Pay (and pay and pay) To Play

As the owner of a voice talent agency, I am often asked my thoughts on the pay to play sites like Voice 123 and voices.com
Do I consider them competition? Are they taking work away from agencies? etc. If you’re not aware of the pay to play model, it works like this: On-line casting sites charge the voice talent a yearly subscription fee to have access to voice project castings. The site does not charge the clients who are doing the casting – just the voice talents.

I have always looked at it that they are not always going after the same clientele. Every job on the pay to play sites is a home studio job. Despite the technology, we rarely encourage home studio sessions. We like the clients who book an actual recording studio and are there in person to direct the talent or at least by phone patch or ISDN. We don’t want to be running a voice agency just to send wav files back-and-forth.

We are about getting to know our talents personally-their abilities, their schedules and their personalities. We truly represent them, rather than just throwing them up on the website and having no real insight into their talents or character.

We represent talents in their respective cities and book them for work largely in their own cities (Toronto and Montreal…for now). We really get to know the recording studios, production companies, ad agencies and multi-media firms in these cities. It’s a real business relationship, not just a couple of emails through an online site.

When the pay to play sites launched, I could see two problems with the business model: 1) The clients who were hiring the talents were allowed to communicate directly with the talents off site, once a casting decision was made. That takes the pay to play site out of the equation and sets up a business relationship between the talent and the client where they may no longer need the site.
2) If your revenue is dependent on getting more subscribers (in this case, voice talents) the end result is the quality gets lowered in terms of who is on the site. It becomes quantity over quality if you want to grow the business at all. This sets up a situation where clients casting on the site have to weed through a lot of mediocre voices to find the gems.

It would appear that voices.com ended up seeing things the same way because as I understand it, they now facilitate all of the transactions between voice talent & clients and they are now taking what amounts to a commission and in some cases, acting almost like a production company by charging clients a project management fee. This is definitely a good way to grow revenue but it doesn’t seem to be going over very well with the voice talents who belong to the site.

Graeme Spicer of Edge Studios (and a PN Agency talent I might add) recently had the opportunity to take these matters up with voices.com CEO, David Ciccarelli. You can listen to that extended interview here in which David is forced to try to defend his company’s recent business practices:
https://soundcloud.com/clarke-w-191482132/interview

It has also been covered extensively in the voice-over community already so I don’t feel the need to weigh in and I think the interview speaks for itself.

Let’s just say, I’m quite comfortable with the PN Agency business model where we will continue to really know the talents we represent, act in their best interests and development legitimate relationships with clients in the cities where talents live. Clients who are willing to pay generous rates for direct collaboration with talented voices!

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One Response to “Pay (and pay and pay) To Play”

  1. Lia Says:
    January 18th, 2016 at 1:39 am

    Hello! I recently did a voice-over for a company’s website. I loved the experience so much that I am curious how to apply for similar roles whether it be in commercials or more websites. Thank you in advance!

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