Entries Tagged as 'commentary'

A Dirty Word for Voiceover Talents – CANAFORNIA

Canafornia Bad For Voiceover #voicestrongThe headline making the social media rounds today was that the disreputable Canadian pay to play company based in the province of Ontario that bought a major California based voiceover lead generation service in August 2017 is now (as expected…by me anyway) smashing the two companies together under the Mothership’s brand.

No word on whether the California part of the company (specifically those ‘pesky, profit sucking employees’ – some of whom I know to be quite talented and nice people) will still have jobs following this smashing.

The key to today’s announcement involved adding all the high profile union talent (SAG-AFTRA) and agencies to the Mothership’s brand. Metaphorically, the stars will now swim with the swine. To be clear, were I involved with the disreputable Canadian pay to play company (and I am very much not), I would be part of the swine.

Since the two companies now being smashed together are in Canada and California, for the purposes of this blog, I will hereafter reference the two companies (now under one banner) by one smashed name: CANAFORNIA.

PROFIT WITH GRAVE MALICE

The announcement today by Canafornia’s Mothership was written in a manner that, in my reading, attempted to make many of the union voiceover agencies and their union agents feel like the corporate smashing would be a good thing.

On-line voiceover sites who may skim from voice talents and agentsMost agents of any size will see through Canafornia’s anticipated deceit, I believe. The company’s owner has been caught in too many falsehoods and most everybody in the voiceover industry seems to know about them.

In their pronouncement, Canafornia made no mention of their past skimming of funds from the budgets of their “clients’” voiceover projects, skimming that left significantly fewer dollars for those whom these funds were intended — the voice talents.

This disreputable business practice of skimming is evidently what Canafornia has been doing for sometime now on many non-union voiceover jobs. Caught red-handed on more than one occasion, they were! Denied wrong doing on more than one occasion, they did!

Now, adding union talent and union voiceover agencies into the mix with this latest smelly venture, Canafornia seems positioned to make sure there will likely be less funds for union talents AND their union agents.

‘THIS ISN’T MY PROBLEM’

Maybe Canafornia is the least of your concerns as a voiceover business owner, you think.

Well, if your concerns for your voiceover business involve a troubling downward pricing trend for VO jobs, as well as people with significantly less VO talent than you posing as voiceover professionals and disrupting the market while these same talentless reprobates also devalue what you do for a living, then Canafornia really is a bigger concern for you.

There are some voice talents who either do not believe the facts uncovered about Canafornia or are too afraid to leave a source of revenue (dwindling though it may be). For reasons I have previously articulated on these pages, that is their right as business people —whether I agree or not.

But what if you want to do something about this situation? Can anything be done?

All is not lost. As a voice talent, you can take a number of proactive steps to protect your business and support your industry.

ISSUE A PINK SLIP

You're Fired Signed #VoicestrongThe first thing I would recommend to any voice talent committed to a better and more profitable future in voiceover is either not to start or now end their business relationship with Canafornia’s pay to play side of the business.

To be fair, I’m not a huge fan of the voiceover pay to play industry generally as I think it continues to devalue the voiceover marketplace. I do not invest my marketing dollars in those channels. Your mileage may vary.

But Canafornia’s operation is the specific company I would directly avoid doing any business with at all. As always, just my opinion.

TALK WITH YOUR CURRENT VOICEOVER AGENTS…NOW

Second, I would recommend communicating with your current agents about the topic of Canafornia.

Why?

audioconnell payphone

Because some voiceover agencies, which are professionally operated and wonderfully focused on serving the voiceover community, are still working with Canafornia’s west coast service.

Yes, there are many voiceover agencies that have left Canafornia’s west coast service after the disreputable Canadian pay to play company bought it and I’ll talk about those agents in a moment.

For those agents still working with Canafornia’s west coast service, you as a talent and their client need to have a pro-active business conversation.

You’re agent could be sending you auditions for jobs where, should you land the gig, you could receive significantly less pay than was intended for you by the producer. Likewise, the agency will end up making less money for themselves in the process.

In my case, I have had and continue to have conversations with those agents representing me who still disseminate voiceover project leads from Canafornia’s west coast service. I’ve also had the good fortune to speak with many other agents (some who represent me and others who do not) about this unique crossroad we are all migrating together.

In a brief summary of all those agency communications: no perfect answers have been found but with the community working together, some clearer direction offers a better road ahead. More on that in a moment

Why do I stay with agents who are presently still on the Canafornia’s west coast service site? Why not just cut ties if I don’t want to be involved with Canafornia?

I have known these agents for a long time. I understand the challenge they (and we as VO’s) face. I respect these agents as business people, otherwise I wouldn’t have signed with them in the first place.

Like voice talents working with pay to plays, there is no foolproof answer for everyone. Agents are traveling the same bumpy industry road as talents are and we are each trying to determine how to proceed for the good of our own businesses.

While I have made clear to these Canafornia-involved agents that I would like to continue our representation agreements (remember not all leads come from Canafornia’s west coast service), I have told them I do not want receive auditions from Canafornia’s west coast service’s web site. Nor do I want my demos listed on their agency page on the Canafornia’s west coast service’s web site (which will be merged with the mothership’s site in late February 2018, as was announced today).

I have to manage my business so I can sleep well at night. Canafornia is not an organization I wish to be even tangentially associated with.

The conversations have been very positive. Agents need constructive feedback too. Plus, when is it ever a bad thing to have a meaningful business conversation with your agents? Answer: never.

THE ALLIANCE

I mentioned earlier that many voiceover agencies had left Canafornia’s west coast service almost as soon as Canafornia announced the acquisition.

VO AGENT ALLIANCE The Good GuysThe reason, by way of brief explanation, is that these agents are well aware of the Canafornia pay to play questionable business practices and absolutely did not trust the company would be any more responsible with Canafornia’s west coast addition.

But they didn’t just sit around and lick their wounds after they fired Canafornia’s latest acquistion. While the #voicestrong movement was growing, these voiceover talent agents spent a few months talking amongst each other (which was fairly unprecedented in and of itself) and decided that they wanted to create a voiceover related organization, centered on the agency side of the business, that would have the exact opposite business code of conduct of Canafornia.

The group, called the VO Agent Alliance, resolves to implement the industry’s highest ethical standards for the benefit of talent, their representatives and their valued clients. The vetted voiceover agency members across North America include: In Both Ears, Go Voices, Sheppard Agency, Play Talent, Umberger Agency, DeSanti Talent Agency, Rockstar Entertainment, The Actors Group, Ta-Da Voiceworks, Big Mouth, The Atherton Group, Central Voice Group, Heyman Talent, Alexander White Agency and Collier Talent Agency.

So what does that mean for a voice talent’s career? That’s my third piece of advice.

If one or more of your agents are part of the VO Agent Alliance already, you’re in better than average shape, because these folks are working hard for you as they always have. I’m fortunate to have five of my longtime agents in this group.

If you are not represented by one of the Alliance agencies, you might make it a priority to scout them all out and see if you may be a fit with one or more of them. I know most of the principles at each agency and you will be well served to have them on your voiceover business team.

A HUB OF OPPORTUNITY

Voice Casting Hub logoI’m not sure if this is a matter of strong business planning or great luck but just about the time Canafornia was releasing its most recent plans to destroy the ethical and business landscape of voiceover, an internet executive with 20 years in the web business named Matt Dubois was working on a new online agency casting platform.

Voice Casting Hub is the name of the platform, which is intended to replace the site acquired by Canafornia with the distinct difference that Voice Casting Hub wouldn’t be skimming off the top, as is the concern with Canafornia’s site.

A fourth piece of advice would be to check this site out and register yourself as a talent. It’s free to register. The site is, as of this writing, less than a month old so it’s too early to judge its performance but it is awesome that the marketplace is responding so swiftly to this Canafornia challenge with a viable option. Monitor this, as I think it could be a great opportunity for all of us.

IT BEGINS AND ENDS WITH YOU

With all the online gnashing on teeth, nothing that Canafornia or voiceover agents or alliances or hubs do can ultimately take the place of good old fashioned individual business marketing.

Nothing.

Your primary focus as a voiceover business owner is to beat the bushes trying to get new business…YOU, not a web site or a representative.

Sure, they are all part of the plan…but just A part. The rest is up to you. It is a constant, daily effort that only you can lead. Think, create, plan and do.

You’ve got this.

But if you don’t have a plan, you don’t have a chance.

Hope this helps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“tranquility base, studiobricks has landed!”

Peter K Oconnell Studio Bricks Logo 171229 350When my wife and I decided in June of 2016 to pack up and move from Buffalo, New York to Raleigh, NC (well, as it turns out, Cary, NC right next door to Raleigh), I told her that I was going to get a proper sound booth as part of the deal and she agreed.

Living in an apartment for the first year we got here, I was content (as were my clients) with my temporary studio (sound engineer-approved) that may or may not have looked a lot like a walk-in closet full of clothes.

When we closed on our new house in late summer, early fall this year, though, my job was clear and I sat down to compare the features and pricing of all the voiceover booths out in the market.

Quality being fairly equal across the spectrum, I was surprised to find that based on features, price, upgrades and shipping (from Spain, no less) Studiobricks was the best deal at the best price.

So in October, I placed my order for my Studiobricks One Plus, VO edition.

It arrived in early December.

Now I hope you’re not like me but if you ARE like me, you might start to imagine what your new arrival will look like in the studio, all assembled and pretty…completely ignoring the effort required to assemble your new voiceover home.

Peter K. O'Connell Studiobricks The Crate

The crate containing Peter’s new Studiobricks voiceover booth…it’s LARGE! (All construction photos courtesy of Bill Jordan)

You awake from your haze about the same time you see an 18-wheeler backing up in your driveway. Well, I should clarify. My house is on a little hill so the truck stopped at the bottom of the driveway and was going to unload the 1,200 POUND, 9 FOOT HIGH tightly packed wood crate right there.

Oh dear Lord.

I was blessed with a driver who could see the panic in my face as I was trying to process how all this was going to happen (delivery, unloading, assembly). He took pity on me as he lowered the crate (perched on his hydraulic dollie) on the truck’s elevator. Together, he pulled the dollie holding the crate and I pushed that dollie with the enormous crate to the top of the driveway.

There were a few feet in that uphill move where I was not sure we were going to make it (and boy THAT would have ended badly). We did make it up the driveway, however, safe and sound. Yes, always tip your driver.

I at least had the good sense the day before the scheduled delivery to call my local friend, fellow voice talent and fellow Faffer Bill Jordan to see if he would help me put this bad boy together.

Sooooooooooooooooooooooooo glad Bill said yes.

He came over to the house with a crow bar (mighty handy) and we started to undo the crate, neither of us having any idea what kind of unpacking was before us.

So first and foremost, kudos to the packers of these Studiobricks booths – it is quite an art to pack all that together. Amazing really.

Peter K. O'Connell Studiobricks Directions

Evidently one is supposed to read the Studiobricks’ assembly directions BEFORE assembly. I believe that takes away the challenge.

The directions for booth assembly came over via email and they were pretty good, save for a few omissions. They weren’t quite as idiot-proof as I needed but, fortunately, my wife showed up to tell Bill and I what to do when we got confused.

It turns out you’re supposed to read directions which Bill and I, being men, didn’t understand. Again, helpful to have the wife there to direct us.

Two people are good to help put a booth together (mine is about 3’ x 5’) but three strong people would have been better. Maybe I just need to lift more weights.

Also there are videos that show the assembly of a Studiobricks booth in about 3 minutes. That particular sized booth, in those videos, seems to be the size of a standing match-stick. My assembly took a little longer (see the part about reading the directions).

Knowing the total weight of my booth ahead of time, I had a carpenter reinforce the floor under the house some weeks earlier to avoid any possible floor/weight issues. That might be something you’d want to consider too, depending on where you would put your Studiobricks booth and which size you buy.

Here’s another piece of information that you’ll find helpful because Bill and I (and other Studiobricks owners) had to figure it out on our own. The roof and floor of the booth come together as one piece that you need to pull apart. And it takes quite a bit of tugging to pull them apart.

We figured this out early enough that it wasn’t a problem, although we did move the floor and roof together out of the crate, which was oh-my-gosh heavy. I do know some other voice talents who erroneously proceeded with their assembly before realizing their mistake. Score one for Bill and Peter and Peter’s Mrs.

Peter K. O'Connell Studiobricks Assembly 1

Inserting a corner batten into the Studiobricks that helps keep the walls very secure

The assembly of the majority of booth is much like assembling Legos and it is an impressive feat of architecture and engineering when you see it come together. Everything fits tightly, as it should.

Some of my interior booth foam was torn when it arrived, which was very unfortunate, but what can you do?

I did have a couple of assemble questions (cause I’m stupid about this kind of stuff) but the Studiobricks team got on Facetime with me and we got it worked out. They were helpful.

Peter K. O'Connell Studiobricks Assembly 2

There may or may not have been 1 or 2 pieces leftover when the Studiobricks was “allegedly” all assembled

Because the voiceover booth was designed and constructed in a European country, some of the optional electronic parts that I ordered were sourced from European countries and thereby use the European electric standard…so you’ll receive an electrical converter with your booth. Not a big deal but just something to be aware of.

If you get the optional VO package with your Studiobricks, which includes a table, a mic boom and script stand/monitor holder, you’ll be putting that together with a handbook of only pictures.

Honestly, for me, this VO package assembly was the most stressful part of the whole booth assembly. The pictures on the directions (and they were ONLY pictures, no words) were not as clear as you would think (hope) and I was concerned I would break something. Luckily I did not.

No, I did not bother to put together a time lapsed assembly video because that’s been done to death. Assembling the booth is heavy work but not hard, but it’s not easy either. It’s a bit like work for some hours and voice talents abhor work, as you likely know.

And we are whiners too.

Bottom line: if I can do it (with help) you can do it (with probably less help).

Peter K. O'Connell #cans4cans 2017

Besides, what matters is NOT the construction so much as the sound inside the booth. The sound exactly what I expected and I am very pleased (as is my sound engineer friend and fellow voice talent Dan Friedman).

I’ve been recording spots, promos and auditions and everyone is very pleased with the sound. And it’s a really nice environment to work within.

Glad I have The Bricks (or if you are from Chicago…da Bricks).

cans 4 cans 2017

Cans4cans 2017_audioconnell

Once again, it’s time for the #cans4cans promotion, sponsored by Benztown.

The Cans 4 Cans Holiday Benefit and Giveaway helps drive donations to the LA Food Bank.

Peter K. O'Connell #cans4cans 2017Today, December 22nd, 2017, is the last day you can post a photo of you (usually but not exclusively a voice talent or radio host) wearing your headphones (aka “cans”) to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the hashtag #Cans4Cans . In exchange, Benztown will donate a can of food per post to the Los Angeles Food Bank on your behalf!

Last year, over 900 people participated in posting their photo for the Holiday Benefit.

So there it is…the challenge is now before you. Think you’re up to this monumental task? 😉

Thanks for your help.

 

what you appreciate when you i-phone breaks

Cracked Iphone 6s Via Cnet

Photo courtesy of CNET

It was a day like any other last week. The kids and I were leaving the Cary Library and approaching the car when my phone, which I was carrying, slipped and fell to the ground.

This has happened many times before with nary a scratch…likely due to the case I have.

This time the entire screen shattered.

As I ran my finger across the screen, I could feel the cracks on the screen and it felt like I might have little cuts on my finger tips at any time.

The phone was not going to be useable. I would have to get a new screen.

Expense was not a concern, time was a little bit more of a concern but getting an appointment at the Apple Genius Bar was a grave concern. This happened on a Wednesday and the soonest appointment they could give me was a Sunday.

That was not going to work.

So I decided to trek (and it is a hike) over to the Apple store and throw myself on the mercy of the Apple court.

And yes, the store is in a big mall and yes, it’s Christmas time and yes, ugh!

But my plan was to be one of the first customers of the day and see how that would go…maybe they could fit me in. Hope is not a plan but it can be an option.

The store hours on the web said they store opened at 10:00 am so I got to the mall at 9:30 a.m. As I walked towards the store, I saw the doors already opened and only a few people inside (Christmas hours, I soon learned).

I was approached by an Apple employee and explained my dilemma (I decided at the outset not to hand in my man card and start crying….yet). They could help me and they would help me now, he said. They would give me a new screen. That day.

#winning

I would have to wait about 90 minutes (a reasonable amount of time for someone with no appointment, I thought). Since I was NOT about to give up my prime, early arriver parking spot by leaving the busy mall and coming back at a busier time, I decided I would get some more exercise by walking the mall.

Realizing that there was almost nothing else besides a broken iphone that could get me to a mall during the Christmas season, I started to think as I walked, taking in all surroundings and the people around me.

Being in the mall, I realized an number of things I was grateful for. Here’s my list that exclude obvious things like family, home, health and job (which I am eternally grateful for everyday).

• A super close parking space

• I am thankful for the employees of the Apple store – their attitude is so positive and helpful almost always; they remind me of two other companies where I get that same feeling: Publix Grocery Stores and Enterprise Rental Cars (I don’t know how these companies profile their employees but they do a great job of finding really customer-centric people)

• I am appreciative of the designers of the Christmas decorations at the Crabtree Valley Mall — the trees and sleighs were really great….maybe it’s the same stuff they do every year but it was new to me and I thought it looked swell (I couldn’t take a picture because of…well, you know)

• It was also nice not having an i-phone and not being connected…if you need me, well, you’ll have to fend for yourself for a while; I’ll survive and so will you

• I am so glad I don’t work in retail for so many reasons, the top 2 being I wouldn’t have the patience to deal with Christmas shoppers and I don’t think sales are going well in many stores which means jobs will be cut

• Similarly I’m glad I don’t work for mall companies…there are so many empty, closed stores inside so many malls because so many retailers are closing their doors…and I think come Q1 2018, more stores will announce they are closing

• On a positive retail note, in my city, Apple is moving their current store within the mall to a much bigger space in the same mall which must bring a major sigh of relief to the mall owners

• I am pleased that there are gentlemen willing to dress up and play Santa at malls….it thrills the children (well most of them anyway) to meet Santa and their excitement is invigorating to the soul

• A super close parking space

My phone was fixed and life went on, with thanks.

movember 2017 – here I grow again

Peter K. O'Connell Movember 2017

The first of November is both a happy and sad day in my house, none of which has anything to do with Halloween candy.

With the return of Movember, most of the people in my house are happy that I am whisker-free for one full day. Everyone in my family hates (underline h-a-t-e-s) my facial hair. However, I was also told numerous times by that same group that I look weird without my whiskers.

They are also sad to know that for the rest of the month I will be growing it back.

Movember logo_250But the shaving and regrowth come with a purpose. Movember is celebrating its 10-year fundraising anniversary in the U.S., bring attention to and directing funds towards critical men’s health issues including: prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention.

I only participate in one charity event per year and this is it.

If you would be willing to donate, that would be great.

Here is a link to MY MOVEMBER PAGE.

Thank you for your generous consideration.

death of the voiceover blog?

Death of the Voiceover Blog?Sometimes we as voiceover business owners are so focused on the operations of our business, the business of doing business, we neglect to paint our stores and sweep our steps.

The ‘stores and steps’ references our web sites. We often look at our sites from the back of the house instead of standing out front and looking at what the visitors see.

A while ago I wrote a blog post about checking out what your web site looks like by going to electronic retailers and calling up your web site on various computers, tablets and phones.

While that applies to web sites, that advice also applies to blogs.

I’ve had a blog since 2005 and in those 12 years, I’ve written a lot about voiceover, marketing and advertising (over 1,300 posts). That’s why I named the blog voxmarketising. In all those posts there are some real golden nuggets and some absolute crap. Trial and error, baby!

But one of the areas of blog management I had fallen way behind in was managing all the links I had listed on my blog to all my fellow voiceover bloggers. It was my way of sharing the blog love by listing their blog link, in the hopes that they would do the same. Some did, some didn’t.

But recently, I did a complete review of all the blogs I had listed on my site to see what blogs were still active and what blogs had given up the ghost.

Over 80 (EIGHTY) voiceover blogs were just cut from my web site because they hadn’t published in 3 or more years or because their bloglink just went nowhere any more.

There were probably 10 or so links that needed to be updated and they have been.

But 80 dead blogs was an amazing number.

Why so many? Based on what I saw and what I know, here are my theories

  • Some folks started blogging about voiceover because they thought they were supposed to for better web traction – they had no desire to blog and no point of view in their writing so they just quit
  • Some people clearly didn’t not make it in the VO business — so why blog about voiceover when one is now selling life insurance?
  • Some folks just got bored with the process of blogging

Sure there may be a myriad of other reasons and all of them are legitimate. Blogging is not mandatory in the voiceover or any other business (unless you’re in the blogging business, then I suppose it’s pretty mandatory.

But does blogging help or even impact a voice talent’s business? That depends.

From a broad perspective, blogging should help a voiceover talent’s business for SEO. If one is blogging about their industry, using a widely accepted blogging platform like WordPress (either as a blog or as part of an overall web site), that alone should generate attention from search engines like Google and Yahoo.

Digging down a little further, if a blogger’s content gains enough interest from a targeted audience and the blogger builds up a dedicated readership, that subsequent attention also generates positive SEO notice and builds the credibility of their brand and reputation.

So SEO is the only reason to blog? No, but it’s a big one because depending on what you write, you may enjoy some unexpected organic word search success. Sure you can buy word search, but organic is less financially cumbersome.

I think in voiceover, there are primarily two types of bloggers – thought leaders focused on SEO (and listening to myself, ‘er, um THEMSELVES speak) and then coaches who want to sell services and also enjoy some SEO love. Neither is bad. Blogs are a marketing tool…just decide what you are marketing what your audience wants to hear.

But what if you aren’t a coach and you don’t think you have a thought that worthy enough to lead anything? Should you still blog?

That’s a personal question.

Blogging requires some sort of commitment. Obviously time but, maybe more importantly, thought.

For bloggers, I think the smart foundation for having a blog should not be ‘what CAN I write about’ but rather ‘what do I WANT to write about?’. Because if you don’t have a real desire to write about something at least about 6 times a year, then blogging is not a tool for you.

Don’t worry, there are other marketing tools, but blogging will not be one of them for you. 80 of my voiceover peers, many of them well known to voiceover community, found that out the hard way. It was not the end of their careers, it was just the end of blogging….for them.

For the rest of us…full steam ahead.

P.S. If you check my blog page and see I’ve gotten the wrong link for your site, you can contact me at peter at audioconnell dot com. Of course, you DO have a link to my page on your blog site, right?!

P.P.S. If you have a voiceover blog that I do not have listed on my blog site and you would like it listed there (and you’re going to offer me a link to my blog as well) please let me know.