The Myth of Competition

There's Enough Pie for Everyone!

 

When I was an acting major at the University of Calgary, I remember a librarian on the Fine Arts Floor and I trying to solve a mystery: despite the card catalogues proclaiming that several compendiums of monologues were catalogued as having a specific monologue I was looking for, (I was an after a unique audition piece for upcoming general auditions which would be one that the panel hadn’t seen before or hadn’t tired of — I wanted to avoid being the fifteenth “Saint Joan” they’d seen that day…) —  none of the compilations seemed to have the audition piece despite a careful scan of each page…until the librarian pointed out a razor cut near the spine — and the specific page containing the monologue was missing. Someone had taken out an X-Acto knife and had removed the monologue from the book — not due to a shortage of photocopying change. The librarian had seen it before in the law library: so fierce was the competition among law students to be the only ones familiar with obscure law cases, (and the perceived importance of no one else being privy to that case) that they meticulously removed them from law texts to give them that extra edge. 

Not long ago, I was in the roster of an online voice talent agency which had a web interface where talent could upload their auditions — but any approved talent, after logging in, accessed a page which displayed *all* the talent’s full names, e-mail addresses, and audition files — which could be listened to by other talent; but more importantly — and more sinister — could be easily corrupted, deleted, or replaced by anyone who chose to. After numerous problems with just that kind of thing happening, the interface was changed to be more insular, compartmentalized, and private — and the agent being more aware of the sometimes cutthroat nature of competition among artists. 

In every industry, one must realize that no matter how specific your skills; regardless of how much experience and acclaim you may have earned doing your job — there’s someone else out there doing it too. Maybe no so well or with not so much flair — or perhaps more, who knows? Especially with what I do — the voicing of telephony systems — I tend to feel, well, *rare*. I work alone; I transact with my clients, and generally keep my head down. It’s an unusual and oddball profession — an instant hit in every “what do you do for a living?” conversation — and along with its uniqueness comes with the feeling that I’m on an island. Nobody does what I do. And certainly: nobody shares my “niche”.  And then, just this week, I stumble across a website of a colleague of mine — another well-known telephone voice whose name I’ve seen on talent rosters we’ve both occupied — and her client list (while different) is as vast as mine. Her testimonials crow of her talent, professionalism, and reliability, much as mine do. Her demos are strong; as are mine. In short, we’re both doing the same thing, at approximately similar levels of skill, and enjoying roughly the same amount of success in pursuing our careers. 

Nothing wrong with that, is there? 

Actually, there’s *precious little* wrong with that. That she has a bounty and I have a bounty simply reinforces the notion that there’s enough to go around. (And we’re not the only two telephone ladies out there.) We’re both able to cultivate and retain clientele — and invite new ones in weekly. Her successes don’t detract from mine, or the converse — and there’s probably room for twenty more just like us, and we’d all be able to make our way.  For the same reason that there’s a gas station adorning all four corners of every intersection of a typical large city, and why there is an unexplainable cabal of *seven* Starbucks all within a three-block radius in the city where I live — and they all thrive — there’s room for everybody. 

I tend to err on the side of minding my own business (literally) and not spending too much time keeping track of what my “competition” does. The corporate mentality is quite counter to this: companies monitor very closely the activities of competitors — to analyze what they do and improve on it. To make sure that their company’s information, procedures, and practices are proprietary and guarded and to make the best use of all of those key aspects which your rivals have left unguarded. 

While I’m not recommending a free and unlimited interchange of secrets — and fully acknowledging that I, myself, am a little miserly with sharing contacts and lucrative leads with other voice talent (especially female) — I do fully realise that there’s enough pie for everyone. And it may not involve literally handing over leads or sharing information — it might be as simple as working honorably alongside each other respectfully, in an open-hearted way. There’s room for everyone to prosper, and a monologue which was spared the knife and stayed attached in the book; and was memorized and expertly performed by a wide range of actors will be different in each performer’s treatment of the material. Even the sixteenth Saint Joan they’ve seen that day. 

Thanks for reading, and next week, I’ll explore the considerable uses of voice-over in the arena of Real Estate — I’ve described more “adorable split level bungalows on a quiet cul-de-sac” than I’ll ever occupy!

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6 Comments »

  1. Grant Said:

    Well put. I made peace long ago that it’s usually not about how “good” or how “talented” I am, but rather they either like me more than the otehr guy for this gig, or they like the other guy more than me. In 95% of cases, theres *nothing* I can do to change that fact. Casting is subjective. I suppose I could try keep opportunites secret, but I figure my peers will find out about them, and then I’ll just look like a douchebag. Life’s too short.

    • voicegal Said:

      Amen to that!

  2. A short-term acquaintance of mine offered me a lead to what I was made to believe to be a potential long term client. I was told it would cost me and I graciously offered to point this acquaintance toward gigs that might be a good fit or offer referrals when I was not a good fit for gigs. I was told that it was worth more than lip service and a price was suggested. Jeeze, nothing like a self-asigned agent. Like I said, this was a short-term acquaintance.

    • voicegal Said:

      You know, others have suggested I charge for giving leads, or start charging for advice under the header of “mentoring” — it just has never sit right with me. Either you bestow a jewel on someone, or you become an agent — and nobody wants that 😉
      What incredibly insightful comments from this week’s blog! I got me a bunch a smarties reading my stuff…

  3. Rory Said:

    I’ll second that, sister! A myth, and a piece of ignorance.

    We feel less competitive toward a family member. We only need to see we are all family.

    • voicegal Said:

      Rory: I actually wondered — not that long ago — why I wasn’t more worried about competition. I think it’s a sign that I’m too busy and content. Imagine being worried about not being more worried!


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