There’s a new online voiceover audition site that’s getting some buzz called VoiceGarden.com. Sweet Spot supports fellow entrepreneurs so we interviewed founder Keith Gilbert to learn more about the site.
Sweet Spot: For being a relatively young guy, you are certainly of the entrepreneurial spirit! What did you study in college and what other businesses have you started in the past?
Keith Gilbert: I studied Business Management. When I was younger, I was very interested in “internet marketing” and learned by selling products online, promoting affiliate programs, and building websites. I’ve learned a lot since then, and I’ve also run another business selling electronics and software online.
SS: What’s the best lesson you have learned thus far about being a business owner? Anything that surprised you specifically about the voiceover industry?
Keith: It’s hard to pick just one! Perhaps one of the biggest, however, is to be disciplined, work hard, and learn from all your experiences. With running your own business, you’ve got to be self-motivated and disciplined, and running my own business has helped to instill these traits in me. What’s surprised me most about the voiceover industry — or more specifically, the voice actor pool — is how wide-ranging it is. There are all kinds of people working in different areas, with different backgrounds, philosophies, and personalities.
SS: Were you ever a vo actor/performer yourself?
Keith: I was not. (Although, as a five-year-old, I would use a tape recorder to make my own audio books and sell them on cassette tape to my parents… so that’s a start, right?)
SS: You say on the site that you became familiar with voiceover through your previous ventures. What drew you to voiceover and starting this company? When you were hiring vo actors for your other ventures, where did you seek them out?
Keith: I always liked the voice over industry. I simply found it fascinating that a good voice over can take a terrible sales video, for example, and make it into an amazing one. It’s a benefit that I now seek to share with other small businesses. I hired voice actors through other casting sites, and I was always amazed at what a difference it made in the professionalism of videos that I created.
SS: How many hours have you put in getting this business off the ground?
Keith: I’ve lost count! Probably hundreds of hours so far.
SS: When listening to voiceover demos to choose performers to be on your site, what do you listen for? What are some things for you that are a major no-nos?
Keith: I’ll be the first to admit that, by the standards of voice acting veterans, I am a untrained ear. But it’s not too difficult to hear the basics of who has talent and experience and who doesn’t. It usually only takes a few seconds to judge this. Major no-nos are not using good enough of equipment, and not knowing how to edit your recording so it sounds absolutely perfect.
SS: How will this site be different, if at all, from the other two major players (Voice123 and Voices.com) from a performer’s standpoint?
Keith: The biggest benefit that I can see is that you are never required to do any auditions to get a project at VoiceGarden. I’ve had multiple people email me, who are interested in being listed on VoiceGarden, who spent years on sites like the two you listed. They auditioned hundreds of times with one or zero jobs to show for it. That’s an hourly rate of $0! VoiceGarden is different, because the voice actor gets paid only when he or she is booked.
SS: One of your company’s missions is not to charge actors an upfront fee to be on your site, but rather you would take a commission, similar to an agent. The non-union voiceover market’s rates are quite varied. Can you speak to how you went about setting your rates?
Keith: I used my experience in knowing what small businesses can afford. Small businesses can use the benefit of a professional voice over, but they don’t have the budget for hundreds of dollars for a 60 second voice over, for example. So I set my prices at levels that are attainable for them, based on my personal, firsthand experiences.
SS: Some actors feel these rates are too low and a $37 job will hurt the industry. Can you speak to that?
Keith: I think that this view is extremely narrow-minded, and just wrong. First of all, at $37 prices, voice actors are getting a whole new section of the market that they weren’t before — small businesses. Apart from that, I believe that people should and generally do get paid what they are worth. If, as a voice actor, you are truly worth $1,000 an hour, you’ll have no trouble getting business. Now, I know that many voice actors do get paid this, and good for them! They are the ones that belong “on retainer” at Fox News, for example. But if you’re not getting business at $1,000 an hour, the problem is not VoiceGarden. The problem is that you’re not worth $1,000 an hour! That doesn’t mean that you don’t have a lot talent. It simply means that you can’t justify charging those rates.
SS: On your website it says vo actors can gain experience and build their portfolio. Is this a site you expect will attract mostly up and coming voiceover actors looking to gain some experience and then outgrow the site for better paying gigs or do you hope to list higher paying jobs as your site gains popularity?
Keith: Yes and no. My goal is to have the site open to any voice actor who wishes to remain on the site. Any voice actor is free to come and go as he or she pleases. If a certain voice actor has gained experience and is “moving up” in the industry, so to speak, he or she is welcome to leave VoiceGarden at any time. The rates at VoiceGarden will adjust based on supply and demand.
SS: There was a bit of confusion about your site and another voice coach’s site voiceovergarden.com. Jonathan Tilly claims you were subscribed to his newsletter for over a year before registering your domain name and reaching out to him about potentially cross promoting. He even made a video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yabJITcpHnU
Keith: His video is full of half-truths. Yes, I did subscribe to his newsletter for a year, but I actually started VoiceGarden.com before that, and before he even started his site. I purchased the VoiceGarden.com domain name on July 12, 2012. Here is proof: http://www.voicegarden.com/domain.png. He purchased his domain name, VoiceoverGarden.com, on July 15, 2012. This can be verified at http://whois.godaddy.com. I also hold the trademark for “VoiceGarden.” VoiceGarden.com was born before Jonathan’s site, despite what he may imply.
SS: Once voicegarden.com is wildly successful, what are your plans for the future – for the site and in general?
Keith: I’d of course like to expand the site, adding new features and innovations. I have a whole list of additions and goals, but I’m not quite ready to share them yet!
SS: Thanks for answering our questions Keith. We wish you every success!
Keith: Thank you very much for the opportunity for this interview!
If you are interested in signing up, please contact Keith at VoiceGarden.com.