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I Now Have Proof People Smoke Crack
They’re Goin’ Off The Rails on a Crazy Train
It never ceases to amaze me how nearly every moment I begin to believe once again in the fundamental goodness of humanity, someone goes and offers up a Heaping Spoonful Of Crazy. I suppose it is good for this planet to have balance: you cannot have righteous, upstanding, ethical people full of integrity on one end of the spectrum without having Sherri Papini on the other end. You cannot have honest, hardworking folks on one end of the spectrum without having insurance salesmen and Amway representatives to balance them out. You cannot have sensible, sane people on one side without having half-naked Walmart shoppers and Marjorie Taylor-Greene to even out the scale.
Lately, I continue to find heaping spoonfuls of crazy on a few of the pay-to-plays. Here is just a small spoonful I have been delighted to discover:
- Three :30 Scripts for local broadcast and digital in perpetuity for $250 each
- National commercial (TV and web), 1 year run time, for $500 total
- A client (who booked me) with a PSA that was labeled as being on television and across social media for $500, that ended up actually wanting “National Broadcast TV, Streaming, Social Media, Youtube etc…. All forms of media” (their words) for 5+ years. For $500 total. All of that. For $500. I unbooked them.
- A project on Voice123 for a niche corporate audience for £250 total for the recording and "external rights in perpetuity"
- A Dog food recipe commercial for "all media in perpetuity," for $200 total
- A project labeled in the new and exciting (and not-in-any-way overly-vague) job description “Video Narration” that turned out to actually be for national broadcast cable, posted for $250-$499 total. Even Voices.com’s own rate guide states that such a job falls anywhere between $1000 (local) and $4999 (national), and yet Voices.com have stated that they inform clients that "Video Narration" does not include broadcast cable TV.
- A "Pet Supplement Commercial" for $1500 - $1749 for "National TV, in perpetuity."
Robert Sciglimpaglia (friend/attorney/voice talent), who is a well-known name in the VO community and whose last name you shout when you stub your toe on something, recently shared this example of abuse: a client’s project said it was for "Non-broadcast documentary" for a few hundred bucks, and now it is on Discovery Plus on a reality TV series airing worldwide with a big name host. Here was Voices.com’s response to a request for additional compensation:
"Your concern around Job ##### has been escalated and I wanted to reach out to you personally. We have reviewed this project with our internal team and as it falls within the usage that it was posted for on our website, no additional funds will be added to this project. As ____ mentioned, this is similar usage to a documentary where it falls under "Non-Broadcast" work since it is not an advertisement promoting a product, service or otherwise on TV/Radio/Paid Web. Knowing that some pilot projects do air, we typically post work that airs as a program on TV at a higher price then internal videos and the budget posted was in line with what we'd expect for a Documentary/TV program. As for credit for your VO, that is at the client's discretion and unfortunately not something we can control."
More and more lately, I am seeing clients on Voice123 and Voices.com state that they are wanting:
- Full buyout
- Buyout in perpetuity
- Full buyout in perpetuity
- Full buyout in perpetuity with a side of fries
- Complete worldwide buyout in perpetuity with cherries on top
- Full and complete worldwide buyout in all forms of media served on a rice pilaf with lobster, while being massaged by kittens and drinking a hot sake.
You see, a Full Buyout In Perpetuity for $200 is something someone requests when they have been forced to watch only The Wiggles for 72 weeks in a row, and repeatedly smacked in the head with an oar.
Check out Barbara Streisand's song, "Everything": "I want everything... everything." Those lyrics just about sum it up. These clients have no idea the kinds of exclusivity and paid-placement challenges their requests invoke. Many of these clients’ rates and demands are so abysmally sad, I have begun to research local psychiatrists to commence sessions, and am preparing psychologically by sucking my thumb. Take that, Babs.
I am sorry, but here is the harsh truth: You cannot get a Porsche for the price of a Pinto.
Here I am not talking about Thom Pinto. No. You will be getting a Pinto for the price of a Pinto. You cannot have a mansion for the price of a newspaper on a park bench. It simply does not work that way.
Based on all of these asinine requests, I am now convinced that people smoke crack regularly.
I think Ozzy Osbourne said it best: “they’re goin’ off the rails on a crazy train.” These people want everything for nothing. They are Rumpelstiltskin through and through. Just...without the Hervé Villechaize accent.
We should not have to open up a casting notice and ask "What fresh hell is this?"
Friends In High And Low Places
Anytime I see projects posted with outlandish rates non-commensurate with stated usage, I will reply with something like the following: "Your Royal Highness, if it pleases you I shall cut off my arms and serve them to thee on a hot platter with the assistance of a helpmate since I am now armless, because thou art my All in All. After that I shall hang myself in worship of thee, so that thou mayest be glorified in all thine Galaxial Entitlement. Amen."
I jest. This is what I write: “Sorry, but your stated budget is too low for your stated usage & content. Please see the GVAA Rate Guide (gvaarateguide.com) for fair market rates you should be paying for this. Email email@example.com for professional voiceovers with the highest level of quality & turnaround, at market rates.”
I will then flag the project and state why. Customer support reps Crispin Alfaro and Mariana Scaffo with Voice123 reply fairly consistently with the following tune:
Thanks for flagging this project.
We will contact the client to review his budget and usage again.
With Voices.com, I receive similar refrains from employees such as Stacey Pontes of “looking into the matter” and “confirming with the client.” But I do not ever hear anything back from either. In fact, when asked pointed questions like “Should I expect to see this project reposted at the same dollar amount so that a lesser informed voice talent can be taken advantage of? Or will they be reposting it at the correct rate?” I receive the following response from Voices.com:
“I've actually flagged the Client, so we will be manually reviewing all of their future job postings to ensure they are categorized appropriately.”
...which, once run through my new improved U.D.I.S. System (Universal Deception Interpretation Software System, a la "you diss") , is decoded as:
“I am sorry, but your support request has grown tiresome, and we are shopping. After all, we are Voices.com and you should know that we take large sums of money from you readily. Please know that your support request has been noted and filed in the appropriate round storage container, and we are shopping. And by the way, there is nothing more that we will do on this matter, despite your flowing tears. Also everything written about us online is a lie. By the way, we are shopping.”
Toeing the Line
When I die (on August 19th 2076, for I have read the scrolls), I am confident that my wife and sons will have more than enough audio files to comb through on my computer should they ever want to hear my voice again. Doubtless they will stumble across many a “You have GOT to be kidding me!” and “What the ___________???" (insert your favorite potty-word here) in many of those recordings, signifying the fact that while doing my auditions, I had just come across another instance of exorbitant usage abuse for a pittance payout.
I get it – sometimes the clients don’t know what they are asking. They post their casting and they see an option that says "Check this box if you would like a full buyout in perpetuity.” And they say “Why, yes: yes I would like a full buyout in perpetuity. I will just go ahead and check that box straightaway.” And they have no idea that doing so negates the fixed rate of $250 they just posted. It is kind of like these conversations I have with my son:
Son: "Father, I would like to not clean my room."
Me: "Well, son, then you may not go out and play."
Son: "Hmmm. I propose the following alternative: You, being a loving father and caring about my well-being, make concession post-haste to allow me to play outside, and I will continue to not clean my room in any respect ever. I should also like ice cream for every breakfast now until Jesus returns. See to it, Father."
Me: *pushes trap door button, sips coffee*
Some people want everything for nothing. Indeed, that is the reason behind my recent post on LinkedIn and elsewhere about the GVAA Rate Guide that has gained quite a bit of traction, encouraging naïve and perhaps inexperienced casting directors and video producers to understand market rates and plan their budget accordingly. I encourage you, dear reader, to read and reshare it so that:
- Potential clients are enlightened
- We stop the never-ending rate erosion
- I might be well-regarded and evermore hailed as He Who Shares Important Things With Us
Of all the Pay-to-plays, I genuinely believe in Voice123. As I have said many times, of all of them, I would choose Voice123 every day of the week and twice on Sunday. I believe Rolf Veldman genuinely wants us to succeed, and is genuinely pulling for the voiceover community en masse. We can all get hung up on the principle of market rates, and I am no exception to that rule. But it is comforting to know that we can at least fight and be heard. Is flagging casting notices futile? Will they really even do anything about it? Who knows. But I would rather be a tattletale and confront the OP's on their budgeting error than let a newbie be taken advantage of and set a precedent that voiceovers can be obtained on the cheap.
Fellow blogger Paul Schmidt has an excellent recent article from his Move, Touch, Inspire Newsletter on handling lowballers, and I highly suggest you read it and familiarize yourself with his thought processes and the usage-to-cost calculation he employs. He is cogent, aware, and aware that he uses the word cogent. I use words like peanut butter.
With all that said, there are plenty of projects posted on either site that do pay market rates. Some of them even pay above. Neither is perfect, which only serves as a motivation to collectively continue perfecting them.
To all voice talent reading this blog: beloved voiceover artist, coach, author and friend Paul Strikwerda reminds all of us in his book that we don’t want to attract “clients that expect a gourmet meal at a fast food price and at drive-through speed.” This is precisely why I created my voiceover contract with clauses that protect me, and which was approved by Robert Sciglimpaglia (which is pronounced "&!*@#($"). This contract ensures that clients agree to their stated usage and do not deviate, or I have legal recourse. It also ensures that I will be paid in a timely fashion.
To any clients reading this blog: your budget does not determine the value of my voice. The service simply costs what the service costs. They are fair market rates, and I did not invent them. If you do not have it in your budget, there is really only one thing that needs to happen: raise your budget, and come back to me when you have the necessary dough. Sure, I'll hold. And to all my clients who DO know what voiceovers are worth, THANK YOU.
Until that time, I plan on leaving you and Sherri Papini in the same column, labeled “People Who Are Presently Smoking Crack.”
*pushes trapdoor button*
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Seattle Voice Actor & Voiceover Artist for hire