Since joining Voices.com a few years ago, I’ve been its champion. I have the greatest respect for homegrown founders, Stephanie and David Ciccarelli and the company has grown dramatically. But I’m not going to renew with them as a voice actor when my membership expires in January. Since I’ve been so public about my support for them in the past, I feel I should be just as open about why I’ve changed my mind. I’m directly responsible for no fewer than a half-dozen people joining the site. I need to update my stance.
This year, they changed their Voice Match system. That’s the algorithm that takes the descriptors from your voice demos (audio samples) and matches them to the client’s job description and ideal talent. 100% matches get pushed up to the top of the heap of auditions the client receives.
When the changes were announced, we all followed the new rules and updated and added to our “tags” so we would have a greater chance of matching more jobs. Tags include terms such as corporate, natural, classy, believable, etc. What’s the result? Fewer 100% matches. I still get them, but my matches are sometimes as low as 40%. That’s as useful as getting a friendship bracelet from Kathleen Wynne. Voice actors talk to each other, and my VO friends are experiencing the same thing: fewer jobs and lower voice-match scores. I started to lose heart when I noticed that some of my early-entry, 100% matches weren’t even getting a listen.
The problem, as I see it, is favouritism for an elite group of voice-actors who pay a bigger fee to get put up front for the best jobs. Three membership levels are listed on the Voices.com website. There is a fourth, Platinum, that isn’t publicized and limited to 100 people. How do I know it exists? I was invited to join the Platinum level in my first year and declined. The fee is about ten times the Premium membership, but Platinum members see the jobs before they go out to the rest of the paying members, or, as I like to call us, steerage. The new algorithm made things worse for us. We can tell because of the number of auditions that are already in, by the time we get an alert that the job is open.
The second issue is the doubling of escrow fees. The fee the client pays to make a hire suddenly went up 100% percent a couple of months a go. On a $100 job, a client used to pay $10 in escrow. Now it’s $20, but the artist’s fee structure hasn’t changed. In other words, the escrow is now coming out of the voice-actor’s cut. Example: A job comes in with a fee range of $250-$500 dollars. If it’s a big job and you feel you should bid at the top of the range, you’ll get only $400 when you used to get $450. $100 goes to Voices.com.
And then there’s the employment factor. A couple of my pals do work and have worked at Voices.com but many more have applied for jobs there. The process begins with speed interviews. If a job-seeker makes it past that round, they go on to other, more in-depth interviews. Two of my friends have gone all the way to hour-long chats with the company founders, including a tour of the facility and discussions about particulars including salary. They didn’t get the job, which is fine, except for the way they were told. After all of the face-time and building of hope, they received a form letter. And when they called to find out how they could do better next time, no one called them back. A form letter is useful in certain cases. This isn’t one of them, and on the receiving end, after coming so close, it’s just plain shitty.
I’ve spoken to many of my voice-over friends about the changes the company has made and everyone seems to be having the same experiences. Once the reality of the situation set in, I stopped auditioning as much. Even Private Auditions, the gems that come to you directly, now go to dozens of people instead of just you. Now, I’m just running out the clock.
Voice artists have options. I have an agency that represents me and takes 15% off the top. I belong to The Voice Realm for one-third of the fee and more work. There’s Upwork, which also takes a percentage from paid jobs, and my husband casts me in projects. I should mention that he does very well at Voices.com but he’s at it full-time and able to audition on a second’s notice, almost 24/7. So I’m speaking only for myself, and my self is moving on. Granted, Voices.com can do whatever they want with their company. It’s not my call to make. But it’s my call to decide whether or not it works for me.