How Much Do Voice Actors Earn?

CareerBuilder.com writer Rachel Zupek lists “10 jobs cooler than yours” via CNN.com:

10. Voice actor

Cool factor: Everyone knew Don LaFontaine, the infamous voice behind thousands of movie trailers, TV advertisements and network promotions. Voice actors also loan their chops to movies and cartoons. Wouldn’t it be neat to have your voice be familiar to the whole world?

If you’d like a less publicized career in television, look to work behind the scenes in advertising.

Average annual salary: $47,000. If you have a highly recognizable voice, you’ll probably get paid more.

[And since he's not properly identified in the photo that accompanies the article, it's voice actor Joe Alaskey from the premiere of Looney Tunes: Back in Action.]

Like others reading this, I was curious to know how they arrived at $47k as the “average annual salary” of a voice actor.

Ever since it was reported in June 2008 that The Simpsons cast earns $400K per episode, this has become a frequently asked question at conventions and via message boards. But asking a professional voice actor directly how much they earn is getting just a little too personal. I have, however, read and been told various estimates, but it always differs based on the individual. And with the way the industry works, it would be a very difficult task to calculate an average annual salary for a voice actor…well, unless you work for the IRS.

CBSalary.com is cited as a source for the article, but I would really like to know what sort of statistical data is used (and where it comes from) that they offer they following as estimated annual earnings for each of these voice-related fields:

- Voice Over Talent and Voice Over Announcer: $42,707.

- Voice Over Actor: $50,506.

- Voice Coach: $58,109.

It’s also interesting to note that $59,462 is listed as the “peak salary” for both “Voice Over Talent” and “Voice Over Announcer,” and yet the peak for “Voice Over Actor” is estimated at $71,036. And $31-33k annually is considered on the “low end” of the spectrum, which I’d be content with if I were earning just 10% of that per year as a voice talent.

Like they say, it’s nice work… if you can get it.

Update/Addendum: 1.07.2010

Since the above article was originally published, it has since ranked #10 for this blog’s top 10 most-viewed for 2009. Apparently there are a lot of people out there curious to know how much voice actors earn as two of this blog’s top 10 keyword searches were also related to this topic (“voice actor salaries” and “how much do voice actors earn”).

I found some other stats related to this topic via a great piece on VoiceOverXtra.com by voice actor Jennifer Vaughn in which she offers a very thorough evaluation and comparison between the “pay-to-play” voiceover casting sites Voices.com and Voice123.com.

Jennifer says she has nearly 20 years of experience in the industry, and she took the time to offer a complete report of her personal statistics for the two sites — “what’s working and what’s not,” and says she believes she has “discovered a trend that may have an impact on how many perceive these sites.”

The article itself is chock full of great insight and advice (and it’s a highly recommended read), but what will be of greater interest (as it relates to my earlier report) are details she gives on income she earned through the two sites:

I…track all of my marketing efforts. Here are the 2009 stats for just two of those efforts: auditions and bookings from Voice123 and Voices.com from January 2 through December 30, 2009.

Voice123: Auditioned exactly 221 times, which resulted in 14 closed projects for the year, resulting in $8,550 gross income for 2009. Two were union jobs, and three required ISDN.

Voices.com: Auditioned exactly 480 times, which resulted in 17 closed projects for the year, resulting in $10,405 gross income for 2009. All were non-union jobs.

All totalled, the combined work from these two web sites brought only $18,955 of income – for auditioning an hour per day, and then doing the actual voice work to obtain that income.

My closed projects with Voice123 and Voices.com amount to just a tad over 2% of my overall voice-over income annually.

Math and I have never gotten along well, but if my calculations are correct I believe Jennifer inadvertently told us that she earns around $850,000 annually.

My advice to new talent and professionals out there: if you want to be as successful as she is, go see what she’s doing @ JenniferVaughn.com and study it. The best way to learn in VO is to listen. Jennifer also offers a detailed VO how-to section on her website.

Update: 2.05.2010 — In an interview with TimesUnion.com, it’s stated that Yolanda Vega, voice of the New York Lottery, “makes $85,000 a year working full time for the state,” a job that also includes serving as spokesperson for promotional appearances “and deflecting criticism of the lottery.”

Update: 2.06.2010 — See my related report on Vanity Fair’s Top Hollywood Earners of 2009 with celebrity earnings from voicing animated feature films.

Update: 2.10.2010 — Excerpts from a Feb. 2008 article on VoiceOverTimes.com — “Actors Score $500K for Video Game Voice Overs”:

According to Screen Actors Guild rules, union voice actors can expect to be paid $760 for one four-hour recording session.

That’s just the fee for a professional voice actor with union status.

Now, if you were to talk celebrity voice talent, that figure increases exponentially. Speaking to Reuters, Blindlight production company general manager Lev Chapelsky said that some stars have demanded $750,000 for an hour’s worth of work, and one voice actor actually received $500,000 for a single session. Chapelsky told Reuters that top talent commonly receives “in the high five figures for a single session.”

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