Nearly two years ago, I wrote an article called “Voices.com vs. Voice123…the BIG secret!” which you can look at here. It’s an article that might be helpful to you if you’re breaking into voice over work, or are already doing it. I talk about how to book work through online casting sites, as well as why I think one site is better than the other. However, as of right now, I have to take a step back to an almost neutral position for reasons I’m about to give you. Now, I’m only going to be reporting facts (quite a lot of them, but do try to stick with me) and letting you make a decision. And before getting into this, I also want you to know that I’m an active member on both sites and book work regularly from both. However, I have drastically changed my approach on Voices.com.
First things first…
Before I get into all the bad stuff, I think it’s important for you to know that I was booking a lot of work through the site. I was regularly on the Recently Hired list, I could be seen here and there on the Top 100 Favorite Voices list, and in three years, I made tens of thousands of dollars from the site. I say all of this so you understand that what I’m about to tell you is not coming from someone with no experience and no success on the site (which there are plenty of reviews out there like that). I learned what I had to do and I put in the effort. Unfortunately, due to very unethical business practices by Voices.com, I, along with many of the other top talent on the site, left and made the decision very public. Well, if you’re considering Voices.com, you need to know what they are doing behind the scenes.
The bad news…
If you’ve read my other article, you see that my preference from both sites (Voices.com vs. Voice123) was Voices.com.
At this point, if I had to pick one, I would still probably go with them…but that feeling is just hanging on by a thread. **Update as of October 17, 2016: I have canceled my membership with Voices.com, along with almost all of what’s left of the major talents on the site. Details are posted at the bottom of this article.**
So what’s happening? Well, there’s a chance you’ve already seen some Voices.com reviews detailing some of this, but I’m really going to break it down and give you information that you’ve probably never heard.
If you’re not familiar with Voices.com, there are two types of jobs: self-serve and managed. The self-serve jobs are posted by people, not working for Voices.com, that pay monthly for a client account. This allows them to post jobs and receive auditions from talent. The managed jobs are posted by Pro Services, which are employees of Voices.com, who act as the middle man, speaking to clients and posting jobs for them. Whether managed or self-serve, every job that’s posted will list the client’s budget. However, since I’ve been on the site (now 3 years), I’ve noticed a major change. There has been a very sharp decline on client budgets, however, the interesting thing is, it’s only on jobs managed by Voices.com employees. Self-serve jobs generally stay about average with budget, although some low-ballers sneak in every now and then.
Why could this be?
Voices.com is proud to offer their first class treatment to their clients, where they take care of everything from posting the jobs, hiring the talent…oh wait, that’s it. And for doing all that “heavy lifting” they get to charge the client a pretty significant fee. Well, guess where that significant fee gets taken from? The voice over budget! You’ll love this part…from all indications, we’re seeing them take sometimes as much as 50% and even higher from the overall budget! So in other words, if the client has $300 for their voice over budget, we’re likely to see that job posted on Voices.com for around $140-$160. How do we know this? The reason is because clients will often post jobs on different platforms, so it’s not uncommon for voice talents to see the same jobs posted on different websites, as well as receiving auditions for those jobs from agents. When we see a big difference in budget from one source to the next, it’s hard not to be suspicious. I was recently contacted by an agent that gave me an audition with a budget of $560. In less than an hour, that same job was on Voices.com with a client budget of $330. So right around a 35% decrease. Is it possible that this VIP treatment of the client is worth $230? Well, let’s take a look at the notorious Harley Davidson job, which was discussed in an Edge Studio interview with the CEO of Voices.com. A voice over job from Harley Davidson with a budget range of $1800-$2500 on one site showed up on Voices.com for how much? How about a budget range of $500-$750? Think about it, at best case scenario, they’re taking more than 60%. Does the Voices.com staff sincerely believe that we, as voice talents, are all stupid enough to buy into the idea of them needing $1000+ to give the client first class treatment?
Well, what do they have to say in response?
In short…nothing. Think I’m joking? Listen to the interview with Voices.com CEO, David Ciccarelli. He was nothing more than a textbook representation of a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. With very clear and direct questions asked by Graeme Spicer from Edge Studio, David does his dead level best to dance around these issues, making it one of the most awkward interviews I’ve ever heard.
However, I wasn’t going to let this tell all for me, even though it really did. I decided to ask my own set of questions to the Director of Talent Sales at Voices.com in a recent two hour phone conversation. While she was very polite on the phone, the conversation ended with me ultimately receiving no satisfying answers to any of my questions.
Before getting into that conversation, I should point out that after this interview, where major unethical practices were highlighted, the staff at Voices.com knew that changes needed to be made and did nothing. I was told by this employee that a lot of internal changes had been made to better the company. My first question was, “When do think the rest of us will see them?” The response only had to do with the importance of these “changes”, with no reference to what they were or why the talent isn’t seeing them. Internal changes are fine and they can sometimes lead to other important changes being made. The problem is that Voices.com has yet to admit to making any mistakes. So how can talents expect to see the right kind of changes when the company has to admit that those specific changes need to be made? I can understand some budget discrepancies here and there, but there comes a time when there are just too many coincidences happening to seem accidental.
When asked about the drastic difference seen in client budgets from one platform to another, this Voices.com employee stated that there have been times when clients will post a job with one site, showing the usage of the voice over being strictly for internet and then right before posting to another site, they find out that the usage will actually be for National TV, which is obviously a major difference in budget. She informed me of a recent occasion where that happened and that situations like that could be reasons for budget discrepancies. My comment to her was, that would be very understandable if we saw these discrepancies going more than one way. However, the simple fact is, I haven’t run across a talent that has seen a Voices.com budget be higher than a budget for the same job on Voice123.
Now, after expressing my concerns over the phone about the increasing number of low budget jobs on Voices.com, another talent and I have noticed that the budgets took an even sharper decline, now to the point of being insulting. I recently saw a 15 minute voice over show up on the site, requiring four different reads of the script for $150. That’s a joke. Well, I sent her a message, highlighting the fact that the budgets had decreased even further, to which she replied, and I quote, “Pro Serv jobs pay almost 20% more than self-serve jobs.” I immediately told her that, if that’s true, it’s only because of two reasons. One, there are more Pro Services jobs on the site, and two, the occasional National job that’s posted every now and then by Pro Services can boost the overall dollar average. She said she would get me some updated numbers and get them to me. My response to her was, don’t give me the dollar average, show me the quantity of low budget jobs versus high budget jobs. At the time I’m writing this, I have not heard back, but I will give you an update if I ever do (my guess would be that I won’t Update as of October 6, 2017: Never received numbers).
I should also point out that in our conversation, she did say that Voices.com has a rate sheet that they stick to and that it can be viewed online. The truth is, it is one of the most convoluted rate sheets I have ever seen. Trust me, compare that to an actual non-union rate sheet and you’ll get sick to your stomach over the difference in talent fees. The best and most accurate I’ve seen so far is the one found here at the Global Voice Acting Academy. This is definitely a great source.
So overall, I was very unsatisfied with my conversation with this Voices.com employee. No matter what logical questions I could ask and what evidence I had to support things I was saying, I never got what I considered to be legitimate answers. It just seemed to be a lot of empty responses that she was possibly given to say. My only reason for thinking that is because they were very characteristic of the responses that the CEO of Voices.com said in his very awkward interview.
So what can you do?
Well, first and foremost, there are plenty of jobs on the site that are not posted by Pro Services so you can do what I do and primarily audition for those. The way you can tell the difference is that, most of the time, jobs posted by Voices.com will have the word ‘Voices’ in the title. An example would be “Voices: 30-40 year old Male needed for Online Promo.” You can also click on the job and scroll all the way down to the bottom of the posting to see the name of the company that’s posting the job. Ok, back to what you can do. The second thing you can do is to use the rate sheet at Global Voice Acting Academy and stick to the rates that are listed. Keep in mind that if you quote higher than the listed budget, now that we have also found out that our auditions are screened by Pro Services and only a fraction are sent to the client, there’s a chance you might not even get heard. The third and final thing is to simply proceed with caution. Be alert and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Sometimes by asking very specific questions about information that they have conveniently not given, you can sometimes marvel as the budget mysteriously goes up. I had a situation earlier this year with someone from Pro Services that conveniently left out information and on top of that, gave me incorrect information that I wouldn’t have discovered if I hadn’t been on my toes. I’m not saying I was lied to, but it’s pretty hard to imagine there being another answer. Anyway, when I caught this Voices.com employee giving me incorrect information, I practically backed them into a corner where they immediately handed over another $869 as if I was holding them at gunpoint. Didn’t need to check with the client…just handed the money over. Now class, can anyone tell me where that money came from? Well, not the client, since this money just seemed to materialize the moment I provided a question that couldn’t easily be “answered.” I would have to say the money came from the deep pockets at Voices.com where it had probably been resting comfortably up to that point.
There are a lot of Voices.com reviews on the internet that you can read. Here are a few other sources for you that might provide some interesting information.
- The wonderful voice talent, Debbie Grattan, wrote an outstanding article that gives even more insight into budget discrepancies and what Voices.com’s “reasons” are behind all of it. You can read this article here.
- Some former Voices.com employees have decided to write about their experiences working there. Notice how some of them mention having to work in a “moral grey area” and how employees are educated in how to “dance around the truth.” All of this can be found here.
- Again, the interview with Voices.com CEO, David Ciccarelli can be listened to here. The awkwardness begins about 30 minutes in.
- And finally, here again is the link to the rate sheet on the Global Voice Acting Academy.
So what’s my conclusion?
I will continue to stay on the site and audition for self-serve jobs. I’ve made a lot of money that way. I should point this out. Most repeat clients from Voices.com now contact me directly, nearly all of them telling me how much they dislike working through site and, interestingly enough, with the people. One major Pro about the site is their escrow service, SurePay, which guarantees that the talent gets paid. However, if that’s not important to you, my advice would be to give Voice123 a shot. As always, I wish you the best with your voice over career!
There are plenty of Voices.com Reviews out there that are giving a lot of information that you’ve seen here, but feel free to bookmark this page, as I will be updating this section with new information as it comes in.
**October 7, 2016:** I have been notified that Voices.com is removing their Platinum Unlimited membership which allows talent to receive every audition that comes through the site. They are only offering Platinum Standard, which they claim increases your visibility in their search engines. And for that, they charge $2500. However, here’s the “best” part: talents who have paid the $4000 for Unlimited, that fee doesn’t transfer over to Standard, so a lot of them are going to have to pay AGAIN! What’s the reason for getting rid of Unlimited in the first place? They want to make sure all the new talent get booked. So it doesn’t matter how much work the talent put in when they started. What matters to Voices.com is that everyone gets an equal share, even if they’re not doing their equal share of the work. And because brand new talents don’t know what to charge, they’ll accept these $100 jobs when Voices.com is pocketing several times that amount.
**October 17, 2016:** Voices.com has increased their escrow services, SurePay, from 10% to 20% for all self-serve jobs. It is believed that this could be due to the fact that most of the major talent on the site has either stopped auditioning for Pro Services jobs, or they have increased their fees for those jobs, which takes away from Voices.com’s overall cut.
**November 23, 2016:** I’ve received an email from Voices.com stating that for Black Friday, they are taking $150 off of there Premium Membership and stating that it’s for the weekend only! My guess is, we’ll see an extension.
**November 29, 2016:** Well, after receiving an email yesterday claiming “Just hours left…” on their special Black Friday deal, I received an email today stating that the special has been “extended 48 hours!” Can’t say I’m surprised. They need all the memberships they can get.
**December 6, 2016:** After nearly two months of being away from Voices.com, I logged back in (as I have a free account still) and looked at the jobs. Out of the 136 jobs that are open for auditioning, more than 50 of them are managed by Voices.com, with budgets lower than ever, including one titled “Local Superbowl TV Spot” with a budget of only $300!! Even after losing some of their most booked talent, they still have made no effort to switch to ethical business practices.
**January 13, 2017:** THE WORST LISTING THAT I KNOW OF TO DATE! A friend of mine, who happens to be one of the top talents on Voices.com, has just informed me that managed job has been posted on the site for 5 National spots with 5 cut-downs. He informed me that the lowest he would charge for something like that would be $8,000 which is the very bottom line for a job of this nature. Professional Services at Voices.com listed a budget of $3,000. For any newbies to voice over work, that rate is just slightly higher than the non-union rate for ONE National spot. However, they want to you to do 5 with 5 cut-downs for a total of 10 spots. This is hands down the worst job posting that I know of in the history of Voices.com. And this now confirms that they’re not even adhering to there own, very inaccurate Rate Sheet, which they claim they always do.
**February 21, 2017:** Within the last 6 days, I have received 3 emails and a phone call from Voices.com, telling me about a $100 off promotion they now have on their Premium membership and asking if I would like to join. Have never seen this promotion take place apart from Black Friday. They just keep looking more and more desperate.
**March 20, 2017:** After some advice from a couple of fellow voice artists, I’m going to test the waters for one month on Voices.com with non-managed jobs. I really hope I can report some good news. I want these guys to make a change.
**April 3, 2017:** So far, on this trial month, here’s what I have witnessed. I receive about 15-20 auditions per day…and only about HALF OF THEM fit the incredibly extensive profile and voice characteristics I’ve filled out. I would love an explanation about why that’s so important. I just received an audition for a job that was in another language! Even if it had been in English, there were multiple characteristics of the job that didn’t fit my profile, whatsoever. Is this really what talent has to deal with, on top of everything else?
**August 11, 2017:** Ladies and Gentlemen, we may have the biggest one yet. I was just sent this link by a MAJOR talent in the industry. One talent discovered that VOICES.COM TOOK 92.5% OF A $4000 JOB! That’s $3700 they pocketed, giving the client a total of $300. What’s amazing is that this was for a NATIONAL SPOT! Here is the link so you can read it for yourself.
**August 13, 2017:** After Voices.com bought out Voicebank, it received quite a bit of negative response from nearly the entire voice over community. This resulted in the continuing 1 star reviews on Voices’ Facebook page. Since Voices.com clearly tries to remove any and all transparency from their business practices, is it any wonder that they removed all bad reviews, as well as the ability to leave a review? However, I anticipated this would happen, which is why I took a screenshot just hours before the reviews were removed. Below, you can see a split screen of the before and after, as well as what’s displayed if you have a direct link to the reviews.
**March 2, 2018:** I COULD NOT be more excited to share this information! For anyone familiar with Voice123’s system, they have just announced that they are completely removing SmartCast and allowing talent to audition for as many jobs as they want. Their exact word was “Limitless”. If Voices.com should have any feelings right now, it should be fear. Voice123 is treating talent and clients with the respect they deserve and this has all come from talent AND clients banding together. It’s very simple, if what was said tonight is true, Voices.com will take their biggest hit yet. As one of the top talent in online casting, J Michael Collins, said in the panel with Voice123, “You as the talent have the power…look what YOU did.”
**July 13, 2018:** It’s official! A lawsuit has been filed against Voices for “deceptive marketing”. The article can be read here.