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What is Voiceover?

What is Voiceover?

Well, basically it’s anytime a voice is heard without seeing a person’s lips moving in sync. There are times when a voiceover person’s job is to replace someone else’s voice and they have to end up back in sync, but mostly is being heard and not seen. Radio is the ultimate Voiceover. Voiceovers are used for radio and TV commercials, program announcements, narrations, cartoons, audio tapes, multi-media, telephone message services, etc. Use your imagination! (Scroll down or use your back button to return to the VO Info page index.)

What is the voice talent’s goal and why?

Your job is to read “copy” in a natural, often conversational style-without sounding like you have the words written on a piece of paper in front of you, and to do this quickly-without a lot of preparation or direction. In many cases you are specifically selling a product. In every case you are communicating a specific message to an audience. If you are one of those people who has been told you have a nice voice and should do something with it — or if you are a DJ thinking about doing commercials on a free lance basis — or you are an actor whose agent is suggesting you make an audio demo — you may need to do some critical self-evaluation before leaping into this with credit cards a blazing. I am working on a pre-voiceover book that will help you step your way through this self-evaluation process. Stay tuned!

How do you do this?

What the Producer expects …


Know Your Abilities

Know your Tools and Techniques

What About the Demo?

A performer’s demo is usually the first way a producer will hear what your voice sounds like. In around a minute and a half (or even less) they should be able to gain a clear picture of your range and versatility.

A demo should contain actual samples of an actor’s BEST and MOST RECENT work. However, many people (beginners and pros alike) will put together a demo that contains some, or possibly all, “faked” spots. Beginners don’t have the samples and many pros find that over the years they become type cast in a style and must create new material to keep their demos fresh.

Some people have several different demos for different markets. If you have a good range and can do commercials, animation, promos and narrations, you may need four separate demos.

Your Demo Should Be:

Why a Professionally Recorded Demo?

Where Do You Make a Demo?

Find a professional audio recording studio that has a music and sound effects library. Do not attempt to make one at home unless you have top notch capabilities in equipment and editing experience. Look in the phone book, network, get recommendations. Post a message on the VoiceOver CyberStation as to where to find the best studios in your home town.

How Much Should It Cost?

Hourly rates range from $50 to $100 per hour. You should figure your time in the studio (or with the producer/engineer) in chunks. Planning with the producer/engineer (an hour or less). The actual recording time (an hour, not much more than that). Then the review time (this could be done over the phone). What you don’t see is all the time the engineer/producer will spend putting your tracks together. Try to negotiate a package deal — tell them it is for a demo. Make sure materials, music drops and sound effects are included in the hourly rate or package deal. But demos produced in major markets to compete with major market talent will run over $1,000.

Also, you may have noticed the word “producer” in the previous paragraph – it’s a good idea to have a 3rd ear at the session other than yourself and the engineer – someone who can help “direct” the session. While some engineers are also voice talent, they may not be able to direct you into the variety of reads that you need to shoot for. Some voice over coaches will provide this service as well. Expect to pay around $75 per hour – more or less depending on the kind of package offered.

Duplication – The Easy Part

Well, sort of. These days you have to decide how to distribute your demo — CD, cassette, Internet, all three. You will need labels for all of them with current phone numbers. Don’t get too many made at first. You need to be sure that the demo is hitting the right targets before mass duplication. As each day passes, cassettes are going out and CDs and Internet are in.

You’ve Got Your Demo Done … Now What?

It isn’t enough to have a good demo. You have to get it into the hands of the people who actually do the hiring. You need to do some marketing. In fact, you need to do a LOT of marketing and promotion to get your demo heard…including agent representation, cold calls, snail mail, e-mail, web sites, networking, and volunteering.

This is where you start to work. Getting the job means pounding the pavement. Take/send your demo to advertising agency broadcast producers/creative directors, talent agents, production companies, video producers, and even directly to potential clients.

Get listed on web sites – the free ones pretty much take any one, so consider how your demo will compete with other people listed on the site. The paid sites are a bit more discriminating, but if you are solicited to be on a website in exchange for some of your advertising budget, do some research before handing over that credit card number. Explore their system. Is it easy to locate specific kinds of talent, or is everyone in a long alphabetized list? How much traffic does the web site get? What kinds of people are actually using the site to look for talent? Ask some of the other talent on the site how they think it’s working for them?

Know something about the business climate by reading local trade publications/ columns/special articles. Follow-up with your contacts every couple of months, by phone or post card at least. This is a tough, competitive business and you need to learn the hustle, as well as have the talent.

Get an Agent?

While not a necessity, being represented by a voiceover agent is good for the voice artist. However, in some parts of the country “getting an agent” is easier said than done.

In many larger markets, you’ll need to be “introduced” to the agent by a producer or director. This means the agent gets your demo along with a personal letter touting your abilities. Yes, in these cases it really is whom you know! Agents in smaller markets may be more open to unsolicited demos.

Do your research to find out how each agent takes submissions. They will either have this information posted on their web sites, or they will include the information in their opening phone message. Be sure to follow the directions as explained by each agent. Not doing so will result in your demo ending up in the trash.

Of course, all of this is predicated on the presumption that you have a professionally recorded demo that will compete with the other voice over demos in your market. And a second presumption is that you can easily recreate the delivery of everything that is featured on your demo.

Market, Market, Market

A good agent will do some minimal marketing of their agency’s capabilities – not specifically your capabilities – by sending out a House Demo once a year or so to key potential clients. You will be asked to provide a short audio clip that will be compiled on a CD with the rest of agency’s voice artists.

The agent’s primary job is to respond to incoming calls for talent and negotiate compensation. They do not make calls on your behalf. You need to be actively involved in your own marketing efforts.

You can be the most talented voice over talent in your neck of the woods, but if no one actually listens to your demo, then you won’t be paying your bills off voice over work. On the other hand, you can be moderately talented and make a living doing voice-overs if the people who sign the checks have your demo in their hands.

Pick up the Phone!

One of the most effective methods of contacting people is on the telephone. “Ick! I hate to make cold calls.” Yes, don’t we all. But take a lesson from Marketing 101, pre-screen your contacts. This way the people you end up talking to will be the ones interested in your services. You don’t want to spend a lot of time or money with people who simply don’t need voice over talent.

Depending on the type of demo(s) you have, your cold call list will vary. For the sake of brevity (and we know that web site content should be brief), we’ll use a Commercial Demo as our example. Your cold call list would include Advertising Agencies, Radio and TV station production departments and Production Companies that make radio and TV spots.

Not all Ad Agencies or Production Companies produce radio and TV spots, so you need to find the groups that would most likely be in a position to actually use your services. A lot of radio and TV stations produce low-end spots that don’t pay well, but if you are just getting started and need to test your skills, this may be a good way to break in. Most large cities have local directories that include long lists of Ad Agencies and Audio/Video Production Companies. If you can’t find a specific directory of creative types, use the Yellow Pages.

Start Smiling and Dialing

The first words out of your mouth, other than a polite hello, should be to ask if the company produces radio or TV spots. If they say no, then thank them and get off the line. If they say yes, then ask for the name of the Creative Director, Producer, or Production Manager. Alternately you might ask for the name of the person who would most likely listen to voice over demos.

Verify the spelling of the person’s name and the correct mailing address. Get an e-mail address if possible for follow up. If you can, try to speak directly to the contact and let them know that you would like to send them a demo. They usually will say sure, go ahead. Think about it. This is a very subjective business, the more options they have — the happier they are!

Your Demo is Your Business Card

Your CD demo should be at the ready for a wide variety of marketing and networking. Send them out to your pre-screened contacts. Bring them with you when you attend meetings. Have a couple stuffed under the seat of your car in case you run into someone who needs voice talent. That happens a lot more than you would think.

The demand for professional voices is actually increasing as technology advances. While this article is focusing on radio and TV spots, there are more and more non-traditional uses for voice talent. Bear in mind that you need to customize your demo for the different markets, but the general approach to marketing remains the same. Figure out who is in need of your voice style (or styles) and be sure to get the right demos into their hands!

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