Full Buyout in Perpetuity for $200? Sure thing, Pal….

I Now Have Proof People Smoke Crack

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They’re Goin’ Off The Rails on a Crazy Train

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It never ceases to amaze me how nearly every moment I begin to believe once again in the fundamental goodness of humanity, someone goes and offers up a Heaping Spoonful Of Crazy.  I suppose it is good for this planet to have balance: you cannot have righteous, upstanding, ethical people full of integrity on one end of the spectrum without having Sherri Papini on the other end.  You cannot have honest, hardworking folks on one end of the spectrum without having insurance salesmen and Amway representatives to balance them out. You cannot have sensible, sane people on one side without having half-naked Walmart shoppers and Marjorie Taylor-Greene to even out the scale.

Lately, I continue to find heaping spoonfuls of crazy on a few of the pay-to-plays.  Here is just a small spoonful I have been delighted to discover:

On Voice123:

  • Three :30 Scripts for local broadcast and digital in perpetuity for $250 each
  • National commercial (TV and web), 1 year run time, for $500 total
  • A client (who booked me) with a PSA that was labeled as being on television and across social media for $500, that ended up actually wanting “National Broadcast TV, Streaming, Social Media, Youtube etc…. All forms of media” (their words) for 5+ years. For $500 total.  All of that.  For $500.  I unbooked them.
  • A project on Voice123 for a niche corporate audience for £250 total for the recording and "external rights in perpetuity"
  • A Dog food recipe commercial for "all media in perpetuity," for $200 total

On Voices.com:

  • A project labeled in the new and exciting (and not-in-any-way overly-vague) job description “Video Narration” that turned out to actually be for national broadcast cable, posted for $250-$499 total.  Even Voices.com’s own rate guide states that such a job falls anywhere between $1000 (local) and $4999 (national), and yet Voices.com have stated that they inform clients that "Video Narration" does not include broadcast cable TV.
  • A "Pet Supplement Commercial" for $1500 - $1749 for "National TV, in perpetuity."

Robert Sciglimpaglia (friend/attorney/voice talent), who is a well-known name in the VO community and whose last name you shout when you stub your toe on something, recently shared this example of abuse: a client’s project said it was for "Non-broadcast documentary" for a few hundred bucks, and now it is on Discovery Plus on a reality TV series airing worldwide with a big name host.  Here was Voices.com’s response to a request for additional compensation:

"Your concern around Job ##### has been escalated and I wanted to reach out to you personally. We have reviewed this project with our internal team and as it falls within the usage that it was posted for on our website, no additional funds will be added to this project. As ____ mentioned, this is similar usage to a documentary where it falls under "Non-Broadcast" work since it is not an advertisement promoting a product, service or otherwise on TV/Radio/Paid Web. Knowing that some pilot projects do air, we typically post work that airs as a program on TV at a higher price then internal videos and the budget posted was in line with what we'd expect for a Documentary/TV program. As for credit for your VO, that is at the client's discretion and unfortunately not something we can control."

More and more lately, I am seeing clients on Voice123 and Voices.com state that they are wanting:

  • Full buyout
  • Buyout in perpetuity
  • Full buyout in perpetuity
  • Full buyout in perpetuity with a side of fries
  • Complete worldwide buyout in perpetuity with cherries on top
  • Full and complete worldwide buyout in all forms of media served on a rice pilaf with lobster, while being massaged by kittens and drinking a hot sake.

You see, a Full Buyout In Perpetuity for $200 is something someone requests when they have been forced to watch only The Wiggles for 72 weeks in a row, and repeatedly smacked in the head with an oar.

Check out Barbara Streisand's song, "Everything": "I want everything... everything."  Those lyrics just about sum it up.  These clients have no idea the kinds of exclusivity and paid-placement challenges their requests invoke.  Many of these clients’ rates and demands are so abysmally sad, I have begun to research local psychiatrists to commence sessions, and am preparing psychologically by sucking my thumb.  Take that, Babs.

I am sorry, but here is the harsh truth:  You cannot get a Porsche for the price of a Pinto.

Here I am not talking about Thom Pinto.  No.  You will be getting a Pinto for the price of a Pinto.  You cannot have a mansion for the price of a newspaper on a park bench.  It simply does not work that way.

Based on all of these asinine requests, I am now convinced that people smoke crack regularly.

I think Ozzy Osbourne said it best: “they’re goin’ off the rails on a crazy train.”  These people want everything for nothing.  They are Rumpelstiltskin through and through.  Just...without the Hervé Villechaize accent.

We should not have to open up a casting notice and ask "What fresh hell is this?"

 

Friends In High And Low Places

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Anytime I see projects posted with outlandish rates non-commensurate with stated usage, I will reply with something like the following:  "Your Royal Highness, if it pleases you I shall cut off my arms and serve them to thee on a hot platter with the assistance of a helpmate since I am now armless, because thou art my All in All.  After that I shall hang myself in worship of thee, so that thou mayest be glorified in all thine Galaxial Entitlement. Amen."

I jest. This is what I write: “Sorry, but your stated budget is too low for your stated usage & content. Please see the GVAA Rate Guide (gvaarateguide.com) for fair market rates you should be paying for this. Email [email protected] for professional voiceovers with the highest level of quality & turnaround, at market rates.”

I will then flag the project and state why.  Customer support reps Crispin Alfaro and Mariana Scaffo with Voice123 reply fairly consistently with the following tune:

Thanks for flagging this project.   
We will contact the client to review his budget and usage again.

With Voices.com, I receive similar refrains from employees such as Stacey Pontes of “looking into the matter” and “confirming with the client.”  But I do not ever hear anything back from either.  In fact, when asked pointed questions like “Should I expect to see this project reposted at the same dollar amount so that a lesser informed voice talent can be taken advantage of?  Or will they be reposting it at the correct rate?” I receive the following response from Voices.com:

“I've actually flagged the Client, so we will be manually reviewing all of their future job postings to ensure they are categorized appropriately.”

...which, once run through my new improved U.D.I.S. System (Universal Deception Interpretation Software System, a la "you diss") , is decoded as:

“I am sorry, but your support request has grown tiresome, and we are shopping.  After all, we are Voices.com and you should know that we take large sums of money from you readily.  Please know that your support request has been noted and filed in the appropriate round storage container, and we are shopping.  And by the way, there is nothing more that we will do on this matter, despite your flowing tears.  Also everything written about us online is a lie.  By the way, we are shopping.”

 

Toeing the Line

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When I die (on August 19th 2076, for I have read the scrolls), I am confident that my wife and sons will have more than enough audio files to comb through on my computer should they ever want to hear my voice again.  Doubtless they will stumble across many a “You have GOT to be kidding me!” and “What the ___________???" (insert your favorite potty-word here) in many of those recordings, signifying the fact that while doing my auditions, I had just come across another instance of exorbitant usage abuse for a pittance payout.

I get it – sometimes the clients don’t know what they are asking.  They post their casting and they see an option that says "Check this box if you would like a full buyout in perpetuity.”  And they say “Why, yes: yes I would like a full buyout in perpetuity.  I will just go ahead and check that box straightaway.”  And they have no idea that doing so negates the fixed rate of $250 they just posted.  It is kind of like these conversations I have with my son:

Son: "Father, I would like to not clean my room."

Me: "Well, son, then you may not go out and play."

Son: "Hmmm.  I propose the following alternative: You, being a loving father and caring about my well-being, make concession post-haste to allow me to play outside, and I will continue to not clean my room in any respect ever.  I should also like ice cream for every breakfast now until Jesus returns.  See to it, Father."

Me: *pushes trap door button, sips coffee*

Some people want everything for nothing.  Indeed, that is the reason behind my recent post on LinkedIn and elsewhere about the GVAA Rate Guide that has gained quite a bit of traction, encouraging naïve and perhaps inexperienced casting directors and video producers to understand market rates and plan their budget accordingly.  I encourage you, dear reader, to read and reshare it so that:

  1. Potential clients are enlightened
  2. We stop the never-ending rate erosion
  3. I might be well-regarded and evermore hailed as He Who Shares Important Things With Us

Of all the Pay-to-plays, I genuinely believe in Voice123.  As I have said many times, of all of them, I would choose Voice123 every day of the week and twice on Sunday.  I believe Rolf Veldman genuinely wants us to succeed, and is genuinely pulling for the voiceover community en masse.  We can all get hung up on the principle of market rates, and I am no exception to that rule.  But it is comforting to know that we can at least fight and be heard.  Is flagging casting notices futile?  Will they really even do anything about it?  Who knows.  But I would rather be a tattletale and confront the OP's on their budgeting error than let a newbie be taken advantage of and set a precedent that voiceovers can be obtained on the cheap.

Fellow blogger Paul Schmidt has an excellent recent article from his Move, Touch, Inspire Newsletter on handling lowballers, and I highly suggest you read it and familiarize yourself with his thought processes and the usage-to-cost calculation he employs.  He is cogent, aware, and aware that he uses the word cogent.  I use words like peanut butter.

With all that said, there are plenty of projects posted on either site that do pay market rates.  Some of them even pay above.  Neither is perfect, which only serves as a motivation to collectively continue perfecting them.

To all voice talent reading this blog: beloved voiceover artist, coach, author and friend Paul Strikwerda reminds all of us in his book that we don’t want to attract “clients that expect a gourmet meal at a fast food price and at drive-through speed.”  This is precisely why I created my voiceover contract with clauses that protect me, and which was approved by Robert Sciglimpaglia (which is pronounced "&!*@#($"). This contract ensures that clients agree to their stated usage and do not deviate, or I have legal recourse.  It also ensures that I will be paid in a timely fashion.

To any clients reading this blog: your budget does not determine the value of my voice.  The service simply costs what the service costs.  They are fair market rates, and I did not invent them. If you do not have it in your budget, there is really only one thing that needs to happen: raise your budget, and come back to me when you have the necessary dough.  Sure, I'll hold.  And to all my clients who DO know what voiceovers are worth, THANK YOU.

Until that time, I plan on leaving you and Sherri Papini in the same column, labeled “People Who Are Presently Smoking Crack.”

*pushes trapdoor button*

 

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206.672.6200

 

38 thoughts on “Full Buyout in Perpetuity for $200? Sure thing, Pal….”

  1. A topic that continually needs exposure. Ridiculous prices and ridiculous usage are common. We need to raise our collective voices in defense of fair rates and usage as often as possible, in as many arenas as possible. Our potential clients need to be educated. No one is going to do it but us..

    1. Why do I picture you at a podium waving your hands wildly, with a huge banner behind you that says “Vote Jon For Great Rates!” ?? 🙂 I wholeheartedly agree, my friend, as always.

    2. I actually filed a letter with upwork asking them to avoid bottom feeders, and focus on the quality clients, I watched them do the opposite, nearly got burned by VDC, after 3 years of frustration, I said C-ya, I know what I’m worth, all of it GVAA proven. I’ll only perform a voiceover for personal clients from now on.

  2. You’re wonderful! You’re the best!

    How’s that?

    No, for real, thank you for edutaining us newbies in the VO world. Now I know that I don’t need to accept pennies for my work. Thank you!

  3. Last week, during a moment when I was uncharacteristically annoyed with the string of such projects on V123, I took the time to decline with the “Other” option, allowing me to diplomatically explain why the project was completely insane. I gave each of them the link to the GVAA rate guide as well.

    I fully expected to hear from V123 after a client (or two) complained about my brazen, bratty attitude. Who am I to ask for fair rates, after all? They must have just chosen to ignore me. Likely because eventually someone auditioned from their cell phone.

    1. I do the same thing! I’m glad you do it as well. Voice123 proves that they’re receptive to hearing from us when we flag a project. The hope is that the client will respond accordingly. And I trust some of them will! Some of them simply don’t know about the rate guide, and have no idea what to put in their budget. They may have researched, but unfortunately they may have gotten their education from sites like Fiverr or VoiceJungle or SpeedySpots or JustSaySpots or Planet Charley: all sites that contribute to the further erosion of the voiceover industry payscale. It’s up to us to continually toe the line and educate them.

  4. Wow thats pretty disgusting that people pay that low! Is that common thing, or is that more kind of the “uneducated anomaly” ? I don’t think I’ve ever seen something so low but im not on the P2P’s…yet…maybe I wont now!

    thanks josh.

    1. It is becoming more and more frequent, unfortunately. But the goal of education must not be superseded or overridden by frustration; by throwing our hands up in despair. We have to keep reminding people; there is always going to be “churn” in this industry of professionals who cycle in and out of dealings with us. They will always require education, just as we will on how they best need to produce their works of art and how we factor into that.

  5. What a timely post, Josh! You saved me from being hoodwinked by someone wanting something in perpetuity for peanuts. Though, I’m sure it could have afforded me some nice honey-roasted peanuts. But, that’s not the point. I know it’s not helping as we see a downward rate race. You see VO’s on Fiverr, Reddit, and other places offering their work for peanuts (also). Hopefully tasty as well. My point is – not to shame them – but to remind them that they’ve invested a lot, whether it be coaching, equipment, software, or even time away from their hobby or families. These CD’s posting these jobs with lower rates are going to continue to get nibbles, and I hope we all realize we’re worth (and invested) more than the rock-bottom rates. I purchased Josh’s document package which has really helped me document and defend usage, and they really protect the VO (and client). I can tell I’m being verbose here, because my keyboard is smoking, but all this to say is – thank you Josh for raising awareness on this, and you’ve certainly helped me be more mindful for what I chase in the awesome, rewarding, and blessed world of VO.

    1. Honey-roasted peanuts are a strong draw! So we would all forgive you for that, to be sure. But I’m glad to help! I’m glad that SO MANY of us are helping…by constantly toeing the line, maybe eventually we’ll see the perpetuity for peanuts profile piddle away into a puddle of purely period-based puss, preserving the purist path for the Proud!

    2. I actually filed a letter with upwork asking them to avoid bottom feeders, and focus on the quality clients, I watched them do the opposite, nearly got burned by VDC, after 3 years of frustration, I said C-ya, I know what I’m worth, all of it GVAA proven. I’ll only perform a voiceover for personal clients from now on.

  6. Always entertaining and accurate, my friend. I appreciate the mention.

    We get what we tolerate. We can’t control what’s offered. We can only control what we as an industry accept and how we educate our newer and less experienced peers about predatory practices and lowball rates.

    Thanks for fighting the good fight.

  7. It’s messy business and sometimes murky waters, which makes posts like yours and the ones you mentioned especially helpful and important. It can be disheartening seeing all the low-balling projects – and also just how many auditions they receive. Thanks for being an advocate!!

  8. Okay but how many syllables are actually in Sciglimpaglia?

    I see those clauses – “buyout in perpetuity for all forms of media known to mankind or any other form of life in the universe yet to be discovered or thought about by a science fiction author” – and I think what the $#!*? It would be easier, and make more sense to anyone with an actual brain, to hand over my firstborn child. Well, except she’d probably struggle, being a fully grown adult now.

    It’s funny but it’s not; it’s so gosh-darn frustrating to be treated like completely value-less dirt while offering extremely valuable goodness to people. Ugh!

    1. Ugh indeed! The Rumpelstiltskins are definitely out there. It’s up to us to put the spindle away, hide the straw, put our backs to the wall and fight to protect our firstborn child! Or…something more allegorically applicable.

  9. Now wait just one minute, sir. I take personal offense to this. My parents were Amway users and representatives back in the day and are very decent people, thank you very much. 😉

    In all seriousness though, I can tell you another reason there are so many of these projects popping up. It’s partly because some clients are uneducated about fair rates and usage. But more importantly, it’s because the voice artists themselves are uneducated. There has been such a flood of new voice actors to the industry, many of whom have no proper training from experienced professionals, that they often don’t know any better than to accept projects like that. (A few of the comments to this very blog post have illustrated that nicely.) And once companies get away with it once, it is surely just too tempting to try and get away with it every time. After all, they might not be able to book you or me, but they might be able to book someone who *sounds* just like you or me at a fraction of the cost. And if they can hire an audio engineer to edit it for them so that it sounds halfway decent, then they probably save a significant amount of money.

    So, really, it boils down to educating clients *and* educating new voice talent. Which is, of course, part of what this blog is doing. Nice job, Josh. 🙂

    Also, thank you for giving your example of how you respond to clients whose budgets are too low for their stated usage. I often am terrible at knowing what to say, so that gives me an excellent template off of which to work.

    1. I’m glad, Julia! Glad to help. It really has reached a level of hardship where we’re having to defend our rates – which we should never have to do. They just are what they. Because the industry is artistic, as is the service, many people feel that gives them license to apply some arbitrary figure on it, based on their own appraisal of its worth…and that’s a shame. We follow a rates plumbline. So they should they.

      PS, I was an Amway rep. A little self-deprecation there. 🙂

      1. Ha! That makes the Amway comment even better! XD

        And yes. It reminds me of artists who are asked to do a project for “exposure,” as if that’s some amazing offer the client is giving. Unfortunately, you can’t pay bills with “exposure.”

  10. First of all, Josh, thanks for getting my blood pressure up to an extremely unhealthy rate; no need for my usual 3:00pm coffee – that’s for sure! I was just getting over (a much lesser version, I’m sure) my PTSD.

    As someone newer to vo, I honestly would’ve liked to have started this career before the “in perpetuity” craze took over the P2Ps, eating up waaaaaayyyyy too much of our response time. I miss the easy, “yes, I agree to your reasonable suggested budget” responses of 2021 and early 2022. Now I have a template that says, “are you kidding me????!!!” (Well actually, it’s the kinder, more professional version.)

    And don’t even get me started on Crispin. Is he even a real person? No matter what issue I needed resolved, or how righteous my indignation was, or how much I begged and pleaded for answers from him, Crispin dutifully and calmly stayed on script, making sure to never reveal any solutions nor give any clear answers.

    I’ve been a much more sane person since cancelling that membership!

    Now I only deal with this “in perpetuity” nonsense on VDC – but at least when I’m talking to their customer support, they seem to have answers and a good grasp of vo/client negotiation.

    1. Well to each their own, but the sad truth about Voices.com is that right in their TOU they unambiguously state the following:

      (d) License to User Generated Content. Each User grants to Voices (and any third party authorized by Voices) an irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide, unrestricted, fully paid up, royalty free, non-exclusive right and license to reproduce, copy, publish, perform in public, communicate to the public by telecommunication, disseminate, optimize (including search engine optimization), synchronize with other content and materials, edit, translate, transcribe, close caption and otherwise store, use and process all User Generated Content (in whole or in part, as is or as may be edited) and any materials based upon or derived therefrom for the purpose of providing the Services, promoting Voices, its services and the Site. User hereby waives all moral rights (and all other rights of a like or similar nature) that User may have in the User Generated Content in favour of Voices (and any third party authorized by Voices to use such User Generated Content).

      Pretty sure that sounds like worldwide unrestricted use in perpetuity for absolutely everything. So there really isn’t any negotiation: we agreed to such terms of use upon signing up and paying our Benjamin’s for the right to give them everything. Gulp. What I love about Voice123 is that I have a say. I get to dictate terms with MY clients…emphasis on “MY” because they’re mine; whereas with Voices.com, they’re most definitely “theirs.”

      How’s that for boiling blood? I wish it was different, but it won’t be, not with David Ciccarelli at the helm. This is why I prefer Voice123 every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

  11. Ah Josh now don’t be so harsh….maybe be harsher!! Just kidding. It’s astonishing that Full Buyout, Rights Forever and Always, All Media Paid & Unpaid, Your first born but not their college tuition, for the insanely outrageously generous compensation of $150. And no you may not have a copy to use as an example of your work anywhere-it belongs to us.

    It really important as a voice actor to know your worth and be unafraid to ask for a reasonable rate. I frequently refer to the GVAA Rate Guide and have found it to be an invaluable tool. Thanks so much for the laughs and important reminders!

    1. You are very welcome, Deb! It truly is astonishing the unreasonable level that client expectations can rise to, isn’t it? It’s up to us to forever ground them and bring them back to reality. Kind of like flying coach is one price, but if you want to upgrade to first class, you pay more. And if you want your own airplane, it’s even more. And if you want your own airline, it’s even more. It just kind of makes sense. So come now, reasoning client, fly the friendly Voiceover Skies.

  12. Stellar article as always, my friend! I’m so thankful to have had VO Jedi masters such as yourself to help guide me along the way. I remember feeling TOTALLY overwhelmed the first time I saw the phrase, “Please state your rate,” and even more so when I took my first glance at the GVAA rate guide. Thankfully, after some time studying, learning from others, and gaining my own personal experience, I’m starting to get a better grip on what those fair market rates look like. I’m also learning what it means to truly value what I produce and not be ashamed to ask for compensation equal to that value.

    On a completely unrelated note, do you have any recommendations for trap door installers? For some reason I suddenly find myself with an indefatigable need/desire/obsession to have one…or more. Kthanksbye!

    1. You didn’t hear this from me, so I’m posting it here in the privacy of the Internet for only you and I to take note: Big Mario’s Trapdoors and Nuisance Elimination Service down the street has them for half off! Buy one trapdoor, and they’ll knock someone else off – er – I mean – they’ll knock 50% off the price of another one! Pretty sure it’s an Act-Now-While-Supplies-Last sorta thing…

  13. I find it quite humorous that this was part of my reply to your question on perspective today, hehe. It was also funny that I watched an animator sharing his own original anime opening and that it cost him $50,000. Immediately I was like, that’s fair, but he did not think that it would cost him nearly that much! lol. It’s really like your post – it needs to be better communicated from our side, what these things really cost. Places like 5er are not helping. This week, I got another music audition from VDC that also didn’t 1) Spell out what they wanted properly and 2) Did not offer a fair amount… Of course, I did not go for it at all, because the world isn’t ready for me rapping, except with a w, but more than that, it’s not reasonable…
    I hate that these things exist and I think you’re right – it must be a global crack problem… lol.

    1. I would love to see you as a Wrap Star! Keep clear of the white powder and you’ll go far…I expect you’ll sell out venues for every birthday and Christmas, with all that Wrapping you’ll be doing!

  14. Love that! Mr W is in the building-with-a-door-and-a-few-windows-with-2-or-3-bedrooms-and-at-least-2-bathrooms! Give it up! Wha’ wha’! HAHAHA.

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