Dan Hurst - Voice Talent

Voiceovers In English or Spanish for commercials, narrations, Radio/TV Promos

 

 

Voiceovers by Dan Hurst in English or Spanish for commercials, narrations, and e-learning.

CLOSING OUT 2013

Published December 12, 2013

So, it’s been awhile since I wrote anything controversial. And now that I’m stuck at home with the flu and bronchitis, I figure it’s a perfect time to irritate and offend some folks. See, I have “plausible deniability.” I can claim delirium.

Having made my disclaimer, I’d like to offer my end-of-the-year observations of our VO industry.

First of all, the VO biz is healthier than it has EVER been! Ever!

See, it used to be locked up by a select few, but those days are gone! It was locked up nationally as well as locally! I remember when I was first starting out in the biz, I would hear over and over…Sorry kid, we use Drew Dimmel, or Jim Birdsall, or John Jessup, or any other established voice talent in Kansas City. Now, please know that those guys are friends of mine. I love ‘em, and I will NEVER measure up to them. But that’s the way it was!

That has all changed! While some clients want the celebrity voice on their spot (which makes little sense when you think about it – think baggage, competition, customers who don’t like the celebrity, etc), others are realizing it’s about a sound…a delivery…a style that will make the product standout. Celebrities don’t sell a product. Content and delivery do!

True voice actors are in a better place than they have ever been to carve their niche.

Secondly, I’m actually delighted at the influx of people into our industry. Of course there are folks that don’t really understand the demands of the industry. They’ll discover it pretty quickly. Of course there are the folks that will take advantage of that interest and sell them coaching and demos. Some of those businesses are legitimate,; some are not. Businesses will always exist and survive on the coat-tails of any significant industry. Nothing wrong with that.

But what I’m really delighted about is that there are thousands of people out there who are willing to dream and hope and challenge themselves. That is fundamental to surviving in this industry. Hey, for those of us for whom this is our livelihood, remember that dream? We owe it to our industry to do our part to encourage, mentor and build the talent base of the future.

Thirdly, more and more voice talents are settling for what they can get away with. Frankly, this disgusts me. This is not snobbery or elitism, but folks, if you are going to survive in this business, ignore the charlatans that will mislead you to think you can get away with cheap equipment “until you get to the point where you can afford better.” That’s a sell-out. If you have what it takes to be in the business, you need the equipment and service that will compete with thousands of other voice talents that will eat your lunch on every audition simply because they sound better!

C’mon! It’s a business! Invest in yourself! I don’t mean go out and borrow a bunch of money and buy the best of the best. I am a huge advocate of never going into debt in business. But seriously, if you’re trying to run a business with a USB mic plugged into your laptop, you’re not thinking big enough. You’re a hobbiest, at best. And you are most certainly settling for what you can get away with.

Yeah, so I’ll probably hear about that one.

Fourthly, VO marketing is not about getting your name out there so that people will hire you because they’ve heard about you. It’s about building relationships.

That’s the failure of how so many people use P2P websites (online casting websites). Any website that is built and promoted to get you “more work” from your auditions is misleading you. You get more work by building relationships with clients. I NEVER resent a client who hires another voice talent, but takes the time to let me know. That’s an open invitation to connect and begin building a relationship. THAT will lead to future opportunities! I know. I’ve got several ongoing clients that were developed that way.

And finally, fifthly (is that a word?), the voice talents that are entrenching themselves in this business are doing so by carving out a niche. The truth is, there is no real future in trying to be a “general practitioner.” That doesn’t mean that you won’t do work in several other areas, but once you get known as THE voice for a particular genre, you will find yourself smiling all the way to the bank from work in that area. For me it is eLearning, TV Promotions, Automotive, and Infomercials, in English or Spanish. Of course I do work in a variety of areas, but I have clients in those four areas that generally don’t even consider anyone else. They’re comfortable working with me. They know what I’ll deliver. And they don’t worry about my production, which is exactly the way they want it.

Quit trying to be all things to all people. You’re better off focusing on your strengths and uniqueness. That’s not to say that you won’t develop in other areas. As you mature in this business, you most certainly will develop other areas. We’re voice actors. We grow. We develop. But don’t make the mistake of trying to grow your business in the areas that you have not truly mastered.

So with that, I bid adieu to 2013!

Here’s to an awesome 2014! We deserve it!!!

THE RIGHT STUFF

Published October 12, 2013

One thing I’ve learned in the last couple of weeks is that quality pays off!

When I built my studio I decided to invest in good equipment, not settle for “what can I get by with.” I researched and bought equipment that I knew would create the sound that my clients would be happy with.

I put money into the structure of the studio – the acoustics, the design and the overall feel of the studio.

Yes, I made some mistakes along the way, but I corrected those as I discovered them. The result was a magnificent sounding studio that I am proud of.

But a couple of weeks ago things changed. We had a new roof put on the house. In the process, the roofers forgot to seal up a piece of flashing around the chimney that runs down along my studio. Sure enough, two days later we had a big storm – two inches of rain. All two inches of rain ran right down through my studio destroying part of the ceiling, part of the wall, and soaking the carpeting.

Fortunately, none of the equipment was damaged, but the room and the acoustics were terribly affected. Not to mention equipment that pulled out of service until the studio can be repaired.

But here’s the payoff of investing in the right equipment: I was quickly able to adapt, keep up with my work load, continue to provide my clients with their voiceover requests, and not miss any deadlines. Not only that, but business has continued as usual as I’ve picked up three new clients over the past week.

And here’s the kicker. In the middle of all the restoration process, a couple of clients have asked me to revise work that was done several months ago and I was able to match the sound of the original.

That’s what the right equipment will do for you.

Forgive my rant, but voice talents who settle for “whatever I can get by on” equipment, are not only asking for trouble, but are putting their clients in a vulnerable situation.

Voice talents: if you deserve to be in this business, you deserve to invest in quality equipment and learn how to use it. Clients: if you want consistent quality and ROI, hire voice talents that believe in themselves and in offering you great service and great equipment. It’s a win win situation.

STOP DOING THE BASICS

Published July 10, 2013

Well, that didn’t come out quite right.

Basics are important. You have to do them. The problem is that too many of us never get past the basics. If all you do are the basics, that’s all you’ll end up with. The basics.

A race car driver that never does more than the basics will never win a race. A musician that never gets past the basics will never write a masterpiece. A business that never goes beyond the basics will never know real success.

A builder friend of mine once said, “Every basic house I’ve built is still standing, but I can’t make a living off of basic.”

As a voice talent, if all I do are the basics, I’ll sound like thousands of other voiceover dogs out there trying to make a buck. I’ve never gotten a voice job because I sounded like everyone else.

In fact, one of the biggest ironies in the voiceover business is that clients who want a voice that “sounds like the guy next door,” don’t really want him to sound like the guy next door. What they really want is for the guy next door to think that he sounds like the voice in the commercial. But I digress.

Where was I?

Oh yeah. While the basics are important, they are not what win the race. So what do you have to do to move beyond the basics?

I once asked Bill Leach, an artist friend from many years ago, how he started a project.

His response was, “You start with the basics.”

“What are the basics?” I asked.

He answered simply, “A clean canvas. Everything else is everything else.”

In this voiceover business, the basics are pretty simple: Have a sound and delivery that clients want; have good equipment and know how to use it; and run your business with integrity and common sense. But it’s what you do beyond that which will determine your success. In other words, everything else is everything else.

With that in mind, here are 3 ideas to move beyond the basics.

Understand that the basics are the starting point.

The basics of any business are the foundation. That’s all. And every similar business should have those same basics.

So what sets you apart from every other similar business?

What do you have to offer that will appeal to a client?

By the way, if you answered “a lower price” you just lost round one. Good clients don’t want cheap, they want fair.

Respect the basics, but don’t let them limit you.

One of my favorite baseball pitchers of all time was Detroit’s Mark “The Bird” Fidrych (RIP). He had all the basics down, as do most professional ball players. However, his winning ways along with his absolute joy on the field and quirky behavior made him one of baseball’s favorites. When Fidrych hit the mound, it was something beyond the basics that made him a winner…and a crowd favorite.

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: “Stick with the basics.” Well, I’m here to tell you that doing that will shut your business down.

Of course you have to do the basics, but it is what you do beyond those basics that will determine your success.

Trust the basics, but do what you do better than the basics.

The business gurus have all kinds of terms for this: making your mark, defining your brand, elevating the elements, etc. But the practical side of it is simply what do you do that is better than others?

Now the amazing thing about this is that often this is something that others perceive, or sometimes it’s something that only you believe…until others discover it. On the other hand, there are those who are far better at what they do than they ever get credit for.

And, unfortunately, I’ve known way too many people and companies, and so have you, that think they are better at something than they are.

So, this is a tough one, but it is critical to moving beyond the basics.

I did something rather eye-opening personal research over the past few months. It was an in depth analysis of my business. I’ll save that story for the next blog, but I discovered something about my business.

I was doing all the basics in almost all categories of my voiceover business, but it was in those categories where I have a little extra “sump’n sump’n” that I’ve done my best. The problem that I discovered was that I was spending far more marketing dollars and efforts to generate business in the categories where I’ve got the basics down, but I’m not anything particularly special. I’ve wasted a lot of dollars and time!

It’s like trying to sell white paint. Have you noticed that paint companies don’t brag on their white paint. Why? Because basics don’t sell. Clients want something beyond the basics.

That’s why your auditions, your demos, your marketing, and especially what you deliver to the client needs to be beyond the basics. And by that I mean everything from your audio quality to your interpretation and presentation. What do you have to offer that is better than the basics?

Here’s the bottom line: you’re best at where you’re not basic. Oooh, that was good. Read it again!

Now go be unbasic.

THE LA / NY MYTH

Published May 5, 2013

I’ve noticed something about the voiceover industry.

There is a deceptive myth in the voiceover industry that to make it in this business you have to crack the L.A. or N.Y. barrier. It’s simply not true. Don’t think so? Look at the facts:

Various estimates for spending on advertising in the United States annually place the amount around $200 billion a year (over $500 billion worldwide). A surprisingly small amount of it is spent through L.A. or N.Y.

According to the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD), American companies spend about $20 billion a year on eLearning and sales training. Almost none of that money is spent through L.A. or N.Y.

It’s impossible to come up with a dollar figure for annual spending on corporate video/narration work because the way companies define and report spending for such projects is rather ambiguous, but it would appear that it is most certainly in the billions of dollars a year. However again, almost none of it comes through L.A. or N.Y.

So where does the myth come from?

Well, television programming and screen generally are produced through L.A. and N.Y. outlets. So, of course animation voicing and promotional voice work for TV and screen tend to come out of those markets. And yes, some commercials are produced by production houses in those markets. As a result, people assume that those two markets are the Meccas of our industry.

But it’s not true.

There is great production work being done in every city in the United States. Because of the technology, those production houses that use voice talent have discovered that it’s just as easy to work with a voice talent in any other market as it is to have one come into their studio.

In fact, do a quick internet research on talent agencies. You’ll find that the percentage of L.A. and N.Y. agencies servicing voice talent is equitable compared to the number of agencies in other markets. Then, look at where the auditions are coming from in the industry. The bottom line is there is more voiceover work available outside of L.A. and N.Y!

Without naming names, I have heard other major national voice talent say that they are able to get more work out of L.A. and N.Y after leaving those markets because the auditioning process is different and less demanding on the talent. One talent explained it this way, “When I was in L.A. I was required to go into a studio to audition for a job. That meant that at best, because of the traffic and conditions in L.A. I could only get to generally no more than four auditions a day. If I landed a job, that actually cut down on my auditions. Now that I’m no longer living in the market, they obviously can’t require me to come into the studio for an audition so I can get more auditions in. As a result, I can audition in numerous cities either by emailing an audition or by a live ISDN audition, and I get more work!”

Then, consider the exploding eLearning and corporate narration industry. Very, very few companies run these types of jobs through L.A. or N.Y. They tend to use local companies or production companies that specialize in these formats. In fact, my experience is that most of the eLearning work is coming from international companies.

How can you and should you take advantage of this situation?

Well, first of all you need to decide where you are going to make your mark.

If you’ve decided that you have to be part of the TV and screen industry then by all means connect with those outlets.

If you’ve decided that you can make your mark in the vast commercial world outside of L.A. and N.Y. go for it! Start locally and move out geographically. Find out who’s doing what. Connect with them and determine how you can fit into their needs.

Secondly, if you’ve decided to pursue the opportunities in eLearning and corporate narrations, pursue those options aggressively! You’ll find that almost all of those jobs are outside of L.A. and N.Y.

Believe me, the work is there. I was just copied on an internal memo that went out to the employees of a major eLearning company. The memo simply stated that they were aggressively seeking voice talents that could handle character and natural conversational deliveries “wherever we can find them.”

If you are one of the 95% (I’m guessing on that percentage) of voice talents that don’t live and depend on L.A. or N.Y. you can take heart. There is a lot of work out there – far more than in just those two markets.

THE NOT SO SECRET SECRET

Published April 11, 2013

I’m about to rock somebody’s world.

I had lunch the other day with a fellow voice talent. I love those opportunities. Most of us are so confined to our studios all day that we don’t get much of a chance to actually interact in person with someone else in our business.

But this time it was different.

Glarb (not his real name) was down. He’d been spinning his wheels for months trying to get some good voice business and was getting nowhere. He couldn’t figure out why.

I’ve known Glarb for several years. He’s a great talent. He really is. And I’m jealous of his studio. But all of that was obviously not enough to get him work.

I asked him what he had done to generate business over the past 6 months.

It was the usual. Email blasts, some direct email, even some direct mail postcards. A few phone calls to key people. He has a couple of agents. He’s doing the normal SEO thing. He’s listed with a few VO websites. And auditions. Lots of auditions.

Not that he hasn’t had ANY work. He just hasn’t had enough to survive on.

Sound familiar?

Let me explain why so many good voice talents struggle in this business. Then I’ll offer a solution that you can start implementing today.

It doesn’t matter if you could do a better job than the voice talents they are currently using. If they don’t feel like they need someone new, you’re wasting time approaching them.

If you’re marketing yourself to people who have access to far more voice talents than they know what to do with, you’re wasting time.

In fact, if you’re doing what everyone else is doing, all you’re saying is that you’re like everyone else. Why should any client hire you?

I asked Glarb to summarize his whole scenario in one sentence.

He thought about it for awhile and then said, “It’s like no one needs me anymore.”

Exactly!

Unfortunately Glarb has been doing what far too many voice talents do: all the right things for the wrong people – people who don’t need them!

Here is one of the key secrets for motivation, whether it be personal, corporate, or sales: need.

See, we’re stimulated by wants. But we’re motivated by need. It’s need that drives us.

“How badly do you want this,” isn’t nearly as powerful as “How badly do you need this.”

Glarb has been pouring out his energy on people that want good voice talent, but not on people that need the talent he has.

Why am I so sure of this? Because it’s how I operate.

Years and years ago in my early life I spent a stint as a home alarm salesman. We were required to set three appointments a day by phone. That usually meant about fifty plus calls a day using the script the company had given us.

Personally, I thought the script was weak and manipulative, so I altered it. No, actually I completely changed it. I started asking potential clients if they felt a need for a home alarm system. What happened?

My call to sales ratio went down drastically. My closing rate went up dramatically.

Then, of course, the company sold and moved out of state.

But my point is, people are motivated by need. Clients are motivated by need.

Start marketing to needs. Ask clients what their voice needs are. Do they need a fresh voice for a sales video? Do they need a new phone message? Do they have a project coming up that they are going to need a voice like yours? Do they know of someone that needs a voice like yours?

When approaching a new client, ask them if they need a fresh voice. If they say no, thank them, give them your card, or email them your information, and move on. Find the people that need what you have to offer!

Now, I realize that there are some that will respond to this with “Yeah, but…” Don’t bother. This isn’t a theory. This is how I do business…and it works.

Oh, and by the way. Glarb connected with three clients that afternoon and landed a narration job, an IVR job, and a recommendation for a new client that needs a voice for his new marketing campaign.

Want to succeed in this business? Go meet your client’s needs.

CLOSING OUT 2012

Published December 27, 2012

Wow! What a whirlwind end to 2012!

First, my wife fell (while decorating for Christmas) and broke her leg in 3 places. A few days later, my father passed away while recovering from surgery. So, the day I got my wife home from the hospital, I flew to Virginia to bury my Dad. I got back home 2 days before Christmas.

The good news is that Marcia is on the mend. She has to stay off her leg for 2 months, then another month of intense physical therapy and the dishes will finally get done.

OK, maybe some of the household chores are getting done in the meantime.

I must tell you that I have no idea how anyone can get through something like this without a trusting, abiding faith in God.

On Christmas morning my son, Eric, presented me with the initial plans for a 501-c-3 (non-profit) corporation to honor the work my Dad spent his life doing in Central America. What an overwhelming, challenging, stimulating opportunity! I’ll tell you more about it in days to come.

Yesterday, December 26th, was my first day back in the studio.

There was something comforting about the scattered papers, the dirty coffee cup, the half bottle of water in the recording booth, the blinking light of the printer telling me that I needed to replace the toner; and most of all, the scores of emails and voicemails of clients/friends with words of hope and encouragement.

What an amazing business I’m in! I’ve never physically met 99% of my clients, yet every one somehow shared my storm. What an incredible statement about small business America! We are a network of real people; passionate about what we do, but compassionate about our fellow. Humbling and reassuring!

Thank you for your care. Your calls and notes of concern have been such an encouragement and inspiration.

And right now, if I heard that you had the flu, I would want to jump in the car and bring you some hot chicken soup!

That’s what family does.

MY CUSTOMER COMMITMENT

Published November 26, 2012

The voice over industry has changed dramatically over the past few years. The technology is such that many of us in the voice business are building our enterprise all over the world. I am blessed to have clients on every continent, and fortunately that list is growing. Frankly, that amazes me!

To all of my clients, new and not so new, I want to affirm my desire to be your voice talent of choice. So, let me share my commitment to you:

1. I will give you my absolute best effort.

I don’t give different levels of effort and attention to different clients. Your project is as important to me as any other project I have.

2. I will quote you a fair price based on what I charge my other clients.

I don’t quote different rates for different clients. I attempt to keep my rates within the average of what other voice talents charge for similar service.

3. I will deliver your project on time.

I know that you have time constraints and are depending on me to get your voice over project to you when you need it.

4. I will make sure your voice project is technically and audibly the best I can make it.

I have invested a great deal in my studio, and continue to do so to maintain outstanding, quality work.

5. I want your business.

I want to work for you again and again. My goal is to be your go-to guy for voice overs, and I will do what I have to do to make that happen.

Thank you for the privilege of working on your voice over project. I realize I am accountable to you, and I am grateful for your trust.

THE PATH TO SUCCESS

Published November 14, 2012

I’m no success guru.

Not a clue about 7 steps to great wealth, or whatever.

The closest I’ve ever come to closing a sale involved the words, “Please bring your purchases to the register.”

But I have learned a thing or two about connecting with clients and walking through open doors of opportunity. To be honest, it’s no secret. Or at least it shouldn’t be. So, I share these five simple personal discoveries with you.

1. My job is to meet my client’s needs.

My clients are not in business for me. I am in business for my clients. In fact, let me take it one step further. I am in business to make my clients successful.

Several years ago, I was hired by a local Public Relations firm. I was a little lost the first week on the job. I went to my boss and said, “John, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be doing. Is there a job description for my position?”

He answered simply, “Well, your job is to make me look good.”

I’ve never forgotten that. Most of my clients hire me on behalf of their clients. The bottom line is that they hire me to make them look good.

Your job is to meet your client’s needs.

2. No one succeeds if the ones they serve don’t succeed.

It’s just a fact. There is no way on God’s green earth that I can be successful if my clients aren’t successful.

I have a policy that any client that is going after new business can depend on me for free voiceover work for any spec spots they need. Why?

It’s simple. If they succeed, they will take me with them. It’s the way I’ve done business for thirty years. Some of my biggest clients were small, one man operations when I started with them. Many of them have grown through the years, and I’ve grown with them.

You will not succeed if your clients don’t succeed.

3. Sometimes I am not the right person for the job.

Many years ago a client asked me if I could do an impersonation of Dick Vitale for a commercial. Well, I don’t do impersonations, and I told my client the same.

He said, “Look, we’re in a bind. This spot has to go to air in two days and we can’t find anyone. Would you please do your best?”

I agreed, and gave it my best shot.

I’ve never heard from that client again.

Sometimes you’re not the right person for the job. Do yourself and your client a favor and hold on to that.

Define your product. Which takes us to the next point.

4. It’s not me, it’s my voice.

This is one of the greatest business lessons I’ve ever learned.

I was told my whole life “You’ve got to get out there and sell yourself.” So, I did.

The problem was, no one was buying me. Of course, that didn’t stop me from trying. I kept at it. For years.

One day, my wife told me she was her way to a little store in our town. I knew about the store. It was a dump. I asked her why she would go to that store because it was so…unbecoming (see, I do know some kind words).

She looked at me like I was nuts (I get that look a lot).

“Are you kidding?” she asked. “It has the coolest things.”

It dawned on me that she wasn’t buying the store, she was buying the stuff on the shelves. For too long I had been trying to sell the store, not the stuff on the shelves.

Nobody buys the store. They buy what they need or want off the shelves.

Quit trying to sell the store. Start selling your product.

By the way, there is great freedom in that discovery. Suddenly, it’s not personal. It’s about the product, not you.

Go sell your product for what it’s worth…not what you think you personally are worth.

5. Go burn something.

I had a client once tell me, “Look, I don’t care how hot you are, I just need someone to set this on fire.”

I understood exactly what he was saying. It wasn’t about me or my voice. It was about his product.

No one buys a product because of the voice selling it. Well, except my dear mother who years ago bought The Magnaduster off a TV infomercial. Turns out she had no idea I was the voice for the product. When I asked her why she bought the duster when I could have given her one for free, she answered, “Well it just sounded so believable.”

Anyway, go set your product on fire. As one of my clients once said, “Hot is the new cool.”

Have you sensed something from these five personal discoveries? Your success is not about you. It’s about your clients. Everything you do should be about them. Do that and they will go before you to carve out your success.

MAKING IT IN VOICEOVERS

 

Published September 15, 2012

The other day a fellow voice talent asked me, “C’mon tell me the truth. How are you making it in this business? I’ve been trying to make this thing work for a few years now and I’m no further along that I was when I started. What’s your secret?”

The interesting thing is that I’ve heard those sort of questions and comments for several years. I don’t suppose there is any one single legitimate answer. However, I’ve got five secrets that you should know about making it as a voice talent.

I’m not sure it’s fair to call these secrets, but they are certainly key factors for success in the voice over business.

1. You’ve got to be good.

Look, supposedly there are tens of thousands of “voice talents” in this business. I read just recently that there are some 30,000 voice talents in L.A. alone. Granted, the vast majority of them are film actors trying to make it and have listed themselves that way as one of their options. My calculated guess is that there are probably only about 2000 truly full-time voice talents in the world that do nothing but voice work to earn a living. The bottom line is: no matter how simple this business may look, it is incredibly competitive!

That means you have to be good at it to make it…even part time.

So, do your homework. Practice. Study the voice talents that are making it. Listen and learn from their little nuances of delivery. Don’t mimic them, but embrace their passion and focus on their product. They get work because clients believe in them.

Here’s an important thing to consider. Do you really think most clients want to pay the big bucks for the superstars in our industry? Of course they don’t. But they’re willing to pay for their delivery style. No, you can’t and shouldn’t sound like them, but you CAN learn to deliver the goods like they do. And that will pay off in the end!

Which leads us to the second point:

2. You’ve got to market effectively.

There are maybe ten voice talents in the business who are fortunate enough that they don’t have to worry about this point. The rest of us have to shake the bushes every day.

I’m not going to drop names here, but I’m well aware of several “big names” in our business who have to fight this battle every day. If they have to do that, think how much more you do! If you’re not willing to do it, don’t waste your time calling yourself a voice talent. It just goes with the territory. But I’m about to tip you off on one of the most powerful marketing tactics you can discover.

Quit fishing in the same pond everyone else is fishing!

One of my majors in college was Marketing and Advertising. What a waste of time that was! They just taught me to do what everyone else was doing. A few years ago I read Blue Ocean Strategy by a couple of Harvard gurus and it changed my whole perspective on marketing my business.

The premise of that book is that most people fish the same waters that everyone else is fishing, but the really successful people discover how to fish the blue waters that few or no one else is fishing.

That simple perspective has revolutionized my marketing strategy and my business. See, I don’t live in a major market. I don’t have one-on-one contact with huge producers and agents. I am non-existent as far as they’re concerned. But what I have done is found a few niches that very few other voice dogs were scratching. As a result, I’m connected with some awesome clients who don’t play in the L.A and New York arenas. They couldn’t care less about that side of the business, and we make each other happy. And I still get to pursue opportunities in those markets!

If you’re not good at marketing, maybe you should invest in yourself and go take a college course or two on marketing and advertising (just find a school that isn’t teaching the same old same old). And think blue waters.

By the way, while we’re on the subject of marketing, definitely invest in a compelling website with awesome demos. Why is that so important? Because if you’re going to fish blue waters, those potential clients need to be impressed with YOU…not with how many pay-to-play sites you’re on, or your facebook page, or your Google+ page. I don’t know if my statistics are similar to other folks in this business, but I suspect they are, and if that’s the case, 99% of our clients come by referral or because they find our websites. I can’t tell you how often I hear, “I checked out your website and …”

If you are going to be professional, look and sound the part! Which leads us to the third secret.

3. You’ve got to sound professional.

This is a sensitive subject for a lot of people. There is a mentality that you can get into this business with a “decent” sounding mic and a laptop. I’m here to tell you that’s a lie.

Why is it a lie? Because people with great equipment and delivery will eat your lunch in auditions and demos. That’s just a fact.

Do you have to have the best of everything? Of course not. It’s not about how much money you can spend. But it’s not about how little you can spend either.

If you’re serious about this business, hire an audio engineer (they’re worth every penny) to help you assemble a system that is right for you. Did you catch that? An audio engineer. Not a sales person at the audio store. Not some computer wizard at Byte Me (if there is an actual store with that name, I apologize. I’m sure you’re an excellent outlet for byte stuff). You need someone that understands how and why an audio chain works, and can help you tune your system to you.

If you’re not willing to do that, do us all a favor and take your shingle off the wall and go home. Hey, it’s a business. If you want a hobby go make kites. Which brings us to the fourth point:

4. You’ve got to treat this like a business.

I’m frankly appalled at the number of people who call themselves voice talents who are abject failures at this critical point.

Now, I’m pointing the finger at myself on this. It is an area in which I struggle. Thank God I have a CPA and attorney who understand that this is not my forte, so they have to work overtime to keep me on the straight and narrow.

Nevertheless, this is a business. Uncle Sam sees it as a business. The state sees it as a business. The insurance company sees it that way. Even my bank is watching!

Speaking of that, I heard this from my drive-through bank teller this week: “Hey, kind of a slow week, huh?”

Good thing there was a window between us.

One of the things that I’ve noticed about myself and several others in this line of work is that we struggle with time management. I think it must be part of running one’s own business and having to do everything by oneself.

See, the bottom line is that when I’m not working…I’m unemployed. That means there is a constant drive to accomplish something business related. When I’m parked in front of the TV watching a football game, I’ve got the laptop open and I’m sending out contact letters to potential clients (or writing an article). I have clients all over the world, so my iPhone is on duty from 3am to 10pm. My studio, which happens to be in my home, is almost always open. Bottom line? It’s a fun business, but it’s not an easy one! And if you do it right, it’s a busy business!

So, in my pompous wisdom, I tell you to manage the clock, but I am, in fact, one of the greatest offenders of this critical point.

5. You’ve got to love your clients.

I am of all men most fortunate. I have a wife who has stayed with me for God knows why. Three awesome sons, two awesome daughters-in-law, two perfect grandchildren, an amazing business, and clients I could kiss on the mouth…but I won’t.

That’s not to say I don’t love my clients. I do. I owe my voiceover career to them!

My point here is that one of the key secrets to voiceover success is to be passionate about your clients and their success.

A few years ago my wife and I had some remodeling done to our home. I’ll never forget the impact it made on us when some of the sub-contractors really took an interest in us and our dream. Their recommendations and extra attention made a huge difference in the whole experience. You can bet that painter and that carpenter got several referrals!

It’s the same sort of thing with your clients. When you get excited about their projects, they sense it and it means a lot to them. Connect with them. Dream with them. Enjoy being a part of the creative process (appropriately and without intruding). That will make an impression on your clients that will reap great benefits.

So there you have it, five secrets…ok, so they’re not secrets, but they are important things to help you move your voice-over career ahead.

Hey, they work for me.

STEP IT UP!

Published June 5, 2012

A few weeks ago I was asked to speak at a voiceover get together on the East coast. The subject I was given was, “How To Take Your Voice Business To The Next Level.” We couldn’t make the schedule work out, but on a plane flight I put down some thoughts that I would want to share if the opportunity had worked out. While these are written in the context of the VO business, I think some of the principles apply for all business.

So, here you are, for whatever they’re worth: Five butt-kickers to get you going.

1. Quit focusing on the words.

Start focusing on the listener/viewer. What is it about that copy that is going to grab their attention and make them listen to what you are saying? Words are simply the framework of the thought. Quit reading and start leading the listener.

You won’t always get away with that because producers and engineers often have their own opinion, but it’s a great way to start the session!

In an ideal session, I make two copies of the script (one for back up). I read and mark up the copy based on what I see and sense while saying some of the key phrases out loud.

I know what you’re thinking. Yeah, I kill a lot of trees. No, I don’t use a monitor in the booth. It’s too expensive to keep replacing them after marking them up. You voice talents that do that, more power to you. I’m not that good.

2. Today’s agent doesn’t get you work.

In today’s business world, you get you work. Your agent merely lets you know of some opportunities out there. Put it into perspective. How much do you make off a voice job over how much an agent makes? Now, who should be doing most of the work? Get off your butt and quit expecting someone else to feed you grapes and jobs.

If I depended on my agents to get me work, I’d be salting fries. Agents don’t get you work. They get you auditions. And even then they usually don’t have an exclusive on the lead, so you’re competing with lots of other talents for the job.

Frankly, it would suck to be an agent. First of all you have to put up with neurotic voice talents who don’t really understand the process. Then you have to put up with clients with whom you really have no working relationship. Finally, you have more paper work and details to handle than a traffic cop on Friday night! Be thankful you’re a voice talent and not an agent!

3. Get a dog.

Your home studio will become one of the loneliest places on earth. You’ll spend hours on hours a day there. You’ll have some phone or online interaction with some people, usually clients, but hardly ever see a client face to face. Get used to it.

Today, after spending about nine hours in the booth plus editing, I spent another two hours checking cables and re-wiring part of my studio. Another hour on the phone with Dell about a computer problem, and then an hour of paper work.

Yeah. It’s glamorous. I’ve worn the same shirt for three days and I haven’t shaved.

4. Take care of business.

This is a tough one for me. It’s hard to remember that I am a business. I’m fortunate enough to make a nice living from my business, but I have to remember that my clients are in business also, and they depend on me taking care of mine.

That means keeping my equipment in order. Now, I realize that most of the people who read this will not be fulltime in the voiceover business. But that is no excuse for shoddy equipment, poor signal chains, inadequate acoustics, and bad editing. You’re in business. Act like it. If you put out an inferior product, that’s how you’re going to be labeled.

This isn’t some sort of MLM business where you work your way up because of your great personality and energy, and all the people you know and get to sign up with you. This is the production business. You are producing a product. High quality production breeds high quality demand.

Think of it this way. If you put out inferior work, and your client accepts it, your client is putting out inferior work. It won’t be long before both you and your client fail.

Taking care of business also means taking care of the office work. That means getting invoices out in a timely manner. Timely answers to emails and phone calls. Handling issues quickly and professionally.

It means handling your financial affairs properly. Pay your bills. Pay your taxes. I very seldom get stung in this business by someone who doesn’t pay me. But most of the time when it happens, it’s by another voice talent who engaged me to work a project for him/her. Now, I hate losing money, but I also feel badly for a fellow voice talent who’s lost his integrity. Don’t do it. It will come back to haunt you.

5. Push the envelope.

Always work at developing your talent. Try new things. Play with new styles. Define new characters. Discover a new delivery.

Let me give you an example. Years ago I had a voice job which required some laughing. Frankly, I was awful. Even though I have a theatre background and can carry a character, my laughing was laughable.

I started spending time in my booth laughing. I recorded my laughing. I worked on it for a long time to make it natural and believable, and out of that came a new voice – an old weather-beaten cowboy. Now, don’t ask me how I got from laughing to an old cowboy. I don’t know. But it happened. And that character voice has made me a chunk of change.

You will probably never use most of what you try, but expanding your range will give you so much more to work with and so much more confidence. Along with that you will also discover what your limits are; what you can’t do. But you’ll surprise yourself with how much more you can do!

Well, there you have it. Consider your butt kicked and step up your voiceover business.

THE LITTLE GUYS

 

Published April 23, 2012

Here’s to the little guy!

And by little, I mean the small business owners that are busting their hump to keep the lights on and the bank happy.

LOVE working for you guys! I love your passion. I love your focus. I love your creativity. I love that you’ll do what you have to do to get the job done. You’re an inspiration!

Many years ago when I started in this voice-over business (“voice-over”; that’s how the dictionary now spells it), I found myself working for the little guy. The big guys didn’t want me. The big agencies already had their VO people that they worked with. There was no way to kick that door in.

Then I discovered a couple of one-man shops. Well, actually a one man shop and a one woman shop. And I connected with them. I asked them to let me submit auditions for their jobs. I offered to do spec spots for free (something I still do). I asked them for the privilege of meeting their clients so I could connect and schmooz them. When they were busy, I ran errands for them. I did everything I could do to make them successful.

And it worked.

I cared about them, and they knew it. And as they grew, my business also grew. It didn’t take long before they started introducing me to other “little guys.”

Oh, did you think I was just talking about small ad agencies?

Not at all.

I focused on anyone who had a small business that they were passionate about growing. Some of them made it, some of them didn’t. But they became part of my life and part of my business.

Today, I have a few large clients. That happens, fortunately.

But the clients that I love to hear from are the ones that are in my Caller ID as Chuck, and Sheila, and Joe, and Danny, and Amy, and on and on. The little guys.

Like me.

LOVIN' MY CLIENTS

Published April 3, 2012

I absolutely LOVE being in business for myself.

Not that it doesn’t have its challenges. It does. I’ve just spent three hours figuring out and paying my quarterly taxes. Why does that have to be so complicated? It’s like the government is trying to screw you up so they can fine you and cause you to fail! What good will that do them?

But I digress.

What I really want to talk about are my clients.

See, I sit in my little studio for anywhere from eight to twelve hours a day voicing commercials, narrations and phone messaging. While I have a gorgeous view out my window, my world is pretty much focused on a microphone and a computer screen.

Usually a couple of times a day I have an ISDN session with another studio somewhere in the world. I love those sessions, mainly because I get to connect with live people! The rest of my time is spent between the sound booth and the edit desk. Basically the only person I really interact with for the most of the day is…me.

So you, my client, become my office partner; the co-worker that I get to goof around with and share my life with.

It’s an odd dynamic, really. I love getting to know about you and your family. Hearing about your passion for bike riding or hiking is really fascinating. Or that you just got married after dating for seven years because you’re such a dolt that you couldn’t take the next step. Or that you’re really struggling with what to do with your elderly parent that is dealing with dementia. Me too.

I find my European clients to be quite intriguing. My English and Spanish come naturally because I grew up with it, but my European clients amaze me that they have intentionally learned English so well and have opened up a whole new world for themselves. Above all, it’s such an amazing experience to get to know them and discover how they view America and American culture and politics.

Have you noticed how many geographic cultures there are in the United States? I’m in the Midwest, an area that most people think is just cow pies and prairies. That’s OK. Keep thinking that and stay away. But I love connecting with people from all over the U.S. There are so many amazing lifestyles and perspectives. Don’t think so? Just spend a few moments with someone in New York and follow that up with a visit with someone in San Diego. Same thing between Seattle and Miami.

The bottom line is that my clients make my life so much more interesting! Thank you!
More importantly, getting to know my clients on a personal level just affirms that we’re all in this together. So many of my clients are also small businesses. I mean, I have the pleasure of doing business with some extremely large clients, but many of my clients are like me…small businesses, focused on providing the best service to their customers.

Does it get any better than that?

ABOUT YOUR TRANSLATION

 

Published February 14, 2012

As a bilingual voice talent and translator, I get to work with some great projects. It’s challenging and downright fun to be a part of putting a project together in a different language.

There are a number of us bilingual voices and translators in the business. I’ll bet I’m speaking for many, if not most of us.

One of the issues that we bilingual voice talents and translators have to deal with on a regular basis is the fact that often our main client contact does not know both languages, and therefore is somewhat at a disadvantage.

The way the process normally works is that we’re sent the copy to translate. Sometimes, the client trusts us enough to let us go ahead and voice the project, but usually once it’s translated, we send it back for approval before we voice it. Sometimes there are some minor changes offered by someone that the client asks to review our translation (usually someone in the office that speaks the translated language), and then we have the go ahead to record.

However, one of the things that I’m noticing more and more are changes that are different from what’s being said in the original language. That can be a problem.

See, our job as translators is to translate from the original language. It’s not really our job to change the wording. Now, certainly sometimes there are terms or colloquialisms used in the original language that we have to interpret by intent, but generally the original wording is all we have to go on. Often what happens is that the reviewer decides to change the wording, which may change the intent or meaning of the original language. However, if the reviewer is completely knowledgeable in the subject and both languages, that’s probably not a problem.

I have been asked numerous times why there may be so many changes in a translation review. There are several reasons for that. Sometimes the translator or reviewer is simply interpreting from their particular brogue, and choose to use a word or term that they are familiar with as opposed to a generic word or term. Sometimes it’s just a matter of preference. Sometimes the translator or reviewer interprets the project from a different style of language, as in academic over conversational. There are many others reasons why, but that’s for another discussion.

Let me suggest five things to do in order to smooth out the process and make sure you are getting the translation you need for your project.

1. Make sure your original language copy says what you want it to say.

2. Make it clear to the translator who the intended audience is, and what language style you want. Contrary to the commonly held belief that you need to write and voice for a specific region, it’s far more important to deliver the project for the specific audience, as in professionals or laborers, university educated or not, etc.

3. Before you send the copy for translation, ask the people you intend to have review the translation if they have any suggestions for terms or words to be used.

4. Make sure that the person reviewing the translation completely understands the original language, and understands the subject and terminologies.

5. Ask the translator to give you alternates to terms or phrasings that may be questionable in the translated language.

One other note. Since some languages tend to run as much as 25% longer than English, if your translator is working on copy that has to sync to an English video, remember to shorten the copy before sending it to the translator. Many a project has run into major cost overruns because of all the changes that had to be made after going to post.

With all the language boundaries being crossed in the world today, if you aren’t already doing some bilingual projects, you probably will eventually. It’s a challenge, but it’s completely doable with the right planning.

REALLY? CONVERSATIONAL?

 

Published January 25, 2012

There’s been a lot of discussion over the past couple of years about how clients want more “conversational” reads and delivery. As voice talents, we are constantly asked to do something “conversational” like Dennis Haysbert, or Denis Leary, or Morgan Freeman; or the one I get all the time, Sam Elliot (How come women are never asked to sound like some female celebrity?).

Well, what do clients really mean when they ask for conversational?

I’ve started asking new clients to give me several words to explain how they would explain the delivery style they are looking for. It’s been an eye-opener. What I’ve come to realize is that “conversational” is just an adjective, not a defined style. Often words like relatable, enthusiastic or friendly are actually more important that conversational.

I almost lost a client today who had told me he wanted a very conversational delivery. “Very conversational.” I did several jobs for him, and I could never quite put my finger on it, but there was something that just wasn’t quite right. He never seemed completely happy. Today, I figured it out when he told me he felt like he might want to check out some other voice talents because what he really wanted was something a little more polished and authoritative.

Apparently my idea of conversational was very different from his. To him “conversational” was his description of what I would call warm and friendly, yet still professional. It finally came out. He was looking for “more polished and authoritative” but not “announcery.” And then came the explanation that threw me for a loop: “You know, like you’re talking to your mother.”

I still have the taste of blood in my mouth from biting my tongue.

I think we’ve confused “conversational” with “casual.” Conversational is a delivery issue. Casual is an attitude issue. Conversational involves cadence and expression. Casual is about intonation and energy.

The bottom line is it’s all about perception. Not yours, but your client’s.
Earlier this week I submitted an audition for a new client. Usually for an audition I give a couple of takes of what I think the potential client is looking for. Occasionally if I think the copy lends itself to something completely different, I will submit that also. So this particular audition was one of those that I heard in my head with a completely different delivery.

The client had asked for “simple, genuine, conversational with lots of gravitas and a sense of fun.” Huh? Look up gravitas. This just didn’t make sense.
I gave the client a couple of takes of what I thought he was asking for. Then, just because I thought the copy lent itself to it, I gave him a take of an old, western voice with a bit of a smile.

Within 15 minutes he called me and said, “That 3rd take is exactly what I was hearing in my head. Nice and conversational.”

Who knew?

So, what should you do when your client asks for a conversational read?
1. Ask him to define what he means by “conversational.”
2. Read the copy like you are talking to a group of your friends.
3. Pretend like there is a joke at the end of the copy.
4. Above all, read it like “you know, like you’re talking to your mother.”

SPAM-O-RAMA

SPAM-O-RAMA

Published January 13, 2012

Once again it’s time to post some of the spam comments I receive through my website. I do so because frankly, I find them curious! Not that I don’t get irritated with them. I do. But really, how could you not be captivated by such ingenious commentary (followed by my contumelious blathering) such as:

“Colombo Sri Lanka Nude Goats Mexico pharmacy vicodin and tourist.” 
I mean, who wouldn’t click on that link?

“Rattling nice style and great subject material, practically nothing else we need” 
Yes, it’s true. I have rattled many a designer and yet, I have given them almost everything that they need. Almost.

“Thine heart near as funness!”
Well, I’ve always said “Where thine heart is, there be thine funness!”

”Suborn you seen this noteworthy medical imposture?”
Look, how many times do I have to tell you? My name’s not Suborn.

“My spouse and I stumbled over here different web page”
Ooooh…date night!

“This necklace around your neck put faitth on is available in inches along with the necklace around your neck time-span is frequently ins.”
OK, wait a minute. I got the “necklace around your neck …faitth” thing. But you lost me on the “neck time-span” thing. Not that I’m not interested, mind you.

“Похожие Еакладки. Купите это место для своей Еакладки Рё получите”
Are you kidding me? Blood, Sweat and Tears was a much better band than Herman’s Hermits, you воей!

“The account aided me a acceptable deal. I were a little bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided vibrant clear idea.”
Thank you. That’s why I do this.

“A piece of erudition ulnkie any other!
A most erudite insight, sir!”

“Mogando told me you dress for expesical.”
I dunno…do you think the spurs were a bit too much?

Yes, these spamical (no it’s not a word, but it should be) insights are why I check my spam folder!

Hey, these are better than cable and “near as funness!”

THE DAY SANTA GOT TRUNK

 

Published December 2, 2011

I had one of the oddest voiceover experiences ever earlier this week.

One of the sheer pleasures of my work as a voice talent is that I get to work with some of the most creative people in the world. I rub headphones with the most awesome clients, the most creative writers, the most inspiring voices, and the most amazing engineers in the world (how’s that for the most abuse of grammar?).

It’s an unbelievable gift. I treasure it more than I could ever express. But earlier this week I had an experience I have never had before, and hope I never have again…although it was sorta funny.

For obvious reasons I am not going to name the client or anyone else connected to the VO session.

I got a call from a new client asking if I would be willing to voice a commercial for their product. Well, of course I would!

It was a conversation with Santa. I’m not going to even tell you what it was about. But Santa…was drunk.

To use a phrase from a few decades ago, “I kid you not!”

I don’t mean the written character. I mean the voice talent was lit up! Tight! Schnockerd!

Now, I have just enough of an ornery streak in me (I got it from my hero, my father) that I couldn’t leave well enough alone. One of my lines was to ask Santa why he was so jolly. So as we were reading through a take of the read, I tossed that line out…in Spanish.

It didn’t phase him a bit. He continued on with some semblance of his line. I’m pretty sure I heard the engineer snort coffee everywhere.

The producer was not happy with Santa’s delivery, as if that were any surprise. So he tried to offer some insight to the style of delivery he was looking for.

And then it happened.

Santa got into an heated argument with the producer about whether Santa would say something that was in the script!

WHAT??? Are you kidding me? I was laughing so hard the engineer had to mute me!

Well, we finally got through the session. I doubt that Santa will ever work for this client again.

After the session the producer called me. I’m not sure why. But as soon as I heard his voice I started laughing again.

“Oh good!” he said. “I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t out of line on this one!”

That made laugh even harder.

Here’s the moral of the story: If you’re a professional voice talent, there are 3 things your client is looking for from you:

1. Professional

2. Voice

3. Talent

’Nuff said!

A VOICE ACTOR OR VOICE MODEL?

 

Published November 10, 2011

There has for a long time been a misunderstanding within the voiceover industry. Sometimes clients want actors, and sometimes they want models.

As voice talents, we have to determine if we are being asked to be a voice actor or a voice model? There is absolutely nothing wrong with either, but it helps to understand the difference.

What’s the difference?

Well, normally we think of a model wearing articles of clothing and showing them off with the attitude the client wants. The model’s specialty is to show off the fashion. The voice model is really no different. He/she simply takes the words and shows them off.

Don LaFontaine was a classic voice model. He didn’t create characters. He just made words come alive. He was a genius at that. Sam Elliot is a voice model. He doesn’t create a character (he is his own character). He just uses his voice to make the words something special.

The voice actor, on the other hand, takes the words and creates a character; he/she breathes life into the words to make them more than words. With a great voice actor, the words become emotion, and color, and texture.

The examples of voice actors are innumerable. Personally, I think Tom Kane and Roberta Solomon are the ultimate examples. Each of them can do the voice modeling thing, but when called on to create character with the copy…emotion…a sense of attachment, they are the best.

Now please understand that I could have listed pages and pages of voice talents that excel as actors and models. I simply don’t have the time and space to do that here. But my point is that sometimes the client wants a voice model, and sometimes the client wants a voice actor. As a voice talent, it’s my job to figure what my client wants.

However, there is that little limitation of “the writing.” It is the very thing that allows great stage and screen actors to excel…or bomb. On a much smaller scale, the same principle is true in the VO industry.

I’m always somewhat amused and frustrated when clients say something like, “It’s really dry copy, so you need to bring it to life.” Really? Isn’t that sort of like trying to inflate a popped balloon? I mean, I’ll give you my best shot, and color the key words and phrases, but dry copy is, well…dry copy. It is what it is.

Aside from that, it’s my responsibility as a voice talent to figure out if my client is looking to show off the words, or to take the words and create a character that evokes emotion.

Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. Generally, car commercials are voice modeling. I have a number of car dealer clients that just want me to show off their words. And that’s what works for them! Why try to make it anything other than what it is? On the other hand, hospitals generally want me to create some emotion with their words and thoughts. That’s voice acting.

So, as a client, are you looking for a voice model or a voice actor? As a voice talent, can you differentiate between the two?

Each has its strengths. It’s just a matter of determining what works best.

THE RIGHT VOICE

THE RIGHT VOICE!

Published October 23, 2011

The right voice!

Not a week goes by that I don’t receive a request for an audition from someone that says they are looking for “the right voice” for their company, and would I provide them with an audition. No direction for style, tempo, timbre, attitude, etc. But still, they’re looking for the right voice.

I must confess that more often than not I just ignore those requests.

Now, I have the GREATEST clients in the world. I mean that! I love working for my clients. We’ve established a working relationship and I consider them personal friends. But when I get a request from a new potential client seeking “the right voice” I have to wonder what that means!

I’ve come to realize that generally that means that the client doesn’t exactly know what they’re looking for. And sometimes it just means they are looking for samples to give to their client.

OK. That’s cool. But there are a few things to consider when requesting such an audition.

1. How will you know you’ve found the right voice? Tell us voice talents! If you don’t know, how are we supposed to do our best job for you?

2. Good voice talents are actors. They feel the script. They interpret. They perform. What do you want us to feel and interpret? What will make it a memorable performance?

3. Voice actors are much like stage actors. We need direction. We need character definition. We need “motivation.”

4. We need for you to explain your directions. What do you mean by “intellectual surfer dude?” Or “disenfranchised hip guy?” Or the direction I recently received for a horror movie: “caustic zombie.”

5. Vague definitions simply tell us that you’re not real sure what you’re looking for. It’s sort of like going into the paint store and saying “I’m looking for the right color of paint.”

The other day I had two back-to-back live sessions. The first one said, “I want a conversational read like you’re just sitting around with some friends talking about this.”

After a couple of tries, I figured out what voice he was looking for and we got the job done.

In the next session, the client also wanted a conversational read. I gave him pretty much the exact voice I had just done for the previous client.

“NO, that’s not it!” he let me know. And he kept hammering me about wanting a read that was more conversational. I kept trying different things, still getting nowhere. I finally asked, “Do you mean conversational like you talk?”

“Yeah,” he said. So, I did my best impersonation of him reading his own copy.

“That’s it,” he exclaimed. And one take later we were done.

I love sessions where a new client is on an ISDN hook-up or phone-patch. LOVE ‘em! That’s when I find out what the client is really thinking and hearing in his/her head. There are far too many nuances in a script that need clarification and direction to just leave it up to the voice talent and hope for the best. In a live session, the client can actually read the copy the way they are interpreting it, and things go a lot smoother!

Yes! Read it to us! It helps us know what you’re looking for!

For example, do you want that phrase to end with an “up” or “down” feel. What kind of emphasis do you want us to make on particular words? Just underlining a word isn’t enough direction. Not to mention putting a word in italics or a different color. Who are you trying to reach with your copy?

One of the directions I giggle at is “movie trailer voice.” Really? Which “movie trailer voice?” There are about 6 different movie trailer styles: Fear, Drama, Documentary, Romance, Humor, and Tongue-In-Cheek. Then in each one of those categories there are the Four T’s to consider: tonality, tempo, temperament and target. I must admit I have wasted time just for grins submitting dark drama movie trailer copy with a romance or tongue-in-cheek read. I know, my bad.

So, please, help us voice talents help you. We really do want you to find the right voice. And we hope it’s us (me). But we need you to paint the picture as realistically as possible for us.

VOICE TALENTS ARE WEIRD

VOICE TALENTS ARE WEIRD

Published August 20, 2011

Ever notice how nuts voice talents are?

It’s true. We are.

It’s the little things that prove it. You know, those little habits or superstitions. Some of them we swear by. Others, well, why should we take a chance and be wrong?

I had a voiceover friend who would suck in the cold air coming out of a window AC before doing a voice job. He said it made his voice deeper. I tried it and nearly choked to death.

I know a guy who uses a hairnet when he’s in his recording booth, because he swears his hair makes noise. I won’t mention names, but there’s a pretty successful voice talent that takes his pants off when recording for the very same reason. I’m not that bad, but I do check my shirt each morning to see how noisy it is.

Several voice dogs refuse to use any headphones but their own. And it’s not so much the quality of their cans, but that they just don’t want other people’s cooties. I can’t blame them too much. Some of those public headphones are just nasty.

My favorite idiosyn”crazies” are the hand motions we just have to make when reading copy. Some of you production studios should videotape us sometime. I was at a studio waiting for my session while the current voice guy was finishing up. I bit my tongue watching him read. He held his arms straight out and sort of flapped them while reading.

I was just in a session a few days ago where the talent emphasized everything with hand motions. Every once in awhile she would smack the copy stand and have to stop and start over. I asked the engineer if she always did that. He said, “I’m OK with the wild hand motions, but when she starts stomping her foot I get a little irritated.”

I’ve got a habit of shaking my hand, usually the right one, while I’m reading. The more intense the read, the harder and faster the shake. A client once asked me if I had been checked for Parkinson’s.

The superstitions we come up with are priceless. Borderline OC.

There is a voice talent I know that starts every day with a new pen. I guess that sort of makes sense after you see the pens and pencils on the copy stands in the various studios. Hey, chew your own pencil, will ya?

Then there is a gifted voice talent I work with that puts a barrette in on the right side of her hair right before every session. I figured it was to keep the hair out of her face. Nope. Turns out, as she explained it to me, she’s right-eyed.

I thought maybe she had that surgery done where they make one eye long distance and one short distance. No, she’s just right eyed. Apparently she’s got it in her head that she reads with her right eye. I asked her if it was a physiological thing, or if she had been tested for that. Was her left eye weaker? No. She just reads with her right eye, OK?

I must admit that I have my lucky reading glasses. I probably have 30 pairs of reading glasses around the house, but I have to have that one pair when recording. Hey, I make fewer mistakes with them!

But is there anyone flakier than the voice guy I know that has to touch every piece of equipment in the sound booth before recording? He says it brings them all into harmony. The engineer says it’s gonna bring him a black eye one of these days.

And the concoctions we come up with to stop mouth noise when recording! Everything from sour apples to olive oil with a splash of vinegar. I actually know of a voice talent that puts some Vaseline on his lips AND teeth before reading.

Some of us just have to have bottled water. Room temperature, please. No, really, there’s something about my tap water that seems to irritate my throat after awhile. Have you ever just let tap water sit around in a glass for a day or two? Gross!

I guess it’s all about what works for you. We all want to be our best and do our best. All those writers, engineers, producers and directors out there are counting on us. It’s a lot of pressure. Anybody getting into this business thinking it’s easy money is in for a rude awakening!

I’ve got a two hour narration coming up. I may try that no pants thing.

THE NEW AMERICAN SPANISH

THE NEW AMERICAN SPANISH

Published May 15, 2011

There is an interesting trend developing in language use in the United States: North American Spanish. I’ve noticed it with advertisers as well as companies that produce training materials.

As a bilingual voice talent, clients will usually tell me what sort of Spanish they want for their project, and I’m hearing more and more requests for generic Spanish that is accepted cross-culturally. That is what I define as North American Spanish.
The Hispanic culture within the United States and Canada has so developed that we are now three and four generations deep with many families. That blending into the North American culture is producing an adapted language; a language that is accepted and understood by all generations.

What that means for advertisers and audio producers is that the idea of using culture specific voice talent is no longer particularly useful. It used to be that if you wanted to reach the Hispanic population in New York, you chose a Puerto Rican voice talent; in Florida you chose a Cuban voice talent; in California and Texas you chose a Mexican voice talent. However, a few years ago we started hearing some outstanding voice talents from various other Spanish countries, and the norm began to change. The shift was on for a cross-cultural language.

Now the demand is for undetectable regional influence. A few years ago clients would say, “It doesn’t sound Mexican enough,” or “She doesn’t really sound like a Puerto Rican,” when they reviewed voice talent demos. Now you’ll hear comments like, “She sounds too Colombian,” or “He’s too Mexican.”

Almost every native Spanish voice talent boasts that their Spanish is the most generic, but the truth is that real generic Spanish is simply unaccented, non-regional, and cross-culturally effective. That is exactly what North American Spanish is. You wouldn’t necessarily want to use it in another country, but you could. However, here in North America, it’s perfect.

But let me caution you about using a non-native speaker. Spanish speakers can detect a Spanish-As-A-Second-Language speaker in a heartbeat. To my fellow voice talents that are North American and learned to speak Spanish in high-school and college, I’m sorry, it shows. Use voice talents that grew up speaking Spanish but have adapted to the North American culture.

Is there a time when you would want to use regional specific Spanish? Of course. If you are seeking to reach first generation Spanish speakers, it would be appropriate to use a native speaker from their region. But beyond that, go for North American Spanish.