The ever-changing Voiceover biz
We all know how the internet has changed the landscape of the voiceover world.... and a biz that used to be dominated by a dozen guys now has thousands in the marketplace all out for the same jobs.
I just had one stunning real-world example of that though...
I'm doing a quickie no-budget spot for a client (well, not no budget, but certainly very low budget), and as I usually do I posted a casting call for voices at Voice123. I didn't offer much, only a couple hundred bucks. That's about half what I usually pay to get really good talent, but enough that I knew I would still get a decent number of auditions in (plenty in the "good enough" range for this kind of job).
I was still a little surprised though that even with this fairly low rate I had more than 50 auditions within only a couple of hours.
MORE surprising though, was that I instantly recognized one of the names as a truly bigshot voice dude. I mean BIGshot voice dude. I won't mention who he is because I don't want any Googling of his name to lead to this post, but he's up there in the ranks of top VO guys. It's not Beau Weaver or Joe Cipriano or Townsend Coleman... but they definitely all ride to the meetings together. Plus I know this guy is SAG/AFTRA... and just a couple years ago he was the main promo voice for one of the Big Three networks.
As I say about actors, "An actor is only an actor when he's working," so obviously the same is true in the VO world. And I don't mean any of this as a slam to this particular guy in any way (he's a great voice), I just think it's very telling about the biz when a guy people would consider one of the top 20 voices in the country is going head-to-head with 50 other guys for a 200-buck local commercial.
Just think it dramatically shows how an industry can change so quickly.
(sadder still, I'm not going to use this guy... as good as he is, he is just not right for this spot)
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
It's just as bad in radio these days. I remember when the "broadcast" schools were churning out "dee jays" like Detroit did cars, and today, the pay for on-air staff is ridiculously low, often, the DJ's have to also MC weddings every weekend, either on the side, or as part of working for the station. With so much automation and consolidation, the market's over-saturated. With the upcoming bust-up of Clear Channel, though, there may be some little light at the end of the tunnel, if local community radio picks up some of the licenses. But even then, it's not going to pay much. This is definitely something that's a calling, a thing you do first for love, then for money.
The rest of the story.......
Clear Channel was ground zero for creating the present VO market situation. I used to make a "nice" living doing VO full-time from my studio and traveling to others.
When the Internet got big enough to send packets of mp3 files easily, the morning guy from a major market station would get off the air, take a leak, get some fresh coffee and a smoke and head into studio B where he would voice track for 2-4 smaller market Clear Channels. Push a button and the files would fly to those stations, putting 3-4 people out of work.
What did the know how to do? Read stuff into a mic. Sure, many were "too radio" for the work, but the economy was in the dumper and "good enough" was good enough, especially for the low ball rate. Copy writers also got pounded and those that replaced them for less money "wrote simpler" so the new talent could make it work.
Instead of going "off card", I went sideways bought a camera (after Nick Griffin loaned me his XL2 for a few weeks - thanks, Nick) got fop and began shooting and editing. Eat my lunch and I'll find someone else's lunch to eat.
I still do some VO and even have non-union performers who come to me because I can make them sound much better than they can by themselves.
The Mid-Atlantic SAG-AFTRA office has just started offering lower rates in an initiative to bring the business back. Time will tell if it even matters anymore.
I recall one ad agency friend who hired me because I could, "take the stink off" his car dealer copy with my read. I still have those chops.
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