Supply and Demand in Voice-Overs?

The Drill

Every voice rep has been through the drill:

  1. Someone is looking for an 80 year old woman.
  2. She has to be a great storyteller.
  3. She needs to be the real thing, i.e. not a younger actor pretending to be old.

Life before Voicebank

Prior to Voicebank an ad agency would hire a casting director, usually costing between $1000 and $5000, and he/she would be paid for the time and effort in finding the woman.

In the last ten years two new dynamics evolved:

  1. The ad agency would post the job on Voicebank and the talent agents would bring older actresses (usually on-camera talent) to their offices for the audition.
  1. The agency would post the job on a P2P (Pay-to-Play) and hope there is an octogenarian with a home set-up who will deliver the necessary file(s).

Here is the kicker

All of this time, if the work was union and regardless of the casting resource used…

The work was automatically listed at scale.

If the work was non-jurisdictional or non-union the work paid less, and at times paid significantly less than typical rates.

Why do I bring this up?

I bring this up because non-celebrity voice-over work has rarely been a supply and demand business. If it were a supply and demand business, the 80 year-old voice actress would be paid significantly more because there is such a small supply of these voice actresses.

Granted, there is little demand as well, but as soon as the need arises most market solutions would lean toward the 80 year-old being paid a premium rate. In more frequent scenarios, the same would apply to children and most ethnicities.

Is there a solution?

I think there is a solution: If someone wants to be that creative and needs a specialty voice, then they should pay extra. There will be definite pushback especially in the case of older women and children.

Why? There is a perception that “they should feel lucky to be getting the work”, as if the “good luck and attention received” is more valuable than the “paid fee.”

Of course, the belief “luck” is more important is ridiculous and agents will likely ignore that argument, but so should talent and more so their parents to teach the child voice actor the importance of self-worth at an early age.

An alternative solution

Agents can simply resist working on the project, if there is no added financial incentive. I realize this is counter intuitive for most agents who strive to work on every project possible with equal vigor.

However, the return on booking the 80 year-old on a radio spot will likely be in the neighborhood of $30.00, and that is if the agent books it. Usually, there will be three or more other agents who did not book the job and spent at least an hour of time on spec for a relatively meager reward.

If either or both solutions are routinely implemented, I think you will see a change in behavior with ad agencies. Either they will focus on easier and less expensive solutions for their creative, or budget accordingly for their needs.


One comment

  1. Dave Braxton · March 26, 2015

    What a timely post, Phil. Just this morning I saw postings on one of the pay-to-plays for national spots seeking to “mix and match” one to two lines from various ethnic and gender combinations. They posted essentially the same job multiple times under different titles such as “Hispanic Female 20s 30s” and “Caucasian Male Talent 20s to 30s.” Even though, as you point out, it’s more difficult to find options for professional Latina VO artists than Caucasian males, they actually posted the Caucasian male budget at 75% higher than the Latin female posting and 20% higher than the African American male role for the same lines on the same spot! To top it off, I recognized the product as being handled by an ad agency I’ve worked with before — an agency which specializes in minority/cultural campaigns! (Of all people who should know better.) I’m not sure if they’re handling the casting on this, but I’ll be sending them a gently worded email and let them know that we can all see this saddening discrepancy.


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