A Threat to Our Industry

By now, you’ve probably heard the news… and it’s probably not good news.

One of the major pay-2-play sites, specifically Voices Dot Com (VDC), has acquired Voicebank.net.

So, why is this acquisition a potential threat to the voiceover industry and why are voiceover talent at risk? There’s a pretty simple answer to that question.

For the past several years, VDC has made a variety of business decisions that have seriously undermined the fees paid for voiceover talent. The result has been the commoditization of voiceover talent and a consistent lowering of compensation paid for VO work. To be honest, most of the pay-2-play sites are guilty of this to some degree, but none to the extent of VDC.

One thing I noticed several years ago was that VDC, more than other pay-2-play sites, seemed to be intent on serving the talent buyers – and themselves – much more than their customers. The shift in the VDC business model has been well documented by other voice talent and VO blog sites, so I won’t get into the details here. The important thing to keep in mind is just who are VDC’s customers? Here’s a hint… it’s NOT the talent buyers – they don’t pay a dime for the service beyond the negotiated talent fee.

You, the voice actor subscribing to the audition service are their customers. Any reputable business with good business ethics will work hard to retain customer loyalty by serving their customers. But that’s apparently not what VDC does. Sure, on the surface and in their marketing, they’ll make your subscription sound like the best thing you can do for your VO business. But once you’ve paid your fee, they’ll put you in a bidding war to compete for work (which ultimately drives the price of voiceover work down), they’ll take an often unrealistic commission for the work you do (I’ve heard that can be up to 80% of the talent fee), and on top of that, they’ll hold they money you’ve earned in an escrow account in order to guarantee you’ll be paid, and charge you for allowing them to manage your payment. VDC will tell you that these aspects of their business are for your benefit, but I have serious doubts about that simply because they are making money at every turn of your VO job while chipping away at your hard-earned talent fee. And I haven’t even mentioned the (very expensive) “hidden” levels of membership that garner auditions for the prime, highest-paying gigs. As a regular VDC subscriber, you’ll never see these auditions.

Granted, VDC is in business to make a profit, but in my opinion, the business tactics they use are, at best, questionable, and more likely highly unethical. But far be it for me to tell someone else how to run their business. VDC has clearly been very successful with their business model, even though that’s not how I choose to run my business. 

The way in which a pay-2-play site serves you, the voice actor, as their customer reveals a lot about the company in general. 

A new twist…

VDC’s recent acquisition of Voicebank.net is likely a major game-changer. The purchase of Voicebank.net in August 2017, is a clear indicator of VDC’s intention to dominate the voiceover world. And, in my opinion, there is no way that can be seen as a good thing – for either the voice actor or for businesses that use voiceover talent. 

Since its launch in 1998, Voicebank.net has served as a sort of clearing house for talent agents throughout the country. The service has given represented voice actors access to auditions from talent buyers that they would otherwise never know about. And it’s given talent buyers access to literally thousands of voiceover talent represented by hundreds of reputable talent agents. That diversification was a good thing… while it lasted.

But, now that VDC has acquired Voicebank.net, the voiceover industry is likely to change. And if the history of VDC’s business model is any indication, that change will not be good for many of us working in voiceover. One potential threat is to the talent agents who have relied on Voicebank for at least some of the work they have booked for their talent. 

From what you’ve read so far, you can probably figure out that I see this acquisition as bad news for the VO world. I’ll reserve my final judgment until after the dust settles and we find out what VDC has in mind for Voicebank.net. I must say in full disclosure that VDC was a sponsor of more than one of our VOICE conventions, but that was several years ago, before some of the major shifts in their business model and the steady degrading of talent fees. I’ve met Stephanie and David and they both seem like very nice people. 

Now, what?

OK… with all that said… VDC is claiming that there will be no major changes in the way Voicebank.net operates. There is, of course, really no way of knowing what will actually happen. Time will tell. But judging from VDC’s history, I suspect some major changes in the way voiceover auditions are handled will be coming in the not-too distant future. Julie Williams’ post (linked below) covers some of the possibilities.

As with many other voice talent, coaches and talent agents, I’ve chosen to disassociate myself from VDC and I’m making my concerns with this acquisition very clear. I’m recommending to those I know who are currently listed with VDC to re-consider their association with VDC, remove their profiles and cancel their subscriptions – at least for now. If you have an agent who is listed on Voicebank.net, I’m recommending that you encourage your agent to cancel their subscription to Voicebank or at least re-evaluate the value of that relationship. It will be interesting to see how quickly – or if – VDC responds.

If you’d like to know more about this acquisition and the opinions of some of voiceovers major players, I’ve included a few links below. Just click the link for the blog or video:

Press Release:

Businesswire.com announcement of VDC acquisition of Voicebank.net

Blog Posts:

Julie Williams posts her thoughts about the acquisition

Paul Strikwerda (Nethervoice) posts his thoughts about the acquisition

Dan Friedman’s blog post about the acquisition

Videos:

Terry Daniels interviews agency owner Eric Sheppard about the VDC acquisition of Voicebank.net

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