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Monday, August 31, 2015

Does Submitting Your Audition Early Really Matter?

People new to the voice over industry have tons of questions – what’s my niche, do I need an agent, should I join a union, etc. Whether or not to submit your audition early seems to be another common question that many newbies have as well.  So let’s get right to the answer – yes, you should submit your demo as soon as possible.  Here’s why:

You’re Almost Certain to be Heard
The sooner you provide your audition track, the more likely you are to be heard by the casting agent.  As an example, let’s say a gig opens up for a read that you know you’d be a perfect fit for.  Now let’s say 50 other people also have the same thought as you.  If you are one of the first, say 5 or 10, to get your audition in, you know the agent is going to hear you because that’s all he or she has to work with thus far. As the old adage goes, the early bird gets the worm.

You Set the Bar
In addition to being heard – which is the first step in landing the job – you also have the opportunity to set the bar high if you’re one of the first submitters.  Assuming that you have the sound the agent is looking for, they will short-list you as a potential candidate AND use your voice as the barometer against all the competition.  This gives you a huge advantage because it solidifies your sound in the mind of the agent.

Long Listening Leads to Numbness
Another reason why it’s a good idea to provide your audition ASAP is because listening to demos over and over can lead to mental burnout.  This numbness can make the casting agent more likely to go with one of the previous voices they liked, rather than continue to listen to more tracks.

The moral of this story is to submit your audition as soon as you can.  While it won’t guarantee that you’ll get the job, it will definitely improve your chances. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Making a Standout Website

Most voice over actors working in the industry are self-employed, non-union, freelance workers.  While there are a number of benefits to working for yourself in this manner, it also comes with additional challenges.  Namely, you have to be diligent about marketing yourself so you can develop and expand your career.  One of the best ways to do this is by making a website that attracts potential employers and makes them decide, “I want to hire this person!”  Here are some tips for making a great website that will do just that.

1. Make your site easy to find.  When creating your website, pick a domain that is easy for people to remember and is reflective of you and your work. This might be as simple as www.yourname.com or even something like www.voiceoverpro.com.  Also, go with a .com extension, rather than .net or .biz, as these are more forgettable.

2. Easy navigation and quick load times. Your site should also be easy for users to navigate and get the information they’re after. This can be done with multiple pages and menus where visitors can quickly determine how to get their desired info.  Make sure your page can load quickly too, because let’s face it, people are impatient and don’t want to wait an hour for pointless flash animation to load.

3. Have a great landing page. This is the first page that users will be directed to when visiting your site. Since this will be their first impression of you, make it a good one.  It should be aesthetically pleasing with a nice balance of text, pictures, and graphics, as well as easy access to your site’s other pages.

4. Include information that prospective employers want. Many people make the mistake of making their website for them rather than for their users.  Remember that your site exists to land prospective employers and get work, not to serve as a bragging platform for all your accomplishments.

5. Be credible. Visitors to your site will want to know that you can do what you say you can. Including samples of paid work you’ve done and positive reviews or feedback about your work will help establish credibility.  Pick the best, and put them on your site.

6. Have someone else go through your site as an objective party.  It never hurts to have another set of eyes on something, so have someone whose opinion you trust and value take a look and provide constructive criticism.  Check for errors such as sound that won’t play, broken hyperlinks, and misspelled words.  

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Is the Announcer Voice Really Dead?

I’ve talked before about some of the different types of voice over – narrator, video game, etc.  Another of these, and one that has been around for a long time, is the announcer voice.  This is that familiar, sales-pitchy “voice of God” style that you’ve undoubtedly heard.  But have you noticed that you don’t hear that style of VO as much as you used to?  If you have, then you’re not imagining it.  There has been a definite shift in the VO industry, and the announcer voice isn’t the norm anymore.  But is it really dead?

The answer to that question is yes and no.  While there is undeniable evidence that the announcer voice is used less and less frequently, there are some interesting factors at play about why this is happening and what the future holds for this traditional style of VO.

Let’s look first at why this style of voice over is declining. In the past, the announcer voice was valued for its confident, self-assured style that could sell just about anything.  Now, however, audiences (and especially those in the coveted 18-30 demographic) don’t want to be sold to.  They want to be talked to, and they want it in a non-salesy, conversational manner.  The announcer voice smacks of corporate dominance, and for millennials, this is a huge turn-off.  Because of this, there has been a move to voice overs that are more conversational in nature.  This style is much more appealing to younger generations, which is who the majority of advertisers are trying to reach.

Again, though, the question is raised – is the announcer voice dead?  Not quite.  While some may argue that it’s dying, it’s not quite dead yet.  There’s still a large segment of society that appreciates and responds to the announcer style in advertising.  And, more importantly, it’s the older generations who value this style that have the buying power right now in America.  Millennials are more unemployed and underemployed than ever; they have less money and are more reluctant to spend what they do have.  Data like this is what marketing strategists take note of, which may ultimately change the way they communicate with consumers.  And once this happens, it won’t be too surprising if we see a return in the familiar confidence of announcer style voice over. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

VO Career Prospectus: Nancy Cartwright

It’s that time again…time to highlight another amazing voice actor who has contributed so much to the VO industry. This time around we’re recognizing Nancy Cartwright for her incredible work.  An absolute heavyweight in the industry, Nancy’s unique skillset is known all around the world. And if you don’t know the name Nancy Cartwright, I guarantee you know the other name she’s known for – Bart Simpson.
Promising Beginnings
Nancy was born in Dayton, Ohio as the fourth of six kids.  Whether or not being part of a big family played a role in career isn’t clear, but as most kids with multiple siblings will tell you, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd unless you do something to get noticed.  And that is exactly what Nancy did. She began experimenting with different voices at a very early age, even taking first in a school-wide speech contest when she was in 4th grade. After that, she regularly entered public speaking competitions, where the judges would often tell her she should do cartoon voices.

The Big Break
During college in 1978, Nancy moved to Los Angeles to be closer to work in Hollywood and her mentor, Daws Butler.  Butler had been working regularly with Nancy, introducing her to talent scouts and producers, and the burgeoning voice actor was able to land several gigs.  In 1989, Nancy got her big break when she auditioned to voice the role of Bart on The Simpsons.  The show was an instant hit with viewers, launching Nancy’s career into the realm that most voice actors only dream of.  In addition to spawning a number of other gigs, Nancy’s work as Bart Simpson has also won her an Emmy and an Annie Award for outstanding voice over work.  Today, Nancy continues to supply the voice of Bart as she has done for the last 26 years – a truly outstanding achievement. 

Other Work

Nancy’s success on The Simpsons has also led to other projects, including a Simpsons video game and feature film.  Beyond the show that made her famous, she has also worked on projects including Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Pound Puppies, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Family Guy and many others.  Nancy has also penned an autobiography and starred in a one-woman play based on her book. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

What Is the Alexander Technique and What Does it have to do with Voice Over?

Ever heard of the Alexander Technique? If you’re an experience voice over actor then you probably have, but if you’re a newbie, the Alexander Technique may be unfamiliar territory for you.  In short, this is a way to help you relax and feel better, and many voice over artists swear by it. Let’s take a closer look at exactly what the Alexander Technique is, and how it may help you as a VO actor.

What is it?
According to their website, the Alexander Technique “is a way to feel better, and move in a more relaxed and comfortable way.”  What does this have to do with voice over, you ask? Well, your voice is a part of your body, just like your heart or your lungs, and when it is working in conjunction with the rest of your body, and properly, it will perform better. 

How does it work?
The Alexander Technique works to eradicate bad habits pertaining to posture, breathing, and how you carry yourself overall. These bad habits are often formed over a lifetime, and they can lead to unnecessary stress, pain and fatigue.   At the core of this philosophy is the relationship between the head and spine, which sets the tone for the rest of the body’s alignment.  The head should balance lightly on the spine, with no overworking of the neck muscles, and from there the body’s overall coordination should improve.

Can it help me?
Maybe.  Correcting your body’s alignment can have a positive impact on your entire body, including your voice.  When everything is working in concert, the benefits can be seen in all areas of your body – physically, mentally, and emotionally.  The Alexander Technique is also said to improve vocal projection and voice quality, as well as aid in better concentration and stress and anxiety relief. 

Some Voice Actors prefer to stand as the record their work. That is always the best stance for performing at the mic. However, that may not be practical for long periods in your home studio.
I make a compromise and sit on a stool, extending my legs to the floor and keeping my back relaxed but erect.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Tips for Finding Voice Over Work

Voice over is a highly competitive industry, and it can be challenging at times to find steady work.  However, if you’re got the talent and the motivation to build your career, then your chances of finding success as a VO actor are far greater.  First, though, you’ve got to find the work and get your foot in the door so you can start building your brand.  Here are some tips to help you start landing those coveted VO gigs:

Build your Brand – Before you can start earning a paycheck in voice over work, you need to figure out exactly what your brand is.  Who are you? What are you selling? Who will benefit the most from your talent?  These are questions you need to have the answers to in order to start establishing your brand. Figure out your strengths, whether it’s in corporate narration or video games and animation, and focus on those. In my case, The "Voice of Americana" slogan was developed after simply listening to what my clients were saying about my natural voice characteristics and finding where and what industries my style was most welcome.

Self-promotion – Promoting your brand is just as important as building it. After all, you need people to know who you are and what you’re about if you want to start getting work.  The easiest way to do this is to create a website dedicated to your voiceover career.  Adding a blog to your site will keep it fresh and relevant, and you can also use social media platforms and link those back to your website.

Networking – Networking is huge, too.  Sometimes, it’s all about who you know, but to do that, you’ve got to get out there and meet people.  Take classes, attend workshops and seminars, and talk to everyone you can.  This may include talent scouts, agents, producers and other behind-the-scenes folks, or even other voice over actors.  Be sure to follow up promising leads with phone calls and emails as well.

Talent Agent – Hiring an agent is another way to land work, but the trick is finding an agent that A) is great at what they do, and B) has a need for you.  Do your homework on this one, and spend some time researching agents to find one who is reputable and experienced.  Send them your demo reel. ( But only after you've contacted them and received their permission. Unsolicited demos are not welcome. Some agents prefer them to be attached to emails. Some would rather you send a link to your demo. Respect their requirements. And be sure to send along your basic contact info and maybe a short bio. The will request further information if they're interested in representing you.

Monday, August 17, 2015

DIY Voice Remedies

Last week, I talked a bit about how to take care of your most important asset as a voice over actor – your voice.  Now I’d like to go into that topic a bit deeper and touch on some of the home remedies you should have in your repertoire of voice therapies. There are a number of things you can do to stay healthy, like drink plenty of water, which I mentioned previously, but there are a few other tips worth noting as well.

·         Stay away from dairy, or at least cut back on it.  While this advice might not be well-received by everyone – especially those of you who love pizza and ice cream – it will help your voice.  Dairy products increase mucous in your throat, which can lead to irritation and the urge to clear your throat – not something you want to do a whole lot as a VO actor.
·         Use slippery elm lozenges.  Slippery elm has been used for centuries to soothe the throat, coating it and calming irritation. Lozenges are available at health food stores or online.
·         Change your environment.  Limiting your use of the AC can be tough during hot summer months, but being in an air conditioned environment means the air around you is very dry.  This dry air will also dry out your vocal chords.  Turning off the AC periodically or increasing the temperature can counteract this, or you could consider investing in a humidifier to keep the air in your home or studio moist.
·         Enjoy some hot tea.  Hot tea can soothe tired or sore vocal chords, and licorice and marshmallow-root are especially good for the throat because they contain mucilage.  Just be careful not to add lemon to your tea, as the citrus is drying on your throat.

·         Add gargling to your routine.  Mix warm water with salt and a quarter-teaspoon of baking soda, and gargle in a high pitch.  This will coat and soothe the throat, and the higher pitch is more effective as it forces your vocal chords to contract.

Finally, this may sound a bit strange but to help aid against "dry mouth", eat a few potato chips.
The oils in the chips will coat the inside of your mouth relieving the dryness.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Taking Care of Your Voice

As a voice over actor, your voice is your biggest asset. You need it to get jobs and to maintain your career, which is why it is absolutely essential for you to take of it properly. There are a few things you can to do give your voice the TLC it needs, from daily care tips to what to do when you get sick.  Use the pointers below to help keep your voice – and your VO career – in great shape. 

Daily Vocal Care
The best thing you can do on a daily basis to take care of your voice is to drink plenty of water. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. This cannot be overstated.  Being dehydrated can have a very negative impact on your health, and your voice is no exception.  Also, speak in your normal register as much as possible.  If you don’t know what your natural register is, try saying “uh huh” a few times – this is your natural register.  Finally, avoid doing things that will unnecessarily strain your voice, like yelling or whispering. Yes, whispering is actually straining the voice into submission. Obviously, these things can’t always be prevented, but do it when you can. 

Before and During Recording Sessions
Before a session, it’s helpful to get adequate sleep and avoid drinking, smoking, or partaking in other activities that may strain your voice.  Oh, and drink plenty of water the day before, in case that wasn’t clear before. J  During a recording session, bring a bottle of room temperature water with you to sip on as you record.  Don’t drink cold water, because this will constrict your vocal chords and impact your register.  It's helpful to add a bit of lemon juice to your water. Maybe even heat it up with a bit of honey. Other hydrating tips include oral moisturizers and dental gum. I find that a Eucalyptus oil burner in my recording room is helpful in keeping my nasal passages clear.

What to do When you Get Sick
Getting a cold or sore throat stinks no matter who you are, but when your livelihood is dependent upon healthy vocal chords, it’s even worse.  While you can do certain things to avoid picking up colds or the flu, sometimes the bugs find you anyway. Washing your hands consistently throughout the day is a good preventative measure. When colds/sore throat or Flu catches you, increase your fluid intake and use natural remedies like warm water with lemon and honey, as suggested above as normal maintenance. Cough drops are fine, but don’t go for the menthol or the Zinc infused ones as these can dry out your throat even more. If you must, use only natural saline nasal spray. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Kids and Voice Over

Adults aren’t the only ones capable of having voice talent – there are lots of extremely gifted kids out there that have also successfully broken into the VO industry.  And really, it’s not a whole lot different for kids to get into voice over than it is for adults, other than they need to have a parent or guardian acting as manager.  If your child is interested in starting their career sooner rather than later, and voice over is their chosen path, here’s what you need to do.

Hire a Voice or Acting Coach
The first step in getting your child involved in voice over is hiring a voice or acting coach. While your son or daughter may have tons of natural talent, they’ll still need voice training to learn how to use their gift.  Things like projection, enunciation, and other voice-related skills will be studied and practiced, and acting chops will also be evaluated.  A voice over actor doesn’t JUST read off a script, after all. Pro tip: Look for an experienced coach that specializes in working with children.

Record a Demo
A demo is your child’s “headshot” that will be used to find an agent or land jobs.  The demo should consist of five or six different clips (samples) of your child’s work.  While you want to include a range of VO examples, don’t go overboard and put in every little snippet that you think sounds great.  Be selective, and choose only the samples that show a true representation of your child’s talent. The entire character demo should be no more than 90 seconds long - shorter, if possible. Those searching for talent are often only willing to listen to 8 - 10 seconds of each demo before listening to the entire demo. So be sure to place your strongest, most convincing clips up front.

Find an Agent
Something else to consider is whether or not to hire a talent agent.  If you do want to do this, you’ll want to send your child’s demo out to a few different reputable agents, and preferably those that work with children.  An agent can help match your son or daughter up with gigs, as well as help you market yourselves more effectively.

Marketing & Networking
Speaking of marketing, whether you hire an agent or not, you’ll want to do some advertising.  This can be in the form of a website or social media page (Facebook, YouTube, etc.) that showcases your child’s talent.  Networking is always a good idea. Attending workshops and seminars – especially those geared toward children – can help you get your foot in the door. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

5 Great Things about Being a Voice Over Actor

Working in the voice over industry is a lot of things – challenging, demanding, and competitive to name just a few.  However, it’s also....awesome!  There are so many wonderful things about being a voice over actor, and it’s a career choice that I’m sure most don’t regret once they get started.  If you’re considering turning your voice into a viable career, here are five of the best things about being a voice over actor.

1. It’s always interesting! As a voice over actor, you’re always kept on your toes. You never know what type of job you may be doing a week or a month in the future, so the work always stays interesting.  One week you may be voicing a video character, and the next you might be narrating a how-to manual for a software corporation or voicing the latest episode of that TV program you love. With this type of variety, there’s always something new to learn and the work stays fresh and exciting.

2. There’s always room for growth. Actors always have room for growth, both personally and professionally.  In terms of personal growth, you’re always honing your skills and trying new things to expand your natural talent – you have to if you want to stay relevant.  Professional growth is another huge element, especially now when the VO industry is booming. There are literally thousands of job opportunities in voice over that didn't exist ten or twenty years ago.

3. You get to decide what you want to work on. You can also be very selective about voice over work. If you’re offered a project but you don’t think it’s something you’re interested in, you don’t have to take it. You get to pick and choose your work, which is something that not everyone has in their career.  In this same vein, you also have more freedom about when you want to work, especially if you do your VO recordings from a home studio.

4. The income potential is huge. Millions of dollars are paid out each year to voice over actors. While some may never make it big in the industry, the potential is there for maximum return on your investment.  If you’re talented, a hard worker, utilize effective business skills and have a good reputation among those who produce VO projects, your income will reflect that.

5. You’ll meet some amazing people.  You’ll meet a lot of people doing voice over work.  From other actors to agents to producers and other behind-the-scenes personnel, there are some amazing and talented people in the industry – and you’ll get to meet them doing voice over! Even though most of your work these days will be recorded in your home studio, you'll be laying the groundwork to meet your clients whenever possible.