Voices.com Secretly Pockets Almost 40% (or more) of Talent Fees
On November 4, I was contacted via instant messenger by a client of mine who had previously booked me for a national TV commercial in the UK via Voices.com, where I have been a subscriber since 2009.
The client asked if I was available to do another job for the same company, and whether or not she had to book me through my “agent.”
I explained that Voices.com is a voice-over job site and not my agent, and that she could deal with me directly, if she preferred, as we needed to coordinate a directed session with two other parties.
I later learned that my message did not get through for some time due to a bad internet connection at her end and, in the meantime, the client placed the job through Grant Thomas, Manager of Professional Services at Voices.com. Grant was whom she had used on our previous job.
I asked the client if she wished to cancel the job with Voices.com but, as she had already paid for it with her credit card, she preferred not to. I told her that was no problem and that I would keep an eye out for the Voices.com job.
I then asked her what the voice talent rate was, and she told me it was $650. I was prepared for Voices.com to take their customary 10% escrow fee from this amount to keep things convenient and easy for the client.
When the job appeared on Voices.com, the rate shown was just $440, with their 10% escrow fee to be deducted from that. I immediately queried this with Grant Thomas and was told, “The client is paying for other services as well,” and, “She probably didn’t realize that speaking to you about holistic fees doesn’t translate into talent fees.”
I asked what “holistic fees” were, but received no reply.
I then, rather forcefully and somewhat angrily, pointed out that I knew for a fact that the client was not paying for any other services and that Voices.com did nothing to land this job other than pick up the phone when my client called them.
I informed them that if they did not adjust the pay rate to reflect the actual talent rate specified by the client, with no fees deducted other than their standard 10% escrow fee, I would instruct the client to cancel the job with them. They complied within 24 hours, and I completed the job to the client’s satisfaction.
Had I not had a relationship with the client, I would never have known what was going on. The rate Voices.com originally posted on this job was $440. Deducting their 10% escrow fee, that would have left me $396. That means Voices.com was intending to keep $254 of the client’s voice-over talent budget of $650, or a staggering 39%.
I have noticed in recent months that more and more jobs posted on Voices.com are being done so by members of their Professional Services team, and wanted to know if the reason for this was that they were taking this kind of cut from all the jobs they posted.
So I sent an e-mail to Voices.com co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer Stephanie Ciccarelli asking her to respond to my fears that a) Voices.com was representing itself as a voice-over talent agent to clients; and b) that they were taking almost 40% of the talent fees in return for posting jobs on the site for clients.
In her response, Stephanie did not deny either point.
Instead, she responded with what appeared to be a fairly standard marketing blurb, including, “When clients choose to work with our Professional Services team, they are receiving personalized service that is of great value to them,” and, “… we quote our Professional Services clients based upon the amount of work required of us. This quote is inclusive of all end-to-end services we provide in order to complete the project, which could include copywriting, translation, audio production and voice-over, not to mention overall project management services.”
I mentioned that actual talent agents do all this and more, often negotiating complicated contracts, and they only charge 10% of any fee.
More pertinently, I pointed out that, in this specific instance, their Professional Services team had done nothing and provided no “value-added services,” yet had still attempted to take 32% of my fee (excluding escrow fee).
I also pointed out that based on the jobs I see posted by their Professional Services team (and I see all of them), they do not appear to do anything other than cut and paste a script into the job posting. Furthermore, the scripts are frequently poorly written or badly translated or uploaded in a format that does not work. Often the jobs are posted in the wrong category or for the wrong accent or even wrong gender. Not infrequently, the script is the wrong one for the job.
I mentioned that we have to read every job posted by their Professional Services team very carefully to see whether or not it is suitable for us, regardless of where and how it was posted.
Yet for this, Voices.com expects to be paid more than one-third of the talent fee?
I have not received a reply.
The truth is that Voices.com could be pocketing even more than 40% of our talent fees, and we would never know. When one of their Professional Services team posts a job in the $100-$250 budget range, for example, we have no idea what the client has actually budgeted for voice talent.
Frankly, I am not that bothered if Voices.com’s Professional Services team is representing itself as “Talent Agents.” If they are out there drumming up business, that is a good thing for all of us. But I know that Union agents are only legally allowed to take 10% of a talent’s fee, and even non-union agents never take more than 20%, and usually 10 to 15%.
I wonder how much money I have lost over the years from previous jobs for which I was unaware that Voices.com was taking such a huge cut of my fee. I may seek legal advice to see if I have a case to request those exorbitant fees back.
In any case, in this current environment, where talent rates are being squeezed harder and harder by more and more online competition, I cannot condone any company taking such a huge cut from our ever-diminishing income.
If anyone wishes to comment on this revelation, you can reach Stephanie Ciccarelli at Stephanie@voices.com