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Monday, September 14, 2015

Online Casting Unlimited & Platinum Tiers: An Insider's Perspective

Love them or hate them, online casting sites are a fact of life in today’s voiceover marketplace. People from all walks of the business will continue to disagree over what they represent for our community. That said, with all the recent discussion surrounding the top tier memberships on online casting sites, I thought it would be appropriate to explore these levels from the perspective of an insider, and offer some thoughts on when and whether one should consider making such a large investment.

As a point of reference, I was a Platinum member on Voices.com for about 5 years until upgrading to Unlimited on September 1st, 2015. I have been a Platinum member on Voice123.com for about three years now.

There are currently three high-end membership levels available. On Voices.com, the Platinum and Unlimited memberships, and on Voice123.com the Platinum membership.

Let’s look at Voices.com first.

Since February 2014, all paying subscribers to Voices.com, (Premium lite, Premium, and Platinum,) have been subject to a system called VoiceMatch Invitations. This system was created to try to limit the number of auditions submitted to each job, as they were routinely exceeding 200.  What it does, in essence, is restrict all subscribers to seeing 20-30 out of the 40-50 public auditions posted daily that would match a well-filled-out male or female profile. The distribution of the auditions is entirely at random. There is no advantage to being Platinum within this system. You play by the same rules as everyone else. Your submissions are not seen earlier or ranked higher. I cast from Voices.com through a separate account and through client accounts, and I know this to be the case both from the talent perspective and that of the casting director. If I submit the 50th audition as a Platinum, I will likely be somewhere on page 2 or 3 depending on my VoiceMatch score.

The advantage Platinum talents do receive is strictly in search results. When a voice buyer searches for talent on Voices.com, they can do so by searching demo categories or keywords, with filters for gender, age, etc… In all of these search results, Platinum members are displayed first, (with the order among Platinum members determined on a random, rotating basis.) They are followed by Premium yearly members, Premium Lite members, and non-paying Guest accounts, in that order, (and also with the order among each tier randomized on a rotating basis.) As such, Platinum talent can generally expect to receive more private invitations resulting from appearing early in the search results, as well as direct bookings from the contact information on their profile page. Contrary to speculation, all paying members of Voices.com are allowed to post their contact information on their profiles.

Voices.com offers Platinum talent a variety of marketing bells and whistles, including annual press releases, and these can be valuable to very new talent trying to build name recognition. As a practical matter, however, the only functional advantage of Platinum over the Premium tiers is the extra visibility in search. If you have killer demos visible in most or all of the major categories, this can result in ROI.

Platinum costs $2,500/year as of this writing.

The new Unlimited tier, which went live on September 1st, carries all of the benefits of Platinum, with one further feature: It eliminates the VoiceMatch Invitations algorithm for subscribers, allowing Unlimited talent to see all of the public jobs posted to the site that match their profile. In others words, instead of seeing 20-30 auditions per day, Unlimited members will see 40-50, (and more….in my first two weeks as an Unlimited member, I have routinely seen as many as 60 jobs per day.)

To be clear, neither Platinum nor Unlimited offer any kind of advantage on a job-for-job basis. Even Premium Lite members see the auditions at the same time as the Platinum and Unlimited tiers, and the order in which auditions appear to the voice buyer is still determined by VoiceMatch score. So, a Premium Lite member with a 100% VoiceMatch submitting at the same time as an Unlimited member with a 95% VoiceMatch will still be listed higher in the voice buyer’s inbox than the Unlimited member. 

Unlimited strictly provides access to more public auditions. It is still up to the Unlimited member to follow the standard best practices for success on Voices.com if they want to be competitive, as no advantage is given.

These tiers are not a means to bypass other qualifications. Rather, they are a lot like buying a front-of-the-line pass at Disney World. You get the same experience, just with a bit more of a personal touch and a few access advantages……but you still must be this tall to ride this ride!

Unlimited is a $2,500 supplement to the Platinum tier.

Voice123.com offers a single high-end tier, called Platinum.

Voice123.com Premium paying members are subject to a system called SmartCast, which is designed to limit the number of auditions voice buyers see by discouraging talent from auditioning for projects that are not an ideal fit for their skills, and from auditioning too frequently altogether.
SmartCast considers two factors when deciding if and when a subscriber receives an audition:

1.) The frequency with which the talent submits auditions. If you are submitting more than 5 auditions per day, or your percentage of auditions and proposals submitted compared to similar talent exceeds 200%, you may begin to see fewer and fewer auditions from Voice123, as SmartCast will determine you are taking too big a piece of the pie, and other talent should have the chance to submit before you.

        2.) Your pricing choices. SmartCast will determine whether you prefer lower or higher budget jobs based on your bidding history, and you will be more likely to receive those types of projects early in the audition distribution process.

Voice123.com’s Platinum tier has one feature: It turns off SmartCast, allowing you to see all auditions that match your profile the moment they are posted. Because SmartCast is actively designed to limit the number of auditions that talent submit, this provides a distinct advantage for Platinum talent in that they can audition without fear of consequences, and are therefore far more likely to be in the first few submissions for any job they choose to audition for. For quality talent, this leads to substantial ROI.

Voice 123.com Platinum costs just under $5,000/year as of this writing.

A few more things to consider…….

All of these tiers are designed for professional-level talent who are capable of being competitive on all or most of the auditions they submit. I have personally experienced strong return on investment from Voices.com Platinum and Voice123.com Platinum, and am now starting to see ROI from Voices.com Unlimited, which I expect will pay for the premium over Platinum within a month.

Not everyone will see the same results. What’s the old phrase? Your miles may vary?

Let’s be very clear…..these sites are a meritocracy regardless of how much money you throw at them. 

Yes, the Platinum tier on Voice123.com does offer a booking advantage, but a dilettante dropping $5K on a membership on either of these sites is likely to be very disappointed with the results. You must have the skill set, knowledge of tactical best practices for each site, and the ability to audition frequently and produce professional audio in order to see any return from these high-end memberships.

To that end, I always advise my VO students to consider two metrics when determining if this level of investment in an online casting site is likely to pay off, and you can apply these metrics as well.

1.) Do you routinely book at least a job per week from the site in question, having done so over a substantial, (say 6 months,) sample period?

      2.) Does the cost of the membership represent less than what you make from the site in question in an average three month period?

If the answer to either of those questions is no, then your chances of seeing ROI from these tiers is likely limited, and you would be better advised to invest that money in the continuing development of your skills and studio. If the answer is yes to one or both, then these tiers might be a good fit for you.

As the debate over online casting continues to rage, it is more important than ever that those interested in participating in these marketplaces stay armed with the facts. It is unlikely that everyone in the VO community will ever be of one mind about what these sites mean to our industry, and I’m not interested in rehashing a debate where minds are unlikely to be changed. For now, better to keep the information flowing freely, so that all involved can make informed choices.



12 comments:

  1. "Ditto". J. Michael Collins has the facts straight and provides great advice on this ongoing discussion.

    Thank you.

    Bev Standing

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  2. Thank you for writing this J.Michael!!!! :)

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  3. Fantastic information and perspective. Finally! Thanks J. Michael for answering so many questions for so many who were ill-informed.

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  4. Hi Michael,
    Here's a question if you are willing to share. Have you recouped the yearly fee in work from auditions on Voices or Voice 123 respectively each year?
    Thanks
    Eddie

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  5. Hi Eddie,

    Thanks for your question.

    It's hard to answer that question in a way that doesn't sound self-aggrandizing, but simply stated, I recoup more than the yearly fee for Ultimate/Platinum in an average month from each site.

    This, of course, is not the result most can expect. I would refer you to the metrics I detailed in the article to determine if these tiers are a good fit for you.

    Regards,

    J. Michael

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  6. Thank You J. Michael! The most succinct article on the facts ever written. Kudos!

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  7. Thank you for your insight and honesty. I especially appreciated your Disneyland analogy and thought its conclusion "but you still must be this tall to ride this ride!" to be excellent. This is very valuable information for anybody using or considering using Voices or V123 so that they can have the best ROI.

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  8. Thanks for the insight! I have always wondered how the premium tiers worked.

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  9. I so appreciate this article. I understand the frustrations people have, but I'm so glad to have a better handle on what each tier means (without negative commentary). It's a model that works for some -- not for others. But it's a fact of this business, of all businesses, quite frankly. The internet has changed how things work -- forever. Better to understand the current state of affairs so you can determine your best personal strategy.

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  10. Very good overview. I might also add that, if you're regularly working and only use V123 etc as a stop-gap or "filler" for slower periods, then it's also not worth your pennies, IMHO.

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