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requiescat in pace brian james

brian_james

Not everybody who reads this blog follows the voiceover industry (hence the marketing and advertising elements in the voxmarketising brand).

But all of you have likely come across the radio imaging, television imaging and commercial work of professional voice over talent Brian James. I don’t know this as a fact but I always had the impression that his voice was on at least one station in every major market in the US. I know the program directors in the UK proudly used Brian to as their stations’ voice as well.

Last Friday, March 6th Brian died of a heart attack.

What Don LaFontaine was to movie trailers, Brian James was to station imaging. I am heart sick for his family and for our industry. I knew him only as a voice talent….but my gracious what a tremendous talent he was.

There are memorials popping up all over the place…this is one that’s set up on Facebook.

Life is a gift, not a guarantee.

Here is a very brief sample of what you’ll now be missing.

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Click here to download.

voice over workshop’s kick in the pants – march 2009

voice over workshop kick in the pants

Voice over talents who subscribe to voxmarketising or who train with the Voice Over Workshop occasionally receive a free e-mail from the Voice Over Workshop’s owner (who also happens to own audio’connell voice over talent and this blog/podcast) with his advice on how to earn billions of dollars in voice over (which none of them ever do). Nonetheless, subscribers saw this first…so if you’re seeing it for the first time now, you are at the end of the line. Subscribe now to fix that.

If you’re like many of my voice over friends heading into the last month of the first quarter (Q1 for the “suits” in the audience) you’re either enjoying a feast or experiencing famine.

Some folks have got a ton of voice over business in Q1 and others have called the phone company numerous times this quarter to check if the ringer on their phone is broken (it’s not).

In January’s Kick in the Pants, I mentioned putting together a marketing plan. Some of you have done this, some have you have called me for help and some of you are still on hold with the phone company about your possible “ringer” issue.

THE VOICE OVER DEMO
Well let me assume for a moment your marketing is under control. How are things on the demo front? You know, your REAL business card – the voice over demo!

Voice talents are usually in two camps on this issue:
1. Produce it themselves
2. Have someone else produce it for them

Now because I run Voice Over Workshop I need to make clear it is NOT my goal to solicit demo work from Workshop students ever. I produce only a few demos a year for people (primarily not with Workshop participants). Some Voice Over trainers focus on voice demos as a key revenue source, using training as the bait. I don’t care for that business model personally.

Having clarified that (I hope) I do think it helps to have a third party produce your demo and it’s usually worth the money. My primary thought is that you are too close to your work and you need a fresh perspective. That opinion offered it’s not the point of this KITP.

What I DO want to talk about is who listens to your demo BEFORE you put it out into the marketplace. I have some suggestions.

YOUR EARS ARE NOT BIG ENOUGH
As an example, let’s talk about your commercial demo. Say you’ve had a really talented producer put it together and you both feel it’s great. It very well may be but I’m sorry to tell you – you’re not done with your demo’s production (or you shouldn’t be).

My advice is that you seek the ears of about three other qualified people to critique your demo. You want to know from them their honest take away from just one listen of your demo. You are looking for trends.

Listen – if you ask 3-4 people their opinions you’re just as likely to get 3-4 different opinions…so what should you hope to take away from this exercise? If you get 2-3 people noticing the same sort of thing on the demo or all agreeing on an issue without having spoken to each other (and reviewers should never speak to each other or even know who the other reviewers are during this exercise) then you know you have a demo issue (or if its all positive….you’ve got a great demo!) Better to know now!

WHAT ARE THE QUESTIONS?
What are the demo elements about which you want feedback? There’s a ton but since you’re likely asking a favor, start with these primary areas:

• “What did you think of the first 15 seconds of the demo?” Sadly for all the work done on all 60 seconds (on average) of a demo, producers often make up their minds on a voice in the first 15 seconds or less. Your “money voice” and your finest performances need to be there. If your reviewers consistently say your best work was not up front…well then Houston, we have a problem.

• “What did you think about the order of the demo elements?” This too goes to the question of “is my strongest stuff up front?” But it also highlights if one or more demo elements seemed out of place or – to their ears – stopped the demo in its tracks (in a bad way). The demo flow you and your producer hear may not be the flow a hiring producer hears.

• “What did you think about the pacing of the demo?” With this question you’re searching to learn if they heard a demo that was “too slow” or “too fast” or that had “too many different cuts” or “not enough vocal variety”. Admittedly, this question will likely give you the most varied opinions of all but it are good to get those too. A different perspective is not a bad thing for voice demos.

WHO SHOULD YOU ASK TO LISTEN?
Not your Mom and not your spouse. Nice people both but unless they’re hiring VO’s, they offer nothing to this party.

Certainly in this instance if you can find a broadcast producer at an advertising agency who you know, that would be valuable…even more so if they share it with their department to solicit opinions. Sure, if it sucks, it could cost you a few credibility points but you wouldn’t have been hired by them anyway and if you retool and it sound better in round two…they’ll be impressed by your growth.

A video production company producer or commercial producer for a TV station would be another good choice for what I feel are obvious and similar reasons.

Should you ask another voice talent? That’s not as easy a question as it seems. You would want to solicit the opinion of a voice talent with some strong producing credits in both commercials and demos. Maybe a good way to judge is to listen to their demos…if you thought it rocked, give them a call. The worst they could say is no.

INDICTING THE PRODUCER!
Every producer of voice demos has their own way of doing things…indeed; this all is part of my way of producing a demo. But I also think probably not surprisingly that it makes the most sense because even third parties can get too close to their work to consistently be omniscient.

It is important to note, however, that if changes or alterations are required following this kind of listening party, it should not be a poor reflection on your producer…be it you or a third party.

The hiring of voice talent is a completely subjective process. One person’s opinion – based on their client knowledge, professional experience, personal opinions or bias, momentary mood, trouble at home…all that junk…is what colors the selection process for voice over candidates on any given day. All that stuff also goes into the listening of a demo too.

I liken it to panhandlers sifting for gold – the sand is all the different opinions and mood stuff the demo listener brings to the table. The gold is the feedback that either strikes a chord with you or that joins the chorus of demo reviewers, offering you consistent feedback.

FOR DEMO PRODUCERS
There are some very talented demo producers in our midst and on this list and I would invite them to review this blog post and consider my invitation. I’d love to hear your opinions on the Top 5 elements that go into producing a commercial demo. Blog it on voxmarketising.com and maybe we’ll get you into the podcast’s roundtable.

Enjoy the ride!

why mca-i adds quantifiable value to your professional media career

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Last December, I was elected to the board of directors of Media Communications Association – International (MCA-I). MCA-I members are over 700 media communication professionals around the world who provide the vital connection between the creative methods and technology. This describes me and about 70% of my client base.

I joined the association in August after having spoken about the group with Connie Terwilliger – a friend, a wonderful professional voice talent and herself a past-president of MCA-I.

There are 25 chapters across the country with another 150 members like me who are (as I call it) unchapterized. As far as I know I AM the Buffalo chapter.

That’s right. I serve on an international board of directors of an association to which the only meetings I have attended have been virtual (except now I’ve personally been to a leaders meeting in New Orleans). Why would I do such a thing?

Well yes I am crazy but that has nothing to do with this! 😉

The business of media in which I have been a professional (read: paid) practitioner since 1982 is a virtual business. Certainly in-person meetings take place often but fully 80% – 90% of my customers I’ve never met. If one is going to run a global business like mine (which “sounds” a lot more impressive than it is) you quickly have to come to grips with that business reality.

So belonging to an association in which my interaction is either phone or web-based is not at all problematic. And all the other benefits of belonging to a professional association (save for the in-person meetings) still apply….and that INCLUDES programming, education, cost-saving programs and networking (think Facebook and Linked-In as to one way that might work). And if your city HAS a chapter in it, all the better for you!

As I am also the MCA-I Membership chair, I am not above offering this infomercial for YOU to join MCA-I too…especially since I’ve created a membership recruitment drive now through April 30, 2009 and if you list my name on your on-line membership application as the referring member, I would enjoy the bragging rights! I can’t win any of the prizes as I oversee the promotion.

And very seriously, if you have any questions about membership, please call me at +01 716 572 1800 and I will be glad to speak with you about it – no matter where in the world you are…though remember I am only uni-lingual.

why doing the right thing is rarely wrong: fedex office

fedex_office

From the FedEx Office web site:

DALLAS, March 4, 2009—FedEx Office (formerly FedEx Kinko’s), an operating company of FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX), today announced plans to offer its printing services in an effort to help job seekers across the nation. The company will host “FedEx Office Free Resume Printing Day” on March 10, 2009, offering to print up to 25 copies of each customer’s resume for free.

FedEx Office deserves kudos for it and here they’ll get kudos for it – for doing the right thing. Their service is free and here so is the publicity. Please tell your friends both employed and unemployed.

voice over guest bloggers are now invited

invitation

While an idea that has come to my mind is not original in the blogosphere, it is original to my blog as I have never invited guest bloggers to participate here with their thoughts. While comments and discussion are more than welcome always, I just never organized guest blog posts before.

Now that’s changing.

Those of you involved with voice over may have opinions on our industry that you’d like to flesh out a bit further. But you may not want to blog regularly or even have your own blog…so use my soapbox for a moment. I may act like I never get off it but I am truly interested in your opinions.

Here is what I am proposing and inviting any of you to participate in on voxmarketising.com’s latest experiment

• I will present a topic for anyone to submit their blog post on within a set time frame (likely a week).
• Depending on the response (hopefully not crickets) I’ll post them with your by-line etc. NOTE: If I think your post has no merit or is poorly written…I won’t post it. Know that now and don’t be mad/sad with me later. My house, my rules (just practicing that line for when my kids get bigger)
• Please keep your length to about 500 words or less if possible.
• Please include a one to two line infomercial about you, your company name, web site and something interesting about yourself so that I can include that as an “author’s information” tag at the end of the post.
• Be polite etc., if you’re rude or slanderous (or even rude and slanderous etc.) I won’t publish you. (again, my house, my rules)
• Make sure you properly credit any sources, especially if you include any audio or video clips (obviously include their embedded code etc)
• As it’s my blog I reserve the right to append your post for grammar, length or any other reason as I see fit. No I don’t intend to screw with your intent and if you don’t like my changes you may ask me to take down your post and I will. (MYMR)

Now here’s a cool twist (or what I think is a cool twist). Again based on responses, what I hope to do is take a few of the authors on the topic, Skype them and do a round table recording where they can chat (debate?) the topic with points from their posts. The give and take would make a cool VMT interview for my podcast….with added exposure for the participants.

>>> My first topic?

If you were advising someone at any point in their VO career how to produce a terrific commercial voice over demo – what would you tell them are the top 5 elements that they need to include in that demo and why?

This idea may be a resounding success or a dismal failure but I believe you miss 100% of the shots you never take.

Email your posts to me at peter at audioconnell dot com and let’s enjoy the ride together! Thanks.

why doing the right thing is rarely wrong: tony walker & co.

one_city_one_heart_logo_copyright_The_Advantage_Company_all_rights_reserved

Just a note to begin: at the end of this blog post I’m going to ask you to consider buying something – but not from me or for me.

It doesn’t involve me at all.

While the shock for most of us following the February 2009 crash of Flight 3407 in Clarence, NY has subsided into sort of a regular part of our subconscious (life must go on but quick, snap your fingers….51 people dead, just that fast, wow) for those directly affected…I can only guess life will never be the same.

I don’t know how other communities deal with such events as I’ve never studied it. Yet I’m assuming that many of the same things that have gone on in Western New York following this event have happened elsewhere.

So maybe the story I am about to tell you isn’t necessarily unique but – as we’ve never had such a catastrophic tragedy like this before – it’s new to us. But more important, I think, than the story of community this tale will tell (because that is very much what this area is all about) is the story of simply doing the right thing. It’s so simple it seems almost effortless.

A t-shirt.

That’s all it is. A silk-screened T-shirt sold by a locally owned and operated retail operation called Tony Walker & Company which is owned locally by its parent company, The Advantage Company. They sell lots of nice stuff including high quality t-shirts. They do this every day.

When the crash happened, like everyone else the owners and employees evidently wanted to do something. We were really all so helpless doing nothing more than staying out of the way, letting the professionals do their jobs and praying a lot. That never seems like enough…at heart we all seem to be workers, doers, action-takers. For a while, though, it felt like all we could to was sit and stare.

But we shook that off and got to work. Tony Walker & Company did too. They did what they knew how to do. They designed a t-shirt (the logo is the picture in the blog post) the proceeds of which will go directly to help the Wielinski family into whose home the plane crashed and whose husband/father died as a result. He and the passengers and crew were the only fatalities of a plane crashing into a completely residential neighborhood.

I keep thinking that’s the oddest combination of a tragedy and a miracle all at the same time.

You can buy the t-shirts here (many styles and colors) and if you do, I would like to thank you also for doing the right thing.