Voice Awards Controversy

Lots of words have been written recently about the First Annual Voice Arts Awards. You can see their site and pretty much all the details of the ceremony and how it’s done at the presenting organization, SOVAS. (Society of Voice Arts and Sciences.) Voice Over Xtra has run a recent article interviewing Rudy Gaskins, one of the founders of the ceremony. VO Xtra has also covered other aspects of the organization, the why’s and wherefores, and so on. SOVAS has gotten press in quite a few places. They’re covered in everything from industry to Yahoo.

The reaction of the voice over community has been pretty evenly split into two camps. Some folks think this is awesome–that it’s a great investment, and a wonderful idea for an integral segment of the entertainment industry that has long gone under appreciated to finally have something to call it’s own. The other side basically sees this as being a ‘pay to play’ situation–the (few hundred dollars) entry fees being just another way to pay for exposure of your work and talents to…well, whom? They see paying to enter yourself in for an award that you’d win as self congratulatory at best.

Paul Strikwerda, the wonderful Nethervoice has penned his opinion, which covers both camps, and although he has a fair number of reservations, he says that rather than giving final judgement, we should perhaps give them a chance.

I’m not going to come down on either side of the fence. I can see both sides. Personally, I think the idea is great–why not create something to honor the hard work we all do? However, it’s the execution that has me wondering.

Joan Baker and Rudy Gaskins are known as the founders of the That’s Voiceover! Career expo. The number and quality of ‘famous names’ that they have as part of their endeavors is not small. With all these heavyweight people, what I’d like to know is why they’re coming at the awards ceremony concept from this direction–putting the cost and entry on voice talent.

To clarify, Joan and Rudy and their associates know loads of voice over hirers. They know advertising agencies. They are obviously capable of getting a reasonable amount of press for their endeavor. Why not approach those people that they know in the hiring and advertising camps, and persuade THEM that this is a great idea? If the hirers were entering, perhaps in an exchange for some advertising discounts, free press, the cachet of getting in on something new, then the ceremony would move beyond just the community and become something bigger and more profound. Lots of press and notice these days is given to recognizing the ‘little guy’. Those are the stories that often go viral.

Of course companies CAN enter, and I’m sure that some of them will! But the visible effort is being focused on the community itself, not on the folks who hire them. Rather than come to voice talent and say, “Hey, pay to enter this thing and be recognized!” Instead say, “Hey, these names and companies that hire you recognize this thing we’re doing, talk to your clients and tell them about how great it would be if you entered!”

In summation, I think Joan and Rudy and their organization has a great deal of potential. But the way it’s being presented, the way that it’s put together means that most of us would not go beyond congratulating ourselves if we won, and that we have to take their entire (unproven) premise of the value on faith. Perhaps, instead of asking if voice talents deserve their own ceremony, we should be asking should voice talents have to pay for something else to be recognized?



  1. Thank you for mentioning me in this ongoing discussion about the Voice Arts Awards, Karen. As I’m typing these words, my latest story on these awards (http://goo.gl/m3zKJN), is getting unprecedented traction. It definitively has the voice-over community talking!

    I don’t think money should ever be an arbiter of talent. Costly, non-refundable entry fees, and statuettes the winners have to pay for themselves… people don’t like that. It reminded me of a scheme my wife -who teaches flute and piano- is very familiar with.

    Every once in a while, she is approached by an organization that claims it can get her students to play in Carnegie Hall. At a hefty price, of course. Those who fork over a small fortune, will indeed end up on the podium of this venerable concert hall. For two minutes! After a quick pictures is taken, the students are escorted out of the building.

    Yes, they can forever say that they have played in Carnegie Hall. But did it mean anything?

    The same can be said about these Voice Arts Awards. How much value can one attach to winning, if that category only had four entries and two nominations?

    • Karen Souer says:

      You’re welcome Paul! Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I am familiar with a similar scheme myself-when I was younger I was published in a poetry compilation…after I paid for it! I think it says a lot about the way the community is structured that many see no problem with paying when there is no traction inherent for being recognized by anything other than fellow voice talent!

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