Pay to play sites are here to stay. Voices and Voice123 rule the roost for now, but they have some of the highest yearly fees and lowest quality gigs around. They're the Wal-Mart of P2P's; no gig turned away, no budget too small. Sure, there are more gigs than you could possibly ever audition for, but after being on Voices for about nine months now, I'm frustrated by the sheer number of postings with incredibly poorly written copy, or "sample" scripts that comprise entire 500-word plus projects, or hilariously microscopic budgets (I know I'm still a rookie, but I'm not doing a national TV spot for 100 dollars and neither should you). Voices has been a decent learning experience if nothing else, giving me access to tons of active copy that occasionally does lead to paid work. However, there are other sites out there that are definitely worth exploring and possibly investing in. #1 - e-Learning Voices/Commercial Voices
These sites are run by VoiceOverXtra's Rick Gordon. These sites target specific fields of VO, maintain small rosters of vetted talent, and encourage clients to select talent based off of their profiles and demos rather than have everyone compete through auditions.
#2 - Kingdom Voices
Having a niche is crucial for anyone's business. Kingdom Voices deals only with faith-based voice projects. Again, they vet their talent and keep their rosters small, something I think all working VO artists would want in a site. While I don't have personal experience with the site, their annual rate is much lower than Voices and the profiles allow for videos in addition to audio demos. Worth checking out if you want to work with faith-based communities.
#3 - United Voice Talent
While it's not the prettiest site in the world, I'm frequently invited to UVT auditions, all of which are well worth the time investment. Their pay structure is based on "talent hours", which are reflective of current union rates. It's audition based and you're not allowed to contact the client on your own, but at least the rates are fair and you're not inundated with hundreds of postings that aren't worth your time. Talent, again, is pre-qualified and there is no yearly fee. If you're in the VO game already, this one's pretty much a no-brainer.
Ms. Tish, a great voice talent in her own right, recently got into the casting game with this site. It's still very new, but being a talent herself, her approach takes the talent into consideration. With no fees, quality auditions, and personal email invites to pre-vetted talent (are we seeing a trend here?), Ms. Tish really seems to be moving in the right direction. I've already started seeing auditions for some great projects from Ms. Tish, and I look forward to seeing where she goes next.
#5 - Voiver
Voiver is still in beta, but I'm very excited to see where this one goes. They're handpicking talent and have some very promising features in the pipeline. Without giving too much away, they're changing the way the talent interacts with the client. Usually these sites operate in relative anonymity. I rarely talk directly to a client with Voices, rather I just get a yay or nay dispensed through the booking agent. Just because we're working online from home studios doesn't mean we have to through out the old way of doing things. I have high hopes that this site will really get it right when it comes to building lasting professional relationships, rather than simply getting a project done as cheaply as possible, as seems to be the case with Voices and Voice123.
Hopefully, with all of these sites taking a smaller, more personalized approach to the P2P (or F2P, as some of these are now) business model, the big names will finally get the hint that they need to screen their talent, screen their clients, and offer more reasonable rates. Of course, a balanced approach utilizing all of these tools, as well as the traditional routes of casting agencies, mailing campaigns, cold calling, and good old fashioned word of mouth are all needed to be successful.
Know of any other casting sites worth talking about? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll add them up here.