In the voice over world, Peer to Peer (P2P) is the direct relationship between two parties, one demanding and one supplying.
There’s one single intermediary, the wall on which the suppliers pin their message and on which the demander reads it. The artist is paid directly by the client, bearing all the responsibilities that come with it but also earning the entire amount of the project. At the same time, clients save the extra money required by intermediary agencies. Potentially, both can be happy.
P2P are also the first thought of those approaching the voice over from home studio market. How do I make people know I exist? Who do I contact? Instead of having my own website, I might opt for a page on one of those portals.
In my sector, specialized portals have been set up whose objective is precisely that of putting into contact those supplying with those demanding.
“In Italy, examples of ‘pure’ P2Ps – i.e. that are practically just walls – are Voci.FM and TrovaLaVoce:
Voci.FM is a very active advanced system for artists and producers. It offers additional services without meddling in their clients’ business (artists and producers). Services that aim at improving meetings and advertising spaces. This means it conducts pure business on its wall.
TrovaLaVoce is a static website that for some years has been gathering some of the best voices in Italy. It provides a range of professionals and demos with which one can conduct castings autonomously.
These solutions are rather helpful, as not all professionals have their own website or a blog and, anyway, looking for people one by one would be tiring.
A first screening according to qualification, gender and age is available, e-mail addresses and phone numbers are too, and walls do what they do best: they are walls. Pretty or ugly, advanced or static, they are walls.
But they could change in the future. Voice Over is a business.
We must also make a distinction between P2P portals and Post-production agencies or studies that offer their clients a pre-selected range of voices, as there is a difference. A slight difference that led me to writing this post.”
Surfing the web, asking others and creating their own agenda of trusted artists who work online remains one of the tasks of all modern agencies.
Walls are not there to watch
There has been an evolution of these P2P walls on an international level as, by paying a small fee, a small rent, they enable artists to take part in castings. They inverted their approach: instead of providing a wall to artists, they offer a wall filled with artists to content producers by forwarding notices which artists can answer to directly. The message is:
“don’t look for artists, let them come to you and save time!”
Voice123, Bodalgo and Voices are the three most famous on an international level and there are many differences between the three.
I haven’t mentioned Fiever nor any of the new “opportunity” portals because they do not specialize exclusively in audio and Voice Over. But they too (under) sell these kinds of services.
Before this evolution, there only existed specialized studies who worked with a precise number of artists, studies of agencies working as intermediaries and undertaking to find the most suitable candidate for the client’s product or budget. With P2P, final clients managed to release themselves from agencies and contact artists directly.
Scattered prices with no instructions
Not everyone can process raw material so, when someone without the necessary experience collects the single materials and puts them together to save money, the result - not mediated by agencies
or studies - does not reach the objective.
Those putting together music and narrated parts may not know how to obtain a mix with the right loudness and how to exalt voice and music. I said loudness and
not volume, as there is a difference. They might not have realized they have not provided all the information to the parties involved, taking for granted that others have the same thing in
Those who wrote the text might not distinguish between writing for print and for narration, which is very different. They might fear they have not provided all the information, filling the audio with words thus making it less effective.
An eLearning audio file part of a PowerPoint file or of an intranet might sound so metallic that it is actually difficult to understand due to poor compression management or it could be cut at
the beginning and end of the single files.
Despite having all the components to make a Ferrari, it might still not be possible to build a car. It is not the components’ fault, as they are all exceptional: it is those who assemble them
that often do not know how to make them work.
There is indeed one component missing: it is called skill.
To be there or not to be there?
That is the question. You can be everywhere, using walls to make you more visible. Like flyers.
It is rather curious that, on platforms such as Voice123 or Voices.com, just like in many other P2P, there is no option to cancel one’s profile. Oblivion is not allowed! Only upon request.
But who would want to do that? Who would want to cancel their profile if it is free? It is advertising, what is the harm?
Free. When you see this word, it means you will pay, you just do not know how, when or how much.
My Voices profile had 5 stars. Dozens of positive feedback reports on jobs carried out. My demos had been listened to thousands of times and I was among many people’s favourites.
Something was still not right. I had the impression I was not the added value to that piece of wall. While it is true that, in companies, employees are a mechanism that causes harm if removed, nobody notices change on these portals. It doesn’t matter how good you are!
Okay, I see what you are thinking! Let us be honest and humble here.
I will accept myself for who I am with no mistake: I am not a celebrity, I am just another speaker, one in thousands. I am the last wheel on the cart, a loser, the happy imbecile. Look, I do not even know why I am doing this job!
Even if the situation was this dire, the entire universe would not make sense.
I should have closed up shop by now. Yet I am here, I work hours and hours every day as a speaker without the help of the portal.
The figures do not add up.
A well-oiled war machine
Thanks to heavy doses of publicity, these machines are always at the top of your search.
They always gather a huge number of alleged professionals, all in their cabin willing to record a test. In many languages. There is no comparison to having to find artists one by one.
You can prepare your project, establish a budget, wait for replies to come in, choose, pay and that is it. You do not even have to say goodbye. It is actually an over-simplification to define it
If a client is able to choose a speaker, these platforms are the perfect place for them. The problem is yours as a speaker: on Voices, for example, how many speakers will there be? Your
competitors? 360 for Italian on August 31st! Just try and listen.
There are the British or Americans “speaking about pasta”, those whose mothers told them they “have a good voice” and spit something into their microphones and then all the DJs and speakers –
more or less professional and skilled – from all around the world. And they are good!
As you may have guessed, the portal does not screen anyone.
And why would it? A wall is just a wall. There are no technical, artistic or linguistic tests. The portal does not make a distinction.
Clients must assess the quality and they might not know a nice voice is not enough. You are guaranteeing for yourself.
But nobody works for free.
Voices, for example, gets paid twice:
1- You have to pay a fee to take part in automatic castings
2- If you succeed in a casting and get paid, you have to pay a commission fee (which used to be 15%).
You choose who pays it.
Were it an agency fee, one might pay it more willingly: an agent or representative worked for it by finding you a job. But an agent would also have a contract signed with you, you would be part
of his book. This instead is P2P, so I do not understand the mechanism especially since frequently on Voices I found a portal intermediary and not a client.
It therefore seems that clients no longer load and manage projects or establish a budget, it seems that castings are mediated by personnel working for the portal. I believe this is done for reasons of speculation and control.
This is my personal experience. I am sharing it with you, make of it what you will.
Some time ago, a famous international company with an Italian branch hired my services through the portal for the Italian version of a web commercial.
The project was not coordinated by the client or his representative, as usually happens on a P2P platform, but rather by a Voices Project Manager. He was our in-between.
Communications in English between me, an Italian, and Italian company representatives. The inability of the PM to understand our language led to blunders and confusion, so much so that the client himself entered a message in the script saying: “call me asap!” followed by his mobile number. It was clear that the message was not part of the script. It was a code message.
I had to call the client myself to finish the job with dignity. I only talked about scripts and intentions, audio formats and volume but I could feel the fear that I somehow gathered information
as regards Voices’ prices and conditions. I understood it from the very stressed e-mail I received by the PM who we bypassed.
The problem had been solved but all he cared about was discovering what we had talked about and stressing that the rules forbid contact! But who exactly wrote these rules? Goddess Kalinda? Zeus? The contact was in the file he passed on to me, silly!
I didn’t ask how much they paid for my work, I have some dignity.
Clients would like to avoid paying commissions to agencies or studies by finding a self-service service, but part of the budget is allocated somewhere else and speakers make much less. This in turn means many professionals who do not fell like being underpaid do not even reply. I had not replied too, until I was begged to help them with the project.
Not to mention the fact that, through automatic castings, voice talents are parts of hundreds of people who personally inserted their voice tags, i.e. without a professional analysing the voice
from a professional point of view.
The key that makes artists appear as part of the research is inserted by the artists themselves!
Never ask a barber if you need a haircut.
Voices, toss away your mask!
You are not a P2P platform! You are only when it comes to small jobs, but you keep the most succulent chunks for yourself.
There, I have said it! And it does it in such a horrible way that I have seen screenshots and read reports of jobs posted on multiple P2P portals but whose budget miraculously shrunk when
published on Voices. This merely confirms what I thought.
See, if Voices were an agency, it would offer a service to final clients, a check on the work carried out and competent supervision: live session recordings, monitoring and direction. But it
provides nothing of the sort. Everything must be carried out by the artists and clients.
Basically, you pay the portal to take part in the casting but it seems it is the portal that decides which castings you will actually take part in and at what conditions.
Easy as 1-2-3
In 2013, I fruitlessly wrote to Alex from Voice123 to tell him I found reproachable the fact that they took advantage of paying Voice123 profiles to collect clients for their new creature –
Let me be clearer: I wanted to take part in a test casting to understand how it worked from a commissioner’s point of view, to understand his point of view, but I discovered a world totally
different to the one I had been told about.
People who, like me, were subscribers, paying almost $300 to Voice123 to take part in castings and be part of the Professional élite did not know that commissioners looking for speakers on the portal were being invited to use VoiceBunny, suggesting it was better than Voice123 for castings.
The invitation was made through a message on Voice123 during the casting-creation phase. I do not recall the message exactly, but it surprised me and made me rather angry!
It is as if you rent a chip shop only to have the owner (to whom you are paying rent) stand outside telling customers that chips are better at his other shop on the sly.
Of course they did not reply. Alex nor his company. They are not as honourable. And actually it is not possible to subscribe for $40 (limited offer!).
What has happened, buddy?
Before this all happened I received invitations for VoiceBunny and visited the platform to have a look. Know your enemy.
Basically, you could become part of the voice list for free with an acronym instead of your name. May I remind you that you had to pay a fee to participate in castings on Voice123.
On VoiceBunny too, you could make a profile and upload your demos without having to enter your name. A self-service solution, a sort of Ikea where you can make your nest. What is more, they asked very shortdemos as “clients have no time to listen!”…Sigh!
At that time, I complained to Mrs Tyler (the portal’s face) that VoiceBunny seemed like a dehumanized system where people had to stay at home with the computer on, ready in front of the
microphone to reply quickly as soon as a request came in.
Take part without contact except for instructions, recording demos that were often as long as the script.
It was just like racing to be the bait. And there was also an app warning you immediately that you had a request.
A VoiceBunny client opened a casting. If a personalized demo was required, you had to be quick and possibly cheap and maybe you were chosen. Speed was everything. Low prices were everything.
Everything was everything. You remained in your box and did piecework. Always on call.
Think about it. An army of not-necessarily qualified workers with no demands. Interchangeable. I am sure there have been some changes but I am afraid the basic concept remains the same:
VoiceBunny keeps its clients and you are functional because you make their customers happy.
Among the users I had met there were local radios mainly looking for snippets for their on-air time. Often written in some language only similar to Italian.
Due to a bug in the system, for a period, it was possible to listen and view all files loaded for castings and communication, and it was eye-opening to see the generally poor quality that reigned. A speech synthesizer like Google Translator does a better job and costs nothing. If this is the future of P2P walls, I hope an earthquake will make them collapse.
Lisa, who I imagined to be a colleague, also took part in that discussion. She said that there were people who were happy with the system. They stayed at home doing their stuff and made money
when they were chosen for a job.
She was happy and I have met others of the same opinion.
Of course, the problem is not the system, I am the conspiracy theorist who wants to see something rotten in the state of Denmark even if they are performing Peter Pan! I am in the wrong theatre!
My conclusion is an obvious one: there are various levels of professionalism in this sector just like on these portals.
I have finally got it! There are hobbyists who do what they can for a small reward, just like on Fiever. There are housewives and husbands and pensioners who stay home and can make some money by offering their services to these servers. What is wrong with that?!
They do not need clients, but just a few jobs. Clients are difficult.
Watch your back
But the VoiceBunny adventure was not over: some time ago, the portal itself set up an e-mail marketing campaign targeted at speakers who already work online.
It found clients stealing them to Voice123 paying users first, contacted speakers who had a website and even popped up in the websites of competing portals and other P2Ps inviting speakers to become part of their amazing world or, as I prefer to call it, to enter their rabbit hole.
I myself received the message through companies I work with and did not refrain from asking the bunny to stop acting like a snake, as it was not its role. But the bunny itself replied that it was its right. To be a snake.
Ethics never knocked on VoiceBunny’s door, maybe it is allergic to its fur. Then again it is common knowledge that bunnies like messing with you.
Large portals, the giants, whether they make their choices based on quality or quantity, have their own tactics for personal profit.
Fear is a person’s greatest enemy.
The fear of not being included, of missing a chance, of beingforgotten and replaced.
All giants are generous, they allow you to be part of their world for free but, if you pay, you will have the privilege of taking part in castings.
Otherwise you will be seen only if someone notices you or calls you personally. The giant always wins.
Voices purchased one of the largest voice databases in the US. A list that maybe needed renewing and that includes studies, talents and skilled professionals. It could be a step forward! However, knowing how the Canadian giant works, i.e. with the clearly stated intention of beating the competition, and considering its previous behaviour and statements that do not include being transparent as regards the prices and budgets within the Voice Talent community, many believe it will not use the data respecting the community it belongs to!
Its tactic? Cover vast demand and supply areas.
If it covers an increasingly large market share, if clients pass through Voices, if it owns the contacts and demos of thousands of people, it will be the giant that establishes how, when and how much!
It is not the same the world over
I will be honest!
For me, it is easy to cancel my profiles from these portals because I live and work in Italy where we do not work with P2P.
An American or a British person may have many more doubts when taking the decision to abandon the giant’s ship.
For the Americans or British, there are many interesting castings even remaining within the P2P world, making it possible to live off mere opportunities without considering clients.
At least for a while, maybe for a long time until P2Ps themselves will change the rules. It does not matter whether you accept it or not, as, by working only through P2Ps, you have no control
over your career nor have direct clients. You depend on the portal, you work for it. But you have no contract.
I would like to add that it does not seem like a great life, as there are many who divide their day into two: castings and emails in the morning, mic work during the afternoon and evening. Like an assembly line. However, the huge number of opportunities is met by a huge number of replies and competitors.
If there is no work, all you do is take part in castings waiting for a job. Keeping the portal’s traffic high.
The yield ratio is no longer 10/1 but higher, I estimated around 50 to 100 castings but I have no mathematical proof. Mine is only an estimate based on my personal experience with castings for
the English language when up to 300 people fought for one single project.
I am no statistical expert but I have seen these figures with my own eyes.
You can try too, just enter a casting. I did it and I paid for it.
We have a different work culture in Europe. In order to keep existing, PSPs must make drastic choices, sometimes even unpopular ones, to focus on high quality.
For example, not all speakers find a space on Bodalgo. The reason is simple: the website’s founder makes some choices. If you do not meet standards that he deems high, you are not accepted.
It does not matter whether you pay or not, what is important is that you are good according to his standards. In fact, Bodalgo provides tools to create a transparent community filled with
professionals. It may look like advertising but I am just telling you what I saw. It remains an advanced P2P, but it is honest and well-made.
I think that, at Bodalgo, they know very well that, although they place client and speaker in contact, it will always be the portal that wins in the end: its carefully developed services and the professionalism of its members make sure that those who use the portal will always be clients of the portal.
Bodalgo clients will always contact speakers through the portal, even if the speaker is located nearby.
Bodalgo remains the most faithful to the P2P way, but also offers control to Voice Talents preventing the publishing of projects at prices that do not correspond to the sector’s tariffs and
verifying that all operations arecarried out ethically and professionally.
Managers know perfectly well that impoverishing the sector impoverishes satellite activities too. Therefore gesundheit, Bodalgo!
(Lord knows what I wrote)
Clients with a capital C are the key to success in all sectors. The sacred item of business. Without them, business has no roots to grow from.
It is not money that is important but clients. You need to have them and keep them, make sure you are an asset to them. If only the portal is of value for the people you work with, then the
client is not yours, you are just a pawn.
Maybe important, but still a pawn.
P2P portals cannot be considered “Clients”. Walls are not clients, they are just display windows. At most, they can be considered stores.
Everything you do to embellish your profile, enriches the portal first. Make sure you also do it with your website, because that is your own space!
Okay, you are a professional, so you must know that when you work online you are just as exposed as, or even more exposed than, someone who owns a store in your town.
Your town is the web and anyone can reach you, even clients of your clients. This also means that you, maybe involuntarily or maybe as part of your rights, can become a supplier and at the same
time competitor of your own clients. Ethics is essential, look beyond mere passing profit and look at your business with more detachment.
You need to distinguish between retail and wholesale. There is a reason why wholesale prices are different: those who purchase from you in bulk are your representatives, they offer your voice to their clients who would not probably contact you directly,as you are only a speaker.
The perfect combination for them is your voice with their services.
Your client wants and creates work, it builds trust, improves and organizes.
You are one of the ingredients of the final formula.
As a speaker, you are sometimes both. You can do the same things as your clients and you even have a voice.
Ethics does not damage your clients.
You must learn when to say no.
Learning from the past to make the same mistake
A few years ago, a revolution occurred in the world of radio: economic, political and social circumstances led to a huge change in the world of private radios and their licensees, and only the
Smaller local radios started selling ad spaces at very low prices per single airings, always including production for free. This is a terrible habit that consolidated itself throughout the local
market. But a free ad does not sound like a paid ad, it has not got the same value. Even if it is identical.
It thus happened that clients wrote what they want, but radios did not have any copywriters that studied the message. Those 20 seconds not paid or paid very little led to results such as:
“where are you running? I’m running to the great sale…”
Or commendable ads with speaking vegetables:
“Hi courgette, you look sad! It’s nothing, it’s just that onions are on special offer”… (mmh... this is too much creative!)
These ads had to be recorded and radio did not have the personnel to do so, and that is when session workers came in. Recording studios contracted audio packages at a low cost that included a variety of voices.
Up until the mid-1990s, a local in-studio ad did not cost less than 200,000 Lira, which today would be €200. Do not consider the exact exchange rate, BCE is not able to calculate the real cost of
Series ads for local radios were sold at €30-50, script not included, both edited or‘as is’. You will surely remember Capone, one of the most famous Italian dubbers! At that time, he or someone
in his stead set up a whole business with ads recorded in series and paid on a subscription base. Everything unedited, no care for text whatsoever.
The Revox reel was delivered by couriers in max. 48 hours.
Just imagine how professional local broadcasters felt when they had an ad spoken by Capone and Martello instead of Pino DJ and Madam Zizzola!
Such low prices with such famous voices, who I believe had no need to do it, led to even lower tariffs that included increasingly more.
Lower prices, more voice artists working every week, same-day delivery and even a freebie - the speaker.
It is not ethical if giants use their excessive wealth to make a clean sweep of resources, snatching everything up even at a loss, leaving competitors to agonise or even die.
Competition has a limit: you cannot kill your competitor because you are stronger. Who is best competes, who is stronger destroys. And the only thing left after destruction is ruins.
If you are such a good speaker that you are paid, you should know that there are basic tariffs that apply to everyone.
Why be so silly to undersell for peanuts when you can do a job that many cannot?
Even if it comes easy to you, which only makes you lucky. If you do it through portals that underestimate the real value of your work, take advantage of ignorance, misery and attention-seekers, then you contribute to damaging a sector and you are a fool, because you have not earned anything that has real value.
Stop being selfish and start looking towards the future. Many wrote it in many ways. It may seem difficult but it just takes the courage to do it to change a bit of the world.
And now something for effect: what we do today defines what we will find tomorrow. Not having a clear perspective means undermining ourselves only to be surprised when things unravel.
Around 2005 and until 2010, P2Ps worked, as they gathered together all professionals and studies who met there.
Then something happened and things changed. For the time being, P2Ps are just a small part of the market over here. They will grow but it will take a generation.
Considering how Voices behaves, the unfairness of Voice123 and of its werebunny child and the possible consequences of their excessive growth, I do not feel like backing them up. Not them, nor
Yes, in their blogs these colossi teach you how to record, talk about “marketing yourself” and promotion, but everything within their courtyard.
Embellish your profile, train, write how many projects you have worked on, take part in discussions on their blog, make your contribution, show you are someone, display your qualities on your profile, share it on social media.
They make your life easier, all it takes is two clicks, as easy as ABC, you will be visible and involved, link your page on your social accounts or on your website, promote yourself using their
services. You do not need a website, they will do everything for you. And they win the game.
Every Voice Talent, just like any other person, should choose today which future to invest in. This is not a piece of advice, I am aware I alone will not change how the market evolves and that
points of views are all different, but I hope I have given you food for thought. You and I and these portals’ strength and deciding who to entrust our qualities to is important. Choose a team you
want to play with.
Goodbye Voices and goodbye Voice123. I will not even mention the bunny.
If I see others doing the same things with the same attitude, I am already used to disappearing, one click is all I need!
I discovered jobs come in without these greedy beasts, you just need to have dedication, passion, honesty and faith.
And I am sure I have some of these virtues.