Recent events in the voiceover industry are making transparency” a hot topic again. This term was the watchword over the great controversies that began enveloping Voices.com a few years ago. Voices’ greatest sin wasn’t dipping their hands deep into the kitty on managed jobs, (which is not to excuse the practice, but various forms of such activity have existed in the industry for years,) but rather their utter unwillingness to plainly state what they were doing, why, and how. Like in politics, it’s usually the coverup that does the most damage, and Voices’ loss of prestige and community buy-in was largely rooted in their rapid shift from a friendly, customer-oriented, responsive little company into a wannabe behemoth that only spoke in cold corporate platitudes while appearing to be hiding things from inquiring members. This should be a lesson to anyone selling services to talent, whether they are a casting site, a management company, a coach, a demo producer, or service provider.
When talent puts money on the table, we demand absolute transparency. If you are a casting site, we expect to know precisely how your system operates, down to the finest details. You don’t have to give us the coding to your algorithms, but if your site uses algorithms to determine how auditions are distributed (and for those paying attention, the reason bodalgo.com and VO Planet are so highly regarded is that they don’t go in for such things, in addition to their general attitude,) we expect you to share precisely how those algorithms are weighted, the principle behind using such algorithms, and exactly what talent should or should not do to place themselves in the most advantageous position. We expect you to be able to give a reasonable estimate of how many auditions talent at various membership levels will receive each day, and whether there are any limitations or considerations when it comes to how many can be replied to.
Suppose you are in the business of taking commissions. In that case, whether you are a casting site, talent manager, agent, or another animal, we expect to know how much you are taking, how that process works, and whether it varies from one job to the next. If the reality varies from what we have been told we expect an explanation, and where appropriate we may demand a full or partial refund if we feel like the product we received differed from what we were sold.
Coaches should be fully transparent about their schedules and their areas of expertise. If you know you can only offer one session a month, don’t set an expectation of one per week. If a talent is excited to learn character voices for video games and your area of expertise is E-Learning, pass the business on to a qualified colleague, and tell the talent why. Do your due diligence when evaluating a new coaching client and be prepared to offer a reasonable professional estimate of how much coaching they should need to be ready to compete.
Demo producers should be able to offer a clear timeline for delivery and a detailed explanation of their process. They should also, in my opinion, be willing to offer a money-back guarantee on their work if the talent isn’t satisfied with the final product.
Transparency doesn’t come with terms and conditions. Corporate speak isn’t transparent. If you take money from talent, you have an obligation to be completely open about what they are and are not getting for their money.
The number of competent professional-grade talent is far smaller than most people think. Service providers would do well to remember that when they choose how to approach and communicate with us.