Business of VO: Agent 2020

with Liz Atherton

VO Boss host Anne Ganguzza and special guest host, Liz Atherton, turn up the volume together in this podcast discussing the world of agenting. From phone throwing, to sleepless nights, to P2Ps, and life after the August 2017 VO tsunami (when VoiceBank changed hands to, the changes on the VO landscape have had a powerful effect on talent and agents. Liz Atherton, with her 20+ years in the industry as an agent, and now casting software developer, and CampVO director, provides thought-provoking insight into the agent side of the business.


Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode:

  1. VO talent – you are an entrepreneur!

  2. All-in or nothing – a recipe for success but not without risk.

  3. The tsunami that hit the VO and On-Camera world is still affecting your career.

  4. Software – launching in the Spring

  5. VO Boss podcast strives to be honest and real.

  6. Voice, Technical, Network – everyone must step up to the bar.

  7. Sidenote:  Tri-booth – brainchild or George Whittam and Rick Wasserman, is awesome –

  8. they even included a coffee cup holder!

  9. Your VO PSA:  We know you love coffee – be sure to follow-up with lots of water.

  10. An agent is your best advocate, filter and shield, not to mention your gateway to better auditions.

  11. Without agents, where are the protections for rates, contracts, etc?

  12. Casting Directors like working with agents – auditions are vetted and screened.

  13. Agents work their butts off – show them the love!

  14. 2.5 years ago there were 220 VO-only agencies;  this has likely dropped by half.

  15. Appreciate your agent – they work for you 24/7!

  16. Let’s talk about what differentiates the agencies.

  17. NEVER talk about auditions – NEVER!

  18. Respect the agent – understand they have a job to do – help them and you are helping yourself.

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2020 is THE year for agents! #VOBOSS

It's 2020 and yes, I still need an agent! #VOBOSS

The BOSS is back: back again! Anne is back, Tell Your Friends! #VOBOSS

Referenced in this Episode

Direct links to things we brought up ++


  2. Recorded in my amazing Tri Booth

  3. Recorded on ipDTL

  4. Awesome podcast editing by: Carl Bahner

Full Episode Transcript

>> It’s time to take your business to the next level, the BOSS level! These are the premier business owner strategies and successes being utilized by the industry’s top talent today. Rock your business like a BOSS, a VO BOSS. Now let’s welcome your host Anne Ganguzza.

Anne: Welcome everybody to the VO BOSS podcast. I’m your host, Anne Ganguzza, along with my extra special, amazing, special guest cohost, the Queen Bee herself, Liz Atherton. Yay!

Liz: Woo!

Anne: Liz, tech entrepreneur and founder of TAG Talent and CastVoices, I am so beyond excited to have you cohost with me to kickstart this 2020 year of awesome things that are going to happen for all the VO BOSSes. So thank you so much.

Liz: I am so glad to be here. My goodness. What a thrill it was. I was glad you called. I was like sure, let’s try this puppy out. And so thank you. [laughs] I’m just going to warn you, I’m not a voiceover talent, so I am in awe as you speak. And what you’re going to hear is my Texas accent, because there’s not a dern thing I can do about it, so there we go.

Anne: But that’s what is so endearing.

[both laugh]

Anne: Those who know and love you, yes, those who know and love you, it is right on brand for the Queen Bee herself.

Liz: [laughs] Isn’t that the truth?

Anne: [laughs] I will tell you, when I was looking for cohosts to work with me, for the year of 2020, and I really feel like you, you fit the bill as a strong female entrepreneur, and I was so happy when you said yes, you wanted to cohost. For the listeners out there that may or may not – I can’t believe they don’t know you, but for those that don’t know Liz, tell us a little bit about yourself and your entrepreneurship in this voiceover industry.

Liz: Well let me start off with, every entrepreneur is on the spectrum somewhere because we’re crazy.

You know, I don’t think any of us that are entrepreneurs would disagree. We are all in or nothing. But I started The Atherton Group, which we call TAG Talent Agency, gosh, about 25, 26 years ago, and I was at the helm until last year. And I left TAG. Actually the voiceover was taken over by Jimmy Coble and the on camera was taken over by Jorge Elizondo and Tony Wasson. And they’re now running their ship there, but I ran it for about 25 years. And then midway along there, I think I was the first or the second talent agency in the world to have a website. And so when I started TAG, I had – I worked in high tech before that. I was a project manager for a Fortune 10 company. And started TAG and we started a website. That was kind of cool to be one of the first ones out there. But behind the scenes, I really wanted it to run very efficiently and productively. And we built this really nice machine that has now turned into CastVoices. We had things in there that we could do submission tools and reviews and things like that. So about 2.5 years ago when the tsunami hid the voiceover world –

Anne: [laughs]

Liz: I know, right?

Anne: Which one?

Liz: I know. Well, there you go. It was interesting because it didn’t just his voiceover world. It also hit the on camera world, and not a lot of the voiceover talent I know cross over into both worlds. But I had started my talent agency as an on-camera talent agency first, and voiceover came along later. For those that don’t know, behind the scenes, to get into voiceover work, there are software platforms out there that are gateways between the talent and producers. Both of those kind of got hit. We had this little software we were running when we were running TAG, and we decided to start CastVoices. That was about 2.5 years ago and now I can actually say we are going to be rolling that puppy out in the spring. As an entrepreneur, I had TAG for 25 years, and then CastVoices now is – it’s been around several years, but it’s now official. And then I also put on my crazy hat and decided to roll out a camp, the crazy director –

Anne: Camp director.

Liz: – of camp VO. A camp director, right, of Camp Crazy.

Anne: I am super excited for that one. I’ll be seeing you in May for sure.

Liz: I can’t wait. I mean, aside from the work to get it done, literally everybody that’s endearing to me is part of the program. I just can’t wait. I just think we’re gonna have the best time in the world and get a lot of learning and all that kind of good stuff. But I kind of got off topic there. Back to the entrepreneur stuff.

Anne: [laughs] But that’s an entrepreneurial vision that you had, right, to start a VO camp, something super different in this industry, which is also really cool. I like that. I think it’s important.

Liz: I’m real excited about it.

Anne: I think it’s important as an entrepreneur to have those really different, innovative ideas out there. That’s what makes you stand out. That’s what really, I think, speaks to the entrepreneurial spirit.

Liz: Look at you. Isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black? I mean, how many businesses do you have, my dear?

Anne: I have a few. [laughs]

Liz: Yeah, and I watch you in awe. I literally – look at all of the stuff you have going. And you do it, and you always have this fantastic attitude. I don’t see how you do because behind the scenes, I sometimes pull my hair out, and that’s a literal statement.

Anne: I’m right there with you. I’m right there with you. [laughs] Well I think, you know, we always try to strive to just be honest and real in the VO BOSS podcast, so yeah, I will admit to pulling my hair out multiple times. [laughs]

Liz: Well, and for any VO that is listening, they had to have done that too, because honestly you’re a voiceover talent, you are an entrepreneur. Unless you’re sitting in somebody’s roster, and all you do is go to work every day, record, and leave, which I don’t know anybody who does that – well maybe some, and they’re dern lucky, you have got to figure out a way. One, you have to have a voice. And then you got to learn the technical, and then you got to learn how to network in the technical, and I think that was the big thing that hit the voiceover world which really made everybody step up to the bar a couple of years ago, is that our natural avenues for finding work changed, and suddenly everybody was not part of a machine that, you know, brought stuff to their inbox. And they had to go out there and find work. That’s where everybody, they’re starting to find their footing now, but I don’t think it’s all settled, in my humble opinion. I think we’re gonna still have things to do there, which I’m glad.

Anne: Yeah. Absolutely. So actually I wanted to get into a couple of different topics with you because you have such experience obviously being an agent. And I think that that’s super valuable information, but I did want to sidetrack, just a little bit, because that happens.

Liz: Please do.

Anne: I just want everybody to know that I’m coming to you from the tri-both, yes, the brainchild of George Whittam and Rick Wasserman. And I have to say that I’m so pleased with this booth, not only with how it sounds, but honestly I was just looking for a place to put my coffee, and they literally have thought of every detail. There’s actually a coffee cup holder –

Liz: No way.

Anne: – right here. Attached – Yes, attached to the booth. I was like, oh yeah, that’s right. Coffee is very important to me, Just saying. I know I’m a voice talent, but remember, I’ll be good and I’ll follow it up with lots of water. That was my off-tangent remark, but I’d love to get back to, you’re so experienced being an agent, and agents have just, through the years, the job role I think has changed tremendously, and I think it’s important – let’s start off 2020 – let’s talk a little bit about what you believe the agent’s role is going to be a 2020 and how it compares to what it was years ago or leading up to now.

Liz: So interestingly enough, I was on LinkedIn this morning, and a person posted about agent, shmagent, who needs an agent? And I’m like, you know, in all fairness to them, they posted with a picture with someone with notoriety, and they weren’t a member of a union or had an agent, and yet they were getting work. That’s great. In the past agents were a gateway, or a filter. A casting director has a project, they don’t want to open it up to 400,000 VO talent. They want to open it up to 10 agents or five agents who represent talent. They expect the agents to read the specs and only submit people that fit those specs and fit the sound, and they expect the agents to make sure the sound is doing what it’s supposed to. So an agent might listen to, I don’t know, 120 auditions in a day, pick and choose and whatnot. And then the casting director then gets vetted auditions. And they don’t have to go out there and listen to 400,000. They can listen to a number from each of the agents. What has happened is that, again, back with the tsunami, a lot of people started seeking out their own work, which is well and good, except now that you don’t have this – I keep using the word filter, but you don’t have this person in front, the agent, making sure the rights are fair, making sure the working conditions are fair, making sure all of that other kind of stuff is fair, and also to the casting side, making sure that they’re not getting inundated with tons of work. You narrow that field down. But the role of the agent is especially –

Anne: Is that your agent phone buzzing right now that I hear?

Liz: I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

Anne: Always busy.

Liz: I got lots going on. [laughs] I know, I’m sorry. I know there’s probably a way to turn it so it doesn’t vibrate, but I’m sorry, Anne, I’m going to throw it. [laughs]

Anne: You are going to throw it? I’m going to throw you out the booth?

Liz: I did, I threw it across the room! Whee! [laughs] What has happened is that with the pay to play software, and people going out through LinkedIn and other marketing venues and CRMs and ABCDEFGs finding their own work, the role of the agent has diminished, in my opinion. But I think that that’s just like anything. I think that’s cyclical and I think the agent will come back. I know there’s a trend in some of the ad agencies and whatnot to just put people on the roster. That’s like the old 60’s and 70’s jingle business, when people would just keep jingle singers in the studio. You’d walk in in the morning, sing all day long, and leave for the day. And that’s well and good, but that means also those people are on staff, on salary.

Anne: Right, right.

Liz: I know I’m kind of all over the place, but what I think is happening right now is we’re in this sea of flux. You do have some agents that are still doing very well, and God bless them because they’re working their buns off, but so many people have, I don’t know, that ditch the agent, on both sides, producers and talent. And yes, an agent gets a commission and all that kind of other stuff, but a good agent works their buns off.

Anne: Oh sure. They’re doing work for you.

Liz: They’re doing big work for you, and they’re filtering for you, and they’re helping, they’re pitching for you. Like I got asked to help on a project just couple of days ago. I’m not an agent, so I sent it out to just a handful of people. I said, look, I’m sending this out to you, don’t expect anything in return. I’m just trying to help a friend. Just being back in it for just that little bit of time was very eye-opening, because like if those people – and these are all professionals – had submitted directly to the casting director, out of the few people that I worked with, only two of them actually followed the directions to the T.

Anne: Isn’t that like the age-old story?

Liz: Yes!

Anne: The age-old complaint of people who, yeah, submit auditions that they haven’t followed the instructions. Let me back up just a minute and ask you, OK, so some of the agents’ role. Now for me, I have agents, but the majority of work I do is nonunion and a lot of it’s narration work, e-learning and corporate narration. Let me ask you a question, because I believe the whole, the whole market is shifting. I think the way media is consumed is changing. And so you know, I’ve read something from Gary Vaynerchuk the other day, who you know, he’s like my marketing god. He was talking about the shift in how people consume media, and that if you’re not looking forward to being on platforms where the younger people are on and how things are being consumed, which is not necessarily broadcast networks much anymore. It’s all streaming and Netflix and digital media. What – do you think that it would serve the agents to maybe take a bigger look at other types of content that they can help voice talent with? For example, corporate work. I’m big into corporate work and I truly believe companies of today, YouTube and Vimeo, that’s their advertising medium. That’s their broadcast TV. Is it possible, or do you think it’s worth it, that agents would look into kind of securing that type of work? I would be happy to pay an agent a commission to negotiate on my behalf because there’s some great corporate work out there that can pay a lot of money.

Liz: There’s some great corporate work o