Matt Dubois got the attention of the voiceover community when he launched VoiceCastingHub in answer to VDC’s buy-out of VoiceBank. Most talent agents who had come to depend on VoiceBank came to see “The Hub” as a workable alternative and necessary answer to that acquisition.
But Matt is a busy, brilliant techie, and lately he’s turned his considerable talents to a new endeavour: Voiceovers.com. Clearly, he wants to take what he’s learned from his experiences in our industry so far…borrowing what seems usable from the online casting paradigms he’s seen so far, while eschewing the bad practices that turned so many talent against the unscrupulous (or clueless) players in this field.
Naturally, there are cautious skeptics. “What?…another P2P?” That’s the usual reaction. “Why should I sign-up for THIS one over V123 or VO Planet…or _____________?” they ask.
I wondered too, and asked Matt Dubois to offer me some straight answers to direct questions. You’ll find that below, and hopefully it will help you make decisions as Voiceovers.com prepares to launch soon.
1) What was the perceived need in the marketplace that prompted you to launch this new service?
While there are no shortage of online casting site options, I felt those that Talent felt positively about were not going about buyer acquisition the best way, thus not providing the volume of projects that would justify parting with a membership fee. Those sites that had significant volume were great at PR and marketing, but lacked trust with Talent, and were generally perceived as the problem with the industry and rate deterioration. My idea was a hybrid site that had the best of both worlds, good intentions combined with business and marketing savvy.
2) Does this site integrate with Voice Casting Hub at all?
Yes, projects can be initiated on VOICEOVERS.com and pushed into HUB. Union projects are a great example, but there are a few other project types that are more complex that require an Agent’s touch or come with other special terms that would put it out of our scope.
3) Explain your thinking behind the price-point on the talent subscription model (including the Gold level of participation)
Those who know me, know I am a numbers guy and a total nerd. Every number I present comes from research and analysis from some data. I shared a breakdown of the all the fees and how they would be spent on the Talent FAQ page on the site. Membership fees cover business operations, development, customer service, support, hosting, infrastructure, rent, accounting, etc. Based on project volume projections (which were based on data recon from SpyFu combined with Voice Casting Hub data), I was able to determine support staff required properly support Buyers and Talent as well as other projected costs. The goal; provide VALUE to the Buyer and the Talent and be able to make some money while doing it. Everybody should get a return on investment (ROI). GOLD members get more than just extra auditions, they get a marketing team that will help build their brand for that year. Their goal is to get your more jobs on the platform as well as off the platform by elevating your personal brand. We are more than just a casting site to the Talent members, we are a partner.
4) Do voice-seekers also pay a fee to use the service?
No. If a Buyer pays by eCheck (default method) there is no service fee, if the pay with a credit card there is a 5% processing surcharge. This processing surcharge is standard across many industries and is there to cover the merchant processing fees that can be up to 4% of total + a transaction fee.
5) How do you plan to market the site to potential clients?
I bought the best damn domain out there for Buyers looking to get voiceovers (and it wasn’t cheap). I knew that I could not compete with companies that had “Wall St” money if I didn’t have a brand that had instant credibility to Buyers. My target Buyers were non-professional voice Buyers and new professional voice Buyers (millennials, Gen Y and Gen X who are starting a 20-30 year voice buying career now and learning how to do it on Google). Being a car guy, I use car analogies a lot. Best one is; if you have never bought a Lamborghini and you google “where to buy a Lamborghini”, Google gave you these 3 results, who has the most credibility and what do you click? Lamborghini.com Lambo123.com Lambos.com We will get more than 1/3 of the clicks of those top 3 results. Besides the domain name being an important factor, I have set aside $18k/mo (minimum) in digital marketing alone (250k for the first year total), that includes Google search, Bing search and social media ads, I will be outspending the biggest player by 4 ½ times. We will be at several tradeshows as well, including BrandWeek, DevLearn and others to be announced as we solidify the deals.
6) How do you plan to market the site to voice talent?
One of the great things (depending on the side you are on) about working with a group of people that talk for a living, is that they TALK! Without sending out a single marketing piece or soliciting any members we have already had a massive response. I think much of it has to do with the goodwill and track record we have established with Voice Casting Hub. While I run another company as well, I try to be as accessible as possible, I never shy away from the tough questions and often invite would-be critics to call me directly before they form an opinion. We plan to do some email marketing to some of the Talent that have self-registered to Voice Casting Hub (ONLY those that have self-registered, we are not soliciting any Agent talent, I made that commitment and intend on keeping it). I am doing some of the popular VO podcasts, sponsoring groups and wonderful organizations like WoVO. We are also a Platinum level and official mobile app Sponsor of VO Atlanta. We will have our booth setup, I will be speaking at the opening ceremony and participating in the online casting panel again this year. We are working on securing sponsorships at other conferences and organizations too.
7) Will voice talent be able to connect directly to the clients, and/or share their contact information with them?
Yes. We have a live chat system (not email or message center based) that is not filtered by our staff, it is based on the same source code as the popular software Slack. There are some basic and reasonable terms, here they are: 1. Only Buyer can initiate the contact. If job is in a hiring phase, the Buyer can start a chat with you. If they hire you, that is considering and initiation, so you would be able to chat with them. 2. Any contact information you want to share will be available to Buyer and potential Buyers. We fully understand and accept that Buyers will contact you outside of the site. Trust is a 2-way street, we are not telling you to trust us and not trusting in you. Attrition is the enemy of all subscription businesses, I believe if you find value not only in the projects you receive through the platform but the projects you receive as merely being found on the platform, you will renew. If you don’t renew it costs me more than 10x to get a new customer. We are vetting Talent for a reason, if you can’t understand this, you are not a good fit for us. 3. Talent may not solicit Buyer to get paid off the platform or do the next project off the platform, if we hear of this from a Buyer it can result in termination of Talent’s membership. If the Buyer asks the Talent to work directly with them on future projects, then by all means go for it if that is what you want. This is all about ensuring that Buyers feel safe so they come back, we understand that you are VO business owners and some recurring gigs will be direct. Again, mutual trust and respect as a guiding post.
8) How are talent paid?… through your service, or directly?
‘Paid through the platform. Payments are released via ACH (direct deposit) or PayPal, 48-72 hours after Sign off. Once a Talent submits the final files, the Buyer has 10 calendar days to approve the work before the system auto-confirms the project. If the Buyer confirms and signs off right away, then expect the money in your account in the next few days.
9) Will you vet talent to be of a certain level of competency before being allowed on the site, and if so, how will you evaluate their abilities/experience?
Our vetting process is two-fold.
1. Is this a professional Talent? A professionally produced demo must be submitted along with an audition read. We have Agents and Agent trained staff listening to these. Basically pros are listening and deciding, not this guy.
2. Is there a fit for this person’s voice capabilities? Based on project data from the last year of Voice Casting Hub, I know how many jobs are male versus female, Spanish or British accent, age range, etc. We will only allow a certain amount of each voice-type on the platform based on the project data from previous year. This will ensure a level playing field, with no voice-types being stuck in an overly competitive space.
10) Will your site encourage voice-seekers to meet certain minimums for distinct genres of work?
I am really proud of this voice rate calculation algorithm we created called D-cypherVO. Based on several factors (weighted accordingly) and a dynamic set of questions from the Buyers wizard driven interface, our algorithm will cross reference our rate table and present the Buyer with the rate for their project. The rates we have loaded in our algorithm are based on the widely accepted VORateCard.com rate guide. I chose to brand the algorithm separately as it is something I have offered SAG-Aftra to use on their own site to help decipher the rate card for union buyers. They have been uninterested in my offer to help (another topic, another day).
11) In the same vein, you mentioned that you will use the GVAA rate resource…are voice-seekers bound by those compensation rates on VOICEOVERS.com?
Our rate table is based off that rate guide. That is the rate that will be presented as sort of a “no haggle price” to the Buyer. At the moment we are not allowing them to change it, we are still in Beta and I am testing allowing a 15%+- adjustment from the Buyer. I do not have the exact answer yet, but will soon. I can promise that there will be a fair rate presented and even if it is allowed to be adjusted, it would have a minimum that would not be far off. For every possible upside, there are downsides to consider, that is why I believe in testing and understanding the data in the results.
12) Will talent be notified if their audition is opened/played?
No. We have a totally different approach. I think that is important if you are auditioning against 800 other Talent. Buyers on our platform will get between 100-300 auditions typically. This number is based on their request. If a Buyer wants 200, then they intend on listening to all 200. If they ask for 100, then that’s all they want and that is all we will send them (we would invite 12%-20% more than requested to ensure we get as close as possible to their requested number). I think showing the Talent this info is a great idea, ONLY if you have the problem of Buyers not listening. Call me crazy, I would rather not have that problem at all. Buyers see the value in getting what they want and having better quality auditions.
13) Will VOICEOVERS.com keep a running total of the number of talent who’ve already responded to any one job listing?
Yes, it’s all capped to ensure a positive Buyer experience. Not only better Buyer experience, but better Talent experience as well. The projects you see are not cattle calls, they are invitations just for you and they have a significantly higher probability of getting you red than on other sites. Because total number of auditions are capped on project, we cap the amount of Talent on our platform. We will add additional Talent as the project volume justifies it.
14) Further seeking clarification on rates: will talent be essentially bidding against each other, or is the rate for each job set in stone by the client?
No reverse bidding, (or bidding) period. We have a pricing model similar to CarMax and their “no haggle price”. Talent will see what the Buyer paid and they will not be able to undercut each other. Simply, here is the rate.
15) How do you answer the inevitable comparisons to other Pay-to-Play sites, or answer the criticism that there are enough online casting sites already?
I touched on this a little in the first question, regarding “enough casting sites already” and how we differ. If there are still skeptics I encourage them to call my office and my assistant will setup a time for a call with me, personally. I try to be very accessible and never shy away from the tough questions or fierce conversations. I have done this publicly on social media and at the beginning of every call of this nature, I ask… After this call, all I request is that you tell people about it, I won’t tell you want I want you to say, I simply request that you share your thoughts after speaking to me to everybody else. If you think I am a scam artist, tell the world, if you think I am the real deal and get “it”, please share. It is all I want in exchange for 30 mins or an hour of my time. I often make this offer to the toughest critics and make them promise they share after.
16) How long are you giving yourself to count this enterprise as a success? (What’s your expected timeline and ROI?)
I am calculated and highly competitive. I don’t play if I can’t win or if I don’t know the odds of winning. That being said, I will have to give 2 separate answers, one for success and one for ROI. I will define success as this making a positive impact on the VO community, and by positive impact, I am talking about in the Talents’ wallets. I have the numbers to support our Buyer acquisition strategy, and the good thing about Google search is the results are instant, I can make adjustments accordingly and in real time. I have set aside a year’s worth of advertising funding as I am asking for a year membership. It’s all about jobs at the end of the day. I expect to consider this a success much sooner than seeing a return on investment. As for ROI, the good news is that in less than a year of Voice Casting Hub, I have made almost all of my investment back, the casting engine code is already built, so my cost to build VOICEOVERS.com is less. I expect to see a return on my investment in the second year.
Matt’s Final Note:
Many agents endorse our site. I worked with Agents early on to draw some “territory lines”. It is important that Agents coexist with online casting sites. Online casting will simply be called “casting” in 2 years, there is not an option for casting sites to go away, the only options are which one an Agent should work with or which one is willing to work with them.