Demos are considered a necessity to primarily get an agent since most clients don't search demos to find a specific need for a certain gig.  If they do, that's insane and bad for us voice talents who can't put everything we do on a 1.5 min demo.  Clients aren't visionary so if they are looking for a Suave French spy and you don't have it on your demo, they won't presume you can do it.

 That said, since I often get talent sending me demos or links to theirs as a way to get into my talent pool, let me try to help with a few bullet points.

1.  You could be a lot better with more potential than I hear on your demo. Demos can be self-limiting.

Or worse, they can turn someone off if done poorly AND if done well you better be able to deliver the goods instantly.  You don't get rehearsal time and do overs in a session.

 

2.  I can't tell how long it took you to perfect whatever voices or get your takes right nor how directable you are nor what kind of persona you have by listening to your demo.

 

3.  If you took a class or two and spent substantial money which might have included getting a produced demo in the end, you may or may not be able to live up to your demo when faced with a real job.  Better put, if you don't have good enough voice control or maybe you can't stay in character, or maybe you can do a voice but you can't act, or you aren't accurate cold reading copy.....maybe you should concentrate on perfecting and expanding your abilities before rushing out and slapping a demo on as many "desks" as you can. 

 

4.  Start your demo off with a bang.  Catch attention in the first 5 secs.  Don't go back and forth between two voices and try to do voices the industry wants. I go over this in coaching, but for now, just don't do impersonations that you label unless you are 100% spot on. Otherwise if your Elvis Presley voice produces an interesting character, play with that instead of saying "Thank you.  Thank you very much," as a bad Elvis.  

 

5.  Keep your demo no longer than a minute and a half and if you can't supply totally different good choices to fill that time slot, don't try.  Leave people wanting to hear more instead of them thinking, "Yeah yeah, heard that voice already.,"

 

6.  If you're a guy and don't sound like Sam Elliot, don't put western cowboy voices on your demo and if you're a girl, forget being another one of the hundreds doing a Wicked Witch "I'll get you and you're little dog too."   Try to do something different, or if it's one of the latter, or even a pirate, say something funny and clever. If you make a client  chuckle while listening you get bonus points and they'll think you're fun to work with.

 

7.  Unsolicited demos sent to anyone, especially agents, seldom get listened to, and if all you do is email someone saying "go to my link.  I'd love to be part of your talent pool,"  that treats your recipient like cheap spam and they'll be thinking, "The nerve...like I have nothing better to do than go to your site, when you obviously didn't do anything to personalize your email or find out anything about what makes me or my agency tick."   

THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN USUALLY GET AN AGENT TO LISTEN TO YOUR DEMO IS TO IF YOU HAVE A BUDDY WHO IS ALREADY REPPED BY THAT AGENT INTRODUCE YOU WITH PLENTY OF KUDOS.

 

8.  PRODUCTION VALUE CAN MATTER WITH A DEMO.  DON'T HAVE TO PAY TOP DOLLAR TO GET AN ENGINEER TO DO IT FOR YOU,  IF YOU KNOW HOW TO CUT AND PASTE BACKGROUND MUSIC OR JUST A TASTE OF DIFFERENT SOUND BEHIND EACH OF YOUR CLIPS.  MAKES IT SOUND LIKE IT WAS TAKEN FROM AN ACTUAL PRODUCTION INSTEAD OF YOU SITTING IN FRONT OF YOUR MIC AT HOME.  IF YOU CAN'T CHANGE THE MUSIC, LEAVE IT OFF. BY PUTTING ONE TRACK UNDER ALL YOUR CHANGE-UPS it PROVES once again, it's not from a perceived production.

 

9.  COMMERCIALS--Always do national tag lines or spots. Nothing sounding local with a city or local location mentioned.  If your mic sounds decent and you put a bit of music behind "Today shop at Sears,"  no one will know you didn't actually do that spot.

 

10.  Do as many separate demos as you want by category.  Commercials,  Promos, Animation and characters, Game Demo, IVR, Tutorial, Narrative & Documentary, Dialects, Audio Books.   Keep them short and sensational rather than long and mediocre.

 

11.  Try not to tell a story like Once upon a time there was this Frog, "Ribbit Ribbit" who met a fairy, "Goodness me, a frog!"....unless it's for an audio book demo.  For character demos, slap totally different sounding stuff together in 5-10 sec increments and if you don't have a lot of characters, make a 30 sec demo. 

 

12. I'm happy to go over more of this in detail and offer private coaching at a very reasonable cost with a money back guarantee.   But the above info is worth a lot more than any price tag, so I hope it helps.  Best of luck.

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Replies to This Discussion

Yes Sini I agree with you and I hug Ron too.  I also get fed up as we all do with clients asking us to sound like some nondescript voice from a youtube film clip of someone they liked the performance of but who might not suit the role for the spot or audition.  This is a great sign of how clients are either very young and too easily impressed by celebs or even old coots who think just because someone got a good script in a movie that their voice would make a good match for Sheena the Jungle cat.   Pshaw!

Hi Lani,

 

I just got back in from church services and caught the 5 min error.  I am sorry it wasn't typed in correct and you mis read it.  I did love your passion in your reply; it shows you care. :-)

 

It goes along with clients typing in things that I have had to ask; "What?"

Forgive me, I will be more careful in the future.  Is the 15min invite still open? ;-)

 

Wow, I was checking out your voices and laughed, what a range!  I have made goofy voices to 'entertain' on a spur of the moment but couldn't recall it later, that's talent!

 

Thanks again for all you do!

 

Ron

Yes Ron I never reneg on an invite!  :)  Thanks for the compliment too!

Thanks for the advice Lani.  I would expect that I should personalize my e-mail to an agent instead of sending it in blind.  However in the absence of knowing someone who's already repped by that agent what other choice would I have other than sending my demo in unsolicited?

 

There is a lot of good info here, but also a few things I would disagree with...

 

There are plenty of agents who will listen to unsolicited demos.  If talent had to wait until they could get referred by a buddy in order to get a listen, no one would ever get signed.  I find that a professional cover letter or intro letter either thru email or snail mail works, and you can always call the agency and ask politely and professionally,  if they wouldn't mind taking a listen to your demo.  The worse that can happen is they will say no. 

 

Dropping your own background music behind your tracks is, IMHO, not a good idea.  I've produced countless demos for happy clients, and have the benefit of an audio engineering/music background, so I know how to make the background sit with the VO.  Dropping your own background behind a VO without having the technique will scream amateur

 

Lee K

 

I'd have to agree with you there, Lee. As far as dropping your own music... leave it to the pros.

What if one is already a pro? (Not speaking of myself)

Should that person still consult another pro to do theirs?

People can be their own worst critics and some cannot tell if what they are hearing is "really them."

I have heard really bad self made demos made by people who can do sound and voice well by themselves still could not do their own for the above reasons.

And I have heard demos that were made by the individual for themselves and they sounded great.

Any thoughts on this?

Most of us can "do sound and voice," but it doesn't guarantee to hit. I believe the best ears belong to the casting directors, because at the end... they hire.

Bottom line... make sure your read is undeniable.

Again I am trying to make a point that some people seem to miss.   Even if an agent says they will accept your demo, chances are that's more of a polite way to get you off their back.  At least that's true of the bigger agencies who have to "find work for the talent they already rep" and who get solicited from people like you every day.  Not saying this happens all the time, but it's the majority of the time in the real world.

Even then, agents may let some intern wade through demos and forward what they think are the good ones to the agent who listens to them when they feel like it.

Doesn't mean agents or interns have any handle on talent. And once more I say demos don't illustrate to me, what you can REALLY do, in an instant, how flexible you are in an instant, how well you take direction or how imaginative and cooperative you are.  What's worth more of your time and money is making your voice an orchestra that can play more than one type of music to be competitive.

That is what really interests me, as a casting director.   Not how professional the music drops sound.

Please try to understand....it's all about how wisely you spend your time and MONEY people!  I don't care if you wear Gucci shoes. It's how you walk the walk and how maleable and eager you are to expand and fine tune your repertoire.


I get inundated with demos of all types....some which cost talent a HUGE wad...and even then, they SUCK!  I've taken the time to call some of these folks back to do a quick phone screening to see if they are willing to try something, and if not, they have no biz sending out demos in the first place. Most casting directors wouldn't even give that second chance.

Too many people spend far too much money taking classes from inept people who make more money teaching than they do performing, and in this biz, you will find few people who are willing to teach you how to be their competition as I do.   I have no ego problems, no desire to milk talent into growing slowly and continuing to take course after course or to have me make them a demo that's far better than they can live up to.   I want to give people the right ammo,  teach them how to shoot and what to shoot at and give others something no one else gave me.   Why?  Call it my Karma.  Maybe a knee jerk reaction to all the other vampires who suck nice talent dry only to have me finally meet them and ask, "So what is it you actually LEARNED after spending $XXXXX and all that time?"

The answers I get make me feel very sorry that someone got gaffed and dragged and even though there is ALWAYS something to be learned from any course, class or get together, it's time someone could see the difference in Black and White for what's going to get you places quickly and what's just a lovely social gathering with a few psychological techniques and perhaps some rudimentary voice exercises thrown in.

Ooooh. Brutal. But right on the money. There does seem to be a LOT of milking going on out there. Maximising on hopes & (perhaps not so well researched) dreams... there are a few here in the UK but not nearly so much as over there... yes of course its a bigger market.

 

Oh we're sounding hard now.

If you don't know anyone who can refer you to their agent---------------Cecil this is for you and anyone else that wonders..........

This is where perhaps VU can help.   Getting to know successful voice talents can happen anywhere, be it FB, VU, at an event, or getting in with someone like myself or another casting person who then is impressed and their recommendation holds a lot of clout with people who are active in the biz.  Take it one step at a time.  Call the receptionist at the front desk of an agency.  Could be a lovely person or maybe a pit bull.  But if you ask them something like "Look, I know you guys get flooded with demos all day and of course demos don't tell you how great someone can really perform on the spot, but how would you recommend I present myself to your agency to get the best results?"

Often if you get the hired help's advice, it's invaluable and can not only give you the ammo, but the right gun to shoot with.

Cecil, I Googled all the talent agents in my area (New York), got their contact info, and called to ask how I could submit a demo for consideration as an addition to their talent roster.  Every one of them responded politely and gave me directions on who to contact, email address, and what to include in my submission.  I was interviewed and picked up by a great agent in less than two weeks. You just have to have something they don't already have on tap in their roster... a style, sound, personality.. something marketable and just a little "different".

And Lani, why on earth would anyone seeking representation tell anyone at an agency; "..of course demos don't tell you how great someone can really perform on the spot.."?!  That's like an insurance salesman saying; "You don't want to buy any insurance, do you?" Don't try to tell them you know their business!  That'll just make 'em mad.

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