What Voice Actors Should Know About Pay-to-Play (P2P) Voice Over Sites

Kevin West
Saturday, January 30, 2021

There are many questions and misconceptions about how casting on pay-to-play (P2P) sites work. The client side of pay-to-play is a mystery to many voice actors. Before becoming a partner at the all new VOPlanet.com, I cast more than a thousand voice over jobs. Many were posted on pay-to-play sites. That makes me what the industry calls a “client” or “voice buyer.” I have bee­­­n casting on various platforms for fourteen years. 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.

Does submitting my voice over 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 a hurry and being first, or even twentieth, 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.

But no one is going to listen to a hundred auditions, right?

Wrong. 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 if your voice is right for the project. A lot of auditions have 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 is going to move on to the next audition. I can easily blow through one hundred voice over 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?

Voice buyers are not posting gigs for fun. The majority of the time, most or all auditions are played. They 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.

Then why are my voice over auditions 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 voice over 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. Do you have Source Connect? Are you available to record on a certain date? Can you record at a certain 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 particulars when slating. For example, “Hi, this is John Gold with two takes. I have Source Connect and can record on January 14th as you have requested” Keep the slate and your proposal short. Other than job particulars, 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 yet 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 booked thousands of voice actors. I have never filled out a form saying who I hired. 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 so choose.

Is someone using my voice over 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 of 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 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 VO is an option. Be warned that watermarks are annoying to voice buyers and your audition probably will not be used if you have beeps all through it.  VOPlanet does not add watermarks to your auditions.

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 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. Most have a set date for sending out payments and prefer to use their system rather than being told how to pay. 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 over a million dollars in voice actor fees, I would recommend you let the client suggest a payment plan rather than dictating how you will be paid.

Pay-to-play sites are where voice buyers go for cheap talent, 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 jobs first, which means premium members may not get the chance to see them. VOPlanet does not have and does not endorse platinum memberships. We have one membership level and all 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. Which jobs a site chooses to post varies from site to site. VOPlanet chooses not to post low-paying jobs. We turn down lots of small gigs. 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 which VO site they choose.

The take-away:

There a lot of misconceptions circulating about how pay-to-play sites work. Corporate pay-to-plays created suspicion among the voice over 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 pay-to-play voice sites.

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