Entries Tagged as 'Demos'

peter’s handy dandy new voiceover demo checklist!

Peter's Handy Dandy ChecklistHaving completed my new commercial voiceover demo, I say with modesty, not bravado, that I am pleased with the results. I hope clients and prospects will like it as well because they are every demo’s intended audience.

However, I intentionally reminded myself recently to keep all the hard work of these past few months of demo pre-production, production and post-production in the proper perspective.

Here, now, is that perspective: it may crush the souls of many professional voiceover talents but the truth must come out: nobody – not one single person among your clients, agents or prospects – is AS excited about your new release voiceover demo as you are.

Yes, that demo…that creatively grew inside you and was meticulously birthed from inside an acoustically perfect studio and lovingly mastered by the finest audio doctors and nurses and is now ready to proudly be shared with the world…is mostly seen by that world as just another voiceover demo.

“But…”, you scream inside your head, “doesn’t everyone hear how much BETTER this demo is compared to the last one which now sounds to me now like a scratchy Al Jolson record played on a Victrola? I’ve improved so much!!! Love me! Love my voice!!!!!”

Gentle voice talent, no, the world generally doesn’t share your enthusiasm for this hard fought piece of audio. It’s not that the demo is bad (unless it is, yet probably really isn’t) but to them it is just ‘another demo’.

“Aw, what’s the use? What’s the point?! Why did I make a new voiceover demo then, if nobody cares?”

Aw pal, don’t be bummed. You just have to look at your demo differently.
The trick is, my friend, if you cannot make the world care about your new demo, then you must focus on making the world aware of your new demo.

What I’m going to start for you here is Peter’s Handy Dandy New Voiceover Demo Checklist! This list will help you organize WHO should be made aware of (and/or actually receive) your new voiceover demo and also (in my opinion) in what approximate order they should be made aware/receive. Your mileage may vary so use this as a helpful starting point and feel free to add stuff:

  1. All Personal Web Accounts
    1. Your personal web sites (maybe include some text about the demo being new)
    2. Sound Cloud
    3. Pay To Play accounts
    4. LinkedIn (your profile accepts media)
  1. Your Agents
    1. Send a personal email with the demo
    2. Make a follow up call to make sure they got it and post it to their web site (great –and reasonable – opportunity to get meaningful phone time with them)
    3. Make sure they post it to VOICEBANK if they have that account
    4. Include them in a mass email blast (more on that in a moment)
    5. Send a thank you follow up
  1. Recording Studios Where Your Are On A VO Roster
    1. Send a personal email with the demo
    2. Make a follow up call to make sure they got it and post it to their web site (great –and reasonable – opportunity to get meaningful phone time with them)
    3. Take good notes from your conversation if there is any new studio news (new people, new equipment, new location etc.)
    4. Send a thank you follow up
  1. Media/Video Studios Where Your Are On A VO Roster
    1. Send a personal email with the demo
    2. Make a follow up call to make sure they got it and post it to their web site (great –and reasonable – opportunity to get meaningful phone time with them)
    3. Take good notes from your conversation if there is any new studio news (new people, new equipment, new location etc.)
    4. Send a thank you follow up
  1. Prospect/Client Email Blast
    1. This should be a one topic email blast
    2. Keep the text short (under 100 words and even under 50 if you can)
    3. Add some nice graphics, pictures are even better
    4. Links to the demo in the email are vital (obviously)
    5. Pick key clients and do some phone follow-up to seek their opinion of the demo, discuss new opportunities
  1. Hot Prospects and Agents
    1. Email and call prospects that you really want to connect with about the demo
    2. Pick those few agents whose roster you’d really like to be on and contact them about your new demo
  1. Other Social Media
    1. Blog Posts about new Demo
    2. Facebook
    3. Twitter et al

So now, even though most of these folks might not care you have a new demo, they will be aware of it. Using any or all of the above tools to create that awareness (and maybe even subliminally some sense of excitement or urgency) might make some of your audience care about the your new demo. At least it should bring you to top of mind awareness in casting for a while.

Just remember that although you are justifiable proud of your new demo, sometimes the new demo isn’t the MOST important part. The valuable part of a new demo could just be opportunity to use the demo as a respectful and professional tool to communicate new and “interesting” news to prospects and clients to create awareness about YOU. The demo is your sound (and vital to your VO business) but you are the brand.

And just between us kids, I know how much better you sound on the new demo. You’re great! Nice job on the new demo!

 

yes, we all experience professional doubts

8 is great commercial demo audioconnellNewbie or old pro.

Voice talent or accountant.

Everybody goes through a period (or even periods) of professional doubt. If you’re dealing with voiceover doubts, maybe it will be helpful if I tell you how I solved my issue. As always, your mileage may vary.

For me, my professional doubts these past 18 months surrounded one very specific topic: my commercial voiceover demo.

I’d sailed through updates to my narration demo, my political demo, two (count ‘em, two!) television promo demos and two radio imaging demos.

But commercials are my bread and butter (narrations a close second). And I hadn’t updated my commercial demo in 8 years (I was booking off of it, so why should I change it? But I came to the realization that such thinking is just sloppy. 8 years without updating a demo is too long.
COMMERCIAL VOICEOVER DEMO audioconnell

In the past 18 months, that one demo has been something that been bugging me, to various degrees, specifically because I didn’t have a direction for the demo. I didn’t know what I wanted it to sound like. I didn’t have a handle on what I needed to have on the demo to sound current. Doubt.

Sure, voice-over trends come and go…’everyman’ begets ‘announcer’ begets ‘everyman’ on regular cycles and I can do each of those successfully in my sleep. But was I missing direction, content and answers. I didn’t know what the answers were nor did I know where to find them. Doubt.

I had doubts…about my abilities. So if you’d been hit by your own professional doubt too, just know you’re not alone.

I kept the ball moving by doing those other demos and by listening to a bunch of people’s commercial demos on Voicebank. My listening tour told me I was on my own…VO demos remain as individual as the people that voice them. Some were great. Some were truly crap. And these were people I know are booking.

Now I was doubt-filled AND confused.

During this indecisive period, in addition to doing other professional tasks (like those other demos), I relied on another tactic I’ve used in my life when faced with these kinds of situations: do nothing and wait.

While that sounds like a life plan that might make Tony Robbins’ giant head explode, it has actually worked pretty well for me.

I believe that in many instances, God or the universe or time will present me with an answer, a direction or a solution. I just have to be aware, pay attention and go where I need to go. I don’t know if I can explain it better than that.

For my commercial demo, that solution began to reveal itself during some voice-over meetings: VO Atlanta and Faffcon. There I found the answers to my doubt and lack of direction regarding the production of my commercial voice demo.

voices voicecasting mary lynn wissnerI happened upon my friend Melissa Exelberth at VO Atlanta who was having dinner with Mary Lynn Wissner, of Voices Voicecasting in LA. While I knew of her, I hadn’t until that time spent much time with Mary Lynn until that dinner and hallway conversations as the event went on. Mary Lynn had a real handle on what voice styles were being booked (she’s casting voice talent all the time). When she presented again at FaffCon and spoke with her further, I felt Mary Lynn was someone I absolutely needed to train with. Confidence was replacing doubt. With this solid professional connection, I had my direction.

So I began voiceover classes with Mary Lynn and I did so with some very specific goals in mind. I needed to see if I could harness the styles, execute the performances that were booking today. As an LA Casting Director who knows all the top agents, she was going to know whether I could do it. Certainly I felt I WAS doing that but I also know how much I sometimes don’t know. What I found out was that with what she described as minor tweaks, I was off to the races — the training went very well, and she is a great communicator.

Sound4VONext, I organized the scripts I believed would work well for the demo, providing lots of room for the styles I wanted to convey. Then we scheduled some times to record with Mary Lynn directing me and again, those session went exceedingly well. I reviewed some client spots I had done that I felt also work well on the demo, based on what Mary Lynn and I had worked on. I mixed new stuff with the existing stuff, with the help of the great audio engineer and voice talent Dan Friedman.

I am extremely pleased with our results.

I am doubtful no more.

Your solution is out there too. It will come to you. Be ready for it.

new voice-over demos deserve a new voice-over bow – political commercials

Political Commercials_wide_bdr_500

The thing with new demos is a lot like re-doing your kitchen.

With a kitchen, maybe you change out your cabinet knobs…which now clashes with your floor so you’ll have to change the floor. And you might as well change out your appliances if you’re pulling up the floor and before you know it you’ve spent $25,000 because you changed $20 worth of knobs.

Voice-over demos are a little like that too.

(Peter K. O’Connell NEW Political Voice-Over Demo – take a listen)

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When I re-did my TV promo demo (which really needed it) it started me to critically review my other demos (and my web site). One of the demos that needed tweaking (I felt) was my political commercial demo. So I did that (with a little audio support from my friend, the great Dan Friedman). Reviews have been positive (woot!)

But then I looked at the political demo page and felt something was missing. It didn’t call out “political commercials” well enough.

Then I look at the other demo pages and saw the same pattern. So I drafted some graphic image ideas and settled on a format that has a unified theme but still allows for unique execution for each demo page. A graphic example is on the top of this blog post.

The “brilliance” of all this likely won’t break the internet but it makes me happy and more importantly I believe will make for clearer concept comprehension for first time web site viewers.

check out my political commercial voice-over demo

Political Commercials_Peter K O'Connell_500

I just recently updated my Political Commercial Voice-Over Demo and I’m really pleased with how it turned out. My goal was to show my voice-over work in a variety of genres (for a variety of candidates and issues) most often heard in political commercials on radio and television (and now of course web too).

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peter k. o’connell new tv promo voice-over demo

TV Camera

This is my new TV Promo Demo.

My last voice-over demo for TV promo wasn’t as good as this (I’m not talking about me, but rather the overall quality of the demo).

Although I do think I sound better on this demo because I put time and effort in to studying with really good teacher and practicing what I learned. I’m glad I made the investment.

While I hope you like it, I hope promo producers like it even more 🙂

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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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