There’s a Wild West out there with online and digital job opportunities. Which got the Bosses thinking, how do we know if a job is real? Is it possible we’re answering fake auditions? Voice actors record audition after audition and send them out into some unknown audio void. So how do we know if a job is real? Join the discussion in this week’s episode.
Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode:
At some point all voiceover actors question the legitimacy of a job they are auditioning for.
But far too many of our auditions go unacknowledged. How do we know these jobs are even being filled or cast?
Auditions for unknown products, services and companies should be briefly researched – not only to aid in winning the audition but also to confirm if it’s real.
A lot of companies are trying to protect projects still in development by using a phony product or company name.
Voiceover scams do exist but we aren’t talking about those.
Instead this episode is about the vague jobs that lack casting details and come from a P2P or an unknown source.
Typically agent originated jobs are valid and exist.
Online casting companies feel a lot of pressure to show many auditions in order to show a value in the service actors pay for.
Rarely does a paid service provider admit to a slow-down in auditions or casting opportunities.
Entrepreneurs need to skeptical of online business and transactions. It would be unwise to naively assume all business is real.
Voiceover actors are sometimes used for spec work or as placeholder or scratch voices.
The company has no actual intent of fulfilling the casting with your voice. You may be a bargaining chip. This is seem a lot with video games
Referenced in this Episode
Direct links to things we brought up ++
Recorded on ipDTL
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Anne: Hey everyone, welcome to the VO BOSS podcast. I’m your host Anne Ganguzza, along with my favorite bestie, VO BOSS Gabby Nistico. Hey Gabby.
Gabby: Hi Anne.
Anne: Gabby, I got an audition the other day – well I get many auditions, but I got an audition the other day, and I started to think about the whole process of what it’s like to be a voice talent and to just audition, audition, audition, and submit, and then you don’t get feedback. That’s like a normal part of our lives I guess, but it made me wonder, you know, sometimes these jobs, do they even really exist? Are they real?
Gabby: I don’t think you’re alone in asking that. I think every voice actor goes through a bit of that now especially with how prevalent online casting is.
Gabby: It’s hard to tell. I know from personal experience if a job is coming through one of my agents or it’s coming through a casting company that I work with a lot, most of them are pretty good about at least acknowledging, right, “hey, I got it. Thanks for sending this,” there’s something. But often especially with pay-to-plays, we don’t have anything, we have zero communication, zero feedback.
Anne: I feel like they’re all vanishing into thin air, and I think probably every voice talent is like “what’s happening? Are the even being listened to?” Especially given the current climate right now where there’s all sorts of upheaval in the online casting sites, are there any checks and balances, Gabby? Are these jobs that are coming at us, are they getting filled, are they getting cast? Are the even existing? [laughs]
Gabby: It’s hard to say. I mean, sadly we do have to kind of question it. I think obviously in a weird way, even though it’s a little bit frustrating, when you get the same audition from multiple sources, at least it confirms that the job is legitimate. [laughs]
Anne: That’s very true. That’s very true. And a lot of times, Gabby, I think when we’re sleuthing, [laughs] I think voice actors need to be detectives as well, right?
Gabby: Oh yeah.
Anne: So if there’s any indication in the copy as to like what company this is, what product this is – first of all if it’s a known product or brand product, we kind of know it exists. But if it’s from a company that we’ve never necessarily heard of, if we even have a company name, sometimes that happens in the copy, you can kind of get an idea ok, at least it’s a legitimate product. Is it a legitimate audition?
Gabby: If they’re using their real name. That’s a big thing right now. A lot of companies are trying to protect intellectual property, and they’re trying to protect a rollout from competition so they might use a fake, or a phony, or a false name in the early stages of auditioning. Sometimes it can be really hard to do that research.
Anne: Yeah, to identify.
Gabby: It’s kind of nuts. I believe there are some telltale signs. You and I’ve talked before about like scams and some of the really crazy like wacky – there’s been a lot of them out there. I mean, you know, these nutty companies, that’re like, “we’re gonna send you a check for the work, but it’s gonna be for more money than what the job is. And then you’re gonna refund us.” Yeah, and it’s like “I’m in Nigeria.” Ok. We’ve gotten hip, pretty savvy to those. But sometimes I think we really need to stop and look at a job and say “ok, consider the source.” If it’s an online entity, an online casting company, pay-to-play, what have you, and it’s a really big price tag, but there’s little information, they’re asking for a ton of auditions, they’re not even clear on gender, they’re not clear on age range, something about that to me seems very weird. At that point I really do question whether or not it was just a slow day –
Anne: Yeah, yeah.
Gabby: – and the company that’s running isn’t just going, “hey, we need to show some activity, we need to put something out there.” So they create maybe a very generic audition. It’s kind of sad, but I really, I don’t put it past people.
Anne: I think you said it best when you said consider the source. Right? We have multiple sources, and we’ve always been saying, look, present yourself with as many opportunities as possible. But understand where the source of those opportunities come from, and really step back and take a look at evaluating the sources. And I’ve just gotten to this point where there’s been so much upheaval, and so much talk, and just so much stuff going on that you hear about in the forums, I really consider every opportunity very carefully. And it’s almost leading me to believe, and I know this is – we’re going to talk about this even more so later, but it leads me to just say, ok, I trust the sources that I bring in, because I know I can verify them. Other sources, it’s super difficult to verify, but for the most part, you were talking about agents, I feel like we have a personal connection with agents. And so the jobs that come via the agent I feel are going to be valid, simply because we would not have that relationship with them, and they have relationships with their clients. And so I would assume that these opportunities exist, because their livelihood is depending on booking that.
Gabby: Right. I think we can’t negate this or we can’t not think about this. Companies who survive on the casting process are also under a lot of pressure. There’s all this expectation being put on them. “Where’s the job, where’re the jobs, where’re the jobs, where’re the jobs?”
Anne: Well, because you’re paying them for auditions.
Anne: Right? You’re paying them for the opportunities that come in, and so think about their business model versus other business models that might generate, you know, opportunities for you. Their sole purpose, right, is to – it’s either a membership or maybe it’s a management kind of a thing. What’s their business model look like? How are they making money off of it and then what’s their incentive? [laughs]
Gabby: I don’t know about you. I have yet to really see too many of those online companies. I can’t take of a single instance where they’ve gone, “hey, guys, sorry, it’s just been a little slow right now.”
Anne: Yeah, right?
Gabby: “We’re not seeing a ton of activity, there’s not a ton going on,” because I feel like that right there gives then their customer base, the voice talent, the opportunity to go “hey, but wait a minute. This is what I’m pay you for. That’s not acceptable.”
Anne: Yeah. I think online casting is definitely, it’s a function of our industry. It’s here to stay. It’s not going away, and it’s been a very wonderful model until as of late, where we’ve really run into some issues about transparency, and there are some wonderful online casting sites out there. For you and I, Gabby, watching it evolve over the years, like since, I want to say, 200…4ish, 5ish, that’s when they really started to enter into the marketplace?
Gabby: Yeah. Right about the time dial-up exited. [laughs]
Anne: Yeah, right? Dial-up? Oh my gosh.
Gabby: Dial-up exited, pay-to-play has emerged. Sounds about right.
Anne: You know, online anything, Gabby, in terms of transaction, there’s an app called the Nextdoor app –
Gabby: Yeah, I love Nextdoor.
Anne: – that I love, and you can sell items. And because I’m moving, I’ve been selling items. Then there’s also Offer Up and those sort of things. I swear sometimes that I don’t know if the people making the offers are real, or if they’re just, they’re hitting me and saying “is it available, is it available” because they get more activity or they benefit in some way? Half of the time they’re saying, “is it real,” and I start not to believe them. And so for me online transactions where the middleman has a benefit of some way or the person submitting a job or responding to an offer gets an advantage in some way, I start to really question that. I feel like my trust has just been, do I trust anyone? I mean, really, Gabby, is that a weird thing?
Gabby: No! I’m super skeptical of jobs that come to my inbox. I’m super skeptical of the ones that come directly to me through the Internet from a random source. What I mean by random is not only a company I don’t know or I’ve never done business with, but a company that I can clearly see is not really part of voiceover. To me it’s different if it’s an advertising agency or a studio because if they contact me, I can do, I can usually follow a link in the signature. I can do some quick Internet looking and go “oh yeah, this is a studio in Albuquerque or wherever. Hey, look at that, yay, new contact, yay, new relationship.”
Anne: I’m gonna just throw in there I get the majority of my work through email inquiries, but it’s because they found me on my website, and I can track that.
Gabby: Same. I mean, that’s a lot of what I’m talking about here. But still I sometimes question the legitimacy of the job.
Anne: Oh absolutely. I think at that point you’ve got an email, you’ve got a name, and hopefully you’ve got a signature, and you’ve got a company, and you’ve got a phone number. For me I’m always checking out the company online. If I see it, looking at the headers in the email. [laughs] And make sure, if they have a domain name, you know, email@example.com, I’m going to suchacompany.com first to see if it exists on the web. If it doesn’t, then I’m looking for any kind of social media contact. If that doesn’t exist, I’m looking for a phone number, and at that point I’ll respond with, “please provide me with more details on your contact information so we can discuss, you know, in greater detail, so I can provide you a more accurate quote.” That’s how I frame it, so that I’m not like saying I don’t trust you, I don’t trust you but really – not yet anyways.
Gabby: I think that that’s the smart way, that’s just really vetting, right, the job and the source. There’s another interesting scenario that we have to consider. I’ve run into this. Sometimes the company that’s casting – and I say that in air quotes, they’re legitimate. The product is legitimate, the project, whatever they’re working on, it’s real. What about they have no actual intention of hiring? They’re just sort of wasting our time. That make sense?
Anne: That’s interesting, Gabby. Do you have experience?
Gabby: Yeah, I’ve seen it happen a lot in video games.
Gabby: So video games that are being cast off of something that’s either a movie or a TV show, or something that has a cast of existing people that are already relatively well known, and therefore they’re actors already associated with those roles, with those characters, what they’re doing is they’re auditioning almost like for a – the understudy. It’s somebody who is like a backup. The reason they do it is because they’re using you as a bargaining chip to negotiate with the actual actor.
Anne: Very interesting, Gabby.
Gabby: It’s kind of messed up. Yeah. I’ve been involved in a couple of those.
Gabby: Kind of sucks, because you do all this work and you get really excited, because you’re like “wow, this is so cool. I’m going to be the voice match for such and such,” and whatever it is, and then it turns out that yeah, they were just using you as a way to go to the actual cast or the real actor and go, “see, so we’ve already got this person ready to go in the wings. So do you want to come down on price any?” [laughs] You’re like “wow, that really sucks!”
Anne: I’ll tell you what, Gabby. With the amount of telephony and IVR that I do and
corporate, I’m starting to really look at auditions that include text-to-speech very carefully, because of what’s the usage on that. And so I’m taking a very close look at the company that’s requesting the audition from me, especially just the audition. Are they going to use my audition for, I don’t know, some sort of, maybe not voice match, but for it to be put into a voice database?
Anne: And so, I’ve been questioning that lately too. I’ll even call up – I have a couple of sources that send me auditions, and I’ve literally actually questioned them. I say “do you know this client and do you know what they do,” because sometimes they won’t disclose the name of the client. I’ll say “look, I’m starting to feel like I’ve gotten a lot of audition material,” or this particular vein, where they’re asking for a lot of words. “Is this, what are they doing with that and can you please look into that?” I have actually reached out to the middleman. And again, Gabby, it becomes a middleman. Anybody that’s handling a job, right, I’m really starting to question everything about it unless I’ve had personal contact with them. Especially a new company.
Gabby: I think it’s smart. We – I think in your case, exactly what you described, I mean sure, you’ve got to go, “why is this a seven-page audition? Who needs this, for what reason?” That’s not kosher.
Anne: And sometimes they’ll even pay for it, right, and then say “well, the reason” – and I’m like, “ok, but the content that I’m auditioning for seems like a lot of words and a lot of repetitive words and maybe you want me to have three different versions of those words.” That just to me raises the red flag.
Gabby: Yeah, that’s not audition material. That’s “we’re building something” material.
Anne: Exactly. And that’s, I think, it’s important for our listeners and anybody out there to really understand your niche, understand the niche within the industry and what are the typical types of auditions that you’re going to get, and then anything that comes in that might raise a red flag, I think you should question. I think it’s very much a legitimate – it’s a legitimate, you know, thing that you can question auditions coming in and even if they’re paid auditions, right?
Gabby: And you should. In the advertising world, there’s something called a spec. And spec reads are really, really common. I think, I think more – more spec content takes place than people realize. It used to be, back in the day, if you worked closely with an ad agency, and you were part of a roster of talent that they liked using, if they were building a spec, they would come to you, and they would be very up front. They would say “hey, we’re pitching a client. We don’t know if this is going to sell or not. We don’t even know if they’re gonna like the idea, but we have to build them a spec to be able to hear it, experience it, see it, whatever it might be.”
Anne: So we can sell it.
Gabby: Yeah. “Would you be willing to voice this? Would you be willing to treat this as either an unpaid audition, an unpaid thing,” or they might offer a small amount of money for the session fee.
Anne: That spec on spec is very similar to companies that would approach you for sizzle reels.
Gabby: Oh yeah, it’s the same thing. It’s the same thing. Sizzle is just the new hot word for it, but it’s exactly the same. But now a lot of what’s happening is they’re not being disclosed. It’s not being said that this is a spec. So you know, you’re seeing a big brand-name audition for something that looks really amazing and really cool, and again you’re kind of putting your heart, and your soul, and your everything into it, and the reality is nobody ever books that job, and nobody ever books the job because the job is not really real yet.
Anne: And here’s the thing too, you don’t always get feedback. It’s like a nasty cycle, because we’ve been like – ingrained in our mind is that audition and forget it, right?
Anne: Audition and forget it. There are some people out there that may take advantage of that mentality, right? “Oh, she’s going to audition and forget it,” when in fact they might be using it for spec, they might be using it for, I don’t know, some other thing that I just mentioned like text to speech or voice, you know, voice imprints, whatever it is. So what do we do like as voice talent? I feel like I’m looking over my shoulder every other second, and I think that the only way I feel more in control is to be more in control of my opportunities, and that would be direct marketing for myself. You know, vetting people that inquire coming off my website, doing direct marketing to agencies like our BOSS Blast. That to me is where I feel safe. That’s where I feel home. I’m just going to say that I’m not going to push away these other opportunities because I embrace all opportunities that come to me. However I’m being much more careful, and I’m being much more investigative, shall I say, in terms of where they’re coming from, trying to investigate the source so that I’m not like sitting in my booth wasting my time.
Gabby: Yeah. I agree with that. I also think again this is where us having friends and other voice actors looking out for one another is really important. I think a big part of why we spend time not only acknowledging the work that we hear of our fellow colleagues, when we hear it, we see it, whatever, also there’s that little moment of like, “hey, did you know?”
Gabby: “You’re on this thing over here. And just in case, again, you didn’t know” –
Anne: Yeah, there’s a great group out there called Voiceover Red Flags Facebook group, which –
Gabby: Oh no kidding? I haven’t heard of that one.
Anne: Yes, if you’re not a part of it, try to get involved in it, and it basically is a group that will say, “hey, I’ve worked with this company or had an experience,” sometimes people will check with one another saying “hey, I got an email from so-and-so. Does this sound legit?” And so it’s really a wonderful resource out there. I believe it was started maybe three, four years ago by Dave Courvoisier.
Gabby: That’s very cool.
Anne: Of course, Voiceover Red Flags. And of course in every Facebook group, right, there are some really well-known ones out there, and then there’s the Watercooler. Bev Standing does the Watercooler. So there’s lots of resources there. Just be careful, like we’ve discussed this before, that it doesn’t consume all of your day because you want to work [laughs] at some point. Sometimes those groups can take away from the intent if you get caught up in them.
Gabby: I don’t think this is just isolated to voiceover. I think a lot of industries are going through this right now. The Internet is making loopholes in ways in which people can appear to be fulfilling contracts, fulfilling jobs, and maybe they’re not. Maybe they’re just kind of, I don’t know, fulfilling paperwork quotas.
Anne: And the skeptical Anne, because I worked in IT for so many – and the Internet specifically, you know from the beginning, I feel from the beginning of time, I worked on the Internet – No, just watching things evolve and payed services on the web evolve, and then every once in a while, someone will come out as like “wow, that’s really awesome and they’re really decent.” You know, like I paid for services through Upwork. The guy that I was working with on helping us on the VO BOSS website, who still does periodically, really, really, really came through for me. He had made a recommendation about a software to buy. It didn’t work out, and he actually refunded me out of his own pocket. And that I think is just, speaks volumes. So in a world where I sit there and go, “oh my God, is this real, is this, you know, is he just gonna try to bill me every hour that he possibly can, or is he going to take advantage of me, there will come people that shine –
Anne: – and are good people. And I think those are the people that we can embrace and recommend to other people, that you’ve had good experiences with, and not feel so alone. I mean, it’s scary, Gabby, because we’re by ourselves, it’s like “oh my God, is this a real – should I, shouldn’t I? Who do I turn to, who do I talk to about this?”
Gabby: No, I know. I mean your career and my career very much started in a brick-and-mortar sense, working with clientele and having face-to-face interactions with people and going to studios, going to clients directly. Again there’s a part of me which almost can’t imagine now. It’s someone who is getting started. It’s like nothing is tangible. Nothing is real.
Anne: But yet, the cool thing is, is that we can do this from anywhere, you know, and I speak of my impending move saying it doesn’t matter where I am, I can still serve my clients because this wonderful industry affords me the opportunity to work from home and to do – and to work from anywhere really.
Gabby: Yeah, it’s pretty freaking amazing.
Anne: That it is. Well, guys, be smart. Investigate, know who your sources are if you can, and if not, you can reach out to the community. Reach out to us here at VO BOSS. We’re happy to share our experiences and help you in any way. That’s what we’re here for.
Gabby: Reach out, reach out to your agents too, the people that you do trust who are bringing work that you –
Anne: Absolutely, and production companies.
Gabby: – know is legitimate. Sometimes it’s worth it to say, “hey, take a look at this, what do you think?”
Anne: All right, guys. I’d like to give a big shout-out to a trustworthy friend and sponsor of VO BOSS, and that’s Kevin Leitch over there at ipDTL. We love ipDTL, and you too can be a boss with ipDTL at ipdtl.com.
Gabby: Have a great week, guys. We’ll see you next week.
Anne: Bye, guys!
Announcer: Join us next week for another edition of VO BOSS with your hosts Anne Ganguzza and Gabby Nistico. All rights reserved, Anne Ganguzza Voice Talent in association with Three Moon Media. Redistribution with permission. Coast–to–coast connectivity via ipDTL.