Big League VO is where some of the meatiest, most lucrative voice over jobs are acquired, but the latest news out of the traditionally union-dominated Manhattan voice over scene may surprise you.
Find out how the US economy continues to take a bite out of union work.
Big League VO
One year has passed since we last met with Super Agent Billy Serow and heard him speak on the topic of Big League VO. While the man and the agent are still the same, the way the game is played has changed considerably.
For those of you who don’t know Billy Serow, Billy started out as an actor who later moved to the other side of the dinner table to work as a casting director, followed by becoming a voice over agent working at William Morris representing celebrities. Although William Morris paid the bills, Billy’s heart was set on developing talent more than further lining the pockets of established personalities. He enjoys making people stars, not servicing stars, which led to his current position as a voice over agent at Abrams Artists Agency where he has been for the past six years.
The Abrams Artists Agency voiceover department has 6 agents. They make money for their talent in every possible venue using the human voice.
Sounds pretty normal so far, doesn’t it?
The Conversation Took a Decidedly Different Turn
Fact: The voice-over world is rapidly changing.
When Billy first got into commercials, 95% of national network commercial jobs cast in New York City were union jobs and 5% were non-union jobs.
Commercials are the mainstay in the union field.
In recent years that reality has dwindled. Non-union network voice-over commercial jobs in New York City now account for 38% of the work and climbing while only 62% presently remains union voice-over work.
For union talent (SAG / AFTRA), that’s a tough pill to swallow — for a franchised union agency, that’s a wake up call.
The non-union sector is growing in leaps and bounds and uncertainty is ravaging the landscape, overshadowed by a thick cloud known as “New Media”.
Big League VO has Found Itself in the Wild West
The new frontier of New Media is quick to move and the unions have yet to find a satisfactory and standardized way of handling work contracted for mediums and applications such as podcasts, DVDs, mobile devices, cell phones, viral marketing campaigns and Internet.
Let’s be clear: There is no contract for œNew Media.
Example: A commercial that was on radio first and then re-broadcast online has additional fees. Online use post-broadcast is billed at the equivalent of 3 session fees ( $400 per session ) = $1200 for 1-years rate. That being said, when the audio is procured initially for distribution via New Media and then subsequently applied to other mediums, there’s nothing in place to charge for usage of the material.
If you think this subject sounds familiar, take a moment to remember the Writer’s Guild of America strike last year and think ahead to the imminent discussions SAG will take part in with producers regarding issues of compensation for usage of broadcast material in New Media.
US Economy Poses Challenges for Union Talent
The US economy is in danger of entering into some murky waters and as a result union work is becoming harder to come by and negotiate each day. Enter Financial Core. Some people in the union struggle with the thought (and some with the reality) of taking non-union jobs just to make enough money to support their families. In most cases this would be impossible, but not where Financial Core is concerned.
In a nutshell, Financial Core is the only way for union members to do non-union voice-over work without being scrutinized or risk excommunication by the union. While work can still be pursued on both union and non-union terms, the individuals who apply for the status of Financial Core do lose some privileges such as the right to vote on union politics and attend union functions.
Several years ago, there was a glaring stigma associated with having Financial Core status in the union, but the stance held on the issue has become seemingly less stringent and more forgiving in recent months.
This Is The Sound of an Industry Changing
What happens now? Many are debating over whether or not to join the union considering the financial outlook, diminishing signatories who hire union talent, and increasing percentage of non-union jobs.
With living expenses on the rise, an uncertain economy, sparring unions, and fewer union jobs to go around, some people will need to make difficult decisions in order to get by.
What Do You Think of All This?
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