Awards. Go on, be honest… we all like them! I’ve still got my Cycling Proficiency and Bronze Swimming Survival Awards stashed away from my youth.
We all like recognition for attaining a certain level of achievement, or, more relevant to the world of media, peer recognition. There is no doubt that media awards have become big business, with the Oscars® at the top of the tree, the SAG awards (for which I know a large number of our members had the opportunity to vote), the Emmys®, and a whole bunch of others.
The Emergence of Voiceover Awards
Now, that partial list didn’t include much for the poor voiceover, did it? There may be some categories in the Emmys® for narration, but in general, with the notable exception of the Audies®, there is not much in the way of peer recognition for the working VO.
Well, over the past couple of years, that has changed. There is now an award program for voiceovers, and it seems to have been well received by a large segment of the voiceover community. However, there is one main difference between the established movie & TV awards and the new voiceover awards: Submissions for the major awards are made by (or actively supported by) the studios themselves, not by the individual talent. Leonardo DiCaprio did not submit himself for best actor!
Who Holds the Rights to Your Voiceover?
I recently submitted a corporate video for an award. The presenters clearly stated that I needed to have the right to submit the work for consideration. They also asked that they be given the right to publish the video on their website, although the right to publish was not a prerequisite of entry. So, I needed to get permission from the rights holder. First stop, the production house. They sent me to the ad agency, who then gave me the contact in the client’s PR department, who said, “By all means, you can enter it, and they can use it on their website.” All of this had a clear and unambiguous paper trail.
Do the Due (Diligence)
Be very aware of any terms and conditions you are agreeing to when submitting work for consideration. Make sure you understand what you are granting. More importantly, find out whether you (as the voice) have the right to grant permission for the videographer, producer, music, animator, and any other party involved in the production.
In most cases, the end-client will have the rights to all aspects of the work, and their permission must be obtained before anyone else can use it. Also, be aware of terms like, “in perpetuity”, “all derivatives”, “all media”, and so forth. In almost all cases, these rights are not yours to grant. While I’m not a lawyer and this should not be considered legal advice, if you do grant rights to the material (which you do by virtue of agreeing to the award’s Terms & Conditions), you could find yourself on the wrong side of litigation.
So, play by the rules, get the rights, and good luck!
Peter Bishop, Executive Vice-President
On behalf of the WoVO Executive Board
November 11, 2015
A Call For Transparency in Subscription-Based Online Casting Sites
We are individual freelancers in the voice over industry who have joined together to focus attention on, and find solutions for, the challenges in our business. We are members of World-Voices Organization (WoVO), an association of voice actors that works to inform and educate those in the voice over industry about best practices, standards for ethical conduct, and professional expertise.
Our most recent challenge concerns the displeasure of a great many of our members, as well as other voice talent across the industry, with the business practices of subscription-based online casting sites, also known as “pay-to-play” sites. Originally, pay-to-play sites were created to provide a service to both voice talent and voice purchasers (producers, casting agents, directors, etc.) by acting as a match maker for talents and purchasers. The voice purchasers do not pay to use the pay-to-play site; it is the voice talents who pay a yearly subscription fee to receive posted audition opportunities.
It has come to our attention that a very popular pay-to-play site has been taking unfair advantage of their voice talent subscribers, by inserting an extra layer of so-called “managed services” between the voice talent and the purchaser, and then deducting a significant percentage of the purchaser’s budget to pay for these “services”. The purchaser is not made aware of the extent of the deductions, and the talent is unaware of the purchaser’s original budget. The job opportunity is posted (or removed from listings and re-posted at a lower budget) with either a fixed budget, or an invitation to bid at a rate far lower than that which the purchaser and talent expected. The pay-to-play sites may maintain that it is a “fair rate”, but it is not uncommon for it to be far less than half, or even approaching one quarter, of the purchaser’s original budget.
The expectation from both purchasers and talents is that a middleman’s deduction be within the 10-20% range. In some cases this is dictated by law. It should be noted that the pay-to-play sites already take subscription fees between $395 and $5,000 per year from talents. The pay-to-play sites’ claim that “the purchaser pays no additional fees and the successful talent always gets what they bid” is fundamentally self-serving and misleading. The ill-defined nature of the charges and fees associated with these “services” are the cause of the current concern among voice talent.
Although there have been a few cases where a purchaser has specifically requested the pay-to-play site’s assistance in handling the transaction, it is where the service is proffered, rather than requested, that there are the major areas of concern. Both purchasers and talents are being kept purposefully unaware of the project’s financials. For a given project, for example, the purchaser may think he is getting talent commensurate with his $2,000 budget, and the talent may think there is only $500 on the table. Both are being misled. This is gross misrepresentation and a disservice to both parties. The pay-to-play sites have become self-serving, no longer provide an equitable service to voice talent, and are misrepresenting what the voice purchasers are paying for.
A Well-informed Business Decision
WoVO believes that our members should be presented with all of the facts pertaining to each pay-to-play site before choosing to do business with that site, and due diligence by the members in gathering their own information is also a best business practice. We also believe that our clients (the producers, agencies, studios, etc.) need to be able to make well-informed decisions. If these decisions are about the use of a middleman, then the fees attached to this service should be understood by all parties to the transaction.
We Support and Urge Full Transparency
To accomplish this, WoVO supports transparency and full disclosure of the charges made against a purchaser’s budget. This is for the understanding and protection of both the purchaser and the talent. Every business offers different services, and these should always attract the appropriate fee. If a company is being contracted to provide project management or casting services, then they should be quantifiable and openly priced. To hide these costs and imply, or even openly claim that they are talent costs is, as stated before, gross misrepresentation and a disservice to both parties.
If you are a pay-to-play site: We at WoVO strongly urge you to institute a policy of transparency. When project pricing is clear, then both voice purchasers and voice talent can make their own well-informed business decisions.
If you are a voice purchaser: We encourage you to inquire about policies at pay-to-play sites. We urge you to inquire as to what percentage is taken from the budget and kept as a fee for commission or managed services. Please understand the level of compensation being paid to the talent, and how that reflects your overall cost.
If you are a WoVO member: We strongly urge WoVO members to contact pay-to-play sites, request immediate transparency in business transactions, and ask for a full explanation of how compensation is structured.
With best regards,
The World-Voices Organization Executive Board
WoVO Pro member Anne Ganguzza joins WoVO President Dave Courvoisier in hosting a series of monthly online video discussions.
Each discussion will be sponsored and recorded by WoVO for the benefit of our members.
The roundtables will involve voiceover business thought-influencers, and will cover trending topics important to our members.
The videos will be posted here on the WoVO website, and on the WoVO YouTube page. The first roundtable discussion on RATES can be viewed by clicking here.
With the ability to include as many as 100 viewers, members will be invited to virtually attend future online video discussions, and participate by posing questions to the panel for that session.
The next roundtable discussion will build on the topic of rates with special attention to the influence of new digital paradigms that are challenging traditional compensation scales.
WoVO adopts charity partner, beginning in April 2015
Starting April 2, 2015, World-Voices Organization is encouraging our members who are able to donate some time to help Learning Ally. Learning Ally (www.learningally.org) is a national non-profit dedicated to helping blind, visually impaired and dyslexic students succeed in education. Started in 1948 in the New York Public Library as Recording for the Blind, the organization found volunteers to record books for blinded veterans returning from WWII. Learning Ally now offers the world’s largest collection of human-narrated audio textbooks and literature as well as solutions, support, and community for parents, teachers and studentsWhy did WoVO’s Executive Board choose Learning Ally? The basic principal of the organization neatly dovetails with our own philosophy: helping others achieve their goals. We can be of service to this organization, not only by donating financially, to help them realize their mission, but also by volunteering what each and every one of us in WoVO has… the gift of voice. Here is a link if you are interested in using your vocal skills to help Learning Ally: https://go.learningally.org/about-learning-ally/volunteers/how-you-can-help/
If you would like to make a cash donation to help Learning Ally with their fundraise, please click here.
To download WoVO Executive Board Member Ann Richardson's article on Learning Ally, click here.