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Voice over company is unfair

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Sam Lesante Jr.Voice over company is unfair
by on Feb 1, 2013 at 2:26:12 pm

I am currently looking for a new & fair voiceover company. has left a bitter taste in my mouth. At first, they were great.

Not only have they raised their rates, now they charge by the word instead of by the second.

I gave them a script that was timed for 30 sec, they said it had too many words and that they would have to charge me for a 1 min spot.

So I took out enough words to fit into their standard. Guess what? the audio they cut came back at 22 sec. When I told them this they had the guy read it slower - it came out to 24 sec.

After that, they said he tried but it would read too slow so they would have to charge me for a 1 min.

So i told them I was very disappointed in this, my time has been wasted on a trivial matter (to me anyway), they lost a customer because of it, and either give me my audio cut at the original script or refund my money.

Then they finally said they would make a "one time" exception where I can have my original script cut at the 30 sec. price. - so when he finally cut my original script, guess what, it came out to 30 sec. is by far the worst company I have ever dealt with in my 20 yrs. of production.

Please tell me not all voice over companies are like that.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Voice over company is unfair
by on Feb 1, 2013 at 3:20:14 pm

I can't really say much about your specific situation: every script is different. In standard script writing formats, the page is formatted so that one page , double-spaced, should run one minute if read/performed at a "normal" pace.

But what is "normal"? So much having to do with how a reading is performed has to do with things specific to each script's tone, or "flavor", and the characterizations that might be involved.

And as far as timing, many times a spot's dialogue times out shorter than 30 seconds, so that an opening or closing graphic or actor tableau can sit for a few seconds, getting all the attention.

Add in a half-second front and back for fade in and fade-out, (if you have fades) and a typical "read" for a standard commercial times out closer to 25 seconds than 30. If you have too much "stuff" to say in the :30, it probably means you need a re-write, or maybe you NEED a :60, and/or perhaps you need to do more than one spot to get all the information across. I can't definitively state which is the case for your situation, as I don't know nearly enough about your specifics, so I'm generalizing here.

The message of a spot is like an arrow, and every extra copy-point you want that arrow to carry blunts the point of it a little bit more. Too many unrelated copy-points, and the arrowhead becomes so blunted it just bounces off the viewer, nothing sticks. Generalizing here, but I've seen cases where the client wants to say too many things but only wants to pay for one spot, so they figure "cram that all into one". That's probably the worst of all strategies, because you've wasted all the production budget and ad time buy on a spot that will not perform for ANY of the copy points. It's the difference between my wife saying: "bring home a gallon of milk on your way from work", versus reciting a list of 25 grocery items for me to memorize... with the gallon of milk somewhere in there. Guess who's eating dry cereal in the morning.

I've written broadcast radio and TV ad/PSA copy for decades. Sometimes I cram so much stuff in, I'm the only guy that can read it so it sounds right and still make the time limit. But overall, less is more when it comes to the copy. You need time for music cues, sound effects, actor characterizations, moods, to all establish. A film director gets 90 minutes to do those things. I get 24 or so seconds. That's one of the things I like about the form; it is like working within the restrictions of Haiku poetry. The limitations actually force you to tell your story more efficiently and economically, with more creativity. This is going to be one of the themes in the next chapter of "Save This Script!" which we are working on this month.

Again, sorry to hear about your feud with the voice-over company, and I hope you figure something out that works for you.

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Steve MartinRe: Voice over company is unfair
by on Feb 1, 2013 at 5:44:15 pm


Your "blunted arrow" and grocery list analogies are probably the best I've heard. When tying to explain this to clients, I've often used the "10 pounds of stuff in a 5 pound bag" analogy.

But I like yours much better as it gets to the effectiveness of the strategy - not the elegance. With your permission, I'm gonna steal... eghh hmmm... "borrow" it!

Production is fun - but lets not forget: Nobody ever died on the video table!

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Mark SuszkoRe: Voice over company is unfair
by on Feb 1, 2013 at 5:54:48 pm

Seems fair, since I stole (could say "absorbed") much of what I know about the process from my partner Mr. Morley. His corporate scriptwriting book is really VERY good, and I've used it to help put bread on the table for many years now.

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Jerry ReedRe: Voice over company is unfair
by on Feb 2, 2013 at 11:31:37 am

Sam you might try going direct to a voice artist or try Voice Realm. Their rates are fair for both the creative voice seeker and the voice talent. Many of the country's top professional voice actors are accessible through You shouldn't have to go through what you did. It reeks of unprofessionalism.
Jerry Reed, Voice Talent

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Todd TerryRe: Voice over company is unfair
by on Feb 3, 2013 at 12:04:37 am

Yes Mark, the arrow analogy is great... I shall steal that.

I beg clients to boil their spots down to ONE message. I repeatedly point people to a the Little Ceasar's Pizza "Bigger Bigger" campaign of a few years ago. They only said their pizza was bigger. Not better. Not hotter. Not faster... or more delicous... NOTHING but bigger.

I know clients will rarely let us boil things down just ONE message, but I try to get them to do that as close as possible.

As for voices, we've come to LOVE If I don't have a very specific voice that I want to cast (i.e., Peter Thomas, Tim Russell, etc., some of my usual go-to guys), then I hit up It's basically a voice bank that reps talent from all over the world. You post your job, set the price you are willing to pay, get auditions in from people, and hire who you want. It's a free service, it costs you nothing (the talent pays them a fee for listing them).

Most recently we needed a quickie VO for an almost no-budget job. I posted it at around midday, and by 4pm that same day I had almost 40 custom auditions in of my script. A lot of not-so-good ones, but plenty of great ones. In fact, the person we chose had an audition that was so spot-on that we just used the audition track and then paid her. No need to even do another session or phone patch or anything.

Highly recommended.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Mads Nybo JørgensenRe: Voice over company is unfair
by on Feb 3, 2013 at 6:13:20 pm

Hey Sam,

Just an observation:

I can identify with your frustrations. But looking at their pricing: and comparing that with spending (UK based) £150.00 on a good artist and £100-£250 on the studio with an engineer, then $125 for 150 words seems reasonable.

What I'm missing from your post is whether you were happy with the artist's voice and delivery? Which is equally important to the length of the piece.

All the Best

@madsvid, London, UK
Check out my other hangouts:
Twitter: @madsvid

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Todd TerryRe: Voice over company is unfair
by on Feb 3, 2013 at 8:13:21 pm

Upon re-visiting this (and looking at the VoiceJockey's pricing, which I hadn't before), I'm a bit with Mads.

If it's their service that you are unhappy with, or don't like their stable of voices, or find them hard to work with, then go somewhere else (I didn't listen to any of their voices, so I don't know how good they are). But I really don't see much to complain about as far as costs go.

We've used those "75-buck voices" a bit in the past, but typically I expect to pay a really good voice actor more in the $150-300 range for a :30 spot. I have at least one voice actor that I regularly pay $1500 for a :30 (and he's worth every penny... and actually that's his half-price "friend rate").

You tend to get what you pay for. If you've been happy with the quality from VoiceJockeys at those rates, they're the bargain of the year.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Tom SeftonRe: Voice over company is unfair
by on Feb 7, 2013 at 10:14:30 am

That pricing is pretty cheap...

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