You know this adage – Fast, Good, Cheap – Pick any Two? Technological advances are putting this saying to the test – with people wanting (and many times getting) all three. The principal of the “Long Tail” – originally used to describe a retailing concept of selling a large number of unique items in relatively small quantities – is another factor in the evolution of this axiom. Apply the long tail to voiceovers and it means creating lots and lots of product that will be seen or heard by fewer and fewer people. Think about the growing number of niche television, radio, YouTube channels. Fewer eyeball and ears? Maybe. Maybe not – considering the population of the world.
So how is this affecting Fast, Good, Cheap?
When it comes to the voiceover business, particularly at the first stage – voiceover auditions – Fast reigns supreme. With online casting (either through agents or Pay to Play sites), you are expected to get your auditions in as soon as humanly possible. If you work a day job and are trying to pursue VO work on the side, this means that in some cases, the auditions are closed before you even have a chance to sort through them.
You can’t let your email collect during the day and only chose to check it now and then. The BlackBerry and iPhone are part of your tools these days. Agents and clients simply expect that you will be available and be able to respond. You need to be Fast.
But along with Fast, your audition must be Good. You need to know how to lay down a couple of good takes with contrasting reads in the shortest amount of time so that you can deliver it Fast. And the simple fact is that you need to do this in a vacuum – this is the reality of today’s online casting. Actually – creating the final product these days is also frequently self-directed, so learning how to create Good reads that are “right” for the job is paramount. You have to wear all the hats – writer, producer, director and talent. Listen to all of those voices in your head and get a Good audition out Fast.
This may be hard to do for the seasoned (read older) talent used to directed auditions in studios with other actual living breathing people around. It may be hard for the newer talent who may not know exactly where they fit and what auditions they should be doing. Both scenarios will result in auditions that are not quite “Good” enough.
Unfortunately, with the reality of online casting and delivery of final product combined with the depressed economy and the trend toward niche marketing, there are more and more jobs demanding all three – Fast, Good and Cheap.
The end clients are “selling” less of more. Which means one of two things – they need to charge more for their product, or they need to spend less on everything else. As media gets more and more splintered, with fewer eyeballs and ears seeing or hearing the end product, it is going to be harder and harder to maintain rates. Eyeballs and shelf-life are two ways that rates have traditionally been negotiated. Volume and frequency of work are other ways to caress a budget or bid. But when it comes to shelf-life, even if a spot or a project is supposed to be for a limited audience and short-lived, consider that once something is posted online, it can live forever.
There will always be higher visibility projects or projects with longer shelf-life, or more distribution channels, so for the cream of the crop, there will still be mortgage money coming in. But working Cheap, or working for less than established norms, is becoming more and more common.
There are talented voiceover folk (experienced and newbies) who meet the Fast part by being one of the first few auditions; who meet the Good part by knowing how to find the “right” read; and who also meet the Cheap part by accepting a sub-par rate.
The tricky part in all of this is that we are in the middle of a huge change in the way we all do business, so what was once a sub-par rate may end up as accepted. While it has become easier to produce multimedia Fast, producing Good media is still an art form. Which is why it shouldn’t be done on the Cheap.