What The @!#?@! Is Going On With Rates?

A Lot For A Little?

Confused

 

"Captain Mirth-Spreader"

Free photos of Easter

Used by permission from aitoff via Pixabay

 

In early 2022, I started noticing a bizarre trend.  I am not talking about Tom Hanks being cast in everything whether he is an accent-less elderly Italian clockmaker or not.

No: the online voiceover marketplaces were starting to offer stranger offerings.  I am not kidding. The other day I saw a casting notice to perform as a Flaming Caribbean Winnebago singing Tina Turner hits whilst dressed in a battle thong, and the payment would be made in genuine Muppet skins.

Now, I am a generous man.  I love to give.  Giving is my love language.  So if I ever give you something, it means that I love you. And that you should love me.  Why don't you love me?  And why do you never call me?  You know, I give, and I give, and I give.  And you are all about take take take as you go gallivanting off with your friends and leave me here alone by myself to care for our babies.

See, love is a crazy thing, and I am a crazy man when it comes to giving.  Just ask my wife or kids during Christmastime. When it comes to the ol’ green and red, I do not want to see any carpet under our tree.  I want there to be a veritable mountain of presents under there, and I genuinely do not care if a single one of those is mine.  I love to shower Christmas gifts upon my family, and it is one of the most delightful times of my year.  That, and the day my children go back to school so that I may at last be rid of them and binge-watch Cobra Kai and eat Funyuns.  Delightful.

Equally delightful is the credit card bill I receive from Amazon’s Synchrony Bank after Christmas.

But being a crazy giver can have its downsides.  Sometimes I tend to OVER-give.  Indeed, my cousin calls me “Captain Mirth-Spreader” because he spent one Christmas with me in our young adulthood, and subsequently became the target of my affection that yule.  I have since graduated to Admiral Mirth-Spreader.  I hope one day to attain the rank of Fleet Admiral High Commandant Mirth-Spreader Overlord, but I have not filled out the application yet.

Secondly, I have given to street corner beggars and seen them run right out and abuse said gift, a la "Here is some money for McDonald's since that is precisely what you asked me for" only to see them emerging five minutes later from Safeway with a 6-pack of Coors.  Because of that, I am no longer one to walk up to any stranger on the street and hand over all of my debit cards.  Firstly, it would be an absolutely heinous and cruel stunt to pull because I no longer have money (see prior reference to my having children).  Secondly, if I did have any money, then giving them everything I have on a silver platter (note to self: buy a silver platter to give them) would be entirely unreasonable, because there should always be a reasonable cost associated with every acquisition.

It is the same with voiceovers. Lately, people seem to want the entire world on a silver platter.  I am generous, but this mirth-spreading Overlord has to draw the line somewhere.

 

Going To Hand In a HellBasket

hell in a handbasket

Used by permission from jamelah via Creative Commons

 

As an example, take a client on Voice123 whom we shall call “CD”.  They are a customer I frequently encounter offering the following clauses for a measly $700 payout:

We are requesting a full buyout in perpetuity (i.e. our release states we can use the recording in any way or format needed for unlimited time and needs to be signed before the recording). However, this video will NOT be used in paid media or broadcast. It is for internal use for Media Center/Youtube purposes.

OH!  OK…no worries then.  In that case, since you have so completely reassured me that you are not going to be using this in paid media or broadcast, I guess it will be alright with me that I renounce all rights forever, for only $700.  And I should just trust that you will stop the usage right there.

But there is a problem: I don't even trust my dog that much.  There is a HUGE problem with this: you can use them in paid media or broadcast, and since I have just signed your release - which I am pretty sure has innocuous clauses in Font 3 demanding my firstborn child, my dog, my left ear, a kidney – I have effectively given you carte blanche approval on abusing me to your heart’s content.  OK, Rumpelstiltskin.

Welp, if you are going to only use your project for internal use and YouTube, then do not make me sign a contract that says that you can use it for more than that.

You cannot have a Porsche for the price of a Pinto.

Voices dot com is notorious, especially of late, for posting such ridiculous jobs under the auspices of "Video Narration."  Video Narration???  Isn't that, like, ALL voiceovers?!?!?  And I am frequently seeing such asininely-budgeted projects as the following:

VDC job

$1500.  National TV in perpetuity.  National radio ad in perpetuity.  Worldwide online ad in perpetuity.  $1500.  To say nothing of the fact that these jobs are usually exclusivity-based, meaning if you did take it, you would not be able to voice for another resort - forever.  $1500.

All of these clients know they are asking for the unreasonable.  Garmin on Voice123 also frequently posts excessive usage non-commensurate with a paltry budget.

Here is the thing.  Go into any Burger King:

  • A small fountain drink costs $1.79.
  • A medium costs $2.09.
  • A large costs $2.39.
  • I am requesting more, therefore I pay more.

 

Or consider the Nissan Rogue I just purchased:

  • I could have ordered an S trim for $25,650 MSRP.
  • Or the SV trim for $27,340.
  • But I ordered the SL trim for $32,000, and I added on a premium sound system, interior accent lights, fog lights, wireless Apple CarPlay, and an optional Llama adoption program that comes with weekly food rations and a pooper-scooper.
  • I only had to pay $78,950!
  • #ifonlymorepeopleknew

 

Or take the massage I just scheduled.  (YES, I, a man, do go in for the occasional massage…please do not tell anyone; I wish to keep this practice a secret, so I am only posting it here in the privacy of the internet.  Next week I promise to update you on my recent pedicure where they allowed me to play “Man I Feel Like a Woman” by Shania Twain.)

  • I could have gotten a regular massage for $49.95
  • I opted for the hot stone massage because I enjoy receiving torture.  You can be tortured for only $69.95!
  • #followmeformoretorturetips

 

Or consider the oil change I just received at Jiffy Lube.  Although, to be honest, they should change their name, however, as “Jiffy” does not quite describe my recent wait.  I went in in April for my oil change and I am still here.  Nonetheless, I could choose:

  • conventional oil for cheap
  • synthetic blend for a bit more, or
  • full synthetic oil for the maximum price.
  • #whydocarsneedoilanyway

 

Or the airfare I paid for VO Atlanta this past March: I wanted to fly first class because I was feeling particularly snooty, and I did not wish to be associated with the steerage behind me.  As such, I paid a higher price tag for the flight because I enjoy the scorn and stares of disdain I received as I got to board the flight first and have all the measly peons shuffle back past me as I furiously conducted business deals on my MacBook and threw back Dom Perignon and caviar.

Again, I am a spreader of mirth and I love to give (except in First Class), but this ramped-up, scaled-down more-for-less commoditization by some clients is wearing on me.  I feel like Q*Bert with the exclamation over his head.  What The @!#?@! Is Going On?

Q*Bert

If you expect more, you need to pay more.  It is really that simple.  Here, have a llama.

 

Take a Bleeping Stand

Man taking a stand

Used by permission from anyjazz65 via Creative Commons

 

Am I talking to customers with this blog?  No.  Customers are always searching for the better deal, myself included.  They will not change.  But we voice talent can change.  We can toe the line, uphold market rates, and not sellout.

I have, of late, reported and flagged more jobs than I can count on Voice123.  On principle, I am probably one of their worst voice talent because I continuously shoot down these asinine jobs that these unreasonable nincompoops just keep posting.  On principle, I cannot stop doing it because it is like crack cocaine, really.  Not that I know what crack cocaine is or does!  Here, have a llama.

Don’t feel like taking the time to report these outlandish-usage-for-subpar-pay jobs to Voice123, or Voices, or VOPlanet?  Fine.  Then do this:

 

  • Learn to walk away. $700 for a full buyout is a ridiculous insult.  $1500 for everything, everywhere, for all time, is a laughingstock.
  • Take a bleeping stand. Stand with all voice talent who deserve fair market rates, from those who have been doing this for 30 years as well as those who have been doing this for 30 minutes. We all need to toe the line.
  • Know your worth. As the saying goes, “Screw me once, shame on you. Screw me twice, shame on me.” Know your value as a voice talent.  Reference the GVAA Rate Guide to know what you should be charging.

 

Again, I am a giver.  But I can’t give you my Rogue for five hundred dollars.  Not even five thousand.  Not even twenty-five thousand.  At least not at present.  The fair market value of it demands that you pay what its worth.

When I was a wedding videographer, clients would constantly whittle down my $1400 "Silver" package to $900 just so they could save some money.  So, I would drop them down to the lower tiered “Bronze” package.  But somehow they would still expect the same bells and whistles of the higher “Silver" package.  And inevitably, if I didn’t deliver said bells and whistles, they would run straight to Yelp.  It became a cruel, narcissistic undervaluing of my craft, and so I vacated that industry faster than a maggot frying in hot grease.

Will I eventually leave voiceovers?  No.  It is far too lucrative and enjoyable, and there is no hot grease.  Also to my knowledge I am not a maggot.  Instead, I will continue to stand my ground, which means of course that I will not film any voiceover weddings.

Will you stand your ground?

Sincerely,

Captain Mirth-Spreader

 

PS, here.  Have a llama.

Free photos of Llama

Used by permission from manfredrichter via Pixabay.

 

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Joshua Alexander
The Voices In My Head Blog
blog@itsthevoicesinmyhead.com ∙ josh@supervoiceover.com
360.339.1900

26 thoughts on “What The @!#?@! Is Going On With Rates?”

  1. Ok so I hear you and I am doing my best to follow this but tbh if I did this exactly as you have laid it out I would have 0 auditions to do. So how do I handle that? I can’t be a VO unless I audition but if I only audition for things that match the industry rates then I guess I am out. Just some perspective from nobody.

    1. Firstly, I reject the notion that you are not nobody. If that were the case, then I would be forced to say that nobody has commented on my blog, and that clearly isn’t the case, Mr. Somebody! 🙂 Secondly, I completely understand the frustration and hesitation. Develop a familiarity with market rates: what they are, how they work, where you can find them, i.e., the GVAA Rate Guide at http://www.gvaarateguide.com. So, when you see a job with rates posted that are non-commensurate with the usage posted, you will know what precisely to quote. It doesn’t mean throw the job out entirely. It means a chance to educate the clients. Never settle. Just because they state that that is their budget does not always mean that they are hard and fast deadset on said budget; they just might not even know what they’re supposed to charge, and it’s our job to educate them, just like a Burger King menu is there to educate customers when they walk in, or a massage price sheet is listed on their website to educate customers…or a Jiffy Lube employee is there to inform you what your service will cost based on what level of service you choose. Never settle.

        1. Keep referring to it! I know the temptation is great to simply quote within the range that is offered, or quote the fixed price that is offered – whichever is allowed, wherever you’re auditioning. Keep going back to the rate guide with as much information as you have. If it’s off, then it’s our duty to make it right and inform them, “No, you’re wanting a large, not a small. A large costs this. A large does not cost the same as a small. Now get out of my restaurant or I’ll throw this llama at you.” 🙂

      1. Hi Josh, me again, hey I hope I’m not being too negative about the rate issues, this is a real sore spot for me, I invested a total of nearly 10 years in the VO business, and A lot of what I’m hearing is exactly what I experienced too. I would actually come back if the tables were turned the right direction, I LOVED doing VO work, and I was getting pretty good at it, but, as you have mentioned very well, it’s not worth having to sell out, at any level. When things get corrected, maybe I’ll come back. Sorry I’m being a negative Nellie but something has to change. I’ll keep reading your blogs, good stuff 🙂

        1. It’s OK, Nellie – we all appreciate the varying perspectives! I don’t hold the franchise on truth…this is just my truth here. It is shared by many, and not shared by many. I’m interested in hearing where you’re coming from, and I can definitely relate to the weariness you feel with the downward spiral of rates!

      2. Hi Josh! Lee Colee’ here and replying regarding Voice123. I discontinued with them when they started sending auditions out for as little as $25.00! That’s an insult. I’ve only been in this career for two years and still learning all these ropes. Would you recommend I continue with them? Voices.com seem to be going the way of Voices123 and I know they take fees from both me and the client when a job is booked. Right now I don’t care too much because I’m building my resume’ and client roster. These pay to plays seem like playing the slot machines and when I submit I always up my price from what’s quoted. Is it better to focus marketing on agents and casting directors? Thanks!!!! I enjoy getting acquainted! Lee

        1. Hi Lee – nice to meet you as well! 🙂

          I would recommend Voice123 over Voices dot com every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Voices dot com will always be the industry pariah for scalping profits from talents. Very shameful. I use them, and so do many, but you MUST be ethical and bid market rates, no matter what the “stated” budget is. And skip the VDC managed jobs altogether if you can. That’s where the huge gray area exists. You’re going to lose out on a lot of jobs for doing so – but you’ll maintain your integrity, and you’re going to land some. I’ve bid over the stated budget and been awarded plenty of jobs that way by clients who understand that I know my worth, and they are familiar with the rates anyway. And they wanted me, so the value that they placed on my voice justified the price, and they were willing to bend.

          Good for you on looking up the rates!!! That is awesome. Don’t ever feel you have to settle just to get something on your resume. In so doing, you set a super unfortunate precedent in the minds of buyers that they can get voiceovers on the cheap. That hurts all of us. Give it time. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Your resumé will grow. Everyone’s does. They will cast you whether you have a resume or not. If you are simply the voice they must have, then your resumé doesn’t matter. Seriously.

          You can get a LOT of work from the pay to plays, but it’s an internet tool that you must use wisely, just like the internet itself.

          And lastly, YES: I would always encourage developing direct clients and turning them into repeat clients. Those are the best kinds of clients!

          YOU CAN DO THIS! Let me know if you’re interested in voiceover business coaching at http://www.supervoiceovercoaching.com. I’d be glad to help. Cheers – and go git ’em!

  2. I am bleeping standing with you, Josh. Bleep. Bleep. Bleep. Sorry if this is annoying. Bleep. Bleep. Bleep.
    However, there are many, many people who are not concerned about industry rates and will not change as long as they continue to get jobs at any price. Beep. For them it often isn’t a matter of no knowing what the appropriate charge should be. Beep. It is all about getting the job. Period. Beep. Further, many, many people couldn’t care less about in perpetuity locking them out of doing similar work in the future, because they will do it to get the job, and will do the next one without a care in the world that there might be a conflict. Beep. As long as people are willing to do anything for the job, buyers will continue to use them, expectations will continue to warp out of control and the rates paid in the industry overall will continue to fall. Beep. What are your ideas about how we can address these issues?
    Beep. Beep. Beep.
    By the way, I appreciate the offer, but you can keep your llama. I tried eating llama once but it refused to hold still and I kept having to stop to spit out the fur. It’s kinda dirty and oily. Not as awesome as it looks. Beep.

    1. Firstly, I am confused by the differences between Bleep and Beep. Is this the new and improved Profanity Robot X1? If so, I want one to guard my front door. Secondly, you are absolutely right. Live llamas tend to struggle and cry out when eaten, and this simply should not be. That is why I propose the following. Flame throw them. Less fur, crispier meat that falls right off the bone, and less noise to wake the savage human babies. Thirdly, the ONLY things we can do is:

      A) what we ourselves can do: and that’s toe the line, each of us, and
      B) tell everyone on the planet to subscribe to this blog so that
      1) they may learn to quote great rates,
      2) they may learn about the proper way to eat a llama, and
      3) they may learn about overfrequent bullet points with sub-bullet points.

      If enough of us did this, we wouldn’t have a problem with overpopulation of llamas. I mean erosion of market rates. Or both.

  3. Hi Josh, I’ve been waiting for someone to speak about the outrageous rate disparity, thank you for stepping up! When I was bidding on VO projects I found myself flagging more and more rediculusly low budget projects, just as you have been doing. I was also very careful to charge my worth based on GVAA rates that correctly represented what I should be getting. I am of the belief that the majority of the low budget projects are deliberately coached to post these wannabe budgets, in other words, they know exactly what they’re doing. A lot of these “perpetuity” based jobs should not be allowed to post anything, and be permanently banned. No exceptions. Voices 123, VDC, etc. Need to be sued en masse, and class action lawsuits enforced, why? Because they condone and encourage this garbage, all the while making unfair profits. This is what I meant when I referred to pay to play as a sham, and absolutely a scam. Why are GVAA rates not enforceable? Seriously, let’s get a clue here. If you don’t have the budget to match the standard rates, you should not be allowed to hire any VO artist. Period.

    1. I do not agree with the suing of Voice123 or class action lawsuits…its the end users that are responsible for the budgets that they post on both sites…but it is the managers on Voices.com that do perpetuate the problem. The end users need to be educated. Voices dot com will always be the industry pariah for what they were caught red-handed doing and are arguably still doing. It’s when you see managed jobs on Voices dot com where the managers should be held responsible. This all out witch hunt doesn’t serve anyone’s best interests because I, along with many, have made and continue to make a killing on some of the P2P’s while quoting, and receiving, market rates. To sue them out of business would effectively hurt a large number of colleagues and destroy their livelihood and breadwinning. I don’t believe you can place Voice123 in the same boat as VDC or Voice Realm. But it all boils down to quoting market rates and always toeing the line. Customers need to be educated: THAT’S how we toe the line.

  4. HERE HERE JOSHUA!! 🙂 🙂 i think this blog wins the internet–at least for today. 🙂 🙂 thank you for taking the time to stand up for fair pay!

    1. Hoo boy you’re so right Josh! There are a lot of people trying to get a Porsche for the price of a pinto! In my short time on voices123 I’ve seen full year digital ads for $150, full buy outs for $700 and much more and so frequent too. Looks like direct marketing is the better way forward these days. Best of luck out there

  5. Wow, well I’m not surprised, frankly. I’m seeing this as well, and it seems to be getting more prolific no matter where you look. There was a $5 job posted on one of the sites a few days ago, I can’t remember where. I’m not even sure it was a typo. 🙁 Thanks for the “edutaitional” read once again, Josh – and for reminding us that we’re worthy of said rates.

  6. You ARE a giver. Your spirit of giving has enriched my life and my ambitions, and helped shape a community that I LOVE being a part of!

    You also included a q-bert image and reference in your blog!!! I’m tickled! Now if only they could make a sequel that includes llamas…

    And lastly, I remember my first pedicure fondly. I was dragged, kicking and screaming, and strapped down to that chair – whereupon the screaming immediately stopped once my feet were submerged in warm, bubbly water. Now, when the word “pedicure” comes up at home, my ears perk up and I run barking to the door.

    Keep holding the line my friend! Strength in unity!!

    1. Strength in unity indeed. See you at Massage Envy! If I ignore you, I’m just playing Q-Bert on my phone. Please don’t take it personally; you’ll always be my favorite Michael Apollo Llama. I mean Lira.

  7. I’m new to VO.
    How can I find out what are “Fair Market Rates” in my area? I live in the little town of Austin (1 hour West of Rochester, MN, and 3 hour South of Minneapolis/St. Paul.

  8. Lol, have a llama! That’s funny!

    Yeah, I have seen these things go the same way, as little as I get to audition for. I don’t like it, but I do know there is going to be a dramatic drop in rates before it stabalizes at the “new normal”. It kinda happens with major technological breakthroughs. The closest I can think of would be VST instruments. Once the computer could actually reasonably produce high quality music on it’s own, it did take away from musicians who held a monopoly in that area. Now, when there is a live show, you have your band there still – every Sunday at church, etc. No matter where music is in anyway remotely live, you still have musicians showing up. They don’t get the same rate, but it certainly did not dissolve the industry – that human element will ALWAYS be required at some level, because even though machines are good, the lack of a spirit means there will always be some level of a void, because it can’t feel something or interpret something on the same metaphysical level – H-E-A-R-T!

    Stick to your guns, but I would certainly encourage you to start seeing how you can take advantage of the changing industry. If anyone can find a gap, I know you can! 😀

    1. Definitely looking at it. JMC keeps his fingers on this pulse well, and I listen to him. It’s good information and inspiration. We are wise to roll with the punches indeed. And I appreciate what you said about heart…AI will only be a synthetic imitation of the real thing, ever.

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