Quick blog by Steven Lowell of Realtime Casting giving numbers on the voiceover industry and what makes it a REALLY small world
The thing people usually ask me when I write blogs like this is, “Oh really? How do you know?”. It is very difficult to answer this question in full. Mainly, I state, “I just know. I did the work to find out and will continue to work at it.” I started 20 years ago and even back then it was a small industry. It just took longer to meet the people you looked up to, unlike today. Since 2007, I have made website casting my career.
I actually thought 7 years ago that “EVERYONE” was trying to get the jobs I have had at past websites. I felt/still feel extremely fortunate. But I had assumed incorrectly. Still, I learned a great deal about business, life, and people, and do not regret my incorrect assumption for a second.
Yet, when you dig deeper beyond trends and “what people say”, there is a whole new world to think about….and its REALLY small.
I learned numbers like what I share below. Numbers do not tell the entire story. You will often see businesses state, “This is a 300 million dollar industry!” Keep that number in mind.
More dry numbers…online
- The average life of a startup talent online who decides to quit voiceovers is 2-3 years
- There are currently about 150,000 profiles online for more than 300 casting sites (not taking into account duplicates, of which there are many and many unknown aliases)
- Out of this 150,000, only approx. 13,000 are actively participating in the voiceover industry on a daily basis
- Approx. another 17,000 voice talent treat the voiceover industry as a hobby or something to do for fun (I will touch on this later)
- Out of all the numbers above, only 6000-10,000 talent world-wide can work in some form of “recording the voice for money”
- Approx. only 3000-4000 of the above can work full-time in voiceovers (all kinds)
- 84% of the world’s media is created in North America
- There are more than 160,000 actors in SAG-AFTRA
- Only 6% – 10% of the work that appears as union online for freelance sites without agent representation is union
- People are exposed to an average of 240 ads per 2 hours of web browsing, daily. These ads require voice actors.
- However, 74% of the US population still relies on the good ole’ TV to tell them what to purchase, while online trust is a dismal 32%.
- With 13,000 daily active talent for 300+ websites, you may be competing with the same 43 people everyday.
Demographics for online casting
- The most common age demographic is 45-54 years of age
- The least common age demographic is 18-24 years of age
- The gender split online hovers around 45% men/55% women
- The most abundant workforce in the United States is currently, “Working mothers from home”.
Remember that number?
Remember that $300,000,000 industry? If everyone of the 13,000 voice actors decided, for some reason, to equally split the money each one would be guaranteed $23,076 USD.
That is why the industry is competitive and that is why voice talent can be some of the most fierce capitalists in the world. I only realized that we all had that in us, after a 3-year stint on Wall St. I truly see the above age demographic has to do with the high cost of starting up as a voice talent from home. Those who knew the industry offline are doing most of the work online, too.
The gender split is interesting because online casting offers more jobs for 45-55 male voice actors, but there are more female voice actors than men. It is very hard to fight data displaying “what people seem to want”. Businesses will usually roll along with statistics claiming it is “customer service”, but it is really tap dancing around age and gender discrimination when a business uses data as a reason not to hire a person.
For example, 65% of website community managers are young women between 25-32 years of age. I was/still perform as a unique community manager as a male, aged 41 years old. Given the above demographics, I may be “statistically correct” for my industry.
I hate numbers.
What the f*** does all this mean?
There are not many voice talent in the industry, for the amount of work being offered. What you get paid depends on your choices that shape the industry.
This means that the industry has not changed as much as common trends worry about. It is good to worry because it leads to action, but the concern should never become toxic. In truth, rates are a bit under attack online due to the early methods of getting businesses to use websites. However, these businesses mainly worked online and equally had very little money to work with.
- Typically, 79% of tech startups die after 20 months (close to the same rate as an online voice talent startup)
Ultimately, there is a finite number of people who can work full-time in voiceovers, or simply make enough to hang around, while there is an infinite amount of voiceover work stretched between your “Craiglist guy messing around” all the way up to your “television ad”.
So who are you spending your days getting work with?
LA said NO WAY to the Internet. Why and why it will change?
I asked this of a producer recently, who anonymously stated:
“[The LA market] is turned off by on line casting. Since LA is a huge market with a plethora of excellent talent, I find that most producers would rather go straight to the agents and casting facilities they already know and trust here in town. In my humble opinion, there’s really no value added for producers in LA to use an online casting service. I’ve noticed that there’s a perception of online casting as being for only non-union actors or strictly “amateurs.” It’s a tough perception to change for producers here in Los Angeles.”
Now, you may read that and it gets your blood boiling, or not at all, but you cannot be miffed by how people feel. It happens for a reason. All text aside, this very much sounds like to me:
“Why should I go online to contact someone, if they live and work a few miles away?”
What will stop global acceptance of the voiceover casting industry online will be localization, personal relationships, and the fact that (just like a Broadway show), dialogue scripts must remain a dialogue. All those who like talking to people, rejoice.
I also know non-union websites originally marketed by disrupting the agent market. With family in Los Angeles belonging to SAG AFTRA, as well as experiences in customer service emails over 7 years, I always sensed when I talked to people in LA about what I do, they did not see the point or value in it. In fact, today when I think of the question, “Who gets online non-union voiceover work?”, I feel compelled to answer, “Great voice actors in NV, GA, TX, and Canada”. It’s a judgement based on tens of thousands of emails received. When I meet professionals from certain markets they often have never heard of online casting because they saw no need to pay attention to it. From experience, and with no exact number, I always saw union work largely staying in New York and California.
I see this is going to change because larger media outlets are slow to adapt to new technology. Twitter existed for many years before TV shows marketed with hashtags. Skype existed for 6 years before news outlets used it to do interviews. It takes time because they are waiting to see, and have the money to wait, if something should be adapted to mainstream. If online casting is not “the thing” now, some sort of event may take place to change that, or it may just be a matter of time.
If you are a voice actor working online, you have got to be able to spot a hobbyist website. As a child, my mom bought me a tape recorder and mic with one of the first VCR’s that allowed audio dubbing through the VCR. It was expensive and they were my toys to play around with and torture family members to the point of insanity. People experiment with technology, as do larger companies. The website or hobbyist is not the problem; the intentions are the problem.
You have got to see when a person is just “playing around” or “actually working as a voice actor”. One of my first paying voiceover jobs ONLINE was in 2005 when a guy asked me to do funny voices for his website videogame ad. I got the job on Craigslist. I wasn’t taking it seriously at the time because I had a job on Wall Street.
There are websites out there who cater to this market of people messing around with equipment. To worry about them is a waste of energy.
The next time you come across a series of blogs where people are screaming about industry rates, remember that “what you are paid” usually is a result of “the tribe you are working with”.
The reality is that, today now more than ever, we are aware of what everyone is doing. Many years ago, finding a support group of talent to help you in your career took years. Now, you can get on the radar in less than 6 months. This happens everyday for someone new. If you want to be paid well, candidly speaking, hangout with people who pay well or know how to be paid well.
And you would be surprised how easy it is to remember people, if you give yourself 7 – 10 years of committed time working with the same 13,000 people. I have heard nearly 2,000,000 auditions (no kidding) in the last 20 years by that same 13,000 people, meaning I may have heard a person audition 153 times.
It’s hard to forget a voice or a name that you have seen 153 times.