February 13, 2012
If you read my post from yesterday, or are someone active in the voice over community, you’ve already heard of the site VoiceBunny. VoiceBunny comes from the mind of Alex Torrenegra, creator, co-founder, and CEO of Voice123, one of two leading pay-to-play voice over booking websites. VoiceBunny changes the model made standard by the likes of Voice123 and Voices.com, in which voice over actors pay a subscription fee for the opportunity to audition for projects posted on the site by clients looking to hire voice over. Instead, VoiceBunny charges no up-front money to the voice over actors, and they offer clients the chance to cast a project much more quickly and cheaply. Clients submit a project to VoiceBunny, either through a form or through its API that streamlines the process for frequent flyers, deposits the funds they’re paying for the job, and VoiceBunny immediately sends out a notice to all the registered VO’s whose profiles match the criteria. As soon as the first VO to get to it submits a take at the script, the project is closed to all other submissions. VoiceBunny staff reviews the recording, and as long as it passes their QA, they send the file on to the client and send the client’s money (minus 10% plus a service fee) to the voice over actor. No retakes, no client feedback on the casting process, and no dialog between client and VO. That’s it. Transaction over.
So, VoiceBunny does not cast projects through auditions. It casts them through a race. They have plans to implement additional options for the casting process, but for now, that’s all they’ve got. In the future, they’ll offer an option for clients to accept submissions from X number of VOs and pick their favorite to use and pay. So, that method is a race in which ten people finish, and then the client just picks which of the ten finishers is the winner. Again, not an audition process, because the submission you send in is the one they use. No re-takes, no dialog. You get paid as soon as they decide to use your submission, and your business relationship with that client begins and ends in all of about five minutes. Finally, they’ll eventually offer clients the chance to browse profiles of registered actors and pick one to hire, but that service is already available through Voices.com, Voice123, and ten or twenty less reputable websites, so there’s really no advantage to VoiceBunny there.
So, clearly, clients who use VoiceBunny are not going to be very picky. A client who isn’t very picky probably doesn’t have a lot of money budgeted for their voice over. By design, the site caters to clients looking to pay for less than what quality voice over is worth. Hopefully, if they’re not paying quality prices, they won’t get quality work, but that will be determined by the voice over actors who choose to use the system. Based on the research I’ve done, I don’t have a lot of hope.
I signed up for VoiceBunny after receiving an invitation to join the beta a few months ago. It’s free, so why not? Since that time, I’ve received all of two casting notices from them, both of which were well below my personal minimum. I assumed I wasn’t receiving anything because the site was still in beta and it didn’t have a whole lot of usage on the client side yet. But a few days ago, VoiceBunny made a public launch announcement. Wondering how they could’ve possibly gained any useful information from their beta test with so little usage, I tried an experiment.
Admittedly, the site is still in its “beta” phase, and it’s brand new in the eyes of clients and voice over actors alike, so there’s plenty of room for it to develop beyond my study’s results. But it’s now in public beta, meaning it’s available to anyone who chooses to use it on either the client or VO side of things. When a VO registers for VoiceBunny, they configure their profile with their gender and age range, as well as the amount of time it takes them to complete projects of varying lengths and the minimum amount of money they’re willing to do that work for. Since I received, essentially, no results from my profile during the private beta phase, I temporarily lowered my minimum rates to, basically, $1, and reviewed the section labeled “Previous projects that match your rates and profile.”
In the 35 days preceding my experiment, 77 projects were posted to the Bunny, ranging from 3 to 1689 words in length, and from $5 to a whopping $133. Of all 77 projects, 3 were willing to pay $100 or more. The average rate offered on all of these projects was $36.30. For those of you reading who are not professional voice over actors, I’ll spell that out for you in plain English: The rates currently offered on VoiceBunny are beyond insulting.
However, the truly disturbing discovery I made came later. I dug a little deeper and discovered a “suggested pricing estimator” for clients to determine how much to pay for the work. The client types in a script, and the system calculates the average rate offered by all currently registered VO’s for a project of that script’s length (word count). When I copied and pasted a script of 413 words from one of Voices.com’s job postings (a job offering a budget of $250-$500), the suggested price VoiceBunny’s estimator gave me was $116.83. When I deleted some of the script and put in a word count of 214, the price was $85.73. 108 words yielded $62.15. So, assuming that estimator really is calculating based on the average rates of the site’s registered VO’s, the clients aren’t necessarily bottom-feeding because they’re cheap. They could be bottom-feeding because the voices on the site are completely devaluing themselves and the entire industry by trying to undercut their competition.
It is possible, in theory, that quality voice over actors with integrity could register for the site and enter more realistic rates and hopefully bring about equilibrium on the VoiceBunny market. But based on the discussions going on all over the web within the voice over community, none of the reputable VO’s have any interest in using VoiceBunny at all. Not only are the rates currently offered there completely insulting, but the system completely eliminates all possibility of an ongoing business relationship. A huge part of being a successful work-from-home voice over actor, really being a successful practitioner of any business, is the ability to keep your customers coming back for more. VoiceBunny, by design, does not allow voice over actors to instill any of their clients with a sense of loyalty. VoiceBunny casts the client’s project for them by taking the first person to walk in the digital door, and the client can’t even write that person a thank-you note. There is no interaction between the actor and the client whatsoever.
That is where the VoiceBunny system inherently fails. Even if the rates were to change as its userbase grows, by prohibiting the potential for ongoing relationships, prohibiting even basic communication between voice and voice-ee, VoiceBunny is an insult to the voice over industry. I would like to completely erase my VoiceBunny account based on principle, but there doesn’t seem to be a way to do that; once you’re registered, you can’t un-register. Instead, I will do my part to improve the site’s assessment of the value of voice over work by setting my profile’s rates accordingly. And I will never be auditioning for a VoiceBunny project as long as its business model remains the same. I suggest any self-respecting and/or industry respecting voice over actor who had the misfortune of registering for this site and happens to have stumbled upon this message do the same. Any of you who were holding off on registering until the verdict was in, I think you know what your answer is.
Say no to bunnies.
UPDATE: Due to the amount of traffic this blog post seems to be receiving, I’ve removed links to the VoiceBunny website. If they’re there, the Bunny’s search ranking is improved, and I don’t want to help him in any way. If you’re curious, you’ll have to find your way to the VoiceBunny website yourself (it’s not very hard if you know the name).