Decades before the Internet's inception, VO Talent Agencies reviewed the quality of their "talent" before placing them on their roster. The reason was simple: If their agency didn't have quality talent that could deliver each and everytime, their clients would go somewhere else and their business would ultimately fail. It's no different than interviewing someone for a job before you hire them.
Imagine if you will, conducting an interview with a perspective candidate for employ at your company. When you ask them why they think they deserve the job, they respond:
Got a credit card? You're listed. The staff at Voice123 (and voices.com) don't seem to care if your specialty is voice work or stained glass....regardless of your talent, skill or studio (audio) quality - demo or no demo, you can get posted with your credit card on Voice123 and compete with pros like myself for voiceover work. In reference to the aforementioned (as politically correct as I can be), here's an example (Hint: Listen to the voice demo).
I was on Voice123 from June 21, 2003 thru to 2009 as a Premium Member. Over 6 years my Voice123 audition folder accumulated 1258 files or custom auditions.
The only truly useful purpose I can determine of Voice123 is, it can act as an on-line learning tool for those who really want to learn the craft of voice acting. You get a huge variety of sample scripts to practice with and get some insight into the workings of the "on-line" business of voiceovers. I've sent many a student to Voice123 for this reason, not to compete for work....but to practice. You can do this without paying for a membership, but beware the "try us 2 months for free offer."
As for the talent listed there (and Voices.com), I can tell you that 95% of the talent are anything but professional, mostly ex-broadcasters, rookies and wannabes. There are very few pros; I know this, because I've spent an exhaustive amount of time researching Voice123.
I tell ya, it's a dog's breakfast of talent responses to a posting - talent, service, price and marketing methodology. I'm not impressed at all. Like the rest of the Internet, you have to sift through a lot of garbage to find what you're looking for. Then, there's the price issue. Every rate structure imaginable. There are people who will work for $10.00 and others $1000.00 for the same job.
Yes, you find the odd decent talent. Of the 200+ responses to a single post there's normally about 2 or 3 who I would consider competition in talent, service, studio and price.
It's my feeling that Voice123 has done serious damage to a once (smaller) thriving industry.....by simply taking people's money who have no business competing for the work; much less are able to provide quality audio and service.
It's painfully obvious to me that Voice123 went after quantity not quality from the get-go. That being said, don't expect to make a dime with Voice123, (much less get the money back for your membership)......but do plan to answer many, many leads and get little or nothing in return. If you're a pro, well.....you know the story with Voice123 and you probably use it as a tool to sniff out leads and add to your existing client base.
They use a system called "Smartcast" that is anything but smart. Based on some really stupid calculations, it distributes leads to the Voice123 membership. How stupid? Here's an example.
When I calculate my stats, the system compares me to every single North American English VO talent in the membership....including females. I always sit around the 10% range of auditions submitted vs. invitations. In other words, if I was invited to audition 400 times, I would only answer about 40 of those invitations.
Of course, Voice123 wants you to "be picky" about the leads you audition for. I'm at 10%. That's pretty picky if you ask me. However.....somehow...I manage to audition 300% more than anyone else. Go figure.
Then we have the "ranking system" where, yes......you are ranked by Voice123 clients or "voice seekers" on your audition and overall submission. That's right! You too can be ranked by the front desk secretary who is looking for someone to voice their on-hold system, who has never hired a VO talent in her life.....or perhaps the producer who listens to 20 auditions, hates everything and decides to give all 50 auditions the lowest score - without listening to the rest of them.
This....is how Voice123 "ranks" your ability.
As for the rest of the stuff there, well, they've removed their "Voice-over Savvy" forum; once a place where talent would share information. Most in the industry believe they shut down the forum because there was negative commentary (translation: the truth) about Voice123 being posted. They couldn't stand the heat, so they closed the kitchen. This, pissed a lot of people off.
Still to this day, they heavily censor their Premium Forums to the point where it's almost like being behind the once sturdy Berlin Wall. Anything even remotely controversial is immediately pounced on and edited, outright deleted or the person posting banned from the forum. Many have been outright banned from the entire site, their website and membership revoked. Go ahead, give it a try. Post the question:
Closing forums, censoring posts, taking money from people who have no business calling themselves a voice talent (selling dreams), spewing inane propaganda left and right......will tell you pretty much everything you need to know about Voice123. Their actions speak far louder than their so-called "talent" roster.
If you're rookie or wannabe, don't waste your money. If you're a pro or semi-pro, it might be worthwhile to try it out, but don't expect fame and fortune. Outside of that, Voice123 is a useful learning tool for students of the craft.
A short time ago, I received this letter from a gentleman in the UK who explained how he discovered Voices.com is ripping off talent and clients via their website.
Since then, what little faith or trust I had in this company is now gone. That said, I would caution anyone reading this - both clients and talent - to avoid doing any "business" with this company as their ethics are highly questionable.
You'll note that I said "business." By this I mean, they clearly can't be trusted to handle your money. Click on the link above. Read the letter.
You can use the site for casting, yes. What you want to avoid - both talent and clients - is their "Professional Services Division" or leads that are managed by Voices.com.
To the unsuspecting client, they offer this "free" service where the staff at Voices will handle the casting of your project.
To explain this in layman's terms, the client fills out a short quote form for Voices to cast their project. Voices staff "consult" the client on the service....but more importantly, the budget.
Let's say the clients "budget" (likely suggested by Voices) is $500. Voices.com then posts that lead to talent with a budget of say, $125.00. Take a wild guess who would be on the winning end of this transaction.
It's happening every day. The low-budget leads posted by Voices.com's Professional Division is staggering.....I alone am seeing 10-15 per day. I feel really bad for the clients, because they're the ones really taking the hit. At least talent have a choice to answer the lead. Sadly, many are....but I do see the numbers dropping, which is encouraging.
Buyer.....and Talent beware. These people are not to be trusted.
Below, you will find my original (older) review of this site, updated to include details on their "Brokering" of VO jobs. Here is another review of Voices.com that everyone should read, both clients and talent.
If you're on this page, you're either a talent trying to decide whether or not to get a subscription to the site, or a client trying to figure out what the deal is with Voices.com.
Having invented the business model of the home-studio based voice talent in 1998, I was in the VO business many years before the inception of Voices.com, so I have a rather long history with this website. In fact, I was the first person to ever get awarded a job through Voices.com, or so I was told by David Ciccarelli.
That said, keep in mind that I likely know more about this site and the people behind it than anyone out there on the Intertube.
For the convenience of those reading here, I've broken this article up into two categories: Clients and Talent who patronize the site (Note: it's best to read both sections if you're a Talent).
If you're a Client.....
First and foremost, you need to understand that these people really don't know what they're doing with respect to the delivery of "actual" voiceover services.
They simply run a website whose product happens to be voice talent. Consider that they sell the book "Voiceover For Dummies" - this should give you a hint about the quality of their product in general.
Secondly, there's obviously a lot of smoke and mirrors going on. A prime example would be the "100,000" profiles they claim the site offers. If you do a search on the site for "All" talent, you'll see it only returns approx. 4,150 talent in total, both Male and Female.
Thirdly, their customer service is probably the worst I've ever experienced during my time here on Planet Earth. I cring at the mere thought of having to deal with them about.....anything.
Having worked with them directly over many jobs, I'm constantly forced to conclude that they simply don't have a clue what they're doing. On one job alone, I got e-mails from 6 different people - each one not aware of what the other was doing.
Finally, if you use Voices.com to hire talent via their plethora of services, you're going to end up paying a lot more for your voiceover had you simply worked with the talent directly, as I will explain.
Fees, fees, fees...
Because the folks at Voices know full well they're not held accountable by anything or anyone, they can pretty much charge a fee for whatever they want, however they want.....and don't even have to provide any services for the fee.
Take for instance the "Promoted Job" - $19.95. Here, they promise clients that for a fee...they'll put your job at the top of the list! You'll get more responses! These types of generic statements say nothing and promise even less. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that all they do for the $19.95 is send the lead to every talent in their membership (all 4,150 of them) and put a fancy icon next to the job for everyone to see.
What I've discovered is, the "free" service to post your lead is usually headed up by a 17 year old not quite out of high-school, who will take at least a day or two to post your lead. I'm guessing that the reason for this is.....next time, you'll pay the $19.95 for someone who has actually graduated from High School to manage your posting.
Then we have the escrow fee, not-so-cleverly disguised as a 10% commission. Arguably, they're doing little or nothing with respect to "work" for this service; it's a Pay Pal transaction. In fact, they've actually made something that was once quite simple, far more complicated with the introduction of escrow.
Hoops of Fire....
Clients have to make a deposit, upload their file, submit their contact info, write a catchy description of their company, pick a bunch of useless adjectives like "kooky" to describe the voice they want, post an "Agreement" which seems to be only a company name, street and e-mail address.
Then when you finish your project, there's even more work to do....! The client has to go back to the site and release the funds.....and as part of that function, are forced to write a review of the talent's service. Considering the fact that no one wants to say anything negative about anyone (talent can also review the client) this results in everyone blowing sunshine up everybody's keister.
It's all a bunch of fluff designed to make it "look" like they know what they're doing, when in reality, they don't have a clue and all this crap results in the world's largest make-work project.
All of this, so Voices.com can collect 10% of your budget.....and sell you other services which have seemingly little to no value.
Voices is now "brokering" jobs on behalf of their clients. This means that the staff at Voices.com (a revolving door of single moms, housewives and part-time students from what I can tell) are casting voice talent for clients, short-listing talent and negotiating rates.
This is so wrong on so many levels, it's difficult to know where to start....but I'm going to begin at the obvious starting point, which is MONEY.
First of all, Talent have paid good money for a subscription to answer leads and have their audition heard by the client, not someone at Voices.com - of questionable experience - to create short lists. It's bad enough that the talent may be the 120th person to submit an audition as it is.
Secondly, because Voices is working "behind the scenes" with the client, the talent or client obviously have no idea who is getting paid what.
Let me explain....
Let's say for instance that the client - "Acme Software" - hires Voices.com to cast voiceover talent for their project because they simply don't have the time. They tell Voices that their budget for this short narration is $500.00.
Here's where it gets interesting.....
Voices can now post that lead to the voiceover masses in the $250-$500 budget range. Talent then respond with their respective "bids" for the gig. Let's say for argument's sake that the chosen talent has bid $250.00.
So...can we trust that Voices.com is going to tell the client what the winning bid was for the job....? There's the rub. The client could be paying $500.00 for that $250.00 voiceover and no-one - Client nor Talent - would be the wiser.
Where it gets even more intriguing is the sudden increase in Voices.com "brokered" leads being posted in the $100-$250 price range. This tells me that Voices.com is simply trying to get the cheapest talent they can find - regardless of their client's budget - so they can realize a larger profit.
Anyway you slice it, it's pretty ugly.
True or False, conspiracy theory, call it whatever you want, I'm calling it a Conflict Of Interest.....on multiple levels. Here, we have a company who collects subscription fees from talent in exchange for prospective client leads. Suddenly, the business model changes and now they're short-listing talent auditions and secretly handling the money behind the scenes - all the while keeping talent and clients from communicating with each other.
But, keep in mind that Voices.com is not being held accountable to anyone or anything....so there you go. There's no Voiceover Police out there on the internet.
All I can say is, buyer beware.
Is it useful at all...?
It's a convenient way to cast for voice talent yes, but you should be aware that roughly 80% or more of the auditions you'll receive either won't fit the bill, or will be downright awful. Many talent won't submit a custom audition, even though this is discouraged.
Expect a dog's breakfast of audio quality and service offerings. Many of these people actually bought and read "Voiceover for Dummies" - composed by someone who couldn't read their way out of a wet paper bag.
I personally use it on occasion to source out talent we don't have in our roster. However, posting the job, going through the approval process and sifting through all the crap is both tedious and tiresome.
I've heard of a few people who use Voices.com frequently, but most of these people require variety with respect to voice talent - whether or not that talent is good or bad...they just need variety.
As a client, I personally wouldn't pay a dime for anything extra - too risky in my opinion, the services highly questionable in terms of value. Indeed, all you need to do is dig about 1 inch below the surface to figure out you've uncovered something pretty ugly.
It's evident to me that Voices.com has adopted the same philosophy of all the P2P sites out there which is:
"We're going to make this as convoluted as possible so you'll pay the $29.95 to have us deal with all the crap for you."
It should also be stated here that at one time, their escrow service was "optional." It's now mandatory and talent cannot contact clients during the audition process. In fact, clients can't contact the talent unless they post a job! This unto itself is a big slap in the face to talent, who pay for the privilege of getting client leads for work via their annual subscription fee.
That said, here are two things to consider:
1) You can post your job, source out talent and do your own casting, for free. Once you've found the talent you want, you are free to contact them directly and deal with them directly outside the realm of Voices.com. Again, talent have already paid Voices.com for the right to respond to your posting.
2) If you're paranoid that the voice talent is going to rip you off and/or you think that their casting service, talent and customer service is exceptional (excuse me while I barf...), then by all means, pay the escrow fee.....with the understanding that the fee you pay doesn't all go to the talent.
After all is said and done, it should be pointed out that Voices.com has the word "Free" posted all over the site - the choice to pay anything extra is yours to make, guilt-free.
If you're a voice talent....
Voices.com does an OK job of "appearing" to look like they know what they're doing....which translates to good search engine rankings and therefore, the site generates a lot of leads for subscribers to respond to.
Where the line gets really blurry is whether or not Voices.com is a P2P site, or an agency. Yes, they're a "P2P" site which means they will take your money whether you have talent for VO or not. After all, it's a business being run by people who have never voiced a script in their life, much less run a recording studio.
They are now brokering voiceover gigs, dealing with the client and talent independently and who knows who is paying for what and where (see "Brokering" above).
As well, Voices.com uses a software method of targeting a voice; the same ridiculous concept applied by Voice123. I say "ridiculous" because using software to choose a voice is like asking a computer what kind of food you like.
At a glance....
The latest changes to the site (business model) are ethically sketchy at best. I guess the best way to describe it is, Voices.com has become far more "client centric" by implementing certain mechanisms to glean money from clients looking to hire talent.
in doing so, talent takes it on the chin:
Fees for talent services are hiked up by 10% because Voices made escrow mandatory.
Talent are no longer allowed to contact clients unless the client contacts them first through the website, or the job is awarded to the talent.
- Voices.com is now brokering leads, negotiating rates and managing VO projects independently. Now, talent are left to wonder if their auditions are being heard by the client and/or if they're are getting the lion's share of the budget as everything is done behind closed doors; no contact with the client at all.
The latter being the most disturbing, because really...this move flies in the face of the the P2P model which is "Pay To Play." In exchange for an annual membership fee, talent are paying for the privilege to get client leads for work - NOT to have Voices.com play the role of an agent, short-listing auditions and negotiating the rate (see "Brokering" above).
Most of the leads are low budget. Colors, the same cheesy graphics and logo have remained the same for years now. (I always thought they were homemade).
It looks like there's more Resources content up for sale or for review...but really, it's all introductory stuff....and pretty poorly composed at that. The fact that they sell the book "Voiceover for Dummies" really says it all right there.
I could go on for pages here pointing out all the superfluous fluff. If you want to see what I mean, have a look at the scripts they offer and read...well, anything. You'll have a good chuckle....
What's up with the demo categories...?
Heading over to the talent demo upload section, the Voices.com site still looks like it was created by someone who has never been a voice talent, much less a professional one. The demo categories are outright wrong, the description choices even worse......it all seems like somebody took an educated "guess" at how to describe your voice by merely offering up a list of adjectives.
Obviously, they give this same list of adjectives for the client to pick out when they're describing the voice they want to target or hire. Subsequently, uploading a voice demo brings to mind a craps table in Vegas, single-malt scotch in hand ......wondering if the house has loaded the dice.
I'll explain as best I can. Voice demos have historically, always been categorized by format of voice-over IE: Commercials, Narration, On-Hold, etc. It would appear the folks at Voices.com are unaware of this fact, because they give us categories like "Radio" and "Television" - which I'm sorry to say is just plain wrong.
Also, let's not forget that when one is listening to an "audio" demo, one cannot tell the difference between a Television and Radio commercial. "Radio" and "Television" denote broadcast usage and therefore, determine the rate for a voiceover. They are never used as terms to categorize a voice talent's demo reel.
This, from Chapter 1 of Voiceover 101.
Again, my reasoning that the site was designed by someone who is clearly not a voice talent, nor agent.
The "idea" of using adjectives is admirable and has sterling qualities indeed. However, it's inherently flawed in that there's not enough adjectives in the dictionary to describe anyone's voice when you factor in one, dynamic element, the proverbial Achilles heel that is.......a Human Being.
Because humans are so subjective in respect to interpreting anything, voice actors have long been categorized by vocal age. The more "age range" a voice talent can offer up, the more marketable they are. This same approach also simplifies the selection process.
"I'm looking for a male voice who sounds about 18...." Easy.
So, for decades and decades - and everywhere else other than Voices.com - voice demos are produced to show a talent's vocal "age range." For instance, my vocal range is 18 - 45. That means, I can sound like I'm 18, or I can sound like a Dad who's about 45.....depending of course, on the opinion, perspective, mood, attitude, sense of humor, gender etc. of the Human Being that is listening to my voice demo.
So, I go to the Voices.com website and proceed to upload my demo. I start with my Commercial demo which features that lovely age range of mine, 18-45 male and everything in-between. What am I given by Voices to describe the vocal "age range" of this demo?
Well, there's five choices. Child, Teen, Young Adult, Middle Aged or Senior. I can only pick ONE....where in all honesty, I really need to input the middle three choices.
Voices.com's answer to this?
"Humans! Make more demos! We have changed the way demos are to be produced! You must comply and professionally produce a separate demo for each of our categories! There are 14. You better get working. Consider yourself lucky we are taking your money so you can call yourself a voice talent. Get working! Faster!"
I can see how this method can work for a rookie or one-trick-pony; those that have limited vocal range - which sadly, represents the bulk of members on any given P2P website. It kinda works, because they're forcing the hand of both the talent and the client to conform to their methodology. On the other hand, something's gotta give somewhere; I saw a lead just today where a Voices.com client sarcastically commented:
"I need the voice to sound like Spock, but that adjective wasn't given as a choice..."
Thank you, Mr. Client for driving that ice-pick into our forehead.
How about those leads...?
The leads that show up on the site are both plentiful and varied. I would say that 70-80% of them fall under the $100-$250 range. Consider that they boast a world-wide membership of 100,000+ talent, so when you go to post that custom audition, it's very likely you're taking part in the world's largest voice-over cattle-call.
I don't know about you, but I like the odds in Vegas.
On the subject of leads, I should mention a commonality I've observed in respect to client notes regarding direction for the talent. Many times I noticed clients stating:
"Generic demos will not be considered, only custom auditions!" and "Please don't audition if you sound like an announcer..."
This, tells me two things:
1) Many of the talent in the membership are either lazy or are responding to the lead from their "day job" and since they are unable to record custom audio from their cubicle or cash register, they submit a generic demo/response using their Smartphone or computer at the office.
2) A large percentage of the membership are current or ex-broadcasters.
As previously stated, almost all the leads are in the $100-$250 price range. Personally, I delete all these leads as soon as I see them. There are a number of reasons why I do this:
1) I'm a professional voice talent and as such my (lowest) rates for non-broadcast voiceover audio starts at $350.00.
2) Historically, I've come to understand that clients who have these kind of budgets fall into the PITA category....(you figure out the acronym...lol).
3) If I answered all these bottom-feeder leads, I'd be auditioning all day long.
4) As a professional voice talent, I have a responsibility to maintain the integrity of our rate structure on the whole. Pros who choose to work for these crappy rates are under-cutting not only themselves, but the industry in general.
That said, answering a lead is pretty simple and I won't go into great detail regarding the functionality of the site, but I will say that three things really bother me:
1) They charge a 10% Escrow fee over and above the rate talent quotes.
2) Voices.com does not allow the talent to contact the client during the audition process to protect their interests with respect to collecting their escrow fee.....and...
3) Voices.com "brokered" leads are very, very, sketchy. (See "Brokering" above).
I gotta say, it's a pretty clever idea. But fear not, human - you don't need an escrow service to collect fees for voice-over services. Indeed, if I had to pay 10% to someone everytime I sent out an invoice....I'd not only be broke, I'd be a broke idiot.
The concept is as old as time itself - Fear.
Talent side, Voices.com leverages fear in the membership that there's a potential for profit loss by a client defaulting on payment. To clients, they present escrow as a type of guarantee; funds are not released until the client is satisfied with the product. Either way, Voices.com looks like the hero by donning a cape, blasting Fear with their Escrow Flame-Thrower!
Basking in the glow of Security, Fear in a heap of ashes on the floor, everybody thinks 10% is a reasonable price to pay to be rescued from Fear and Voices.com reaps the profits.
They started off making escrow optional - how it should be. Now, it's mandatory. I'll take a wild guess and say that the idea worked.....but not well enough - not enough takers. So, Voices.com decided that they'll take 10% of the action right off the top. Kinda like back in the 60's when the mob was running the casinos in Vegas.
I'm sure you saw the movie......
So, every time a talent answers a lead, contacting the client is a no-no until Voices.com gets their deposit from said client, for fear that Voices.com will lose that all-important commission....er....Escrow....fee.....thing. So, they have all these pop-up window warnings about violation of the Terms of Agreement if there's a digit or "@" symbol detected by the Voices.com Contact Police.
Let's not forget that talent have already PAID for the privilege of getting client leads!
Everybody knows if someone wants to rip you off, they'll find a way to do it. By refusing talent First Contact with the client, Voices.com is just complicating the whole process; creating an environment of subversion, among other things.
If a client wants to avoid the escrow fee, all they have to do is use Voices.com to find the talent they want, Google the name and contact the talent directly. Alternatively, if a talent wants to contact the client directly, all the information to do so is provided, regardless of how much this behavior is discouraged.
By all means....take 10%! Everybody needs to make a living. It's all good. However, don't chastise a talent for including their e-mail address in a signature line. That sort of protectionist attitude only interferes with those trying to conduct business.
The Road Test
After about a year and a half, I posted about 1000+ custom auditions. Looking at the answered leads, more than half of those auditions are in limbo. Many haven't been listened to at all, most have been "Closed" for months (no longer accepting auditions); the jobs seemingly not awarded to anyone.
Take a wild guess at where those "Closed" leads will wind up. I'm thinkin' a Dead End in the Las Vegas desert.
On the other hand, I did a fair amount of business through the site via the gigs I did land...and many of those customers now come to me directly for VO services.
This, is what the "P2P" model can bring to the table. Talent have an opportunity to gain experience via the custom audition, exposure to a massive amount of leads, the opportunity to pick up work.....and finally, the chance to build up a client base. (However, it should be noted here that Voices.com is now taking away the opportunity for talent build up their client base by brokering gigs and mandatory escrow).
But again....one has to have the talent to make it worthwhile.
Don't forget.....I'm a PRO...and that's 1000+ custom auditions. I don't have a day job, I work at it all day, every day. I have a very dynamic vocal range, can voice in a myriad of formats...and over 30 years of experience.
Voices.com is yet another tool with which voice talent can develop their business. The trick to making a living at VO is multiple revenue streams. Voices.com may be one of them, your agent another, posting on the sites in the Netherlands, Germany or France in the English Talent category.....blah, blah, blah. I personally have about 150 different places where there's the "potential" to generate revenue and cumulatively, this translates to me making a living at VO.
I'm not going tell you that you'll have large canvas bags of cash couriered to your front door by being a member of Voices.com. However, of all the P2P sites out there, they appear do the best job of making it look like they're the spot to find voice talent. They market, advertise and get great Google rankings.
Again, the brokering of jobs scares the crap out of me......it's just wrong, on more levels than I can count.
However, if you want to gamble with your money - in my opinion - Voices.com would be the site to place your bet. I mean...you can't argue with those search engine rankings and the choice to bid on the cheap gigs is your bet to make.
However, bear in mind that you really have to work at the leads in respect to custom auditions. If all you're going to do is post a generic demo for every lead.....you're wasting your time and money.
As well, you have to jump on the leads right away. In less than a half hour, there'll be 70+ responses to any given lead.....if you have a day-job, those that do VO full time will blow your doors off, long before you get home from work.
In the end, your talent gets you the gig....Voices.com merely gets you the opportunity to audition.....and the rest is much like gambling at the craps table in Vegas. You place your bet, roll the dice, win some, lose some....and ultimately the house will end up putting a fountain in the foyer....and the magician they hire to bring in the clients uses a lot of smoke and mirrors.
If you have any questions about Voices.com or this article, feel free to contact me.
Thanks for reading!