Explaining why the necessity of voiceover agents still remains after all the changes in the last 10 years
In the last 10 years, the voiceover industry has undergone amazing changes. Casting websites grew, often basing their main point of difference on the fact that “voice talent can now be their own business, and therefore, they do not need agents anymore”. However, in the last 10 years voiceover agents still exist, and will continue to exist even when the lines of “who is doing what” becomes a bit blurry. It boils down to this one simple, solitary reason:
In the life-cycle of any business, or business owner, at some point they go through the following:
1. They want to make more money and spend less
2. They start to question, “Who really does what?”
3. They start to wonder, “Am I taking care of others more than myself?”
Each time these questions come up the voice talent will need an agent, not just to “get paid better”, but to have someone on their side who can fight for them or represent them.
Work with people who care about your struggle
The ultimate struggle with being a “DIY-voice actor” is not managing “time”. The real struggle is managing “energy” to put up with the never-ending battle to maintain a career. A tired person may not properly represent him or herself and the old saying becomes relevant, “He/she who represents him/herself has a fool for a client.” There are voice talent with extremely great business skills, but the fact remains when you speak for yourself, you will always leave out some important detail because we are quicker to remember what should be said when someone speaks for us.
Therefore, at some point to grow in a career an agent becomes necessary to have that person speak for you and knows your struggle.
The following statement holds true for any industry: When a business owner begins to believe it is time to make more and spend less, the agent becomes necessary to properly confront the greed of a business owner, or leverage if there is in fact an attempt to be greedy. This statement holds true for actors, producers, sports etc. What also holds true is the statement that this behavior is not a “personal attack”. Often at times, when a voice actor is asked to work for lesser amounts of money they view it as an attack on their industry, when the business owner was looking out for him or herself, certainly a behavior to which voice actors can relate. What agents offer is the ability for the voice actor to do what they love most, voice acting, without getting distracted by business owner behaviors that can become somewhat unruly, often appearing to be personal attacks.
The Real Reason People Try to Underpay Voice Actors
It really is quite simple: They often mistakenly get viewed, by businesses and many times newcomers looking for new income, as people who are “just getting paid to talk”. It is viewed as a task that requires no effort, and therefore it is expendable. If it were that simple everyone would do it. There are websites that profit by selling the belief that anyone can do it, but those websites may be filled with people, who find out there is real work involved in getting voiceover work, and suddenly end their love affair with the business.
It is not “just getting paid to talk”. It is marketing, buying equipment, setting up, following up, and following through with a business plan. In fact, when an industry becomes saturated with good marketers there is an increased demand on value of product aka. The Real Deal aka. Those who have been hired for voiceover work consistently in the most-viewed or most-listened to markets. Right now, television viewing still reigns supreme.
Voice actors also deal with the trivial thoughts of business owners, who may think such things as, “I don’t see why voice actors should get paid well for talking, when my [insert blue collar job] gets paid less.” Trivial arguments and numbers that count hits, not misses, are often the weapons of business owners trying to spend less. It does not change the fact that a voice actor needs to be paid well to have a voiceover career.
Dealing with the Real Deal
When you get to a certain level in a voiceover career, the producers who hire voice actors begin to change in behavior. They know already that you have to pay to get the very best. They know from experience what happens to a creative project when you cut corners. They hold themselves to a higher standard. However still, in the back of everyone’s mind exists the thought, “How can I save money or ?”. Especially on larger jobs, with larger amounts of money, an agent should be involved to ask important questions and protect the well-being of a voice talent’s career. The ability to step out of one’s creative skin and step into a business skin, while remembering what the creative skin needs, is almost impossible. There are some who can do it, but only a rare few.
In the past 10 years, alternative methods of getting work popped up often built on slinging mud for certain lower-scale agent behavior, or stating such things as “We will help you get started because they won’t”. The Internet, to date, has been built on rebelling against certain business practices of the 20th century, and it is easy to see why that statement is attractive to those without agents. But when your career gets to that level, when you feel “SO WANTED” and doing the voiceover work makes you “SO EXHAUSTED”, but businesses still try to get you to work for less, it may be time to get an agent.
Your voiceover career should be based on “maintaining a business”. There will be times that you go at it alone, and you should for the practice, but an agent in the mix of your career will always be a necessity for as long as business owners look to save money.