how NOT to make it

notes from a working actor

The trials and tribulations
of Mike Vaughn

(this guy)

Fellow actors sometimes ask me about the pay-to-play voice-over casting sites, and I think my response to Voice123’s email asking why I don’t upgrade my account, pretty much sums up my feelings about these types of sites.

So, if you’re a voice talent who loves these sites and you’re kicking ass, then hats off to you. It’s just not my thing and this is why.

First up is the email I received:


On Apr 15, 2010, at 4:07 PM, Steven Lowell wrote:

Hello Mike,
Steven here from Voice123. I am contacting you because your subscription on Voice123 is currently a Standard Subscription.

Instead of doing a regular survey, I wanted to write you personally, asking for your honest, no-holds-barred opinion, as to why you have not upgraded to Premium, or why you are still standard.

So… Feel free to let us have it! We can take it, and we promise your answer will remain confidential!

Thank you for your honesty!
Steven Lowell
Public Relations Manager, Voice123

Christ, he just thanked me for my honesty. I guess I better give it to him.
Here’s what I wrote back:

Steven, hi.
Not sure how confidential this is, but then I don’t care anyway.
By the way, didn’t even realize I have a “standard subscription” since I don’t use, pay, audition, or book with Voice123 at all.
So, you want to know why I don’t use Voice123?  Well… here goes:

1. Your service isn’t all that helpful for voice talent with agents and managers. We get plenty of auditions, all of which we can trust are legit and will pay when booked.

2. Your service is WAY overpriced. The majority of responses I’ve heard from those using and booking on Voice123 is, “I almost broke even with the jobs I was able to book on Voice123.” Extra auditions and work just to “almost” make the subscription fee with no protection for non-paying clients? Yeah, no thanks.

3. The Voice123 brand is a determent to whatever semblance of a “brand” I might have. And what I mean by that is because of the numerous active entry-level talent with very limited abilities listed within Voice123, combined with clients posting little-to-no pay jobs, including paying jobs that are consistently well below fair market rates, associating my name on your site actually devalues my accomplishments as an actor. Make sense? And yes, I recognize that there are some talented and very qualified voice talent on Voice123, just… not as many in my humble opinion.

4. I’m hearing more and more stories of clients trying out Voice123, not digging the results, and heading back to trusted agents and managers. I could only imagine the headache of filtering thru hundreds of mediocre auditions as a broadcast producer versus the option of calling a few trusted talent agents and getting them filtered a bit more thoroughly.

Now, critique is easy and cheap; it’s the solutions that are difficult, right?
Here are mine:

1. Instead of charging talent, CHARGE the clients looking for voice talent. You listening, Breakdown Services, LA Casting, and Now Casting? This also has the wonderful side-effect of better filtering out the illegitimate clients who have no intention of paying for work anyway. Yes, I’m talking about “clients” who use demos as the final product without pay (don’t pretend like this doesn’t happen).

2. Better yet, don’t charge anything. Just get tons of traffic and make moolah via ad sales and sponsorships. Maybe have your site be the catalyst to some giant yearly event filled with people and services willing to gauge the naive wanna-be voice actor. Oh, wait, that’s already covered.

3. What about pre-screening talent and guaranty a minimum level of quality to clients. Then also, pre-screening clients and guaranty a minimum level of legitimacy and security to voice talent? You listening SAG? AFTRA? No, they aren’t are they?

4. Show Google, Microsoft, or Breakdown Services how awesome you are currently, and see if you can’t enjoy a buy-out. The retire to Baja. I hear the property goes for cheap these days.

You asked for it.
Oh, and you’re welcome.
-Mike

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112 Responses to “Trust me, Voice123, you really don’t want my opinion.”

  1. Voicebank.net and a pro account on imdb.com

    MikeV

  2. Thanks for this blog. After seeing the childish response from Voices123, I will not be using their service.

    James

  3. Whoever is representing Voices123 is doing a pretty horrible job. I can’t imagine a REAL company EVER doing something like this without fear of relentless, overwhelming backlash.

    Bad form Voices123…..bad form indeed.

    TJ

  4. Wowzers. Thank you ever so much for posting this, Mike. Thank you for taking the time to educate and alert the rest of us so that we don’t make the same mistake others have.

    I have been contemplating putting down $400 for their annual membership for a while now. I find it pretty ludicrous that they do not offer an option to pay monthly- now THAT reminds me of those old “talent agencies” back in the day that would “sign” you and send you to their own headshot studio, only to get the same looking shots as everyone else, and to only be sent to cattle calls or be booked on extra roles. I heard good things about Voice123 on the “Voiceover Insider Podcast”. Funny enough, that episode was about branding. Today, reading the bit in your reply message to Sam regarding how their site could be a detriment to your personal branding, I could not agree more. I have been working so hard at polishing my VO demos and training my voice/machine/moneymaker…most of the demos on the site sound like they were recorded in a bathroom and that no time was taken to study the script before recording.
    I have done quite a bit of browsing to find similar voice types on the site to gauge my competition, and high doubt that they actually pre-screen Premium members; all they ask is for your credit card numbers.
    I understand that we all must start somewhere. I did. But before we go out there and try to market ourselves (whether via agents or websites such as this one), we must be sure that our brand is great. And let’s keep it real; anyone can record a professional sounding demo reel nowadays with either a little bit of creativity, a skilled friend, or a little bit of cash.

    Think I’ll save that $400 and put it towards a good Mic and in-house studio.

    Please keep these blogs going,

    VS

    VS

  5. Wow. I just spent over an hour of my life reading through all of this…Amazing.

    Very sad for Voice123 that they are still losing business for the irresponsible reactive behavior of that individual! Even reading it all and knowing he is no longer employed and it’s been…well 6 years now, I still would have no interest in signing with their company, as it’s simply ludicrous to me that anyone would respond in that manner.

    I have never done VO work or any sort of acting in my life, but have always wondered and felt as though I would love it. I stumbled upon Voice123 out of nowhere and said “OH WOW!? YOU CAN DO THIS ONLINE THIS EASILY!? I JUST HAVE TO RECORD A THING!?”

    I’m glad there is real information here so ignorant ones like myself don’t fall into traps. Thanks for that :).

    Perhaps I will suck it up and conquer my anxiety and sign up for an acting class at our local community college. I feel as though being nearly 30 and never having been in as much as a high school play I would be so far behind the curve! However I’ve always wondered if I’d be any good and you never know if you don’t try.

    Anyhow, thanks for the hour long read. It was significantly entertaining. All the best!

    Brittany

  6. Wow–people are so quick to jump on a bandwagon.

    I’ve been a premium subscriber for years. If anyone is having trouble booking something to pay for the measly annual cost of under $400, there is clearly an issue with that person and their talent/recording quality. If you are truly a professional VO talent, you will recoup the fee almost immediately–then go on to make A LOT more money through bookings.

    Jaimie

  7. Or you know… Have legit agents and reps without paying them upfront and go on to make ALOT more money through bookings. Glad you’re ok spending that kind of money to try and land the kinds of jobs on Voice123 and Voices.com. Also glad aol still serves your email needs.

    I reframed your headline tho: wow-people are quick to point out when others are being taken advantage of.

    MikeV

  8. Hey Mike. I was wondering what the Internetz were thinking about Voice123 and my Google search threw me into the middle of your web site (this thread based on your review, and the subsequent responses). When I first read your review, I didn’t know the 2% I now know about you, I knew 0%, so I read your intentionally-snarky review with the thought that perhaps this guy writing the review personally wasn’t very accomplished or successful and was just some armchair-based arrogant know-it-all-or-he-thinks-he-does human. Then I read the response, I was now feeling I was reading the rantings of an unhinged mega-Troll who was lying when he claimed he somehow represented Voice123 – no professional would do or say anything remotely like that. After reading as much of this as I could handle, based on the fact this thread is now longer than some of the books in the Bible, I finally turned towards your main page and checked out your video section. Naturally, this caused me to completely and totally re-evaluate the person (you) who made that initial snarky commentary about the VO web site. I realized you in fact know what the @*#$^ you’re talking about, and beyond that, damn you are talented, funny, just terrific. I am so impressed with what you’ve done (the little I’ve seen of it) and also the great design of your web site. I’m officially a fan now. Have a great career and rest of your life!

    ThisIsTheList

  9. Thanks for the kind words. I will say that Stephen contacted me somewhat recently to apologize, but I get it. I was young and hot tempered in my 20’s as well. He just drank too much of the company’s kool-aid at the time. I’m glad this old post lives on to show wanna-be voice-over talent that there are no short-cuts, no one-way or single gatekeeper to get work and get better. Best of luck to you! -mv

    MikeV

  10. Hello America,
    What an interesting bunch of comments.
    However, there is something missing. There are 2 ways to qualify as a voice over. One of them is to train at a stage school for 2 years.
    The other is to learn a communication technique and there is only one in the world.
    It is taught to the BBC, lecturers and students at Oxford University (and several more),has been accredited by the Law Society and teaches voice overs.
    Voice over agents have to make a profit so they are unlikely to reject applicants. Many of these applicants have been told they have a good voice and should be a voice over.
    I have 10 fingers but don’t ask me to play the violin.
    In the UK the L’oreal TV commercial ends with models saying, ‘because you’re worth it It is the most unatural, insincere delivery I’ve ever heard. 37%of ‘v/os’ are untrained. What does that say about the advertising agency or producer.
    The standard is too low; untrained v/os are unlikely to impress the public and the advertiser is being ripped off.
    Cheers
    Steve Hudson
    Listen to Beverly at
    http://www.voicemaster.co.uk

    steve hudson

  11. Interesting perspective from the U.K. Don’t really know how valid your comments are, but it’s definitely not how it works here in the US. In fact I might argue that an over trained voice is exactly what most producers aren’t looking for. Most of the specs I see are looking for good actors first and foremost, so in that sense I agree with you. But just training in voice alone is a great way to probably not book a job. Also keep in mind that even a good actor who books the job may be directed by the ad agency or client into another direction that isn’t as good a what got them booked. Many great actors are directed into pooptown and we almost never do this stuff in a vacuum.

    MikeV

  12. I appreciate you helping me make my decision!

    Christopher Eaddy

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