…Divided We Fall

by | Jun 19, 2015 | Pricing | 4 comments

falling…and that’s really the issue.  

We’re a universe of individual freelance voice actors who have no cohesion, no unity.  We don’t speak with one voice regarding the issue of rates.


Ideally, the union would do/does that for us.  But two things mar that vision:

  1. SAG-AFTRA has  never placed a high priority on the concerns of voice-actors
  2. A good many VO’s want nothing to do with the institutional politics of the union  (we’re a bunch of self-supporting, insular entrepreneurs… right?)

The only positive thing the union offers at this point is a rate-sheet.  And if ALL voice actors (union and non-union) stuck to those rate thresholds, things would be peachy.

But as is so often stated:  “…there will always be someone willing to underbid…”

Luckily, there are also plenty of producers/clients/buyers who WILL pay decent money for good talent.


It’s the other 80% — the jumble in the middle — that’s creating the crescendo of current ratings turmoil…and I see it more and more everyday online and at places where voice-actors congregate.

If you get a chance, read this FaceBook thread initiated yesterday by Atlanta-based talent agent Jeffrey Umberger to see where sentiments lie:  https://goo.gl/G2Zftk.

Threads like this on social media pop up with infuriating regularity…are vehemently debated…and then nothing really comes of it.

Contributing to the mish-mash:

  • a changing media scene unaccustomed to legacy pay scales
  • a glut of eager newbies willing to accept “beginner’s pay”
  • ever-greedier and manipulative Pay-to-Plays 
  • the emergence of voice-actors as a commodity
  • bidding wars, cattle-calls, Fiverr-type sites
  • a lack of a cohesive front on rates in the marketplace
  • the disruptive (and democratic) nature of the internet

There’s more of course.  I’m oversimplifying.  The growing convergence of global bazaar of products and services brings down previously-high pay scales in the USA.  You see it in every profession, especially where freelancers are involved.


Here’s an excerpt of an email offer I got yesterday.  Maybe some of you got it too.

“Most of the work we do right now airs regionally and is automotive-focused.  Our rates are the following (with expected 24-hour turnaround):

  • $45 for :15 Pre-roll video
  • $80 for :30 TV/Radio
  • $150 for :60 radio.”

It’s nice to be wanted.  They told me they found me on the internet, and liked my work.  They said they thought I’d be a good match for the work they do.  That’s flattering.

My response was:  “…Thanks for approaching me with this opportunity.  Unfortunately, I must decline for now, as the rate you have offered is substantially lower than standard industry rates. As a member of World-Voices Organization, I would be happy to discuss with you what is considered a more acceptable rate for the assignments you quoted…”


BTW, World-Voices Organization has an entire letter offering a greater argument as to why these rates are insufficient, and why WoVO members are worth more.   The Benefits of Hiring a Professional Voice Talent.

In the absence of a greater solution (and admitting that I’m somewhat biased), I  believe World-Voices offers the best hope for coalescing around this cause, and getting some results in the long run.  We’re gaining members, momentum, and clout.  Without breaking confidences, all I can say is that we’re simultaneously working in several crucial areas to talk to the principals who help contribute and control this marketplace.  Maybe I’m kidding myself, but I think there’s a chance.

However, nothing will work as long as there remains a dedicated population of desperate, low-balling, and un-self-respecting talent undercutting the marketplace.  

Make the tough decision.

Saying “NO” is powerful.  Having a backbone is essential.  Taking the high road really works!

Have a great Father’s Day weekend.  It’ll be over 110°F here in ‘Vegas.




CourVO Newsletter


  1. Mike

    Amen Courvo!


  2. Kate McClanaghan

    Well done, Dave!
    Especially regarding,”…Thanks for approaching me with this opportunity. Unfortunately, I must decline for now, as the rate you have offered is substantially lower than standard industry rates.”
    I did the same 2 days ago.
    Frankly, I don’t mind if a potential client sticks a fork in it and attempts to secure a ridiculously low rate. Doesn’t mean I have to agree with it.
    Or maybe this is a novice producer and they honestly don’t know the value of the work.
    It’s continually necessary for talent to dilineiate what you’re worth. Even if you are just starting out. You set a precedence by accepting substandard rate, and fooling yourself into thinking that client will dramatically increase their budget at a later date. This is a common mis-step of most small business owners, and as freelancers, we fall prey to this very trap ourselves.While I understand there’s hat for every head, I wouldn’t recommend even a fledgling novice agree to a sub-standard rate either! You can’t lament shoulda, woulda, coulda, but I wouldn’t advise you remain there for too long. Dust yourself off. Stand up… and MOVE ON! Determine what would you do differently? How can you expand your business? And play nice in the sandbox, already.
    As for the Union, speaking as a professional voice talent for many years, I always felt they had my back. And not just where rates are concerned. But with work standards and terms of use, etc. The establish the standards for the entire industry. They are the high watermark.
    Besides, there’s no sense comparing yourself to the lowest common denominator. There’s far less competition at the top than there is at the bottom. Rise above! ; )

    • CourVO


      ‘Honored that you stopped by to read, and even more pleased at your meaty reply!
      I hear that the union has your back from a lot of people, so that’s a consistent statement. But I’ll wager those people are almost uniformly from LA or NYC. SAG-AFTRA DOES NOT SEE the fly-over state talent, and they still do not get the internet, and how it’s changed VO. Internet has not changed the movie or TV business that much, but it has revolutionized VO.
      I’m waiting (drumming fingers), and trying to keep with their rate sheet… like I said…it’s their most valuable contribution to voice-acting to date.

      Have a great weekend!

      Dave Courvoisier

    • Mike Shepherd

      Right on Kate – We need to help strengthen the union – and its appreciation of how to make union talent – and terms – accessible and simplified for those of us in the “FlyOverTalent” and ‘talent-from-anywhere’ universe who strive to maintain our SAG, AFTRA (and/or SAG-AFTRA)
      rates & standards. I value and appreciate my H&R Benefits and the many-faceted advantages that the union ultimately provides working talent- and with intelligent reform, it can be far more user friendly for producers in ALL markets.


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