"Sherman, set the WABAC Machine to the late 1980s.”
"Yes, Mr. Peabody."
In the past, a person looking to get the next greatest voiceover, there was really only one way to do it. There would be a local casting call, then move on to agencies outside of that market, and then hope that some voiceover veteran or some heretofore undiscovered diamond-in-the-VO-rough would surface as the next national voice of the client du jour. Anyone who wasn’t repped by a big agency was S.O.L., but that’s OK, because nobody outside of the industry even knew about voiceover back then except for radio jocks, “real” actors that were looking for some way to pay the rent, and folks who go to comic book and anime conventions.
Fast forward to the present.
When a modern-day voiceoverist (thank you, Mr. Philip Banks) looks for voiceover-related stuff on the internet nowadays, they have an overabundance of resources. Hardly the dearth of the early-to-mid 90s…thank you Al Gore, for opening that lockbox and giving us the internet. I have to admit, if I were a novice voiceoverist, I would be really overwhelmed right now. Too many places on the web nowadays are starting to make voiceover sound like a get-rich-quick scheme or worse, a multilevel marketing scam. *shiver*
Thank goodness some things are grounded in reality. For example, the aforementioned casting process from when we fired up the Wayback Machine? Well, that process still exists. It’s just been enhanced. In 1998, the voiceover industry went online when Voicebank.net went live. It legitimized voiceover in ways nobody could have foreseen just twenty years ago. Voicebank also created a thirst for agency representation by voice-only performers. This was mainly because Voicebank listings were for agencies only. It was exclusive. And people wanted in.
Kinda like getting into an exclusive club, your name needs to be on the list, and with Voicebank, it’s no different. You have to be repped by an agency that uses Voicebank to cast projects in order to be listed on Voicebank.net. And of course, the eternal question is “how do I get repped?” Well, much like legitimizing the online presence of the voiceover industry back in the day, I believe Voicebank has that figured out, too.
So now, I know what some of you are thinking: “But Brad, what about the pay-to-play websites? Aren’t they the next step in the evolution of the voiceover industry?”
Well, as Alton Brown would say, “That’s another show.”
Here’s the deal. A great deal of performers look to signing with an agency as one of the major milestones in their careers. And why not? That is usually a point in which someone recognizes the performer’s perseverance in honing their craft. That’s why the next legitimate evolution in the voiceover industry is Voiceregistry. It’s been dubbed “the bridge to Voicebank” by Voicebank’s CEO Jeff Hixon.
When I spoke to Voicebank staff member Colleen Colin about Voiceregistry, she said that:
"[Voiceregistry has] more tools aimed at providing actors with ways to improve their skills, market their talent and increase their opportunities to be searched by the Talent Agencies and improve their opportunities for representation."
Well, how do you like that? It’s like asking a magician for the secret to her biggest trick, and have her not only tell you, but draw a detailed diagram. Now I know that it’s tough to determine tone of voice in print, and I can be quite the smart aleck when I talk about things here, but I am flat-out serious about that example.
The actor’s perception towards agency representation and inclusion on Voicebank has always been a measuring stick of legitimacy in this industry. So when the company that epitomizes legitimacy rolls out a new product that is a “bridge” to those goals, I think people should sit up and take notice.
OK, so now I might have your attention. Let’s dig deeper into my conversation with Colleen Colin from Voicebank:
Brad Venable: There is a very low price point for the Platinum membership ($7.00 per month). Was this decided to make becoming a Platinum member pretty much a no-brainer?
Colleen Colin: Making Voiceregistry affordable, accessible and truly useful is our goal. It serves the needs of the aspiring VO actor as well as the Talent Agencies. Talent Agencies really are looking for new talent, and Voiceregistry helps them manage that process.
BV: Was this part of Voicebank.net brought about just for the purpose of creating a non-affiliated voice registry (for talent not necessarily represented by union-franchised agencies)? If so, how long has this idea been batted around?
CC: Voicebank.net has been the standard for professional VO delivery for over ten years. We have had thousands of actors ask “How can I get listed on Voicebank?” In fact, only a talent agency can put talent onto the Voicebank site. Voiceregistry represents a “bridge” to Voicebank. A way for actors to seek out training, feedback, marketing and, possibly, representation.
BV: As services like Voiceregistry becomes even more prevalent, is the industry driving towards a time when there will be even less face-to-face interaction with other industry people like agents, managers, casting directors, and the like?
CC: Voiceregistry to a large degree is a search feature for the Talent Agencies. It is aimed at improving the connections between actor and agent and subsequently increasing the relationships between an actor and industry professionals. With our “Video Tips of the Day” and our “Weekend Workout” the actor now has more opportunities to understand what talent agents and casting directors look for and expect. Not to mention the chance to have their voice heard and receive constructive feedback which can help improve every actors’ chance for success in a demanding field.
BV: Who benefits most from a Voicebank.net Voiceregistry entry?
CC: Actors and Agents. The actor can find a platform from which to advance in the world of VO and it is a wonderful time saving tool for the talent agents when they need to find a unique voice to fill a specific need or to round out their roster of talent.
BV: Noticing that Voice Registry is still in ‘beta,’ does that mean that there will be more features rolled out as the site matures?
CC: Yes, we are constantly brainstorming and listening to talent agents, casting directors and actors. We have a number of ideas on the horizon.
BV: Is there anything cool on the horizon on the Voice Registry that you can tell us about?
CC: We are very exicited that our Weekend Workout guest directors have been so involved and supportive. DPN’s Brandie Illson recently hosted [the Weekend Workout], and in the next few weeks, Sara Rucker from Jim Nicolay’s office at CAA and Vanessa Gilbert, partner at TGMD, will be hosting. There are more great things coming and we look forward to continuing to build the Voiceregistry “bridge” to opportunity.
BV: Thanks so much for your time in sharing about Voicebank’s Voiceregistry, Colleen!
CC: Thank you for asking!
Our industry is at a crossroads, folks. We’re in a world of coupon and Groupon bargain hunters, and that mentality has trickled down to clients. People’s perceived value of talent is getting cheaper because some people are out there trying to reinvent the wheel.
Others realize that voiceover is a talent-driven industry, and enhance the parts of the industry that are deeply rooted in hard work, community, good business, and paying it forward.
Companies like Voicebank get that, and don’t just exist as a goal to strive for, but also create a way to enhance the way talents can be more educated and discovered by agencies.
Reputable agencies (ad and talent, and casting, all) get that, because they evolve by using the internet to search, provide, and use the precious commodity of talent that literally be found anywhere that’s connected. The fact that an industry that relies so much on “the meeting” has embraced a more global focus by using Voicebank, is simply amazing.
Talents get that. That’s why they’re forming mastermind groups, attending meetups, and formulating events like Faffcon. They know that keeping the tradition of ‘troupes’ of talents, referring new talent to decision-makers, and like a good dialogue commercial, always thinking of the other talent, this entire industry moves forward.
It’s a good thing that Faffcon and Voicebank found each other. Entities with similar goals usually do, sooner or later.
In an industry that seems so lonely at times, it’s never been more important to have a people with which to faff about, but also keep you accountable. And that’s advice you can take to the ‘bank.
Yeah, that was like three puns…take that Mr. Peabody.