Getting Started in Voice Overs
Guest blog by The Lowry Agency voice talent Dave Courvoisier
At least once a week I get an e-mail or phone call from a total stranger…but someone who is no stranger to a similar feeling I had almost five years ago…the feeling that making oodles of money in Voice-Over work was gonna be a cinch…practically effortless.
I’m not exactly sure where or how they find me, but their query is getting predictable:
“Hi, I’m Bill, and all my life people have told me I have an incredible voice. Right now I’m a __________ (mechanic, accountant, DJ), but I want to do voice-over work. I ran across your name, and was wondering if you could help me?”
‘Been there, done that…however paying it forward has its merits, and many have mentored me along the way, so I believe it’s my responsibility to offer that helping hand, too.
Hence, the following is straight talk for “great voices” hoping to get into the business of voice-acting:
1) A good voice is not good enough. It’s not even a basic criteria anymore.
2) Can you read out loud, and make it sound like you’re just talking to someone — and say it in 20 different ways?…10
different dialects?…and PERFORM at the drop of a hat?
3) This is a business. You need a business plan, investment capital, passion, and stick-to-itiveness.
4) Voice-acting is 9 parts marketing, 1 part voice-talent (well maybe 80/20…but not a percentage point more!)
5) You need better-than-passable computer hardware/software/networking skills, and a fast internet connection.
6) Are you willing to accept criticism, swallow reality, and keep coming back?
7) How well do you handle rejection?…even when you know you’re better than your competition?
8) Eventually, you may have to invest $3,000 – $5,000 just for passable start-up equipment and marketing materials.
9) You’ll need to be your own accountant, PR person, web-author, and self-promotions guru.
10) Get ready to go back to school. Voice-Over 101. Coaching and education is an on-going necessity.
11) Accept that growing opportunities are counter-balanced by declining compensations, and increasing competition.
12) How enterprising are you? Work well alone?….for weeks on end?…with no one but yourself for encouragement?
13) Is your spouse/significant other/POSSLQ* on board with this?….we’re in for a long haul!
14) This is a huge, varied industry, what segment do you want to target? AudioBooks? TV Imaging? E-Learning?
15) You have to like more than the sound of your own voice…you have to like the feel of headphones on your
Now, far be it from me to discourage anyone’s dreams. However, I have found no quick way to answer the question of what it’ll take to get into voice-overs. Meaning the answer itself is getting fairly involved AND time-consuming.
My latest tack is to just ask for the neophyte’s e-mail address and bury them in resources so deep it takes weeks to get through it all. Then, if they come back, I’ve got at least a qualified candidate to talk to.
Hence, the following list is my preferred set of links to voice-over nirvana for n00bs.
Voice talent Bob Souer publishes everybody’s favorite VO blog:
You’ll also find an occasional flash of brilliance-wanna-be on my daily blog: “Voice-Acting in Vegas”
And, another close friend of mine (Bobbin Beam) who also blogs, wrote
her own version of advice for starters which is excellent:
John Florian of VoiceOverXtra sends THIS link to his site esp. for beginners:
Also, there’s a thread on this very topic on the VO-BB which is one of the resources noted above. But the specific link to the newbie thread is here:
FROM DAVID HOUSTON: EXCELLENT ARTICLE:
Why a Professional Voice Over Is So Important To Restaurants
Say what you want about Jack In the Box restaurants…you have to admit the company has a professional operation. The food is hot, delivered in an orderly fashion, and comes at a fair price no matter where you happen to find a franchise.
But do you want just “professional” when you’re eating? No. That’s why a chain like Macaroni Grill might be a more quality choice. The ambience is pleasing. Food is prepared with care from a unique menu, and the service is usually charming. Absolutely professional, but with a quality component added.
Still, for a top-of-class experience, something is missing even at Macaroni Grill. That element is refinement. In Las Vegas, when you visit Ferraro’s new restaurant across from the Hard Rock resort, you’ll see the added attraction of gourmet food from award-winning chefs, a table setting and service second-to-none, even a Sommelier to suggest the perfect wine to go with your choice of entre’. Professional? Absolutely. Quality? Unquestionably. Refined? But of course, Monsieur!
There are no signs to indicate Ferraro’s combines professionalism, quality and refinement. People just know. Enjoy a meal at Ferroro’s and there’s no mistaking the impression that you’ve reached a position near the top of the culinary dining experience.
This is not a put-down of fast-food restaurants. Quite the opposite, because, you see…even Jack In the Box understands that to be successful in the marketplace, their working-class product must nonetheless be portrayed in popular media with professionalism, quality, and refinement.
Make no mistake, the voice behind that silly guy with the white cone-head was chosen through a talent agency audition process that weeded out the un-professional, poor quality candidates with little refinement of their craft.
Puh-leez!….how many cheesy late-night, local TV ads have you suffered through, where the spokesman is likely the company’s owner, president, or maybe the secretary. There’s no mistaking the impression that you’ve reached a position near the bottom of the advertising experience. People just know. The unprofessionalism, lack of quality, and absence of refinement portrays no product you would ever buy, visit, consider for purchase, or otherwise patronize.
Viewers, listeners, buyers, and consumers can smell the odor of “cheap” a mile away. It’s a turn-of. No – more than that, it engenders an internal promise never to participate in THAT product.
Savvy company owners, presidents, managers, and ad agency executives choose a quality, professional, refined portrayal of their product/service with fancy graphics, good copywriting, enduring images, and the delivery — either on camera, or through voice-over — of a talented, experienced actor.
A voice-actor can bring the worst copy to life….can elicit emotion from the most colorless pictures…and can do it all in 30 seconds. There’s no mistaking the impression that you’ve reached a position near the top of the advertising spectrum. People just know.
Like a fine chef, a true voice actor takes pride in his/her work…achieves professionalism by working their way up through the ranks…exudes quality through years of practice and training… and proves again and again a sense of refinement through experience. Most have found success in voiceovers through a tough evolutionary process known as survival-of-the-hardest working and most talented.
You could pay a lot less, and grab Clancy, the clean-up guy to be the voice of “Jack” the cone-head. Clancy may be able to mop floors, but it actually takes a professional, quality actor to produce a refined sound as sarcastically silly and convincing as the brand spokesman for Jack In the Box.
People just know.
How To Use Social Media For Entertainers
In many of my discussions with people in the entertainment business, they want to know how to best use social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace or reverbnation. These tools are essential into spreading the word about your music, product or career. First, I would say you need to understand where this particular industry is at and use Google to research and understand the tools being used. Learn some statistics and develop a strategy for maximizing the use of each tool.
It is crucial that all of your social networking pages are linked together, which will allow all of your pages to be updated at once. This will save you massive amounts of time by not having to go to each page for individual updating. Most entertainers who are developing a game plan also need to try to develop a fan base, as well as create buzz about your next show, CD, Movie or what ever it is that is coming up next.
Understand that social media is still a personal form of networking even though you are behind a computer screen. You still have to be real and available. Learn to update only about 25% of time about your career. Promote others, develop conversations and be available to talk to an extent. I do caution against getting caught up in people who just want to flirt and have no intention of becoming a fan or a consumer. This will cause massive amounts of wasted time and not help you reach your ultimate goals. With all that needs to be done in an entertainment career, using your time wisely is of utmost importance.
Social media for the entertainer should have a game plan of turning new followers into fans and then consumers of your product. If this is not your final goal then you are wasting your time. If you are a musician, it is all about the number of impressions you make which may attract endorsement deals, fans, booking agents, venues, and sales for labels. For other types of entertainment you should know at least the basics to help develop a social media-marketing plan that will work for you.
Social media marketing campaigns should be constant and consistent. Be aware of your metrics and the tools you are using to track your success. Be diligent, concise and always have a plan. It is so important to the success of your career that you know your goals and execute a plan to meet them.
THE PROMOTIONAL KIT
Biography – Form
- Performance Description
- Performer Background.
- Special Performances
- Notable Venues
General Information Sheet
A list of information that isn’t necessary to include but can be helpful. Contains things like places the artist has played by category (festivals, concert halls, clubs, radio and television shows) special workshops or projects and discography or videography. Keep current at least on a yearly basis.
This should include quotes or excerpts taken from articles, reviews interviews. Pick out the best and most illuminating.
Review, Interviews and Preview Articles
- Reviews track your history and development.
- Preview articles are often written by snatching whole paragraphs from your own bio or press release.
- Interviews – self explanatory
A sample press release is always a good thing to include. It makes the kit very useable and professional.
8 ½ by 11 flyer slick is a master sheet that includes a photo and name of the act. It provides a blank space for the promoter to add information about an upcoming performance date.
Logo – not a necessity but strongly recommended
A Cover Letter
The One Sheet
- Short Bio Paragraph
- Photo/CD Cover/Project Poster
- Logo/Name/CD Title/Show Title
- Related Critical Acclaim Quotes
- Specific Theme Information
- Contact Information
The Electronic Press Kit
All the previous mentioned items that can be emailed or downloaded. Can also be burned on to CD and provides additional advantages to present video and audio in professional package.
The Lowry Agency is full service artist management/development and promotions agency. We work with musicians, actors, speakers, voice over artists, entertainment companies, music coordination/supervision for film and TV as well as MMA promotions. We strive to help our clients identify and fulfill their entertainment goals. The Lowry Agency helps clients to meet and exceed their business goals, by creating a profitable business and marketing plan, implementing the plans, handling the business formation, bookkeeping, taxes, investments, insurance, imaging, professional team building, creative inventory, SWOT analysis and career planning.
The Lowry Agency services include:
Tax strategies and services
Professional Team Development:
3D Motion Graphics
Develop Radio Interest
Live Performance/Music Production
Public Relations Consulting:
Album Release Publicity
TV and Radio Syndication Opportunities
Music Placement for Film/TV
Talent/Entertainment Buying Services
Voice Over Demo Production
Social Media Campaigns:
Music Coordination/Supervision for Film, TV & Video Games
Full CD Production
Image vs. Trends
SEO & Web 2.0 Campaigns
Do It Yourself Campaigns
Sponsors for our clients:
Wornstar Clothing (www.wornstar.com
Signature Sight & Sound (www.sssav.com)
THE COST OF USING SOCIAL MEDIA AS A SOAPBOX FOR INDIE ARTISTS
As I peruse the Twitter landscape with the recent elections that happened, I see lots of political talk and some very extreme views being posted by artists that are trying to grow a fan base. These same artists also are always commenting on how they are losing or can’t keep followers. Their numbers barely grow for the important fans they need and the impressions to attract the interest of endorsements and labels.
The problem with politics or religion is that half of the people believe one way and the other half believe the other. If you, as an artist, come out with your views and are upset or mad based on the current political climate, you risk alienating part of your current fan base or potential fan base.
A lot of artists will point out people that have made it in the past and have had several political hits, so let me address that. Number one, this is a different day and age. This isn’t the time of the Vietnam War, and number two, most of those artists that have been pointed out were already established and had a fan base. It’s much easier to point out the exception to the rule than to be the exception.
Musicians tend to express themselves much better through their music and not 140 character rants on Twitter. If you truly believe you are a great songwriter, then let your music do the talking and put your message out there. Let your music plant the seeds of your messages and change the world in the way that suits you the most. Music is the most powerful medium there is, so take advantage of it! It is easier to attract people with honey than it is with bitterness. Don’t alienate your potential artists for a rant box. Be professional and use your music to convey your message.
If you truly need another outlet to express yourself besides your music, create a separate Twitter account and rant there. Don’t associate it with your music account or other music professionals who may support you, work with you or endorse you. You have a responsibility to them and their image as well. Not everyone believes as you do and they don’t want your rants reflecting on them. Marketing is very important and so is your voice so do both smartly and effectively.
You as the artist have to decide what is more important. So ask yourself – do you want to be heard for your opinions or your music? Is your opinion more important than the career you are trying to develop? In the entertainment industry, you have to be careful about alienating yourself before making a name for yourself. Is your personal crusade affecting that?
Yes you can niche market to people with the same beliefs as yours, but what are your goals, how much money do you need to make to survive and are you just singing to people who already agree with you, or are you trying to change the world?