Voice Actor

Pranking P2P Voice Over Sites

P2P (pay-to-play) sites have been a PITA in the VO business since the early 2000s, trying to turn it into strictly a commodity business. It’s not. In real commodities markets, things run smoothly. By participating, buyers are obligated to get the most volume they can at the lowest possible price. Sellers are obliged to get the highest price they can, but in any case they must move inventory to make room for the next yield; the next crop. Both sides of the transaction are able to meet in the middle because while the product being traded in may be available at different qualities, at the end of the day both parties see it as categorically generic. 

In VO however, fundamentally, every gig actors do is custom. Made to order. We don’t plant fields of reads simply waiting to be harvested at whatever price as if they were corn, soy, rice or wheat. We build our careers by building our brands; equity and trust in them. Not by submitting ourselves to machines designed to keep us from doing so. Of course we’re all technically replaceable if/as needed, despite our uniqueness. Nonetheless, arguments favoring P2Ps on grounds of VO as largely a commodity business are rooted in a moderately low-level point of view, and flawed logic. Were that not true, big studios wouldn’t book film and TV stars as the leads in major animated films, nor would we have actors with bodies of work particulary celebrated within the VO community itself.

If one has the talent, work ethic, skills and patience to do voice overs professionally, building a relatively steady pipeline through direct marketing and gaining good representation is less work and better ROI than using P2Ps.

While tech-savvy talent can game them as cheap prospecting feeders by scraping their listings to extract buyers’ company (and if found, contact) names, then the Web for respective email addresses, and then triggering outbound drip campaigns — largely automating all of it so that it all runs in the background while one tends to qualified pipeline — the conversions are still abysmally low. Almost as low as actually using them the way they want talent to, which still can easily be a booking rate well below that of just about any other auditions source.

As expenses go, $300-$400 a year isn’t chump change but still isn’t a lot in context of seriously invested-in VO career, so it’s not a cost issue. It’s one of leads quality, time value, and of how most buyers — especially ones using P2Ps as their main or only way to find talent — are like recruiters: Their attentions easily stay often fixed on just whatever they need in the now. This means their focus goes wherever clients’ does. Once a voice actor’s pipeline is fundamentally established (e.g. daily, quality auditions from agents, bookings most weeks etc.), P2Ps, if they were even bothered with in the first place, can be foregone altogether. There can be a point where they’re not even worth keeping around for the thousands of low-end records to feed one’s automated demos-pitching anymore. And while it’s possible of course to set one’s profile on them to message that potential buyers should contact talent’s representation etc., again conversions one can get there aren’t zilch, still rare.

P2Ps monetize talent that’s either not yet good enough to work for living wage rates, or is but doesn’t know what those are and that it’s their responsibility to learn and stick to them so as to not hurt themselves and their fellow actors, and/or doesn’t realize P2Ps are about arbitrage. That, and ultimately as much as possible, cutting out as many intermediaries as possible between clients and talent – not just talent agents but also casting directors, producers and everyone else in the creative service and production chain. This is why signing up as talent on them involves checking off boxes if one is able and willing to do several jobs (talent, editor, engineer, writer, composer etc.) for the tidy price of just one. This is why voice actors with representation are auditioning for jobs through agents at rates of n and then 48 hours later sometimes the same jobs show up on P2Ps offering n/10. This is why P2Ps do “managed jobs,” keeping talent in the dark about what buyers’ budgets are, simultaneously keeping buyers in the dark about what talent’s working for, playing both sides to artificially inflate their margins.

As SaaS (software-as-a-service) platforms, P2Ps must stay on top of churn: Retention helps sustain business but to grow they must also always keep bringing in new paid subscribers faster than they’re losing them. Offsetting losses requires raising prices, running discount promo offers to lure new users and if possible reactivate people who stopped paying. Obviously it doesn’t help the sites when subscribers start to feel that by paying to use them, they’ve just maybe been contributing to the killing of the very business they thought they wanted to break into.

If you’ve been a paid user of P2Ps, even if it was largely just to help feed your direct prospecting campaigns, you may find they’ll try to get you to reverse your eventual (inevitable?) cancellation decision. They might even hit you up long after you stopped paying with an “It’s time to renew!” pitch, and in doing so they may email and call a lot over a given period of weeks. They’ll work hard.

How hard?

Enough to spend 8+ minutes on the phone talking to a bot.