A Standard in Which to be Recognized

I take my car to a locally owned garage here in Coupeville. I get along well with the mechanics and I’ve always driven away feeling like my needs were met. When I first moved to the area, I considered a few auto repair shops. One of the things I took into account was whether a shop had Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Certification. I understand what the certification stands for and know that it’s not easy to acquire. To be ASE Certified, mechanics take a number of exams, which typically only 66% pass on the first try. After passing, the mechanic provides proof of two years work experience and is then given certification. To maintain certification, the mechanic retests in five-years.

Can that model work for voice-over talent? There seems to be a divided certification camp.

On one side, the talent believes that being certified will provide them with peace of mind for having strived to meet the criteria for certification. Instead of listening to countless professionals with varying levels of experience and skill level for guidance as they grow their business, talents could refer to one organization whose goal is to improve the quality of voice-overs. I know that’s general in description but ultimately, that’s what certification is in any profession. Creating a standard by which to be measured. This helps talent seekers to weed out the crud and deal specifically with professionals who are qualified. No more wasted time with auditions that were recorded with a laptop microphone in the kitchen while dogs bark and kids scream in the background.

The argument against certification for voice-over talent is that it is simply not needed. There is nothing wrong with the state of the voice-over trade. People seeking artistic talent are not looking for anything other than somebody who can deliver the spoken word recording they need. Producers try out, through the audition process, any number of talent until they find the voice that fits their project. It’s not necessary to identify through certification that the talent can read as directed; has recording equipment and a decent, noise-free environment to record in. It will be obvious in the audition. It would not matter to voice-seekers that a talent’s web page or marketing includes a callout to their voice-over certification. It would not be clear what the certification represents or how it would benefit the results.

I’m aware of two players in the certification of voice-over talent. SaVoa.org is the first and is now going through somewhat of a reboot or reinvention of itself and appears to be close to taking applications again. The new kid in town is World-Voices.org, which has branded itself as “Voice Over’s new certifying Guild!” and is taking applications.

I’m an advocate for choice but I wonder if having two organizations that provide certification is worthwhile. Remember Blu-ray and HD or Betamax and VHF? While the competing standards had followers and each provided similar capabilities, there was only room for one ruler on each hill.

In my opinion, the best way for either to succeed is through aggressive marketing to voice-seekers paired with manageable ongoing educational guidance for certificate recipients. The first might make it apparent that considering a certified talent is more beneficial and cost-effective since the talent met an established standard. The second would encourage certified talents to continue building their skills with recognized educational paths. I’m sure there are others, but the certification should be couched as a “win/win” for seekers and talent.

I have mixed feelings about becoming certified and would like to hear your comments and opinions. What do you think? As a talent, what would be the advantage or disadvantage of being certified? As a talent seeker, could you be swayed to only work with certified talent?

To be, or not to be a CVT, that is the question.

22 thoughts on “A Standard in Which to be Recognized

  1. lindajoyvoiceover February 6, 2013 / 11:19 am

    Hi Christoper,

    Great topic! As our clients become more global, we adapt.

    For some countries certification is more important than others.
    In my experience, especially Europeans love authentications, seals of approval, and official recognitions.

    Whatever boosts our marketing leverage as we seek to establish ourselves in a global economy must be worth trying – furthering our craft beyond certification then translates into client retention.

    Linda Joy
    Linda@LindaJoyVO.com

    PS: I would rather be in Coupeville 🙂

    Like

    • JCDunn February 6, 2013 / 4:57 pm

      Hey Linda,

      Thanks for the comments and I understand what you’re saying. This may just come down to what’s most appropriate for a particular profession and it also might just be local specific. I know of a few voice-over folks who have won awards for their talent and proudly display them on their websites and in e-mail signatures. I say good for them. This is a form of certification or credentials, yes? I know when I win my first award, I’m going to shout it to the world that I’ve been recognized by somebody or team of somebodys that I’ve done good. If it gets me noticed by more clients, so be it. Oh, and there will be much partying. 🙂

      Good to hear form you, Linda.
      PS. It’s a blustery, overcast day in Coupeville. Nothin’but wind!!!

      Like

  2. Marc Scott February 6, 2013 / 2:52 pm

    Personally, I don’t see or get the point of certification for voice talent.

    Sometimes it feels like it’s a bunch of professionals trying to push out amateurs. I’m curious though, were those same professionals not amateurs once? Or did they immediately start at the top of the mountain?

    Instead of putting so much energy and effort into making organizations that give you a stamp of approval to say you’re legit, what if you devoted that same effort and energy into building your brand and business, thereby proving your legitimacy?

    I’m not saying I’m entirely opposed to the concept, I’m just not sure I’m onboard yet, based on what I’ve seen.

    Like

    • JCDunn February 6, 2013 / 5:11 pm

      Hi Marc- Good point. I speak therefore I’m a voice talent could be an easy to legitimize oneself. This business of speaking conversationally for money is already not a level playing field. Perhaps, certification would assist people to improve their chops and make them more successful because they took the time to grow. Or a person could devote the same effort (good or bad) into building their business and still suck. It’s all hypothetical but it’s interesting to think about.

      Now, the cool thing is, unlike many creative professions, people who have been in our biz for several years are not afraid to be helpful to those interested in developing theirs skills and becoming a voice talent. It’s a good family to be in.

      Like

  3. CourVO February 6, 2013 / 3:21 pm

    Thanks for writing about this, JC….

    World-Voices rose from the ashes of SaVoa, and anyone who thinks the two services are competing would be wrong. First of all, we see no signs that the single force behind SaVoa — Ed Gambill — can even mount an effort that would live up to its promises. It’s more than a one-man challenge.

    World-Voices is shedding the notion that accreditation or any kind of certification or endorsement is important. We see ourselves as an Industry Trade Group…a guild…that represents the interests of voice-actors in the marketplace. Not a union. Not an agency, but a community-building point-of-focus that advocates for the needs of thousands of individuals, and independent freelancers.

    Certification (by any name) probably DOES have a place in the business of voice-overs, but the push-back from established East/West coast talent and producers draws negative attention to this minor point.

    WorldVO.com is our new welcoming community for the voice-actor. The hard-working individuals who have thus far guided WoVO are working at the will of members, and can be voted out or in. All is transparent. We’ve drafted “best practices” documents for talent, producers, and coaches that we think offers a starting point in a conversation of how to improve our lot in the marketplace.

    Your article contributes to this conversation about our maturing business. Thanks for thinking through this concept, and articulating it so well.

    Dave Courvoisier
    VP, World-Voices Organization

    Like

    • JCDunn February 6, 2013 / 5:32 pm

      Dave-

      Thanks for the clarification about the new direction that World-Voices has taken by shedding the notion of accreditation. I was confused by information on the .org website with the details about double tired membership and the offer of free membership to past SaVoa members. My bad, I assumed.

      You mention that established talent have provided an amount of pushback on the notion of certification. I’m curious, what’s the big deal? Now, I’m not trying to sound flip, I just don’t have a clear understanding of the establishment’s position.

      I appreciate the feedback about my post. Having a news guy say that I’ve articulated something well is next to getting a gold star from Mrs. Farmer, my 4th Grade teacher. 🙂 Thanks!

      Like

  4. homestudiomaster February 6, 2013 / 4:34 pm

    JCD,

    WoVo is not going to be certifying anything. We’ve decided that its not in our best interest to be a “Certification Guild.” Whatever that is. Thats a holdover concept left over from what was SaVoa. It twas unworkable and caused too much controversy.

    World Voices Organization is going to be a true industry association that will act as a voice of “the industry.” That includes, Voice actors, Coaches, producers, agents and equipment manufacturers and other VO technical service providers. This is a total industry with many facets. Our mission is to educate, advocate and create a supportive community and network of professionals who have a common interest in making our industry a better place.

    Despite what you may have read, this was never about “who was better than who.” As far as I’m concerned, SaVoa doesn’t exist, never did as an organization and currently is just a 4th class P2P site run by the same con-man who who perpetrated the SaVoa scam on all of us.

    Our plan is to set standards of technical specifications as guidelines members should follow. No certificates of “I’m better than you.” Associate members need to prove their professional status to be come full voting members, but thats based on facts, not on subjective criteria. Thats all. So when you talk about WoVO, no Certification, accreditation, endorsement, good housekeeping seal of approval and ring kissing will be involved. Thats not what WoVO is about. Stay tuned for some major developments this Tuesday evening.

    Dan Lenard :-3)
    VP, of Technical Standards
    World Voices Organization.

    Like

    • JCDunn February 6, 2013 / 5:51 pm

      Hi Dan,

      Clarity comes with each feedback post I read about the state of WoVo and SaVoa. I’m looking forward to finding out what WoVo is going to become. How will it be different from the existing social resources already available to voice talent? You describe WoVo as “a true industry association”, could you provide an example of an exiting association that is specific to another profession?

      I’m aware of a number of people involved with WoVo, whose opinion and experience I respect, so I expect it will be nothing short of brilliant.

      The feedback that you and Dave provided has been super helpful. Please, keep us posted.

      Like

      • homestudiomaster February 6, 2013 / 8:05 pm

        Thanks JCD!

        An industry association is a vital part of any industry. And thats what we are, with the added uniqueness of being a multidiscipline profession. We are artists, technicians and business people. We need to speak as an industry. And this is different from the Union. The Union fills the needs of of working professionals by setting and enforcing labor standards, acting as the pay system and providing Education to a certain extent, as well as of course negotiating those standards with the producers.

        As an industry association, we hope speak for the ENTIRE industry. All those involved in the process of VO performing, coaching, representation, casting, producing, vendors of technology that allow us to do what we do. They all have a stake, and we want their participation. The benefits are somewhat abstract as they aren’t physical benefits that you hold in your hand like health insurance or a coffee mug. Its about promoting what we do and acknowledging excellence and achievement. Its about issues in the industry and how we can all work together to find common ground and mutual respect in proposing solutions, and stating what we as a collective community feel is in the best interest of the industry. Also very different from the social networks and forums. The new site is still in development as we refine these concepts. But I’m very excited about it as its what we’ve been proposing for almost 6 years, but we got sidetracked by the SaVoa mess. Now we can move forward.

        We’re modeling ourselves on some similar associations.

        Check out these sites

        IPSA
        http://www.ispa.org/?page=greetings

        PPA
        http://www.ppa.com/about/?navItemNumber=505

        ASMP
        http://asmp.org/articles/mission.html#.UQitz6UqZtc

        We want your participation and we welcome your input.

        Like

      • JCDunn February 7, 2013 / 10:15 am

        Hey Dan,

        Thanks for taking a moment to type out some details about how WoVo intends to represent everything VO. I took a quick look at the ASMP site to help me wrap my brain around what you’re proposing. I certainly see the benefits and appreciate the level at which the association’s offerings have been refined to those most meaningful to it’s member base. According to the site, “Membership in ASMP is a credential recognized world-wide as a commitment to professionalism, quality, ethics, and as a sign of proven experience.”

        So far, I can see WoVo as THE go to place for all things VO. I like the idea of having one reference that I could go to for guidance, education and business improvement. The cool thing is, belonging to WoVo does not prevent me from going elsewhere for similar info.

        Like

  5. Dave Wallace February 6, 2013 / 4:49 pm

    I’ll be omitting the name here in the interest of not sending any kind of massive negative reaction their way (if, in fact, the reaction to this is negative…who knows, it may not be). However, a person in the voice-over industry who I tremendously respect, and who is tremendously respected by many others, once urged me not to include *any* voice-over certification info on my site. The biggest problem, they said, was *who* was doing the voice-over certification…other voice actors.

    This person didn’t see why other voice actors saw fit to brand themselves as the standard-bearers for voice-over, and felt it was–again, their opinion, not necessarily mine–almost laughable that certification from other voice actors could be taken seriously. This person said that all the “certification” one really needs is happy clients and representation from a high-ranking agency.

    This person also mentioned, on a similar note, that they knew such an agent in such a high-ranking VO agency who cringed every time they saw the logo of one of these voice-over certifying guilds (not saying which one).

    For a while I wondered if that particular person was just bitter, but I’ve heard that opinion backed up several times since then by other highly-respected individuals in the VO industry. To quote an entirely different but also highly-respected person who I spoke with (again, I won’t name any names), “Nobody in LA will rep you if you have ‘certification’ info on your site…in the real world, the idea of ‘certification’ is a joke.”

    Me? I’m on the fence. I think certification could be a good idea, and I’m waiting to see if SaVoa and World-Voices will attract the attention and endorsement of an agency, which would really serve as a major boost to their credibility. I seriously applaud other voice actors for taking a stand and asking the industry to recognize that their should be some standards of quality where none existed previously. However, the “other side” of this argument has a very valid point: happy agents and–perhaps more importantly–happy clients, are far more effective signs a voice actor’s ability to deliver effective services.

    Like

    • JCDunn February 7, 2013 / 12:08 pm

      Hey Dave,

      This is not the first time I’ve heard the encouragement not to display or mention anything specific to training, awards, credentials, certifications and the like. Should we not be proud of our accomplishments and display them at will? Recognition of peers is a good thing. Is it subjective. Probably.

      I have the spot next to you on the fence. I am not convinced yet either way.

      Like

  6. Dave Wallace February 6, 2013 / 4:56 pm

    “…are far more effective signs of a voice actor’s ability to deliver effective services.*”

    Sorry, couldn’t help but correct myself…the former English Major in me insists on correcting my own grammar errors whenever I make them.

    Like

  7. Dustin Ebaugh February 6, 2013 / 8:39 pm

    Hi JCD,

    Thanks for publishing this article. You are giving us a chance to clarify a few misconceptions about WoVO and we all appreciate the opportunity.

    I am aware of numerous industry associations. There’s one for the telecommunications industry (http://www.tiaonline.org/), aerospace (http://www.aia-aerospace.org/), software (http://www.siia.net/) and plenty of others.

    Our goal at World-Voices Organization is to give our members a place to have discussions, to help each other with certain aspects of the business, provide advocacy when needed and eventually speak for our entire community. It’s not a seal of approval, but a community. If you’re in the community, then you’re a pro and you earned your spot. The apprentice membership is like a farm club. We intend to have pros helping out the new folks as each party wishes. It’s a way to grow our profession, not limit it.

    Really, the bottom line for WoVO is to help each other and provide an organization to which folks that perform in every facet of our business can communicate and coalesce.

    Thanks,
    Dustin Ebaugh
    President, World-Voices Organization

    Like

    • JCDunn February 7, 2013 / 10:24 am

      Dustin- I appreciate the time you and the other leading members of WoVo have taken to clarify the intent of this new association. The more I read the less clueless I feel. Thanks for that!

      Like

  8. Sum February 7, 2013 / 8:30 am

    That is called the union we already have established AFTRA IS supposed to be. Certification of work, study, professionalism.
    A place to uphold a certain standard.
    Are you a certified member?
    That is what has happened to VO
    Everyone sneaking around the certification to
    Get work for lower rates. May we add that conversation into the mix?
    It’s the Certification for acting that was crushed when they merged with the extras guild for strength. Any suggestions?
    Voice 123 and voices . Com let anyone is if they can pay their nonunion dues of 399.00 a year. What would you say if your agent asked you to pay that amount and then said the auditions will be opened up to thousands and “no” we can not guarantee you will ever even have your audition listened to by anyone.
    I apologize of that sounds rough but it is the truth. Also those sites 123 mainly can decide Not to send your audition based on any reason and not tell you until the job is booked. This is a service you just paid for yet they do not have to give you your monies worth.
    Those websites should be the first to get certified.

    Like

    • JCDunn February 7, 2013 / 10:50 am

      Hello Sum,

      First, I am not a member of AFTRA nor represented by an agent. The work I get is on my own.

      I’ve had a number of conversations with people about AFTRA and feel that membership does have its benefits. But membership is not for everyone. My exposure to agents has been experienced vicariously through voiceover talent that are represented. Most vo talent feel that they still need to rely on themselves to find work as many agent rosters are saturated with talent. However, agents are super helpful in securing auditions for better paying gigs and negotiating and writing contracts. Now, you can tell by my limited comments about agents that I just don’t have the life experience to draw from to express finer details.

      I’m unsure how being certified would benefit me and does being part of a union mean something? In my opinion, those are two distinctly different, suitable for framing pieces of paper. I am open to improving my business and working more.

      For people who are investigating the business of voiceovers, they should have at their disposal at least one identified body as the resource for everything VO. An organization that does not have a primary agenda of making money, but one that is truly interested in the growth of the industry it represents. It would be a great starting place. I would have loved, LOVED something like this during the beginning stages of setting up my studio. I made a lot of stupid mistakes mainly because I didn’t know any better and didn’t have enough experience to ask the right questions. Perhaps WoVo will be that resource.

      Like

  9. Antland Productions February 7, 2013 / 7:14 pm

    Hello – just to clarify: WoVO is NOT branding itself as you describe at all. They offer NO certificationsTo clarify, here is WoVOs new mission statement:
    The mission of World-Voices Organization is to strengthen, improve and promote the artistic, professional and economic success of freelance professional voice actors world wide. We are committed to integrity, creativity, and the pursuit of excellence and we advocate for the highest ideals and practices within all aspects of the voice over marketplace.
    Roy Yokelson – Antland Productions – WoVO Technical Advisory Committee Member

    Like

    • JCDunn February 8, 2013 / 10:14 am

      Hi Roy-

      The initial intent of WoVo.org WAS to be a replacement of SaVoa, an organization that provided certification to professional voiceover talents. At lest, that’s the way I interpreted the info I read.

      That was then. This is now. It has been brought to my attention, in great detail by Dave Courvoisier, Dan Lenard, Dustin Ebaugh and yourself that WoVo has evaluated that initial intent and has decided to become an “industry association” that is supported by a two-tiered membership. I was obviously confused.

      I GREATLY appreciate the update as many of the readers of this blog may have been confused as well.

      Sometimes it’s difficult to keep an eye on the bouncing ball. 😉

      Like

  10. kriskkaria February 11, 2013 / 5:52 pm

    I believe certifications in general are good, but I think it helps the person getting certified only. I don’t think it will help you get work in the current voice over environment which is lots of people chasing fewer jobs. I got certified as a purchasing manager many moons ago, but it never helped me get a better job and I’ve met more than one person with an MBA who couldn’t get a job either. I’m proud of my C.P.M. just as I’d be proud to be a certified voice artist or a member of SAG-AFTRA. I don’t expect any of them to get me jobs.

    Like

    • JCDunn February 13, 2013 / 4:32 pm

      Hey Kris- Yup, that seems to be the thought flow. Sounds good but won’t really help in the long run. Lots of hubbub but nothing meaningful. However, there are AFTRA folks who are working less than non-union folks, so I’m told. Hmm…

      Like

      • kriskkaria February 13, 2013 / 4:46 pm

        Being SAG-AFTRA gets you work in the entertainment hubs, NYC and LA and Chicago. In Seattle, our union folks always work less than the non union people, its just the type of work available here.

        Like

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