Let’s talk about market pressure in the voiceover industry…
Last week, the student who inspired this blog entry from a few months ago emailed me to share his frustration over the recent changes to Voice123 and his struggle to book gigs. One line hit me right between the eyes:
If I don’t audition for a job with terrible usage rates or buyout in perpetuity, someone else will. There is no market pressure to keep rates fair.
Here’s a definition of market pressure:
Forces of demand and supply representing the aggregate influence of self-interested buyers and sellers on price and quantity of the goods and services offered in a market. In general, excess demand causes prices and quantity of supply to rise, and excess supply causes them to fall.
How does market pressure apply to the voiceover industry?
Due to Pay-To-Play sites and the increased affordability of home recording, the supply of voice talent has increased massively. While there is a greater demand for voice talent than there used to be, the plummet in rates may indicate that supply is much greater than demand. The fact that voice seekers now have a myriad of ways to cast voice talent on the cheap also plays a large role.
Since the price of products and services are generally dictated by supply and demand, and now that there is a much larger supply of voice talents than there used to be (many of which are non-union who don’t have to comply with union rates) does that mean that the rates to pay voice talent are supposed to drop? Are we in the midst of a market correction? If so, what will be the “new normal”? Will SAG-AFTRA need to lower their rates to stay competitive?
Speaking of SAG-AFTRA, it’s supposed to be the main applicator of market pressure in the voiceover industry. As a voice seeker, you can take their rates or leave them. Over the past couple of years, more and more have chosen to “leave them” and use non-union voice talent for their projects.
In response to the lowering of rates, the proliferation of P2P sites, etc. three entities have emerged: World Voices Organization, The Global Voice Acting Academy, and the VO Agent Alliance. All have made a valiant effort to educate both voice seekers and voice talent on how to comport themselves and use rates that are commensurate with the industry standard. WoVO has created a mentorship program and its own talent roster of vetted voice talent who charge proper rates. The GVAA has created a comprehensive rate sheet (which I use regularly). The VOAA has agreed upon a set of standards and practices to uphold quality rates and not represent talent who are contributing to the problem.
I’m sad to say it hasn’t been very effective. Rates continue to drop. In-perpetuity usage and cut-downs are becoming more and more common. Why? There is zero incentive for voice seekers to pay like they used to. On top of that, many voice talents don’t want to price themselves out of the market. They’d rather get paid a lower rate than lose the gig or their career.
One counter to the argument is that voice seekers are getting lower quality talent and therefore a lower quality product. As a whole, they don’t seem to care. Another counter is that if everybody joins SAG-AFTRA, voice seekers will be forced to pay fair rates. That is never, ever going to happen. Some voice talent will never join the union because they can’t afford it. For others, they would lose too much money to the garnishing of wages and the loss of their non-union clients. And some will never join any union ever just on principle.
Case in point: I just tried to figure out which of my 2018 clients I could ask for a raise. Once you eliminate the studios who have set rates, the clients who already pay me well, and a few other factors, there was only one I thought I’d have a chance with. One. When I asked them for a raise they said no. Why? They pay in Euros and since the value of the Euro has dropped over the past few years, their profits have dropped. Ergo, they can’t afford to raise my rate.
Wow, that was depressing to write.
TIP OF THE WEEK
There is no way we can make thousands of voice talents, voice seekers, and P2P sites all over the world act the way we think they should act. The rates will probably continue to fall and bottom-out at some point. Whether those rates will be sustainable for voice talents who are trying to earn a living wage, I have no idea. I’m a pretty optimistic dude, but this sucks.
As the voiceover community, how do we apply market pressure in an effort to maintain quality rates in 2019?
Educate every voice talent and voice seeker you encounter
Keep training, keep growing, and continue to increase your market value
Focus on developing meaningful relationships with your clients so they value you
Say no to crappy rates and terms, no matter how much it hurts
I know the state of the industry looks a bit grim right now, but we are a family. We will continue to support each other and strive every day to make the voiceover community a better place for everyone!
NEWS AND NOTES
Thursday, January 10th @8PM EST: My next Edge Studio Business and Money 201 webinar will be “Cost/Benefit Analysis”. We’ll talk about how to figure out what worked (or didn’t work) for your voiceover business in 2018. Click here to sign up.
Thursday, January 24th @8PM EST: My next Edge Studio Marketing 201 webinar will be “The Sales Funnel”. We’ll discuss what it is and how to push voice seekers through it. Click here to sign up.
March 29-31, 2019: I’m presenting at VO Atlanta 2019! I will be teaching a one-hour “Learning to do eLearning” Breakout Session and a TBD three-hour X-Session. More details to come, but check out the Conference Agenda to see all of the wonderful sessions being offered. Hope to see you there!
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
Tom Dheere is a 20+year veteran of the voice over industry who has narrated thousands of projects for hundreds of clients in over a dozen countries. He is also voiceover business consultant known as the VO Strategist and is currently producing the comic book “Agent 1.22”.