A lot of people have questions and misconceptions about casting on pay-to-play (P2P) sites. The client side of P2P is a mystery to many voice actors. Before becoming a partner in the all new VOPlanet.com, I cast thousands of voice over jobs over the past fourteen years. Many were posted on pay-to-play sites. That makes me what the industry calls a “client” or “voice buyer.” I would like to share my knowledge of how things look on the voice buyer’s side of a pay-to-play site and answer some of the most common questions asked by voice actors. Let’s dive in.
Does submitting my audition as early as possible give me an advantage?
Yes and no. If a client is facing a short deadline, then getting your audition in first is an advantage. Most clients are not in that big of a hurry and being first, or even thirty-fifth, to submit makes no difference. Many voice buyers wait until the project deadline to even begin listening to the auditions and then just go down the line listening to all the auditions in one quick session.
Yeah, but if there are a hundred auditions, the client will never hear mine if I am last.
Not true. The client will listen to as many auditions as it takes to find the right voice. It is easy to quickly burn through a lot of auditions. There are several reasons for this. Most auditions are not even close to what the client is looking for. As great as you sound, clients have a voice in mind, and they are trying to match it. The client can tell within seconds of playing your audition if your voice is right for the project. Some auditions get rejected because of audio quality issues. You would be amazed at how many voice actors turn in bad audio. The client is going to click through each audition and listen for just a few seconds before moving on. If you have poor audio quality, a long stretch of silence at the start of your audition or a long slate intro, the client will likely move on to the next audition. I can easily go through one hundred auditions in just a couple of minutes. I find that on average about ten out of every hundred auditions are a good fit and worth sending on to the client. So, listening to one hundred or more auditions is quick, easy to do and common among voice buyers. Keep in mind that even voice actors who use only top industry agents are not told how many other auditions have been submitted for a role. If you fit the role and the audition is open, try out.
Are my auditions really being listened to?
It is common for voice actors to feel like their auditions are not being heard. However, the majority of the time, most or all auditions are played. Voice buyers are looking for a voice and are playing your auditions. It’s important to keep in mind that many voice buyers have a client. Voice buyers are trying to satisfy an agency or sponsors that need a voice and are highly motivated to find as many auditions to listen to as possible. If anything, clients need more quality auditions and will listen to every audition until they find the voice actor they need.
Even so, sometimes my auditions are not marked as listened to.
No one posts auditions on pay-to-play with the intention of not listening to the auditions. However, there are scenarios where auditions do not get heard. Sometimes a project is cancelled, the client changes their mind about the kind of voice they want, the campaign gets changed, the client decides to go with a talent they already know, etc. There are many legitimate reasons that auditions may not be listened to.
What should I say in my audition proposal?
I read the proposals. I am not looking for a list of Fortune 500 companies that you have voiced for or checking to see if you use a Neumann microphone that you run through a ZOOM TAC-2R. I mean, that’s cool and all, but I am looking to see if you meet the requirements for the job. Check the audition notice. Does it require that you have ISDN? Are you being asked if you are available to record on a certain date? Can you record at an outside studio? It’s crazy how many voice actors copy and paste their proposals and do not reference the needs of the client stated in the audition notice. If the audition states “Union talent only” you should say, “I am a Union talent,” in your proposal. Address the conditions set in the audition notice and confirm you can do what needs to be done. Some voice actors include those when slating. For example, “Hi, this is John Gold with two takes. I have ISDN and can record on January 14th as you have requested” Keep any slate and your proposal short. Other than your ability to meet physical job requirements, all I need to know is you have access to a pro studio, that you are easy to work with and that you are full-time. The fact that you voiced for Coke in 2007 is great, but every voice actor has a list of big clients pasted in their proposal and after a while you just don’t read that stuff.
Will I be notified about who got the job?
Some pay-to-plays give the voice buyer the option of filling out a form indicating if the job they posted has been fulfilled. It is not required that you fill out the form. The voice buyer is not asked to release the name of the voice actor chosen for the job. This information is not required because many voiceover jobs contain information that cannot not be disclosed to the public. Many jobs do not get fulfilled due to cancellation of the job or unforeseen changes. In that case there is no voice actor chosen and the fulfillment form is not filled out. I have hired thousands of voice actors. I have never filled out a form saying who I chose. Many clients in the advertising industry can’t disclose the production house or voice site they are working with. Eventually, once the work has aired, the voice actors are able to publicly share the work if they choose.
Is someone using my audition without my permission?
This is a common fear among voice actors. You take the time to voice a great audition, you hear nothing back and you wonder if someone stole your VO. Not likely. Even if you read the audition all the way through and do not watermark, clients are not likely to swipe your voiceover. Most voice actor sites vet their clients, which helps screen out the baddies. Most of all, there is not a production house or ad agency that would stay in business if they were stealing voice work. It’s a poor business model. Clients are making money off you. They need you. Stealing your voice over would ruin a client’s rep and hinder their ability to hire the voice actors they need to stay in business. Plus, there are ways to make sure you audition cannot be used without your permission. One way to make sure your audition is safe is to not voice the entire audition script. Voice most of the copy if you like. The client will contact you and have you voice the whole thing if they like you for a job.
But I have been asked to voice the entire script.
There are times when a client legitimately does need all the copy voiced and you may see a request to voice the entire script in the audition notice. Voice overs are often played for clients in meetings called pitches. The voice buyer wants to dazzle their client in the meeting, so they present fully-produced commercials or videos as part of their presentation to the folks in the pitch meeting. Agencies pitch individual spots, whole campaigns or are pitching their services to become the agency on record. They can’t play half a spot in a meeting. You shouldn’t be alarmed if a vetted client requests a full audition read.
Should I watermark my audition?
Watermarking your voice over audition is an option. Be warned that watermarks are annoying to voice buyers and your audition probably will not be used if your watermarks are too intrusive.
Will I get paid for my work?
This goes back to the stealing of auditions. Very few clients do not pay. It’s a bad business model. They need you. If there is any doubt, vet the client before you send your VO. Look them up. See if anything looks fishy. If you have concerns, set up payment in advance. Be warned that paying before getting a VO annoys a lot of voice buyers. Most agencies and production houses have been in business for years and it is insulting to them that you are afraid they aren’t going to pay you. And it often disrupts their payment system. Remember, the client writes the check. You are working for them. Like most jobs the boss tells you how and when you will be paid. If you insist on being paid up front, fine. Just know that how you handle getting paid can win or lose accounts for you. As an owner of a production company that has paid out more than a million dollars in voice actor fees, I would suggest you let the client suggest a payment plan rather than dictating how you will be paid.
There are voice casting sites that play middleman with voice actor fees. Generally, the voice buyer pays the voice over site who then pays the voice actor. These sites guarantee payment. They also take a percentage, sometimes 20 percent or more, of every job booked. So voice actors pay a considerable fee for the service, which could easily add up to thousands of dollars per year. This fee comes out of the voice actor’s pocket and it means that voice actors may earn twenty percent less per job, depending on the individual site’s policies. VOPlanet works to make sure that our voice actors get the best possible fees for their work. Every single penny of our voice buyers’ budget goes to the voice actor as intended.
Pay-to-play sites are where voice buyers go to cast cheap jobs, right?
No. Big jobs are posted on pay-to-play sites every day. Network promos, national television campaigns, movie trailers, major animation roles, large eLearning projects and many other great paying, highly respectable gigs are posted on pay-to-play sites. You may not see those big budget jobs on some pay-to-play sites because platinum members are getting those auditions first, which means premium members may never get the chance to see them. VOPlanet does not have and does not endorse platinum memberships. We have one membership level and all of our voice actors see all the jobs posted. Some sites allow voice actors to underbid one another on jobs, which lowers rates industry-wide. Some pay-to-play sites allow low-paying jobs to be posted. Perhaps that is where the image of low-ball jobs on pay-to-play started. VOPlanet.com does not allow underbidding and chooses to not to post low-paying jobs. We feel that in the long run, quality over quantity wins the day. Fewer, better paying jobs are what all voice actors strive for. We hope to stand out as the quality choice for voiceover jobs and strive to educate voice buyers about fair rates. It should be said that voice actors should simply refuse to audition for these low paying jobs no matter what VO site they choose.
There a lot of misconceptions circulating about how pay-to-play sites work. Corporate pay-to-plays created suspicion among the VO community with questionable practices. Many voice-actors are simply unaware of what really goes on behind the scenes and inaccurate information gets shared and repeated. VOPlanet is working to create a transparent pay-to-play voice over community by pulling back the curtain and showing you exactly what is going on behind the scenes. We hope this information will help you increase your bookings and that you will take advantage of all of the wonderful job opportunities you can find on reputable pay-to-play voice over sites.