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Why is the voiceover industry changing?

Better change with it.


As a true VO person, owner of voices.com.au  I try to keep up with articles on the web about Australian Voiceover subjects. One of my favourite places is voiceovers.asia, often some very wise words come out of this site. Ever since the “pizza oven syndrome” hit the voiceover industry margins have been squeezed and incomes dropped and it was only the fittest who survived.

The “Pizza Oven Syndrome” is what drove a lot of people out of the pizza industry. Originally pizza ovens were $100K but improvements in technology and cheap overseas labour saw pizza ovens drop to as low as $10K. That allowed a lower price entry to the market, players only fought on price point and not quality and uniqueness and it became an industry where no-one makes any money. A mugs game.

Now voiceovers asia have had their say about the phenomenon.

If pricing for voice services is the number one subject of VO forums, then number two would be the disdain for the pay2play and freelancer websites that they are perceived to undervalue the work of voice talents. This situation is the cutting edge of contemporary voice work – or a case of ironic deja vu.

Before home voice studios were viable, voice talents had agents and went downtown to professional studios to record. Breaking into the voice business, as a talent, was hard.

Now the Pay2Play sites are squeezing rates, and freelancer sites offer voice work for US$5.

Then came the home voice studio phenomenon. Because of technological advances, clients could book a voice living anywhere, with their audio delivered by ISDN, FedEx or FTP. VO talents could spend a few thousand dollars to build a studio at home that, while nothing like the pro studio’s Neumann U87 / Avalon Pre-Amp / SSL 4000G set-up, was now considered good enough. The barrier to entry for the voice business was now dramatically lower.

Over the following decade, ISDN gave way to Source-Connect, which gave way to ipDTL / Skype / SessionLinkPro / WeTransfer, and forums are full of “what microphone should I get” questions answered with some POS $99 USB-powered microphone.

Now the Pay2Play sites are squeezing rates, and freelancer sites offer voice work for US$5. The same folks who shoved the old guard off their velvet studio sofas are now under pressure from a new wave of voices pushing the bar even lower. I never hear any of these VO talents connecting the fact that what is happening to them now is what they did to those who came before. The Fog of War can have this effect.

The same force that let home voice studios kill off the old guard is still at play – economics. The current crop of top voices moans about the pressure on broadcast loading fees (no-one will pay suggested rates) and the small budgets on digital ads which some clients now use instead of broadcast ads. Fat money TV spots are never coming back: knuckle up, this is the future.

Pay2Play VO sites and freelancer sites aren’t the ones stoking the “race to the bottom” on rates: the industry has been doing that to itself to keep up with market forces.

Winter is Coming. Adapt or Die.


Based on an article at voiceovers.asia.