The following is a recent post on my blog with accompanying podcast at

What Is Never Out Of Style?

It is useful to sometimes reflect upon one's past experiences in order to gain a sense of perspective on the current state of the voice-over world. That sense of history and the way things used to be done in comparison to how things are handled now also presents some startling , highly contrasting snapshots of sweeping change.

However, while some things change, others stay the same.

When I started out as a voice talent in the 1980's, there was a protocol. You really needed an agent, because it was the best way to get yourself introduced to the industry's players; the casting folks, ad agencies and production companies. Most talent work was performed locally, and if you wanted a shot at a national spot, you HAD to have an agent or two. I had a couple in Milwaukee, and another in Chicago. There were some great talents out there and the competition was formidable. You'd hear many of the same 100 or voice talents out there working it.

Demos were longer, and usually spliced together and mastered on tape at a recording studio. Dubs were reel-to-reel or cassette.
Your agent would send those tapes out when there was a casting call and you'd also appear on the agency's house reel and sometimes you'd simply get cast from your demo.

Recording sessions took place at the recording studio or a radio station, with an audio engineer, the producer/director, and many times, the client. Back then, most recording sessions were for commercials and narrations.

After the session, I'd always make sure to thank everyone involved for the work, promptly leave the studio and follow up with a hand-written thank you note. And I'd stay in touch periodically with general marketing materials as I grew my business.

One thing, however was certainly frowned upon by agents, casting directors and producers... and that was directly contacting the clients after auditions to see if you got the job. It was considered poor taste, a reflection of inexperience, an act of desperation, or viewed as, "too pushy".

I even heard of some talents that even went so far as to contact the clients after the project was cast with a different talent to try and convince the client to hire him or her. Way Bad form!

Fast forward to 2008.
Hundreds of auditions and jobs are available daily through the internet in a myriad of languages. Now thousands of voice talents hang their virtual shingles at the Voice-Over Malls, known as "pay to play" vo job sites. Clients interface directly with talents from all over the world, and most of talents record, produce and self-direct in their own in-home recording studios and deliver via email, FTP, ISDN or Source-Connect.

Lately, perhaps in part because of the economy, many clients, some at very large companies who once only would be contacted via your agent (because they were too busy to deal with talent )are now in many instances bypassing casting directors, talent agents and the Unions, and they (or their assistants) now deal directly with talent. I am certain there's some economy of scale at play somewhere if you peel away layers of personnel and paperwork.

Voice talents have now learned to become marketers, bloggers, podcasters, salespeople, audio engineers, producers, directors, copywriters, web designers , do their own SEO, bookkeeping and accounting, and now.... social-networking experts.

Talent Demos are now downloadable on a talent's websites, or on CD or DVD. Custom demos are now customary to land a gig.
And there are loads of new media applications way beyond commercials and narration:
Videogames, animation, podcasts, anime, e-books, telephony and IVR's, e-learning, audio books, websites, interactive media, web and mobi-sodes.

Now the competition is greater and prices are going a bit southward. Are we working hard enough yet?

So what is it that doesn't change or outlive its usefulness in this business? I'll elaborate on this all-important element in my next post

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Comment by Bobbin Beam on May 12, 2008 at 11:40am
Thank you for your comment. I'll be updating this post shortly with "Act II"
Comment by Jay Lang on May 12, 2008 at 8:33am
Things have changed over the years and yes now the competition is stiffer thus driving down non-union prices unless you're affiliated with AFTRA or SAG. That's the downside. With AFTRA & SAG it is what it is and they make sure you get paid what you're worth.

The upside to today's state of the Voiceover Union is there are so many new avenues to use in the 21st century to find work. In 1993 I was the only african american voice talent at Studio Center Worldwide Audio. Now there are dozens at SC because the demand for market styles have changed from the announcer leaning more towards your everyday you and me. But at the end of the day, no matter what the competition, one thing remains the same. Once a company finds someone with a voice and delivery that works for them and their product, they are very likely to hold onto you until the product stops selling or the campaign changes. If you've got a contract you're even better off. Otherwise, if you're lucky you'll make it past the new agency and through the next new ad campaign securing your spot. And those new ideas are flowing everyday.

That's my personal take on it. All in all. I can't think of a more pleasant way to make money in this industry just doing what I love to do. Talk.

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