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And then the explosion exploded

I wasn’t even aware that I had expectations for the future of voiceover until they were jolted out of me recently. I guess I was thinking that the paradigm shift we’ve seen in the industry in the past few years would soon settle down, that many of the “dime-a-dozen” newbies would be shaken out, clients would start to learn the value of quality, and we’d see a new plateau of prices, timetables and expectations going forward. A new “normalcy,” as one of our Presidents put it. But then I had some revealing experiences within the space of a few days.

The first shocker was when I advertised a voiceover workshop at my studio. Novices flock to these, and responses are usually weighted about 4:1 newbies-to-veterans. But this time I could have filled the room twice over with tyros, with only a token handful of experienced voiceoverists. The crushing wave of wannabes (as I used to see it), far from cresting and subsiding, has become a tsunami.

Second event: You may have noticed that Voices.com is now appealing to its voiceoverists to be selective about which projects they audition for. “Think like an agent,” and so forth. So everyone has figured out that it really is a numbers game, and the more auditions you do and the faster you submit them, the better the odds for you. Voices.com isn’t going to be able to hold back that avalanche. They’ll have to either restrict the number of auditions that each voiceoverist can submit (as Voice123 does); or limit the number of subscribers.

Ha! I crack myself up.

The so-called “Pay-to-Play” sites are marketplaces, like a Farmers’ Market. We have sellers (voices), and customers (voice seekers) exchanging money for services in a bazaar that’s set up and controlled by the organizers. But in this bazaar the vendors’ virtual booths stretch out for miles and miles in every direction, while the aisles are very roomy and uncrowded. Or, to look at it from the other angle, we have a very healthy crowd of buyers – for a much smaller bazaar.

And in the most recent telling incident, I contacted someone in my old hometown about doing business together. He said that he produces radio ads that pay the voiceoverist from $25 to $75. Still reeling over that one. $25 for a local radio spot. I was getting that as a courtesy when I was a deejay – and those were 1980 dollars!

So, extrapolating from these points of data (which is always dangerous), it seems to me that the near future for voiceover will be one of an even more gob-stopping glut of sellers, dirt cheap rates, and the continuing decline or collapse of the “middle.” The high quality, high price folks may feel some pressure, but the real squeeze will be on those of us neither at the top nor the bottom of the price curve.

I can offer only the observation at this point. I don’t have a solution, unless it would be: Get really good really fast so you can scramble up from the middle, not fall down.

© 2013 Dan Popp