 from the government “to go global by expanding its project management division and translating its products into additional languages.” (source)
She had some nice things to say to the owners of Voices:
“Taking a business idea and turning it into something that does well in commercial markets is something we need to see happen more and more in Canada. The founders of Voices.com have done this extremely well and I congratulate you, David and Stephanie Ciccarelli. (…) You have grown your business into a marketplace valued by radio and television stations, advertising agencies and Fortune 500 companies.”
Notice which category was missing?
$900,000 may seem a lot of money, but it’s not nearly enough if you have big plans.
In April 2015 it became clear that Voices had secured $2 million from BDC Capital, and according to Voices CEO David Ciccarelli, his company has raised $5 million so far, all of it debt financing. Talking to the Financial Post, Ciccarelli added that he estimates his company to make $15 million in gross revenue over the next 12 months, and that Voices will exceed $100 million in annual revenue within three years.
In June, Voices announced that it would open up shop in New York City. According to the website TechVibes, 85% of Voices.com’s customers are located in the US, and a majority of the company’s 125,000 voice talent are located there.
Did you know that voices.com had a database of 125.000 members?
Again according to TechVibes, the Canadian company is experiencing 400% year-over-year growth, and it expects its workforce to reach up to 200 employees by the end of 2016.
From a business perspective, Voices is a success story Canada can be proud of. By all accounts, the two owners are intelligent, hard-working people, who want their company to be the leading voice casting service on the planet.
There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious, but what an increasing number of members are concerned about, is how those ambitions are being realized. They know that without voice talent, the company would have nothing to offer. One might as well remove the word “voices” from Voices.com.
However, the very people who are at the center of the company’s growth, feel they’re being treated like second and third-rate citizens. The massive response to last week’s blog post, attests to that. The story has been viewed more than ten thousand eight hundred times, and if you haven’t seen it, stop what you’re doing, and read Voices.com Is Slapping Regular Members In The Face.
In the days after this article was published, we learned a lot more about the business practices of Voices.com, thanks to many colleagues who decided they’ve had enough. Here are some themes that emerged from hundreds of comments:
1. Voices.com is driving VO-rates down.
While the price of membership goes up and up, voice-over rates are going down and down. That should come as no surprise. Voices tells clients on their “About-page” that by using their services they can expect a “50% savings on voice talent and audio production and administrative costs.”
Big corporations and institutions that used to pay talent a decent rate, can now book a voice at a bargain. Good for them. Bad for us. Once clients are used to lower prices, why would they ever want to pay a penny more?
2. Voices.com may take more money than you make.
Let’s assume a client pays Voices $650 for their services. That doesn’t mean the talent will see or get $650 for a voice-over narration. Colleagues tell me that Voices will often show the job as paying much less, from which a 10% escrow fee will be deducted as part of their SurePay™ system that every member is forced to use.
This is not some random example. This actually happened to voice-over Andrew Randall. The client was already a contact of his, and told him how much they had paid Voices to get the job done. Andrew writes:
“The rate Voices.com originally posted on this job was $440. Deducting their 10% escrow fee, that would have left me $396. That means Voices.com was intending to keep $254 of the client’s voice-over talent budget of $650, or a staggering 39%.”
This particular job was handled by Voices’ Professional Services team. This division will cast the job on the client’s behalf, and more and more projects are handled this way. It seems fair that a client pays a bit extra for this service, but close to 40%? That’s a huge cut of which the voice talent will never see a dime.
A ticked off Andrew responds:
“Union agents are only legally allowed to take 10% of a talent’s fee, and even non-union agents never take more than 20%, and usually 10 to 15%. I wonder how much money I have lost over the years from previous jobs for which I was unaware that Voices.com was taking such a huge cut of my fee. I may seek legal advice to see if I have a case to request those exorbitant fees back.”
But there’s more.
One disgruntled Platinum member told me she booked a job through Voices for $400, not knowing who the client was because Voices didn’t list it. And since Voices explicitly forbids talent to contact clients directly, she couldn’t ask.
Once she got the script, she found out that it was for a MAJOR global brand. The video she ended up narrating has over 3 million hits and counting. She said she has a feeling that Voices charged the client a much higher fee, and pocketed the difference.
A fellow-voice-over agreed, and said:
“They do take $ and hide what the client is actually paying. Another talent mentioned earlier today that they had a friend who booked a job at $1500 (outside of the pay-to-plays) and Voices posted that same job as paying $250. I’ve heard several different accounts of this happening from different sources now.”
This practice doesn’t only insult talent. It also angers those who use Voices to hire talent. A producer just commented:
“I had a recent job where my offer was $250/voice, and the talent told me that they were told by Voices that the job was only $120. This pisses me off because it makes me look like a cheap bastard and some good talent probably passed on auditioning since they saw the job as too low budget for them but in reality, it wasn’t.”
3. Voices controls how much you can “play,” based on what you pay.
As a regular Premium member, you will never see all the jobs that are in the Voices.com system. That’s how it is set up.
As I reported last week, a select group of 100 Platinum and Platinum Unlimited members who pay $2500 or $5000 respectively, are invited to more public job postings, and will get more private invitations than any of the other 124,900 members. Not because they’re more talented or more experienced, but because they paid Voices to give them preferential treatment. They’ll also receive VIP customer service.
One voice talent responded:
“What about everyone else who cannot afford $2500 for a membership, let alone $5000? They are basically making those talents audition into the void and completely waste their time. It’s not about TALENT anymore with this system- it favors those who will put in the money. As someone who grew up very poor, this makes me incredibly sad- and truly outraged.”
Someone else added:
“If I could afford the $2500, I wouldn’t need Voices.com”
Of course Voices.com cannot guarantee any member at any level that they’ll ever get selected for any posted project. They may control the flow of auditions, but they can’t tell the client whom to hire.
Since my story broke, I have heard from a number of Platinum members, all of whom have been in the business for many, many years. One of them was voice talent and coach Deb Munro. She commented:
“I received more private auditions and made my initial investment back, but not much more than that either. I am floored that they are offering another tier [The Platinum Unlimited membership, PS]. This will be the demise of the site in my opinion, once more exposed.”
Here’s another point most commentators seem to agree on:
4. Auditioning on Voices.com is pretty much a waste of time and money.
Just listen to what three experienced voice-overs had to say:
“I auditioned like crazy, got one gig. 95% of my auditions were never even listened to. I finally would only audition if it was a 90% or better match, and less than 25 people had already auditioned, still nothing. I don’t know what the secret code is, but I couldn’t crack it, and I get plenty of other work.”
“The count of my auditions at Voices.com is in the high hundreds, and I’ve landed a total of two jobs – both from the same employer. I’ve received quite a few “likes” on my work, but a large number of my auditions go unheard and many more projects get closed without any further action. Spend more for better treatment and more visibility? Can Voices.com guarantee I’ll earn my investment back? On both counts, I think not.”
“Wow! I swore off P2P years ago. I thought it was not for me. This new Platinum Unlimited membership level brings it to a whole new level of wasted effort! I know there are some talents who have landed spectacular clients and/ or ongoing gigs. But that seems to be a rarity.”
Can it get any worse? Well, here’s another conclusion many colleagues seem to share:
5. The business practices of Voices.com are unethical. The company exploits naïve beginners, and doesn’t care about voice talent.
Here’s a small selection of comments on that topic:
“Monetize all the things” seems to be the new business model. Even inventing things to monetize. Yeah, one year was enough.”
“I would come back with open arms if they stopped the bidding wars, stopped undercutting their talent, and started representing their talent honorably. They have essentially taken over the job of a talent agent, and are NOT treating their talent according to the principles true talent agencies do. In the process, they are putting real talent agencies at risk – the real workers who fight for the talent. It has to stop.”
“I hate the way they run the company now. They used to pretend to care about members. Now they don’t even pretend to care. They just show utter contempt. David and Stephanie can run their company how they like. I will no longer support it or recommend it to other actors.”
“The arrogance and abusiveness of this company is astounding.”
Voice talent Todd Schick does’t mince words on his website:
“Some people are devoid of ethics and morals; they simply can’t see the benefit – monetarily or otherwise – to treat others in a fair, ethical manner.
Indeed, I’ve heard personally from former employees at Voices.com who have been threatened….now in fear of coming forward. Those that work there are rumoured to have been told to toe the line or be fired. Further still, talent who make noise about this issue are blacklisted (…).”
WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT?
You have read the critique. The question is: will it make a difference? Many colleagues are cynical:
“Paul rightly calls them on their tactics, but Voices.com knows VO-land is disorganized and that there will always be newbies willing to under-bid on a job to get a foothold in this job field. For every one subscriber who quits the P2P in disgust, three more step up with dollars in hand.”
“They’re making money hand over fist. That’s all they care about. They’ll ignore this until it dies down, and then continue to think of new ways to fill their coffers.”
I have blogged about Voices.com before, and whenever I do, it always seems to hit a raw nerve. People share these stories on social media, and comment like crazy. But this time, one thing was definitely different, and I’ll tell you what it is.
Normally, I would always get a few commentators who would come to Voices.com’s defense. They’d tell me how much they love the site, how much money they had made, and that business was booming thanks to this Canadian company. Some said I should stop being so mean to Stephanie and David.
This time around…. nothing.
What I heard instead was this:
“I called customer service, and cancelled my membership. I should have done it a long time ago.”
Time after time after time.
And you know what else? In the midst of all this bad publicity, the company isn’t even attempting to do any form of damage control. They’re not denying anything that has been said or written.
At their headquarters in London, Ontario, it has been quiet.
Voices.com seems to have lost its voice.
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
PS Be sweet. Please retweet!
Mike Harrison says
“Monetize all things.”
Summarizing my last comment on this: Voices.com (and Voice123) were NOT formed and are NOT run by those with any voice-over knowledge or experience. Rather, they are marketing (and IT) mavens who saw an increasing number of people wanting to get into voice-over and used whatever they had at their disposal to convince those people to send them their money… annually.
Dangling a carrot of APPEARANCE (spin, fluff, smoke, hoo-hah, BS) and then yanking it out of reach just when we think we’re about to grab it. Again and again.
They may as well call themselves VoicesMirage.com.
DON’T. Just don’t.
Paul Strikwerda says
This is how the owners of Voices are portrayed on their website:
Mike Harrison says
Interesting. When I looked up and found my information right after deciding the first time to leave them more than a few years ago), there was not a mention at all of audio in David’s background. A Bachelor of Musical Arts is nice. But it relates to voice-over… exactly how? 🙂
Randye Kaye says
Wow, Paul, thanks for all you work, and curating of comments, on this! Like many talents lately, I have chosen to spend my marketing time on more efficient ROIT (return of investment of time) marketing. Things change, and Voices.com was once a part of my marketing strategy, as were other P2Ps sites. I also used to spend 5 hours going into NYC for a voice audition. The ratios of these pursuits were worth it then, but not now. I liken it to trying to find love at a Singles dance, where admission is expensive. Possible, but maybe there are other, better ways.
To be fair to voices, (hey I am a Libra), they seem to be trying to take the place of not only the agent but also the casting director… so a higher than 10% fee is not that ridiculous. Normally the client pays a CD, and we talents don’t see that cost. But still. Yeah. These latest developments only cement a decision I made years ago: not worth my time or money. But, for others, it evidently is… so to each his/her own.
That said, I applaud your hard work in getting is all the facts! That’s how we make good marketing decisions. World Voices (woVO) is applauding too!
Paul Strikwerda says
I appreciate the applause, Randye, and I will take a bow to say “thank you.” However, I always write for the cause, and not for the applause.
According to some Platinum members I spoke to, the Agent and Casting Director aspect of Voices doesn’t go any further than copying and pasting a script, and adding voice requirements. Sometimes, the script is poorly translated, and the voice requirements are completely off. Often, people are invited that don’t even come close to what the client was looking for.
Secondly, by quoting the talent a rate that is much lower than the client is actually paying, Voices makes clients look like cheapskates, and talented voice-overs won’t even audition because the fee is too low. Does that justify taking an almost 40% cut? I don’t think so.
Randye Kaye says
Yeah, I don’t think so either 🙂
Respectfully, no one hires a casting director for a $200 job.
Scott Gentle says
Fellow Libran here (Happy Birthday in advance!) who’s also historically given a lot of “benefit of the doubt” and “devil’s advocacy” to folks by default – yeah, hard for some to believe, I know, but actually quite true…
But in the case of Voices.com, based how they’ve mistreated me and lots of other very capable, hardworking, experienced talented talent (as well as the industry as a whole) over time as Paul’s documented – and much further – they’ve managed to make themselves quite the glaring exception.
In an ideal world, a valid point could certainly be made about justifying that extra percentage as an expense for casting director services; I’ll even freely admit I hadn’t thought much of that, so thanks for bringing the extra dimension into the conversation.
BUT…that said, there’s a rather big problem with that theory here…and it’s one that seems to have not been talked about much, especially considering the lesser-seen-but-very-important role CDs have in the process:
Based at least on what I saw during my time as a member, they appear to have nobody on staff making casting decisions that would be remotely qualified for that role, either now or in the past.
How do we know this?
Well, Voices.com itself essentially quietly admits as much.
If you still have the misfortune of being a subscriber (or a former one with access to your past submissions), pull up any new or old job page, then look down at the bottom for the profile statement of the Voices team member who posted the gig.
In most cases, they’ve personalized it in some way – often listing their previous jobs, areas of secondary education studies, hobbies, and other lifestyle minutiae.
In virtually all cases, the team member who posted the jobs I received had ZERO experience in any facet of the casting, VO, or advertising businesses, or closely-related fields like acting, theatre, broadcasting, journalism, or media production.
Oh, there may have been one or two who worked in a recording studio (speaking of which, David Cicarrelli is supposed to be some boy genius graduate of a prestigious Canadian recording school, but there doesn’t seem to be any credentialed post-graduate real-world work history associated with this – certainly not in the VO or ad industry). Maybe there was someone else who took some j-school or A/V classes, or expressed an elevated interest in the fields. But I never saw anything of significance that said “you can trust that this is a person who’s been in the biz, has experience and training, and thus innately knows how to pick the right voice for this job”.
Maybe it’s just me, but it’s one thing to have a worker-bee on their first job or three out of college just posting a gig, which is fine on it’s face, but is something entirely different when that same unqualified, inexperienced person is involved – or actually the prime mover – in possibly hiring me for a gig I’m most certainly qualified to do.
Hey, I’ll play Lucifer’s Libran Lawyer here for a sec anyway:
I’ll admit after years of countless hoof-to-the-concrete live auditions here in NYC, I’m not the biggest fan of some very qualified, extremely experienced casting directors, either.
While most are lovely, as many of my colleagues here can attest, a few of them are notorious for driving us bats***-crazy at auditions…and sometimes, to keep our agents happy, we basically just have to grit our teeth and suffer through them.
But you know what? As much as I like unconventional, and unconventional thinking, I’ll still take ANY of those characters over the opinion of someone at Voices who was apparently just hired off the street, plopped into a cubicle, and told (a la their “Voice Acting for Dummies” book), “hey, don’t worry…it’s easy…ANYONE can do this!”
In fact, based on hearing the results of many of the hires they’ve made, the number of jobs I auditioned for that were never even listened to, and the number of “Professional” Services Division gigs they’ve posted with bid ranges instead of firm prices, I’m even more convinced the above scenario may well be the case – with the addition of saying “just look for the talent with the lowest bid that doesn’t sound too amateurish” – adding to more to the growing evidence that real talent and performance quality actually has very little to absolutely nothing do with their process.
Make no mistake, it’s all about them first, the bottomfeeder clients next, and the talent last….way, WAY last…and if that wasn’t bad enough, they’re incredibly shameless about it all to boot, despite all their never-ending PR and blue-sky sales pitches to investors to the contrary.
Bernard Schaer says
Liebe deutsche Sprecherkollegen, sofern ihr bei voices(dot)com als zahlende Mitglieder gelistet seid, solltet ihr diesen Artikel von meinem Freund und Kollegen Paul Strickweda unbedingt lesen!! Voices bereichert sich hier auf unverschämte und unethische Weise an uns (unorganisierten) Sprechern. Der Artikel ist auf englisch, aber er ist wirklich wichtig!! Er zeigt vor allem auch die Castingmechanismen, die im Hintergrund ablaufen auf. Bernard
Paul Strikwerda says
Herzlichen Dank, Bernard. Ich schätze es sehr!
Jack de Golia says
Excellent expose. I’m happily a former client of Vdotcom. I wonder, though, what’s the story over at Voice123, the other giant in the p2p world? I hope you can do a similar analysis.
Mike Harrison says
Jack, Voices.com and Voice123 were both launched and are run not by people who have any first-hand knowledge of or experience in voice-over, but by marketing and IT people who saw a growing opportunity to make money off of the increasing number of people wanting to get started in voice-over or get their VO career into a higher gear.
They are merely carrot-danglers; Pied Pipers who play a pleasant-sounding tune, but following them is most often a waste of valuable time and money, both of which could be much better spent – and probably be more rewarding – otherwise.
I’ve been doing VO work since 1977 and, after spending a year with each of these sites with absolutely no return (others have different results), I’m convinced of two things: (1) I don’t need them, and (2) they’re hurting the VO community.
Dave Wallace says
I know you asked Paul, so he should of course still feel free to respond, but for whatever it’s worth, here’s my take on that question.
SHORT VERSION: They have gone downhill, but not as much as Voices.com.
LONG(ER) VERSION: Voice123 has a similar concept to Voices.com in that they have a “Platinum” subscription option…I don’t know how much it costs, and they don’t list it on their site (which isn’t a good sign right off the bat), but I’ve heard numbers between $3,000-$5,000. If you select this option, you can audition for whatever job you want, even ones that don’t fit the description of your profile.
That’s a rip-off in the sense that it’s a lot of money for just one more perk. One more perk that, for that matter, doesn’t mean a lot (why would you *want* to audition for jobs that don’t ask for your voice type?). So there’s no point in signing up for it.
However, there are three big reasons they’re not as bad as Voices.com:
1) Unlike Voices.com, those who select Voice123’s Platinum option (different than Voice123’s “Premium,” which is the standard, $395-a-year subscription fee), auditions are not prioritized based on how much you paid. If both a Premium and a Platinum member audition for something, but the Premium subscriber auditioned first, their audition will still show up first. With Voices.com, as I understand it, those who play the Platinum subscription have prioritized auditions.
2) Voice123 doesn’t charge *any* kind of escrow, commission, or “casting assistance” fees. This alone could serve as the reasoning behind why I have never even become a Premium subscriber for Voices.com. Voice123 doesn’t mess with the money I make from VO jobs posted there. As a union actor, that’s important to me.. I only audition for union jobs or non-union jobs with rates high enough to be converted to union jobs (and with the latter in mind, getting what the clients said they would pay is very important). Voice123 is free for producers to use, and the only fee that talents pay is the once-a-year, $395 fee. That’s it. No more lost money. Apart from being a means through which my audition can be heard, Voice123 doesn’t insert themselves into the process at any point.
Speaking of which…
3) They don’t interfere with my client relations. Voices.com seems to be limiting the extent of direct contact that clients can have with the talents. That doesn’t happen at Voice123. I can use them not only to audition for jobs, but also to find clients for whom I can develop direct, lasting relationships. Relationships in which they begin coming to me, bypassing Voice123 all together, the next time they put out an audition for something.
That’s not to say Voice123 hasn’t done some things I don’t like. They have raised their subscription cost twice, “revamped” their forums twice… with the word “revamped” used in quotation marks because they’ve become worse with each revamping (seriously, if you go to the Voice123 forums you’ll note that some threads have gone years without replies)… and don’t even get me started on that little “sister site” of theirs. You know, the one with a name involving a rabbit, whose name I won’t give here because I don’t want to give a shred of help to its SEO rating. Actually, that sister site is guilty of the things I just got done criticizing Voices.com for.
However, Voice123 is still worth it, for now, in my experience. At least for me. I get to have ongoing relationships with clients that I meet there, my auditions are fairly prioritized based on who auditioned first, and they don’t mess with the money that clients say they will pay. They’ve got a ways to go before they dethrone Real-Time Casting (RTC), which is, in my experience, the most “pro-talent” P2P site ever made. However, I would never say that Voice123 is as bad as Voices.com. I have a free profile on Voices.com for the sake of exposure, but I have never signed up for their Premium option, and I never will.
Chris Mezzolesta says
Don’t forget though, that V123 seems to maintain its perception as the ‘more talent friendly’ casting site by subsidizing VoiceBunny, which is furthering the “Voiceovers are Cheap and Affordable” perception – and by keeping them separated in the public’s eye they do not do themselves the brand damage (RJ Reynolds/’Altria’, anyone?) They are all equally complicit in the downward spiral of rates and quality, and should all be avoided.
Dave Wallace says
I do see where you’re coming from, but I must respectfully disagree. Firstly because they’re not entirely separate in the public’s eye…most of us in the online VO world know the two are connected, and Voice123 now says on its own website that it is a part of “Bunny Inc.”
Secondly though, my own experiences with Voice123 just haven’t been bad enough to justify avoiding them. Just this past month, I booked eight commercials, all union, off of two auditions on Voice123. Not to mention that it’s where I booked an international commercial for Old Spice, an international commercial for Lowes, and (my first ever) promos for Disney, again, all union. I don’t mean to turn this into a post about me of course, I’m simply giving personal examples of why I haven’t left them yet.
Only when those kinds of projects disappear will I leave Voice123 entirely. As many lumps of coal as there are, each year I seem to catch a few diamonds that are worth both the money and the marketing materials that come as a result of booking those gigs. Furthermore, a lot of these gigs were posted on Voice123 alone, so not only are they great gigs, but they’re great gigs that only Voice123 subscribers were ever going to get a shot at.
Does the thought of my subscription money going towards the subsidization of that other site involving a rabbit bother me? Yes, it does. A fair deal, really. But not quite enough to get me to quit.
In any event, here’s the larger picture to think about: is it really P2P sites that are the problem, or just the low-balling clients that use them?
Personally, I think that varies on a case-by-case basis, I can’t really give an all-encompassing answer there. With the site involving a rabbit, they are definitely at fault, because they’re actively advertising themselves as “the cheap and fast alternative.” Voices.com is at fault too, and Paul’s article here sums up why. One can’t say the same about Voice123 though, or RTC, or a number of other P2P sites. In those cases, the low-balling clients themselves are to blame, and the P2P sites are merely the means through which they are putting their super-low jobs out there. If it weren’t through one P2P site, it would be through another. If it weren’t through a P2P site, it would be through Craigslist. If it weren’t through Craigslist, it would be on some other place on the internet. As much as we may try to deny it, these P2P sites are not *creating* an industry demand for cheap, fast voice-overs…but rather, they are responding to a demand that has already been made.
I also think we’re making a mistake in saying that if the professionals all abandon these P2P sites, eventually clients will figure out that they need to go through different avenues to find qualified talents. I don’t think that’s the case. I think if the pros all left, and all that was left were nothing but amateur voice actors with bad demos and lousy home studios, clients would simply say, “OK, I guess that’s what the industry is like.” In other words, they wouldn’t know better.
Meanwhile, besides the producers who don’t know any better, there’s another culprit to be named: voice actors–often newcomers–who don’t know any better. The voice actors who audition for whatever in the desperate hope of getting something on the resume, and often low-ball their rates in an attempt to further that effort. They’re just as guilty, and far more than most P2P sites, which are simply websites that low-balling clients occasionally post on.
Part of the reason I’m able to book work semi-regularly through P2P sites is because I’m delivering a solid product. Of course, feelings towards acting talent are subjective, but I can objectively say that I offer better demos, home studio audio, and customer service than the average person on P2P sites. It only helps to make me stand out more in auditions. I don’t sweat paying for that opportunity either, because paying to audition is essentially what a casting director workshop is, and agents in LA and NYC will tell all of their clients that they should be going to those as often as possible. Paying $395 for a year’s worth of opportunities to meet new clients, as opposed to paying a few hundred dollars for just one casting director who may not even cast anymore, is actually a pretty good deal.
Anyway….sorry for how long that was. The short version of what I wrote is essentially this. From my observation, it would appear that P2P sites aren’t really the biggest offenders with regard to plummeting VO rates. All things considered, they seem to be one of the lesser offenders. They certainly *can* be offenders, and this recent fiasco with Voices.com that Paul pointed out is just one of several instances of proof of this. However, for the most part, they’re just responding to an industry demand, created by the true culprits.
Paul Strikwerda says
I haven’t had as much experience with Voice123 as I had with Voices dot com. I was a V123 member when Steven Lowell was customer relations manager. He single-handedly made me stay with V123 because he was very much on top of things. We had our differences of opinion, but he was able to explain their system, and help me take advantage of it. Eventually, I gave up my paid membership, because the ROI was too low.
Marc Scott says
No need for them to do damage control. Your post tells the story, “For every one subscriber who quits the P2P in disgust, three more step up with dollars in hand.”
My question is, the more we discuss the topic directly, are we indirectly benefiting them simply by providing more name mentions, more backlinks and more social media shares? Yes, pro talent will question their practices and some might leave, but the new talent who don’t know any better are likely still going to sign up with their $400 in hand.
I tend to think, and question if, it’s time we divert our focus from promoting the problem to creating / promoting an alternative such as Voiceover.biz, if that’s the solution?
My membership expired with Voices.com several years ago because I saw the direction they were moving and knew it was of no benefit to me. I have several friends who are still members and all they do is complain about the managed projects and the rate butchering. I ask them why they still bother, and they all say the same… because any work is better than no work. I wonder, is it?
Paul Strikwerda says
I think Voices is secretly hoping that people will stop discussing their practices because of the reasons you mentioned. It’s the same as saying: “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” As a former journalist, I can assure you that this is bogus. It can take years to build a solid reputation, and one misguided comment can tear it all down. In this day and age where stories are shared instantaneously, news travels even faster. Good news, and bad news. As a blogger, I’m certainly not going to hold back because one part of me might be thinking that my story might actually help the people I feel are hurting our industry.
I did encourage people not to create hyperlinks on social media, when referring to Voices. They can take care of their own publicity. We don’t need to help them.
In the past five years that I have been writing this blog, I have devoted way more time to helping people increase their level of professionalism, than to pointing out what is hurting our business. I even wrote a book about it. The problem is that readers tend to gravitate more toward negative stories with bold headlines. You’re a prolific blogger yourself, so you know what I’m talking about.
I wish I didn’t have to spend time and energy on yet another story about Pay-to-Plays. However, I want my readers to be able to make informed decisions, and not have to reinvent the wheel. Hopefully, articles like the ones I wrote about Voices dot com, will warn newcomers before they take out their credit cards.
Scott Gentle says
As one with a journalism background, I agree with Paul and the old industry maxim that “sunshine is the best disinfectant”, and the even older one from moms and dads everywhere that “honesty is the best policy”…especially when the Ciccarellis themselves have gone to such lengths to keep so much of the bad they’ve done obfuscated, THEN have the nerve to incessantly try to put a nice pretty spin and polish on things.
(Lauren, Rana, and the rest of the gang reading at VoiceRealm: ignore the above at your peril. Oh wait, you did that earlier this week here and on LinkedIn…my bad.)
They should be glad I’m not Canadian, because I’d be having a conniption with my MP about how the things they’re doing are tarnishing the country’s otherwise well-earned reputation in regards to honesty, kindness and fair treatment of others, true tech and business innovations, and fiscal matters…and then there’s that whole government money thing.
For instance – they blogged away recently about participating in a government-sponsored tech confab designed for startups…yet they themselves have been around since 2004?
Last I checked, if you’ve been at something for over a decade, the definition of “startup” is prrrrobably a bit of a stretch.
(Hey, I dunno, maybe it’s different up there. Perhaps one of our pals up thataway can chime in? David C., you’re free to jump in anytime and clarify as well…)
Speaking of definitions, they can crow all they want about how they’ve created countless jobs and benefitted others like good little humble Canucks, but nothing’s heard about how they’ve globally dragged down the value of work in our industry, which they’ll simply label as “disruption”…the keyword that should be everyone’s tip-off for the lazy, non-innovative, blue-sky investor-seeker with little of substance to offer – or as the NPR interviewee here so eloquently puts it:
“ROOSE: Well, often people in the tech industry will use disruption or disrupt as a way to divide people who are pro-tech from people who are anti-tech. If you object to Uber and its practices or any of the things that it’s done, they will say well, you’re on the side of the disrupted. You’re not pro-disruption. And I think that really casts a sort of fig leaf over a lot of the other issues. There are reasons to be opposed to what these companies are doing that have nothing to do with opposing progress or new technology, but when you brand everything as disruption versus disrupted, you then get a sort of a free pass and all the rest of those issues.
CORNISH: So the idea is that when someone throws this term around basically it forces the critics into a corner, right? Like, then they’d essentially be saying, I’m against innovation.
ROOSE: Exactly, exactly. It makes those people who would object to some parts of Uber or Airbnb or any of these other companies that are supposedly disruptive – it makes them all sound like they’re just Luddites who hate technology and progress and don’t want anything to do with it.
CORNISH: And true, disruptive technologies do come with lots of legal questions, right?
ROOSE: Absolutely. I mean, what you’re doing is challenging an incumbent in an industry that’s pretty well-defined. So that is a part of disruption, but it’s not the whole thing and usually now in Silicon Valley when someone says disruptive, all it means is that they’re trying to sell you something.”
Scott Gentle says
By the way, before someone from Voices jumps in to try to explain “startup” is a matter of semantics or some other hogwash – well, this characteristically chirpy and glowing recent review from a new employee who’s obviously spending a lot of time at the company’s free Kool-Aid dispenser (one of several, it seems), via Glassdoor.com…rather telling (or rather, not only are they telling this to the government and investors, they’re telling this to new employees too):
Its a start up so there are naturally growing pains. But I would expect that from any place that has grown that much in such a short period of time.”
Much more believable for some reason, from a lone dissenter, also posted recently:
“Be cautious ”
I worked at Voices.com full-time (Less than a year)?
The social committee put on fun events, birthday lunches and Monday breakfast.
Tea time every Thursday so you can take a break from your desk.???
The job is highly repetitive (cold calling) and often not what would be expected from the job description.
Processes are changing so often it is difficult to become accustomed.
There is a lack of leadership on most occasions.
The turnover is very high which is scary.???
Advice to Management?
Tighten things up and believe in your employees. Most times it is them who have the best ideas for change. If a system breaks, blame the system and not the people who are working it. Be present. Give feedback. Compensate your employees better.”
???Copy/paste from that page is messy, so I highly encourage you guys to read the “HR Manager” response to these, especially the critique above:
Mike Vaughn says
lest we never also forget the other elephant in the room voice123: http://www.mikevaughn.com/hownottomakeit/2010/04/trust-me-voice123-you-really-dont-want-my-opinion/
Great summary of Voices.com. I have no experience with them but for naive actors to shell out hundreds of dollars just to play the VO Lottery with a company who doesn’t even have the final say in the work or payment is nutso.
Paul Strikwerda says
I don’t know if you’ve seen Dave Wallace’s comments about Voice123. He just shared his experience with that company in the comment section. Neither service is perfect, and there’s a reason why Steven Lowell left V123.
I just want to focus this thread on Voices dot com. Perhaps another blogger feels inclined to take on the Colombian contingent.
Kent Ingram says
Wow, Mike, what an eye-opener! I’ve had numerous communications with Steve Lowell over the years, up until he quit Voice123. He was always very supportive and helpful, but his attack-reply to you put a shock into me! I’ll add my own two cents, below, but thanks for your accounting of these sites.
In Steven’s defense, he wrote on Voice123’s own blog (when he was still with them) that he was quite ashamed of the remarks he made in the link that Mike Vaughn provided. He also said that those remarks almost cost him his job with Voice123. He said that he would not offer any sort of defense, and that he agreed he was out of line there.
That doesn’t make it OK, those comments were out of line, but considering the rest of his track record, I’m willing to think of those remarks as the result of having a bad day (which we’ve all had, at some point or another). In my interactions with him, he has always been very nice. He never stated exactly why he left Voice123, but he seemed to hint that it had to do with disagreements over Voice123’s business practices…yet another point in my book.
Just my thoughts, of course, no one has to agree with them.
Kent Ingram says
Dave, many thanks for that follow-up! I had no idea about Steven’s further remarks and apology. That confirms my high opinion of him and how helpful he was to me. I kind of had that feeling he and Voice123 had a major difference of opinion, when he left them. I made sure to thank him for all his help and support.
Chris Mezzolesta says
One of the reasons I was always uncomfortable at V123, past the whole SmartCast debacle, was Steven’s treatment of all talent, established and otherwise, as errant kindergarteners who needed a good talking to. His reply to Mike Vaughn just bears that out, and no I have not seen it get any better since then. That sort of approach turned me way off – I was already unhappy with the company, but to be treated to that tone and attitude by someone whom I was indirectly paying with my subscription, after seeing the damage they were already doing to the industry, was enough to seal the deal. I can realize and deal with my own mistakes, thank you very much.
But as to V, V123 etc., it’s already been proven, none of them are doing any good for the talent side of the industry, despite what isolated success stories there may be.
Paul Strikwerda says
I second Dave’s comments. Because of his history with Voice123, not everyone has a favorable opinion of Steven. That’s a shame because he’s always been very helpful to me and many others. He was a good guy, caught in a bad system, and he had a few things to learn. I’m not justifying some if the things he has said in the past. He’ll be the first one to admit that he was out of line. Overall, he is a very knowledgeable and decent guy, and I wish him well.
Kent Ingram says
Paul, my eyes have been opened, once again! I did all three P2P sites, at one point, and not one of them gave me a return on my investment. I let the subscriptions run out on VOPlanet and Voices.com, but Voices never canceled me. They put me on an “inactive” list, but I still got a private audition invitation a couple of days ago! After reading your latest entry, I decided it wasn’t worth the time and trouble to answer it. On Voice123, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been rated the #1 talent, sometimes with over 100 other auditions. Did I hear back from any of those clients who rated me so highly? Hell no! My membership ends in November, so I’ll probably throw in some auditions, until then, since I already paid for that. But, after that’s over with, I’ll have to find a better way to get my voice heard. I’ll file these experiences as “good practice” for my VO skills and to stay away from these sites.
Paul Strikwerda says
Being a member of Pay-to-Play sites is an expensive way to “practice.” Who’s giving you feedback? How do you know what things you need to improve? Who is holding you accountable?
Most jobs you audition for you’ll never get, and you’ll never know why. The idea that auditioning is great practice is perpetuated by Pay-to-Plays to trick you into believing your money wasn’t entirely wasted.
I’ve listened to hundreds of demos on Voices dot com, and many of them were amateur recordings of the worst kind. Imagine these people sending in an audition to a serious client. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. So, what is gained by sending a client your practice run?
I keep on saying it: You practice to audition, You don’t audition to practice.
Martin Victor says
The biggest challenge a voice actor faces is self-directing. An actor must know his limitations and his weaknesses, and know whether or not he can deliver what the copy calls for. That said, too often an audition never gets heard by the client, and the actor will never know that. That’s my biggest beef with P2P sites. But you’re right – the greed is evident and the unmitigated gall to continue this course of action is disgusting.
Dave Wallace says
While it is true that auditions often never get heard, without the actor ever learning that (and oh man are you right, that definitely can be annoying!), that’s not really a P2P thing. That’s true of most auditions that get sent out, even major Voicebank auditions that go out to the agents. Whether or not one’s audition gets heard depends on how high-ranking the agency is, how quickly they submit their auditions, their relationship with the ad agency, whether the agent submit all their actors’ auditions or only those they feel are particularly good…and it also depends, quite frankly, on how much time the client wants to take to listen to auditions. It’s entirely possible that there’s an audition that they wold have loved, but won’t hear, because they only have so much time to listen to auditions before they have to cast the job. If they’ve got more than a thousand auditions, it’s almost certain that they’re not going to listen to all of them. Not even close, really.
One VO talent I know once spoke of an instance where he was on his way out of a studio from another job, and the studio owner was talking to an ad agency exec who was casting for a commercial (entirely separate from what he had just gotten done recording). The studio owner saw the talent on his way out and asked if he could do a real quick read for the exec. He did, and the exec loved it, saying, “Oh man, this was such good fortune, you’re so much better than the guy I was going to hire. Who’s your agent?” When the talent named his agent, the exec said, “Really? I listened to the auditions that agent sent, and I didn’t hear yours.”
Now, of course, that can mean a number of different things. We don’t know for certain why his audition wasn’t heard. What I’m saying, though, is that that happens all the time, even outside the P2P world.
Mike Pongracz says
First off Paul, another wonderful read. Your passion absolutely comes thru in every piece you write, and I commend you for it!
I’ve read the comments both on this blog, your previous one, as well as the various forums which this blog has been topic for fodder. Clearly there are those whose eyes have been opened to the bigger picture and apparent truths about the business model of V.com and their questionable ethics from an industry standpoint. What strikes me the most about this whole topic, especially involving v.com, is how very little most of the VO industry really care. I mean, clearly there is a pocket of talent who are aware and championing an uprising, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the larger number of global talent. Also, let’s put this in perspective. How many A-list VO types in the major cities (I’m not talking Actors turned VO, I’m talking the actual A-list voice talent) do you see taking the time or effort to bring a call to arms? Across all of the social media platforms I encounter, not many if any at all. I see countless posts of talent fawning over prominent names and how great they are and how awesome they are to the industry, yet where are they in this fight? As far as organizations go, I’ve only seen/heard WoVo speak up. There are plenty of conferences and companies who have v.com as main sponsors; don’t see them taking a pass on their ad dollars to prove a point. But let’s narrow that cone further and turn it specifically to the big bad empire in the room’s roster itself…How many of the top earners/users of that site do you see or hear from, chiming in on behalf of the VO community complaining about the ethical and business practices of said company? Is that crickets I hear?…Last check of the top 30 MALE Favorites according to their rankings, only 4 are members of WoVo, one of the most vocal opponents. Most of those 30 names, I don’t think I’ve ever seen post on social forums or sites. I also think it’s safe to say that those 30 probably do a great deal of business thru that site judging strictly on the number of feedback comments they’ve accumulated on their individual pages. I’m pretty sure those numbers and facts likely hold up on the female side as well. My point being, Joe Blow or Jane Smith speaking out against or questioning many of these issues with P2P and v.com specifically, doesn’t raise anymore awareness to the newcomer or minimally established VO pool. Now if a J Michael Collins, Brad Ziffer, Dave Kaplan, Tom Fry, Ross Huguet, Bill Dewees (all names in the top 30 favourites list on the site) etc. speak out and say, ‘hey…this isn’t really a good thing for the VO industry what v.com is doing’, then MAYBE it carries more weight. However, therein lies the conundrum. None of these people I’ve listed should feel obligated to, nor would I blame them if they chose to not speak out against the company and it’s practices. Hell, who knows if any those people agree with all the arguments and gripes that have been brought to light recently. There are plenty of coaches, schools etc, whose business relies on attracting voiceover students. Do I fault them for wanting to align themselves with v.com? Maybe the ‘sunshine and lollipops’ part of me does, but the realist in me says ‘heck no!’. At the end of the day, you gots to pay the bills and if v.com is providing a platform for which they can generate traffic to their business, then have at it. It’s very easy to cast opinion and be self righteous when you’re not sitting at the top of the mountain reaping the benefits. I say to all those talent bemoaning v.com, put yourself in the shoes of any of the top earning talents on that site and ask yourself if you’d still be as passionate about fighting for the greater good of the industry and those in the middle class, if it meant losing your golden goose. That’s a tough one…Personally I’d love to hear a story of someone winning a VO award at Joan Baker and Rudy Gaskins event, and using their acceptance speech to trash v.com and P2P’s. That’d raise some eyebrows…
Is what v.com is doing from a business standpoint illegal? Not that I can see. Is it unethical from a business standpoint? Not really. From a VO industry standpoint? you could argue yes. The bigger question here is, do David and Stephanie even care about the VO industry? Meh, maybe, but I’d say they care more about the VO ‘commodity’ as opposed to the ‘community’…and having a giant house with every google glass gadget imaginable. Believe me, no matter how their PR & marketing department likes to spin things, there’s nothing altruistic about their intentions. Altruism and business don’t live in the same space, don’t kid yourself. Simply posting a ‘Top 5 Things to Improve Your Auditions’ blog, doesn’t automatically get you ‘But we REALLY ARE on the VO talent’s side’ street cred.
So ultimately the question is, what do we do? I say, don’t worry about ‘we’, worry about ‘I’. What can I do?… first off, don’t pay v.com a cent. If P2P and v.com really is causing you to not sleep at night, how about you do a little extra business legwork on your own. Make calls, make contacts, try to get an agent, better yourself as a talent, basically make things happen yourself. Educate studios and potential clients if they tell you they use v.com. You’d be surprised how something as simple as that can make a difference. Someone posted in a group that v.com gives prospective VO talent an easy way to maybe make a few bucks. As any seasoned talent will tell you, a few bucks doesn’t cover the cost of living. Eventually, that pool of talent will subside when they realize that there’s actual work and skill required and they’re not making a living. And then v.com will be forced to come up with some other way to get more money from their top earners because really they don’t care about them; remember it’s VO ‘Commodity’ not ‘Community’. Eventually they’ll tick those people off as well to the point where even the staunchest supporter says ‘eff that’… You can’t run a successful business if you don’t have people to support it (hello MySpace?)
But back to what can ‘I’ do…How about worry less about v.com’s effect on the industry and the P2P’s and more importantly take an objective look at yourself. Are you really up in arms about what they’re doing to rates and talents in general, or is it more about how it affects your business personally. Are you more concerned because your business plan predominantly uses v.com and P2P’s as your main source of work? I know there are accounts of talents making north of 100k a year without having a single agent, but I’m also pretty sure they’re working a heck of a lot more and doing more volume than a talent who has an agent helping secure top tier/paying work. For the most part, agents only take on who they feel is better than the rest of the pack, and who they can present to major clients/CD’s/agencies with absolute confidence. With that premise, it’s easy to surmise that you have to be talented to get an agent. P2P sites like v.com and v-number are agents with zero requirement for talent, in spite of their agency-model denials. If that’s the only pool that will let you swim in it, then maybe you need to re-evaluate your business/career plan. Here’s the truth bomb that many who’ve chosen this profession as their career ambition seem to forget or choose not to acknowledge. Not everyone who dreams of doing this, will. No amount of ambition or determination can make up for natural talent – that’s why Clayton Kershaw is pitching for the Dodgers, and Steve-the-guy-who-eats-sleeps-breaths-baseball from your beer league isn’t. Talent combined with ambition is a definite combination for success. This is NOT the ‘everyone gets a ribbon’ industry even though it’s sense of community is admirable and appreciated. Not everyone is entitled to make a 6-figures-in-your-housecoat salary. Not everyone gets to be a Rob Paulsen, Maurice LaMarche, Tara Strong, Scott Rummell, etc. What it boils down to is if you’re talented – you’ll work. If you’re talented and smart – you’ll earn a respectable living and be happy doing it. If you’re talented, smart AND lucky? You’re probably in a studio in Hollywood right now and have not even the slightest care in the world for v.com and it’s effect on your middle-class lunchbox VO brethren. But the real kick-in-the-teeth above that, is that sometimes even the most talented people in the world, may never get their break. You could be the next Don LaFontaine for all intents and purposes, but it just never happens. That’s the universe for you…you can’t blame the Cicarellis for that.
Ours is not the only industry with a v.com present to take advantage of a need or opportunity. For example, there are these things called oil companies. They’re the ones making money hand over fist because we need fuel to put in our cars. They jack up the price at the pumps simply because they know we need it and won’t adjust our lifestyles to combat it. So in that case what do you do? Invest in oil stocks and make money off them, which if invested correctly and you work hard studying and monitoring it, will likely show more of a return than what you’re spending filling up your car over a year. So save your 499, 2500 or 5000 dollars you’d spend on v.com and just wait til they go IPO…just make sure to get out when their eventual bubble bursts…
Thanks again Paul – keep up the great blogging!
Helen Lloyd says
Great post as usual Paul.
It always seemed to me to be crazy that a system requires anyone to pay (and pay heavily) for the privilege of submitting an audition on the off chance that it might just be heard. All of these sites are peddling a dream … and looking at the money they are making from exploiting the VO … I can see why they try so hard to justify it.
Discovering that jobs are paying the voice actor far less than the client is actually offering should be the final nail in their coffin. Is that not fraud?
Not only does this system exploit voice actors it also encourages voice seekers to be lazy. It surely drives down their expectations as it seems that the ‘audition to practice’ ethos must delivers submissions from folk who are neither interested in nor suited to many of the jobs they’re auditioning for. That seems to me to be binge auditioning – just churn them out without applying any thought or self knowledge to the process. It then becomes a numbers game, submit hundreds of auditions and one might just hit the jackpot. What a depressing thought!
A mass exit may not achieve much – and there will be hundreds waiting to fill the empty shoes – but if the heavyweights all leave there will be clients who will find the need to seek another way of finding the voices they need.
Paul Strikwerda says
Helen, I couldn’t agree more with you. Sometimes I feel that a Pay-to-Play is very much like a Casino. You’re giving them your money, and you’re taking a gamble every time you play the game. Here’s the difference: most casino’s don’t charge an entrance fee, and the drinks are usually on the house. In the end, the house always tends to win.
Do certain P2P’s engage in fraudulent behavior? That’s for lawyers to determine. From what I have heard, this particular company I’ve written about is not being honest with clients and talent. Clients pay a certain amount to the site, expecting that it will go to the talent, and it doesn’t. Voice-overs record (inter)national jobs for pennies, not knowing the name of the client or the reach of their video. These business practices are dishonest and exploitative, to say the least.
Guy Harris says
Great Article. I never renewed on Pay to Play sites. I’m making more money ‘not’ being on them than when I was.
“there is plenty of work out there, you just gotta know where to look”
Ed Brady says
Guy Harris, Your comment says, “There is plenty of work out there. You just gotta know where to look.” I’m new at this. Where do I look, please? Ed
Philip Banks says
Voices.com is a business, the idea of a business is to make a profit. The idea of this particular business is NOT to make YOU (Voice Over people)a profit as you are simply the product they retail. They’re not agents, managers or producers. They carry no stock and make nothing so the risk/investment is with the manufacturers (the VO).
Did you know that premium brands pay large retailers huge chunks of money to get their products on shelves and in aisles where they will be seen and so have a better chance of being sold? Sound familiar? You are not talent you are cans of Heinz Baked Beans, bars of Cadbury Chocolate or packs of Preparation H – complain and you know where you can stick yourself!
If you are building a business you need to think carefully about where you can be found.
Casting = The first person who sounds ok and will do the job for what we’re offering gets the gig.
That’ll do productions Ltd
There’s a good living to be made doing them. The focus of most P2Ps are ..That’ll do Productions. In the Dollar Shop everything is $1 you just buy what you want and nobody competes on price. I have a Rolex for sale guess in which store you WON’T find it.
Close the P2Ps down tomorrow and by Thursday the great unwashed will be griping about how Haddock sales in Buckie are impacting their way to make a living as VOs.
In our job we don’t want to be taken too seriously but we do want what we do to be taken seriously and that’s starts …. Take a look in the mirror.
More VO world worldly wisdom available from me via hypodermic dart or as a suppository – Discounts available see pack for details.
Liz Drury says
Wow. Interesting reading. Especially as my renewal with Voices is coming up and I was unaware of this new level of membership. I’ve been a member for 3 years and I’ve booked a few jobs but not loads. However, I did do a job through them for a very big client (well known brand of perfume) BUT I probably wasn’t paid what I should have been. The buyout was for a 2 week TV campaign in SE Asia (6 countries) but I have found the advert on the company’s website, and also on YouTube where it has had over 3.5 million hits. There wasn’t any mention of web use when I took the job. What should I have been paid? Anyone want to come up with a figure??
Paul Strikwerda says
Liz, SAG-AFTRA just came out with a handy-dandy Union Rate Calculator. It’s still in Beta, so not all categories are represented yet. Perhaps you can find out how much you could and should have been paid. Here’s the link:
Roxanne Coyne says
Paul, thank you for these wonderful articles. I am following this with interest. I am not a member of any pay to plays and have been fortunate to find my clients by other means, most of them being referrals. This platinum level membership thing….or whatever it’s called….seems strangely like a Scientology thing where you pay increasingly higher fees to advance through the hirearchy of levels to where the “truth” is finally revealed. This is very disturbing. Thank you for your research and for taking a stand.
Philip Banks says
Thanks to paying $12,000 I, myself, personally in the world of Voiceoverology am a 2nd level Cretin.
Pam Tierney says
OMG Roxanne, that is an amazing and really creepy comparison. But the more I think about it, the more it seems an apt description.
Paul Strikwerda says
You’re very welcome, Roxanne. Even though many of us call themselves “voice-over artists,” we tend to forget that this is a business. It’s also a business for the people who manage online voice casting sites. I cannot fault them for wanting to turn a profit. I do object to the unethical ways this profit is produced. I won’t go as far as to compare it to Scientology, though. The truth to be revealed is that no level of membership can guarantee that a client is going to pick you over someone else. Yes, “Voices” can make the pickings a bit slimmer, thus increasing your chances. But if I’ve learned one thing, it is that there are no guarantees in voiceoverland.
It’s funny, Voices always struck me as the most bush league of all of the P2p sites. Theyve attempted to get me to sign up over and over again and after years of seeing listings which were almost exclusively non union and low paying, I never did. Now to find out about their insane new tier pricing where one can literally pay thousands for membership, that is in short insanity. I also agree that they’ve devalued jobs in general, I say that as a union talent with agents on both coasts, who was still using voice123 up until two years ago, i stopped because the level of quality jobs THERE has become really poor, whereas it was always a place where there were on occasion legit gigs from producers who simply wanted a wide range of Vo options, some of which I would get and pass long to my agents, and turned into lucrative employment. Those days seem to be gone forever, as the level of things that were coming my way from voice123 have changed dramatically in the past two years, I believe due in large part to voices driving rates way down as Paul stated. On top of which there does not seem to any quality standard of talent, other than one who can afford the higher fee is automatically listed as a “Platinum” or preferred talent, that too has to devalue things as some of these people are not skilled at that level. In short they always struck me as lower tier, now they just look like a scam from the vo actor perspective,
Greg James says
Hey Paul — I thought you might like to hear that you have at least one enthusiastic new convert from the land of the “newbies.”
I am a brand new VO talent about to launch my business. My professionally produced demos are in the can, my website is about to go live in the next several days, and thanks to a personal connection, I may already have my first major client.
I’ve spent months absorbing as much info as I can from the mountain of books, blogs, videos and other resources out there on the VO business, and I’ve kept a close watch on this whole P2P debate, trying to analyze from afar, while I got coaching, worked on my home studio and my marketing and biz plans.
I’ve been reading your pieces about the P2P debacle, and also watched your recent appearance in the WoVo video chat. Your impassioned commentary in particular was the tipping point that cemented my decision to completely disregard/avoid/ignore/trash any notion of coughing up any money to join Voices or any other P2P.
I’m just not going to go there. Because I have a sales background, I already knew and felt more comfortable with the concept of developing some kind of prospecting strategy. Personally I’m going to have more fun — and I think it will be more rewarding — pounding the pavement, doing daily prospecting the old fashioned way: roll up your sleeves, get your ass in the seat, and email and make cold calls until it hurts…and then do it some more. I’m no stranger to banging out hundreds of calls per week, so I’m not going to have any hesitation in adapting that kind of work ethic to my VO prospecting.
I have other components to my marketing plan too, but I guess the important thing to mention here is that P2P sites will not appear on my radar…period.
As someone who aspires to become a member in good standing of the VO talent community, I am saddened to hear that so many talents are struggling so hard with Voices and their rotten practices. I’m also fascinated with the comments in this thread about the higher-tier talent who are not in any hurry to weigh in on this debate.
From my perspective, however, I just want to say that I’m deeply grateful to have discovered this important discussion just as I’m getting ready to launch, because I’m quite sure it has helped me steer clear of wasting any time, energy or money on P2P sites. Now I can roar out of the gate fresh, energized and focused on my own plan, without being derailed by the apparently fruitless effort of trying to audition through a place like Voices.
My coach has cautioned us newer talents to be careful not to pay too much attention to this whole controversy, and just stay focused on our own business. He’s right…but at the same time I just have to say a great big “thank you” for helping me understand this aspect of the industry and allowing me to make a sound business decision in walking away from the P2P’s before I even get tangled up in their stupidity.
Paul Strikwerda says
Hi Greg, thank you so much for adding your voice to this discussion. I hope other newcomers are paying attention. If not, they’ll pay the price!
On one hand I can understand that your coach wants you to stay focused on your career. On the other hand, we don’t live in a bubble, and it is good to know what the latest developments in our field are. I think it makes business sense to hear what other professionals have to say.
As you mentioned, some of the bigger names are staying out of this controversy. Perhaps it’s because they don’t use P2P’s, or perhaps they’re simply too busy working. I had to step away from this thread for a while to get some work done!
From what I’ve read, I think you’re on the right track. It’s not an easy track, but you have chosen a tough field in a tough economy. You seem to prepare yourself well for the road ahead, and your sales background is what is going to help you carve out a career.
I wish you the very best, personally and professionally!
Ted Mcaleer says
Hi Greg, sorry to horn in here. You are exactly where I was about 4 years ago. The best thing that happened to my career was reading Nethervoice. The training I needed came elsewhere, but I learned about it here. All of my business practices, well the good ones at least were fashioned after things I saw on Nethervoice. Do yourself a favor, get the book “Making Money in your Pajamas” The practices written about there are key to a successful, sustainable VO business model.
Greg James says
Thanks Ted! Yes, that book had already caught my attention, and I was intending to get it. Thanks for jogging my memory on this!
dc goode says
Outta the Park, Paul.
This is one fine ‘Expose’…a long time coming and sorely needed.
It will be very interesting to see how this shakes out.
Great job, as always.
PS It was very reassuring to hear from a Producer, chiming in and concerned about his reputation being damaged by their antics.
Paul Strikwerda says
I’m waiting to hear from more producers and other clients. Fortunately, most of my clients skip the middleman and come straight to me.
Superb work on this, Paul – simply superb.
Iona Frances says
Thanks for this article and exposé. More needs to be said about what is happening with this company. I wish I had their client list, so I could let everyone know what they’re doing with the talent that’s booking the jobs and how we’re being short-changed. Also the bad-mouthing of the clients that they do. Anyway, I wanted to share my experience…
It should be noted though, I am a SAG actress and most P2P work is non-union (naughty me). In all honesty, we want to be treated fairly and compensated appropriately, knowing we and the client are not being screwed. That, sadly, only comes via a union these days. People are out to make money and only care about the people who are injecting the money, not the people who are taking the dregs at the end of the day.
I book a lot of work on these P2P sites, but I sure put a lot of work in as well. I haven’t done the math, but I’m sure it’s not that great when it comes down to the bottom line. I audition because I learn and I get to practice and, if I book, then even better.
Recently however, I have noticed an increase in the voices.com jobs. i.e where voices.com “agents” are the middle man.
Firstly, I use the term “agents” extremely loosely. They are invariably useless. From multiple personal experiences:
1. They relay the wrong or broken information from the client, causing multiple retakes and making the talent look like they’re screwing up.
2. They know nothing about voice overs, recording or editing/mastering and therefore suggest the most ridiculous things in their emails.
3. They lie to the talent and the client about the way the client / talent is behaving. (I have first hand proof of this)
4. They do not answer questions properly or relay the correct information to the client.
5. Recently an “agent” contacted me for the 5th time saying I had to do another take as the client wasn’t happy with what I was doing, and they needed it by close of business that day. The “agent” gave no direction or description of what the issue was. I asked repeatedly and kept getting “thanks for being so flexible” despite the fact I had told her I was unable to get it done that day. In the end, I requested that she put me in touch with the client so we could do a phone patch and they could get what they wanted. The “agent’s” response: “Do you need more money? We can give you more money.” My response: “It’s not about the money, it’s about the client getting what they want. Please organize a phone patch.” The agent’s response: “We can give you more money to do another take.” This went on and on. Finally she randomly emails me and says: “Crisis averted. Don’t need another take.” I didn’t believe it for a second and loathe to think what she said about the client to me. I let her know that she hadn’t answered a single question I’d asked and asked her to read through the email chain. I never heard back.
Regarding the money side of things… I believe they are the ONLY P2P site that
(a) charges $$$ up front
(b) takes 10% commission, and
(c) takes 30% – 80% cut on jobs they’re “agents” for.
I have had a number of clients contact me directly via my website because they are so frustrated with these “agents.” And every single time I have discovered that voices.com are taking between 30% and 80% of the fee. Most recently, an “agent” was causing a whole lot of pain in my butt. Eventually I get an email through my website from the client telling me he was sick of dealing with them as they would take 2 days to reply to him, despite the fact he was doing it through them as it was a rush job.
The subject of fees came up and here’s what he told me: He had a budget of $350 for a 2 minute online commercial. voices.com told him the minimum for that job was $500 and he’d have to boost his budget to get good talent.
Here’s what I told him: voices.com advertised the job at $100. I auditioned and quoted $280. voices.com contacted me saying I was hired and they’d process the Agreement. Then they contacted me again saying they couldn’t process the Agreement as, whilst the client really liked me, they’d decided they could only pay $100 and would I drop my rate to that? If not, they’d have to find someone else. I said “no, please find someone else.” So… with what the client told me, it seems they were taking 80% of the fee they were charging my client!!! And I still only charged the client my original quoted rate.
I no longer audition for any voices.com jobs, only direct client jobs.
So… there’s my pennyworth. I get so het up about this that I felt a need to rant and share. I hope more people share and somehow we can get fair treatment for talent. Unfortunately though there’s always going to be people who are happy to record on their iphone in their shower and take $5 for it. So, I think it’s a case of shut up and take it, or walk away. I make a good income from it, so I always bite my tongue. Except tonight… thanks 🙂
Naomi Mercer says
Love this. I have been having similar experiences the last couple years. Glad to someone else ranting so I don’t feel like I’m the only one:) Thanks, Iona.
Paul Strikwerda says
You’re welcome, Naomi. You definitely are not alone, which is unfortunate. Of course for every person leaving the site, there will be countless hopefuls signing up with a dream and a mediocre demo.
Naomi Mercer says
Yes – I tried to go back and edit this post to thank YOU directly! So sorry about that Paul. Really appreciate you starting this dialogue with such a great post.
When I read this article I immediately emailed to finally cxl my mem’ship with voice.com. They wrote me back asking why so I responded by telling them about my most recent crappy experience and also included a link to this article.
They have not responded:)
Paul Strikwerda says
Not responding is also a response… If they had a strong argument that would refute my article, you would have heard it by now.
Ted Mcaleer says
The darn comments are as interesting as the blog is. Wow, thanks everyone!
Paul Strikwerda says
I totally agree, Ted. I want to thank every commentator for sharing so freely and openly. I know someone’s looking over our shoulder, taking it all in.
Mark Chen says
Thanks Paul for all your hard work and input/output on all matters VO.
From my perspective, the jump to a $5k level for Voices is not much more than keeping up with the Joneses. Cost wise it brings them to parity with Voice123.
But when you add in Professional Services (PS or should it be Business Services and BS), you have a whole other animal. It looks like BS now accounts for 30-40% of the postings on Voices. Now, as a BS manager, you have 2 paying sides vying for attention. The paying client and the paying VO. And of course, the paying VO with the big bucks expects a bigger bang for his bigger bucks.
And take into account the human factor which says to play it safe, especially when it is other peoples money, and you end up with the BS manager going with and more highly recommending the Platinum Unlimited (PU) talent. You can imagine a conversation: “Gee, this VO sounds great. Exactly the feel we want” “Right. Hey I’ve got this audition from one of our top talents you can get for just about the same money. I’m sure this talent can duplicate that” “Really? Then let’s do it!” End result, a win for the BS team, a win for the PU talent and a huge loss for the talent who was originally liked.
So due to the volume of BS jobs, the regular Premium folks are pushed even further down the to hole.
Another thing to watch for: As Paul has noted, Voices is assuming a lot of debt in order to expand and grow. At some point they will need to find other avenues in the entire process to generate more income. I wouldn’t be surprised if they start doing complete audio services in the near future in order to offer end to end service. Client has a script or an idea for a script, Voices takes that and gets the talent, produces the finished spot and charges a small fortune for the completed project. White Glove service all the way and a much bigger slice of the pie.
If I were a studio connected with them, I would look to the possibility of buy-out offers coming fairly soon or major competition just around the corner.
Paul Strikwerda says
My guess is that “Voices” is slowly preparing to go public, and the couple running the place will cash in. Meanwhile, they will continue to milk their members in this online cattle call.
Keith Michaels says
Thanks to Mike Tobin for sharing this link.
Voices.com CEO David Ciccarelli to address recent controversy in webinar with Bill DeWees
Paul Strikwerda says
The webinar is taking place on November 4th from 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM EST.
Keith Michaels says
The webinar is November 4. Still time! Follow the link to sign up. 🙂
Paul Strikwerda says
I think I’ve laid out my case against Voices.com pretty clearly. In my blog posts I have quoted many colleagues who have questions and concerns, and many of them have also left remarks in the comment section. That should give Mr. DeWees plenty of material to draw from.
Some people have framed this discussion as “Mr. Nethervoice against Voices.com,” and that’s not only incorrect, but also unhelpful. I’m not on some sort of personal vendetta, and “Voices” is not the only Pay-to-Play with questionable practices.
I will definitely watch the webinar with great interest, either on the 4th, or later on YouTube. Regardless of the outcome, I want to thank Mr. DeWees for keeping this discussion going.
Scott Gentle says
Hmmm…so, let’s see…we have:
– The comfy, safe, closed confines of a non-public webinar, with presentation/moderation by one of their all-time top-billing talents.
(With all due respect, whose objectivity goes even further into question after reading this in his invitation: “This will be the perfect opportunity to better understand how Voices.com operates, which in turn will equip you to better utlize this powerful platform for voice over work!”)
– A select, very limited-sized audience, likely no more than a few hundred max – of which they likely have control over the attendee list.
(I hear in Vegas they’re furiously tallying the odds on whether Paul will be admitted, will have his text/voice chat mysteriously be non-functional, or both…”place yer bets, place yer bets!”)
As opposed to, say:
– Truthfully and ethically handling the issue to begin with – so it was never an issue at all?
– Tackling the hard, fact-based questions from critics like Paul head-on with substantive answers here and on other public forums on the interwebs when the whole kerfuffle first came to a head a few months ago?
Yep, once again, typical Voices.com management/ownership way to handle things…for those of you new to the discussion, their time-tested M.O. when things get too hot in the kitchen usually works like this:
Place head deeply in sand in ostrich-like fashion.
Hope it all goes away.
Hold a non-discussion in a friendly venue to “address” the issue when it doesn’t.
Write a press release about it, claiming it was “innovative” and “disruptive” and benefits everyone in the VO industry (but especially the talent, who never pay a SurePay fee or anything resembling an unfair commission or bottomfeeder rate because “Voices.com isn’t an agency, but a marketplace”).
Lookee, kids! Once again, it seems the damage control machine’s been set to run on “stratospheric spin” for a couple of days in a row…just received this in the inbox today:
“Tuesday, November 3
2:00pm – 3:00pm ET
Click the orange button below to register, or go directly to
Send us your questions/comments vio Twitter @EdgeStudio
Be sure to use #EdgeLIVE”
Join us for a live one-hour interview with Edge Studio’s Graeme Spicer and Voices.com CEO, David Ciccarelli.
Graeme will interview David regarding the evolution of voice-over casting, get an update on changes in the Voices.com business model including the Professional Services team, and have a candid conversation of the concerns expressed by several members of the voice-over community in the past several months over some Voices.com business practices.
Find out the future of voice acting, and the role of online casting and Voices.com in that future.
The video will be streamed live to the internet from the Voices.com office and will subsequently be posted on our Youtube channel.
The interview will also be reported live on Twitter by the Edge Studio team. You are invited to direct your questions to @EdgeStudio #EdgeLIVE via twitter both before and during the interview.
Expect this LIVE event to be a wide-ranging, open and frank conversation – don’t miss it!.”
Philip Banks says
I am certain that a TV Evangelist and the Pope are not the right people to discuss “Does God exist?”
God I miss your wonderful posts on Linkedin Philip!
Philip Banks says
Thank you, Keith. I regularly post utter piffle on the VO-BB http://www.vo-bb.com so feel free to stop by.
With apologies to Paul for the slight distraction.
Paul Strikwerda says
No need to apologize, Philip. On certain stressful days I warmly welcome distraction.
Jon Armond says
Hey guys – I love all the comments. I found this article doing research on voices.com. I have been a member of voice123 since July and I booked over $5,000 just from voice123 last month. I have money. I wanted to get the $5K voice123 platinum membership but I was told that I am on a “waiting list” and it might be a year. I have 5 agents (Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Houston & Chicago) but they don’t get me many auditions at all and I’ve never booked any work with any of them. Would it do any good at all for me to get on with voices.com? I can do the $5K membership if it will get me work. The way I figure it, a $395 voice123 investment has netted me about $10,000 in 3 months. So, I will spend to make. Should I? I’m confused. I live in LA but it seems like P2P is all I ever get in terms of work!
Dave Wallace says
Well….at your own peril. For the reasons Paul laid out, I’d never go to voices.com. I have mixed feelings on Voice123, but at least they don’t prevent communications with my clients, and they don’t take a 40-80% commission of what I book through them. So personally, I don’t see any good reason to sign up with Voices at all. Just my thoughts, of course (my more detailed feelings on Voice123 can be found further down in the comments section).
Paul Strikwerda says
Jon, the only thing I can guarantee you in this business, is that there are no guarantees in this business. However, if you leave it up to someone else to generate job leads for you, you’re giving part of your power away. If you’re willing to spend 5K, think of all the things YOU can do to attract more business, that don’t make you dependent on forces you cannot control.
Jon Armond says
Good advice, Paul. Here’s the problem…yes, I am willing to spend money. I don’t believe those who preach “hey, just get a $99 microphone for your laptop and you’re good to go”. I believe it takes money to make money in this business. I totally agree with what you say about spending 5K in another way to attract more business but WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?? You tell me where to put that 5K that would mean attracting more business and I’ll do it! Are P2P sites the best place to spend my money? Probably not, but sending them 5K and getting a ton of auditions is concrete. I know what that entails. If I don’t sent them 5K but decide to spend it somewhere else, then it’s a giant question mark. That’s the problem. It’s all a mystery. You say “think of all the things I can do to attract more business”…but I don’t know what any of those things are. Knock on doors? I honestly don’t know where to throw that money but I am more than willing to hear suggestions! -Jon
Paul Strikwerda says
I’ve written a 400+ page book about the business of being in the voice-over business, Jon. Different colleagues have different strengths and weaknesses, and different people have different needs. There is no winning formula, but I do know this: study those who are at a level you’d like to see yourself in a year or two, and find out what they did to get there. You’ll discover that very few people have reached that level by pumping money into Pay to Plays.
John V says
Voices is worst than ever for Spanish-speaking talents. Now they want bilingual VOs ( one in English and one in Spanish) for the same low talent fee. I have asked them several times to specify ” Bilingual;” in the language category at least.
Moreover, now some job ads require script translations and even transcription of the English spot.
I went to voices because I lost my radio job.
Paul Strikwerda says
There are many other ways to book voice-over jobs, John. They may require more legwork, but it’s not a good idea to rely on a site like voices dot com. In spite of a massive call for more transparency, voices dot com has done nothing to address the issues.
Wow, this expository piece of yours was almost NY Times Op-ed quality. And I cover politics and entertainment for some major sites. Bravo! Of all the ever-present P2P sites out there, I have found voices.com to be the most greedy, duplicitous, and unprofessional. That they allow talent, regardless of thier stature and experience, to drop $5k on a “tier” mebership is beyond pathetic. I mean, I would sooner stuff that cash into a garbage bag and dump it ito the Hudson–a far better investment–than hand it over to Voices. I’m curious what your impressions are of a budding a talent-friendly site called the voice realm. As opposed to simply needing a credit card to join, they actually vet their members and don’t charge an exorbitant yearly fee. They appear to act as an “agent” as well in that they take a cut, which can seem rather steep. Most seem to be at the standard 10-15 percent, however. But they appear to the most honest and professional of them all. So I was just curious what your thoughts were on them, assuming you are aware of them and even have an opinion. I’d love to chat a lttle more with you as you’re quite knowledgable on this subject. Thanks.
Paul Strikwerda says
It was really nice to read your compliments this morning. English is my second language, and to be compared to NY Times Op-ed writers, is not something I hear every day.
I’m afraid I can’t help you with The Voice Real because I have no experience with this service. From what I have heard, the user response is a mixed bag. Some people seem to be happy. Others have tried it and didn’t have a positive experience. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, I guess. Personally, I’m not hungry for more Pay to Play.
Done! Thanks for your input on the voice realm. The consensus tend to favor them over ll the rest. I’d love to eschew P2ps, but outside of having n agent or agents I really don;t see how else to book work. Sure, having a website is great and necessary. But can you actually book work by reaching out to potential clients directly. Seems like a time-suck. technology is a blessing and a curse; it made it so it’s cheap enough to do on your own, but it’s also made it so anyone can do it (hobbyists) and brought down the pay. And all the good jobs go to celebs or wannabe celebs anyway. If there’s a special and unique alt, I’d be the first to buy a ticket.
Paul Strikwerda says
What many tend to forget is that ten years or so ago, we didn’t have any online voice casting services such as voices dot com. There was no way of paying a membership fee, and seeing the cheap auditions being sent to your mailbox every day. People had to network, go to real cattle calls, make warm and cold calls, send out demos, get agents interested, and all the other things voice talent had to do to attract work. Social media was in its infancy, and promoting one’s services was a lot more expensive and cumbersome. But it was the way the industry worked, and believe it or not, it still works that way.
The problem is that too many hobbyists are uneducated and impatient, and they don’t want to do the legwork. They’re looking for an easy way to land jobs, and they want technology to help them make a quick buck. Many Pay to Plays meet that need with greed. I have said it before, and I will say it again:
You’re absolutely right! I feel like P2P is just something that one should use as part of their entire plan, as opposed to wholly rely on. And yes, I actually have booked gigs by doing some good old-fashioned sleuthing and prospecting. Quite honestly, I wouldn’t have such major issues with voices.com if they acted like honest to dog agents. For example, only taking 10-15 percent on every job and not requiring talent to pay to sign-up. Then again, that would cut into the sweet and infinite money-making deal they’ve got going o now. My only hope is that more and more people say no at the same rate, if not more, than those who gladly sign up. Thanks for the input!
Commodore James says
This was beyond helpful. This past week I had Voices.com email me AND call me twice trying to get me to drop some cash. Your article and my own business sense made sure my wallet stayed closed.
Paul Strikwerda says
That’s a wise decision. I’m glad I could save you some money this holiday season!
Naomi Mercer says
Welp, looks like they know they can’t stay silent forever. Voices.com just asked me to speak on a panel or webinar or something like that, coming up at the end of this month. Interestingly, it’s about rates, but we are not to comment on what we think rates should be. Just the trends we’ve noticed.
I want to believe that they are all good people, coming at this from the perspective of running their business. They try things and see what works. When something doesn’t work, they are met some heat, like this article for ex., and hopefully, they will make a change.
Paul Strikwerda says
Good people can do great work work in a bad system of their own making. I think that’s the case with “Voices.” To describe the response to their business practices as “some heat” is quite an understatement. The discontent with “Voices” has been building up for years, and all of us have to ask ourselves whether or not we wish to associate ourselves with this company.
A friend of mine recommended Voices to me, said her friend’s husband was doing well with it. Third hand info, but I figured, it couldn’t hurt to look into. Being in a rush that day, I created a profile and headed out for an appointment. Within an hour of creating a profile, I received a call from someone attempting to upsell me to a membership. I’ve been in radio for 15 years and dabbling in VO for the last 5 years. I was doing ok getting work for myself, and the thought of paying someone for the potential to audition, was ludicrous. They continue to call and harangue me, even though I’ve never again logged in to the site. I know a scam when I see one. I would be interested in hearing from more clients of Voices. After all, what motivates them to go to this company? Is it because they think it’s cheaper and easier? In the long run, it appears to be neither.
Paul Strikwerda says
Hi Nikki, over the years I have written a lot about online casting sites like “Voices.” In the right-hand margin of my blog you’ll find a few categories, and by clicking on “Pay-to-Play” you’ll access stories that have to do with this topic.
I believe that there are at least four things that entice people to sign up:
1. misconceptions about what it means to be a VO-Pro
2. misinformation/propaganda by the casting sites
3. lack of vetting from these sites
4. laziness on the part of the voice talent
Kevan Brighting says
I think Voices.com should adopt the Gordon Gekko maxim: Greed is Good. Shame on them. May they crash and burn.
Scott Gentle says
Kevan – they pretty much already did that years ago.
First, it was with “the commission that isn’t really a commission, until we’ve been caught redhanded by fumbling our carefully-scripted wording about it…and then still only half-admitting it” a/k/a their SurePay escrow service.
In the early days of the site, it was optional for voice seeke..*ahem*…”clients”…to enable it, or talent to agree to use it. Most newbies liked it for the safety net it provided. Most vets rankled at and rejected it, saying “we’re adults and can run our businesses just fine on our own, thank you very much”, and like most pros invoiced the client directly or sent them their PayPal username.
If they were smart, they’d have implemented this from the very beginning as part of their business model and called it what it was: a commission + PayPal surcharge to keep the site running, and been done with it, right? It’d have been way less contentious because they were honest about it, and it was already baked in from the start as “how we do business”…but smart folks in the biz know the site owners have never been as smart as they like to make themselves out to be.
Then, lo and behold….one day out of the blue a few years ago, SurePay became mandatory for ALL jobs on the site.
No heads-up warning via e-mail. No announcement on the site. No blog post, or any other of their usual PR. It just magically appeared without explanation, and was folded into the site’s Terms of Service to boot.
No matter what you felt or how much you complained about it, they automatically began taking 10% off the top of every gig. Then, to add insult to injury, all the while they were proclaiming in public forums that it was a great thing because “talent NEVER pays the SurePay fee!”…whilst their bid calculator automatically deducted that percentage from whatever you submitted as your price on every gig you auditioned for.
(It’s one thing to say “we really gotta change our model and make better profits” – but another entirely to unapologetically foist something huge like that onto your members unannounced, then later dishonestly wrap it up in pretty bows and ribbons while outright denying what it really is when called out on it. It’s been one of the most aggravating, egregious – and insulting – examples of their penchant for tricky wording for talent-unpopular policies and how badly they botched implementing them…but I digress, as it’s only gotten worse, as only they can do it…)
Of course, more recently at the start of 2014 came the now-infamous intense focus on the “Professional” Services Department and their additional 20-85% “service fee” (on top of SurePay) – but again, if you ask them, oh heavens no, that’s not a commission either.
Now, if their similar repeated dishonesty about THAT wasn’t enough to break the camel’s back for ya like it has for most of us…
I understand from other blogposts that at VO Atlanta 2016 last week, they’ve essentially not just gone public but official with their contempt of talent, with a company rep saying at a panel on P2P pricing that they refuse to be transparent on gig budgets to talent.
But…they will to clients…but only if they ask.
Is it me, or was Gekko an altarboy compared to these guys?
Keith Michaels says
Do you know if anybody blasted them in person in Atlanta? I can’t believe they stated that at a VO conference! Oh wait, yes I can. But, the size of his and her balls must be “UUUGGE” (my best Trump dialect)