A New Low

by | Oct 18, 2016 | VO Business | 19 comments

pinocchio_disney1Interactive Voices was cool.  I signed up as a newbie voice actor, and thought I was on the vanguard of the developing internet age of voice-acting. 

I was. 
It was.

In short order, they managed to obtain the domain name Voices.com, and became the #1 online casting site for voice-actors.  Most everyone embraced their business model:  pay a yearly subscription fee, and receive daily leads in your mailbox from voice-seekers.  The owners seemed supportive and encouraging of the VO community.  I’d often run into one of the husband/wife team at conferences.  I contributed to their online resources, did video interviews extolling their importance in the industry, and quoted their annual industry surveys in my blog.

But somewhere along the way, the worm turned.  More and more of the jobs being presented were being “managed” (what did THAT mean?).  The operating model seemed to prove that their business practices allowed double or triple-dipping the profits out of each job.  Opportunities that appeared in their notices would show up in other online casting sites at two, three, or even four times the compensation rates.

When questioned, the company’s answers seemed hollow, disingenuous, dismissive, or misleading.  In the last year, there was a growing body of evidence that Voices.com did not have the best interests of the voice acting community at heart.  Calls for more transparency were ignored.  Despite dropouts in their subscribers, their actions blithely continued or got worse.  Public proclamations spun a fantastic story of growth and expansion, but the faithful were leaving in droves.

Of late, several revelations confirm suspicions.  No longer would they guarantee a choice at the lion’s choice of jobs to the top-paying tier of talent….and refunds were not forthcoming for talent who felt their contract/trust in the company was broken.  Rumors of layoffs ran counter to glowing reports of hires.  See Glassdoor.com for stories from people who used to work there:  “…do not work here, senior management is flying by the seat of their pants…”.

But finally, in the last couple of days, the announcement that they were doubling the cost of their SurePay escrow fee from 10 to 20%…was the final straw that prompted even some of their defenders to throw in the towel and announce they were leaving.

A naive and eager flow of newcomers may keep Voices.com in business.  Those who don’t pay attention…who don’t do their due diligence in researching this company, may soon find they’re more a victim of a ruse rather than a part of an honest business process.

I suppose every industry has its pariah.  Many of us never suspected it would come from this corner. 

Forewarned is forearmed.

CourVO

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19 Comments

  1. Larry Hudson

    Mr. C, Great piece. I was having the discussion about the 100% increase in SurePay fees with a close associate the other day. The one thing he said is you need to feel sorry for those that continue to stay with VDC because it is how they feed their family. I said HELL NO. I DON’T feel SORRY for them one bit if they continue to subject themselves to the indignity of 1) only having this one source of gigs and 2) of actually thinking they are not hurting themselves and every VO talent by playing this game. If everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, that has paid their hard earned money to VDC drew a line in the sand and said “I will not audition for 30 days or until you change your unfair charges and transparency policies something might actually change. Until that happens the “other” Mr. C will keep putting the knife in deeper and continue to steal from all of us. STOP THE MADNESS!

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Thanks, Larry…

      Some of the stuff I see happening in our business/community right now makes me sick. Things never stop changing… it’s just up to us to be aware, educated, and agile so we can keep up.

      Thanks for writing!

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
  2. Kay Dees

    Interesting news – ironically, I cancelled my subscription to Voices.com very recently – and suddenly started getting more higher paying auditions sent to me. They would not delete my profile – said they would leave me there as a “guest”. I have found better work elsewhere and don’t plan on auditioning for Voices any more.

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Kay,

      That is certainly a ploy from them I have not heard before, and belies the fix they’re in with quality talent abandoning ship.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
    • Sandra

      Thanks again, Dave!

      Again, Lam a newbie, so I want to make sure I understand Kay’s comment earlier: You can still get work from them, and not be a paying member?? To be clear: When I cancel my paid membership next month, I can leave my profile up, still get “Private Invitations” from clients to audition, book the job, then upload my files to the site, like paying members?? I would have never given these shysters my money in the first place!

      btw…I just got another client from my own cold calling efforts…goes to show you really don’t need them, if you put the work in! Grateful!!

      S2

      Reply
      • CourVO

        Sandra,

        Yes, if you’ve been a subscriber with a full profile at Voices.com, and then cease to be a paying subscriber, Voices.com will leave up your profile (it helps their numbers). You must write or call them to take it down. You would want to do that mainly for the reason that you don’t want to be associated with the deceptive business practices in which they engage.
        If you DO choose to leave your free profile on their site, you MAY get some job approaches from their managed jobs team, or from a voice-seeker. This is strictly your choice, of course, but an indicator of their current troubles is that they’ve even been calling PAST members who no longer have their profile on their page (even for free), and asking if they are available for work.

        Hope this helps.

        Dave Courvoisier

        Reply
        • Sandra

          Dave, once again, I’m so glad you posted this; folks need to start talking more about this, because it seems to be getting worse.

          I guess it all comes down getting off the P2P teat (easier than cold-calling? 2 jobs in a year on P2P, 2 new clients in 2 months, on my own..no brainer), and get back to your to basic morals and principles.

          I don’t feel like I’m valued as a talent (new or not) when you offer me $250 for a job I know is more than $1,000; deeper still you’re not valuing my craft, my industry period. Then you double the Surepay on your own clients; you don’t value them either. So then must I turn the questions turn to me, not them: “Do I want my brand to be associated with a company that has little value for my talent, posting my brand, my name, on their site, whether I’m paying them or not?”. “Do I think I’m worthy of industry-standard rates?” Yes, I do. Yes, I’m a newbie, but I’m good at what I do. I have integrity, and I believe in providing a great service to my clients. Done deal.

          Reply
  3. Jack Hamlett

    too bad they were good once

    Reply
  4. Karl Zinchak

    Sorry to hear of this, but not totally unexpected. It’s a sad day when your “own kind” have to take advantage of the uninformed. Corporate profit rules at the expense of its talent.

    Reply
  5. Sandra

    Glad I saw this! As a ” newbie”, i was considering renewing for a 2nd year, but when I saw a couple of jobs that even I knew were ridiculously low, I’m canceling when my time is up. I’ve only booked 2 jobs in the year , and have gotten 2 clients through my cold calling efforts in the last two months. Thanks Courvo!!

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Sandra,

      The sooner you can extricate yourself from these casting sites…and stand on your own marketing efforts, the better.

      Everybody is free to do what they need to do, but I’m just trying to lend a little awareness to the narrative.

      Thanks,

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
  6. Rick Shockley

    I dropped out of this site last year for these very reasons but had no idea it had gotten to this point!
    B-A-D!
    Great Blog, Dave..thanks for the info.

    Reply
  7. Dan Bolivar

    Great article, thanks for the heads up Dave.

    Although I’m very new to voice-over, I’ve seen this kind of abuse from ‘showcase’ companies in my former graphic artist career. Similar scenarios would pan out, even to the point of paid ‘privileged’ access and special ‘circles’ defined by who knows who.

    When the ‘showcasing’ company isn’t made out of the actual talent it represents it will seldom have the talent’s interests in mind. Sooner or later this bias shows.

    This is why it’s important to know how to market oneself without the limitations and ceilings from anything pay-to-play.

    Reply
  8. Geoff Thompson

    I dropped Voices a couple years ago. I’d booked enough to pay for it, but I just wasn’t seeing the ROI. My beef with Voices was how they discouraged direct contact with the client at every turn.

    I’d always done better on V123 anyway. But since they raised their fee another $100, I dropped them too. Granted, I would more than cover the fee, but it’s the principle. Enough is enough. I kept my profiles and still get requests, just not the cattle calls.

    No more pay-to-play for me.

    Reply
  9. Kimberly McDermott

    Someone referred me to voices.com. I was just talking to a new colleague about this and she brought up the same exact points. I had several opportunities to sign up when they were running a discount but just never had the money. Seems almost like the universe was telling me something. Thanks for the Blog!

    Reply
  10. Jim Beliakoff

    I let my subscription lapse last June. When they called to try to get me to renew they asked what they could do to get me to stay I gave the guy an earful! I was still getting auditions for several days before my account was changed to guest. Maybe they were hoping I’d change my mind? I imagine they change account s to guest instead of deleting them is so they can brag to clients how many talent they have on their roster.

    Reply
  11. Bryan Kopta

    It’s always seemed to me that people use their own booking rate as way of evaluating the worthiness of a given P2P site. I average 15-20 jobs a month on Voices.com, not including clients who hire me outside of Voices because they found me on the site. (Other Platinum members are far more successful. Brad Ziffer, for instance, averages between 45-50 jobs a month on Voices.)
    Yes, project managers do occasionally take upwards of 40% of their projects’ budget. But for the most part, their rates tend to be in line with those of non-managed jobs: i.e. 1$/word for Business to Business. And sometimes, the complete opposite occurs: Yesterday, for example, there was an audition for NBA League Pass (3 markets) that Voices listed at $6,000. Whereas the agent breakdowns had it at $2,700.

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Bryan,

      No, your comment did NOT get deleted, I just hadn’t had the chance to approve it yet! 🙂

      I so appreciate your reading and responding to my blog. Your experience is valuable to my readers, and Voice-actors in general to hear. We’re aware of many success stories with this service, but we also see a general decline in their attitude towards our community, and we suspect their business model is not as transparent or honorable as it could be.

      Thanks again for taking the time to write…

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
      • Sandra

        Actually, I got a Private Invitation to audition for a job the other day, and when I saw the rate was too low, I quoted my own, and it was accepted (had they rejected it, I would’ve rejected the job at the rate the site quoted). I guess if you’re going to pay to play, you need to play by your own rules, or in this case, rates 🙂

        Reply

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