Entries Tagged as 'agents'

#voicestrong alliance

VO Agent Alliance_audioconnell

After the announcement a few weeks back regarding the purchase of a Los Angeles-based online casting service by a disreputable Canada-based pay-to-play voiceover service, I had the chance to speak with many of my voiceover talent agents as well as agents from voiceover agencies where I am not on the roster. All of them would be significantly impacted by this online casting service purchase. Those agents that I spoke with and many other used the Los Angeles-based online casting service to feed auditions to voice talents like myself.

#Voicestrong 4If the voice talent agents stayed with the Los Angeles-based online casting service after this sale, they would likely have been subjected to predatory fee reductions by the disreputable Canada-based pay to play voiceover service. But many voiceover agencies did NOT stay with the new owner. Voice talent agencies have been resigning from the Los Angeles-based online casting service in droves, so bad is the reputation of its new owners (the disreputable Canada-based pay to play voiceover service).

Before and during this sale, many voice over agents were not sitting idly by. Before the takeover announcement, some voiceover agents were in very preliminary discussions to see how they could combat the disreputable Canada-based pay to play voiceover service’s negative impact on the voiceover industry. The takeover announcement merely sped up the discussions.

Today, those agents made their announcement and it is an impressive one.

VO Agent Alliance_tall_audioconnellThey have introduced the VO Agent Alliance, a collective of vetted professional voiceover talent agencies committed to the highest standards the voiceover talent business has to offer, which should be viewed in stark contrast to the business practices of the disreputable Canada-based pay to play voiceover service.

The purpose of the VO Agent Alliance is to offer voice seekers (clients who hire voice talents like media producers, commercial producers, advertising agencies, network promo departments, radio production departments etc.) a free audition submission tool. The tool gives voice seekers access to all alliance member agencies at once. Voice seekers will then have access to some of the best voice talents in the industry (horn toot alert: including me) that seekers will not find on the recently purchased online casting site.

Further, all voiceover agents in the alliance have agreed to a strict set of promotional standards having to do with Fairness, Integrity, Confidentiality, Professionalism and Diligence. These are all areas in which the disreputable Canada-based pay to play voiceover service, now operating from a bigger platform, has shown itself to be significantly deficient.

As of this writing, the members of the VO Agent Alliance include In no particular order:

I am proud to recognize my long-term business relationships with Voice Talent Productions, Umberger Agency, Rockstar Entertainment and Ta-Da! Voiceworks – each has been my voiceover agent for many years.

If you are a voice seeker (media producer etc.) I hope you will consider using the VO Agent Alliance web site to book your next voice job. #voicestrong

#voicestrong courage

#voicestrong for voice agents

History has taught us that it is NOT easy.

Experience has taught us that it is rare.

Life has taught us that it is within each of us in large and small ways…but it IS in there.

The mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.

– The definition of courage

Courage_audioconnell_350

History books and movies are great at depicting amazing and even dramatic acts of courage.

But the truth is, in comparatively smaller, even daily acts, courage can be just as profound.

Profound because showing courage in almost any situation is hard.

One example.

To wake up one morning and find that, completely outside of your control, a key profit center of your business has been significantly altered in a way that is antithetical to your core business beliefs is a situation no small business in any industry wants to face.

But that’s what happened this week to hundreds of voiceover talent agencies and casting directors when a Los Angeles-based, central voiceover casting web site announced it had agreed to be acquired by a generally disrespected Pay 2 Play voiceover web site based in Canada. This Canadian company is known for and has admitted siphoning money budgeted for voiceover talent into their own corporate coffers under the guise of project management, unbeknownst to their paying clients.

Putting aside for a moment the ethical dilemma faced by agencies having to consider having business dealings with a disreputable company like that who now controls a key lead generation tool used daily by agencies, for these small business owners there is an important and hard financial decision to be made.

If agencies stay in partnership with this new ownership, they risk working for even lower commissions based on lower fees likely to be offered to voice talents on project posted by the Canadian company that now owns this popular casting site  (which is something the Canadian company, as a P2P, has been documented to do for some years now). But if the agencies drop the relationship with the new company, they will get commissioned on 100% on nothing. A key revenue source will be gone. How will they replace that lost revenue?

An ethical and financial quandary at the doorstep of voice talent agencies around the globe, all before breakfast.

These voiceover agents are small business owners just like you and me. Some are bigger than others and each has their other lead sources and contacts. Nonetheless, a decision either way impacts their bottom line.

A very hard decision, with unknown and unforeseen consequences, was before them. Take less of something or 100% of nothing.

I would like to introduce you to some people.

Erik Sheppard of Voice Talent Productions

Jeffrey Umberger of The Umberger Agency 

Tanya Buchanan of Ta-Da! Voiceworks

These are three of my voiceover agents.

Liz Atherton of TAG Talent

Stacey Stahl of In Both Ears

Carol Rathe of Go Voices

Susie DeSantiago of deSanti 

These four folks are not my voiceover agents but like Erik, Jeffrey & Tanya, each faced a very tough business decision following the Canadian company’s purchase. And decide they did.

Each has notified the casting website that they are leaving and will no longer be a paying member. Their collective lack of respect for the new ownership and it’s reputation for depreciating voice talents, agents and their services seems to have helped them make their individual decisions.

There may still be more to add to the exit list, but right there are seven (7) examples of small business owners who individually faced a business problem head on, individually had a tough decision to make and individually made the decision to walk away from a table with money still on it (less though it will likely turn out to be).

The chance for them to lose significant income is very real. So are their mortgage, car and school payments. Doing the right thing can be very difficult on many different levels.

Everyday courage doesn’t often make it to the big screen. But that doesn’t make these specific acts any less courageous.

And courage like that, from people voice talents have trusted as partners in our careers, deserves our unwavering support. #voicestrong

:30 seconds notice and no script

Peter K. O'Connell Moderates Voice-Over Agents Panel VO Atlanta 2016

VO Atlanta 2016’s Voice-Over Agent Panel. L-R Peter K. O’Connell, audio’connell Voice-Over Talent (Moderator); Erik Sheppard, Voice Talent Productions; Jeffrey Umberger, Umberger Agency, Tanya Buchanan, Ta-Da Voiceworks; Marci Polzin, Artistic Talent; Susie De Santiago, De Santi Talent and Ralph Cooper, Capital Talent Agency. Photo Courtesy of Tom Dheere.

It was about :30 seconds between the time when I was asked to MC the Voice-Over Agent panel discussion at VO Atlanta 2016 and when I hit the stage and kicked off the session among a hotel ballroom full of people.

And oh by the way, there was no agenda, no script and no panelist bios.

Go!

Adrenaline? Nerves? Panic? There seriously wasn’t time to consider any of that.

The audience didn’t know about the birth process I was zooming through, they just knew the baby was coming – they wanted to hear the panel. For all they knew, I was scheduled as host weeks before.

Um, no.

Yes, I have moderated many panels and events over the years. I’ve done tons of live announcing and a bunch of emcee and hosting work for trade shows, conferences and award shows. It’s something I enjoy doing and I’ve been lucky to get high marks (and paychecks) from clients for my work.

Most importantly, with each of them I enjoyed lots of preparation, plenty of notes and a script.

Not Saturday.

By the way, that’s not anybody’s fault. Most panel discussions I’ve done, a moderator crafts a series of questions to start things off and maybe to fall back on if the panel discussion lags…they rest of it often is pretty free-form discussion.

So here’s the background on this special instance.

I was a first time attendee at VO Atlanta. I was not there in any other capacity – not a host, teacher or janitor.

The Voice-Over Agent panel was the second session of the morning on Saturday in the main ballroom. I started the day in this room because I had attended the previous panel session on voice-over marketing, featuring my smart friends including Celia Segal, Tom Dheere and Joe Cipriano.

The agent panel was an important focus for me at the conference because there were some folks on the panel I wanted to meet. I was about to get one hell of an introduction to them.

They included Ralph Cooper from Capital Talent Agency in Washington, D.C., Marci Polzin from Artistic Talent in Los Angeles and Susie De Santiago from DeSanti Talents, Inc., in Chicago.

As my unexpected adventure progressed, I would find it very helpful that the other three  voice-over agents on the panel were already my longtime voice-over partners/agents including Tanya Buchanan from Ta-Da Voiceworks in Toronto, Erik Sheppard from Voice Talent Productions in Austin and Jeffrey Umberger from Umberger Agency in Atlanta. We knew each other pretty well from various projects we’ve work on and I had a sense in this setting (as in every other instance we’d each worked together) they would have my back. (It turns out, I was right).

It all started innocently enough. Prior to the event starting, I was standing off to the side of the stage, just talking to Tayna and Erik, when Jeffrey approached us to advise that he was not only a panelist but also the moderator. In passing, Jeffrey offered that he wished he was just a panelist. We all said something along the lines that he would great (which he would have been).

I left the group so they could do whatever prep they needed to do and I took my seat near another voice-over friend Jackie Bales. We were talking about voice-over and people we both knew in the TV news business, where Jackie worked before going into voice-over full time.

Suddenly, we both became aware that the panel was about 10 minutes late in starting.

Spider-Man had his spidey sense. I have FaffCon-sense, which tells me when an event or program might be running in a small bump in the road (like not starting on time).

That same sense also caused the trouble I got myself into here.

I looked around and saw no VO Atlanta staff in the immediate vicinity (there was lots going on in other rooms at this particular time). I jumped up and over to the area the agents were. I said to Jeffrey that they needed to get up on stage.

Please note: I was totally out of line saying anything like this, because it wasn’t my event or responsibility. Yet these were my friends and I was trying to help them and the event.

Jeffrey said they were waiting on one more agent but that she was late and that they needed to get going.

And then he said “Hey, can you be the moderator?”

In the milliseconds that followed, I remember mentally processing only these three things:

  • This event was late getting started
  • This one event needed help
  • It was my friend and agent Jeffrey that was asking me for a favor

Being in “event” mode (again, not my place but it’s a fault I have) I said yes and I began to usher everyone up the stairs to the stage.

It was on those stairs that I changed into “broadcast” mode.

“Jeffrey, is there a script?” Peter asked.

“No.” said Jeffrey.

‘Oh s—.’ thought Peter.
As I picked up the hand-held microphone at the moderator’s podium, Jeffrey slid in front of me the open page of the program which listed the names and company names of the panelists.

That program and my cell phone were my tools for the next very live 80 minutes.

As I discussed later in the evening with my friend and fellow voice talent (and accomplished broadcaster) Mike Cooper, live broadcast training comes in very handy during many of life’s unexpected moments. Without a doubt, that training served me well in this situation.

Mind you, I haven’t been ‘on-air’ since 1986 but I have come to find out broadcast skills simply don’t leave you once you have them (see: riding a bicycle).

Peter K. O'Connell_Moderator_VO Atlanta 2016I brought up the mic and just started to talk (never let them see you sweat, right), beginning with a welcome (‘what was this panel’s official name? Uh, make something up’) and then I presented a format for the session. I quietly hoped there wasn’t a real format for the event because I went all Houdini on them with the format of my choosing. Abracadabra!

My mind was swirling as I spoke: ‘hmmm, I need to create actual questions!! Better yet, I need to stall for time so I can WRITE some questions’.

Well, with no bios, I called an audible and asked each panelist to introduce themselves and their company and tell the audience about their background.

‘Good, they’re talking’ I thought to myself. Via quick math I decided if they each spoke for a minimum of :30 seconds, I should have about three minutes to write some questions that would allow agents and talents to help better understand each others perspective. That would be good, right?! It would make sense, wouldn’t it!

Oh heavens, I hoped it would make sense!

Here are my Murrow-esque inquiries that I furiously typed into my phone while panelist introductions went on:

What’s trends in voices

Trends in clients

Your daily challenges

?Communication with talent

Communication on slate and details

Yes, I know these word strings don’t make much sense to you, but I just needed to have word cues for the questions in my head. With these points I knew I could formulate something (somewhat) intelligent when the time came. Maybe intelligible would be more accurate.

The rest of the session for me was a bit of blur, made completely awesome by the way all six panelists gelled so quickly with each other, continuing their own discussions without much prompting from me  to keep the conversation going.

To the audiences delight (and my relief) the time went by very quickly.

People said nice things about the event afterwords, which I took as a passing grade, nothing more nothing less.

And I aged about 5 years in 80 minutes.

It was fun. Well, it’s fun NOW cause it’s over!

the story of how to make a voice-over demo and of honest friends

narration

The last time I updated my narration voice-over demo before now was likely 2007 or 2008.

When that much time had passed, I think a voice talent needs to ask himself three questions:

1. Are you booking equally as strong off your narration demo today as when it first came out?
2. Has anything changed in your narration style that is not reflected in the current demo?
3. Has there been a change in preferred styles producers are looking for from narrators?

The answers to these three questions, in order, were: yes, no and no. Logic thereby dictated that there was no major reason to update my narration voice-over demo.

So naturally, I’ve changed and updated my narration voice-over demo. This is voice-over. Logic-schmogic.

A little background now regarding my opinions on voice-over demos.

First and foremost, voice-over demos are not odes to one’s self and “how great thou soundeth.”

They are a sales tool, nothing more or less.

There are at least ways (probably more, but it’s late as I write this and I don’t like to think much after 8:00 p.m.) to go about producing a new voice-over demo.

1. Hire a respected voice-over demo producer who can sift through your better work and also find scripts to produce for your demo that fit your voice (this is useful if you do not have strong audio production skills, if you need another set of ears to keep you honest or both)
2. Produce the demo yourself and have someone or “someones’ serve as a sounding board as you go along
3. Slap something together and call it done

For my narration voice-over demo, I chose option #2.

There are many talented folks who I would have been happy to work with on my new demo. I am, however, comfortable enough in my own demo production skin (having produced my own demos successfully in the past as well as demos for other voice talents) that production and performance quality would not cause me anxiety. I also know myself to be professional enough not to be hurt when/if the feedback from my sounding board universally pushed back against my own instincts.

This is where honest friends come in. Without them, a self-produced demo will likely not turn out well.

I should specify these friends to be NOT high school buddies or your neighbor. These need to be professional and talented voice-over friends. People who have been in the business for a while, who have made demos or had demos produced for themselves and who have listened to a fair share of demos themselves.

The collective knowledge in such a group of what “sells” in the industry (voice styles, “sound” and production quality) will keep a self-producer like me honest. But the onus on the self-producer is to truly listen, honestly filter majority opinions and be willing to change. The demo cannot become the self-producer’s “baby”. Babies are perfect, demos are not.

Whether or not this specific narration demo I have completed turns out to be successful or not rests solely on my shoulders. But my ability to complete it to my ultimate satisfaction would NOT have been possible without the help and opinions of the following professional and talented voice-over friends.

Dan Friedman – has some of the best ears in the business, in addition to his well-respected talents as a voice-over artist. He heard the first draft and the last as well as many in between. He also hated one mix so much he fixed it…and it was better after he did. Thank you for your patience.

Doug Turkel – some years ago, he took me to lunch in Miami at a hot dog stand very near a major modeling agency’s office which, it turns out happened to be unloading a bus full of supermodels about next to our table. He listened to my narration demo too…but it was a BUS FULL OF SUPERMODELS!!!! Thank you for the supermodels. 😉

My Agents – these are people who sell me to the world so it would be beyond stupid not to include these people (who live and breath demos and auditions daily) as a sounding board. Thank you Erik Shepard, Toni Silveri, Stacey Siegert, Lynn Heyman & Laura Von Holle, Stacy Hofman and Sharon Murphy.

My FaffCon Stand-up Group – these poor people have to listen to me every week and then I put in the extra work request to help review this demo. So thank you again Kelly Brennan, Kelly Klemolin, Diane Merritt and the aforementioned Mr. Friedman.

My Buffalo Voice-Over Meet-Up Group – the unfortunate souls only have to listen to me monthly but they too were gracious in their insight: Dan Lenard, Leslie Diamond, Chris Nichter, Maria Pendolino, Jodi Krangle, Fran McClellan, Fred Filbrich, Elaine Singer and Bev Standing.

I am grateful for all their help. Thank you.

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