Entries Tagged as 'voice talent'

#voicestrong

#voicestrongBefore I talk about #voicestrong and it’s impact on the voiceover industry, two quick observations.

You know the great thing about life? Everything is always changing.

You know the problem with life? Everything is always changing.

Three examples.

When audio technology improved to allowed more affordable, professional audio recording into people’s homes, it was a revelation. For the voiceover industry, it helped voice talents build better, very professional home studios. But it hurt recording studios who had to find new streams of revenue lost since voice talents were not recording in the studios’ booths.

With that audio technology update, more people could live their dreams of being a professional voice talent. But many of those folks were only dreaming, because they had neither the training nor the talent (or even business savvy) to operate a voiceover business. These less knowledgeable new voice talents also negatively impacted the economics of the voiceover industry.

Advances in Internet technology also allowed companies to create on-line casting sites (known now as Pay 2 Play sites ((P2P)) for voice talents that allowed voice seekers to get hundreds of voiceover auditions with only a few mouse clicks and no in-person meetings. But voiceover agents, who for decades had managed those auditions and booked those castings, now have to work especially harder to secure those auditions and castings. Oh and the P2P model has also negatively impacted the economics of the voiceover industry.

retail onlineThese examples are business realities in the voiceover industries. Change happens in every business. The old General Store lost to the local department store, who lost to Macy’s, who lost to Wal-Mart, who seems to be currently battling with Amazon.

Ones personal reaction to change in business is usually based on whether you’re being eaten or you’re doing the eating. So change, while not always pleasant, is always present.

But in the voiceover industry, there have been a few of these P2P players who have grown to be the biggest in their business category and, because of that scope, naturally have an impact on the industry.

I had been a member on both of these bigger P2P sites and have long ago since resigned and pulled my profiles from them.

In their infancy, both sites offered opportunities. But then their business models changed, adding elements of control to money transaction and job management that were at the least questionable and, in many states, likely illegal when it came to requirements of imposed by actual professional agents and managers – which is the category these new P2P business models put these P2P companies into (although they have denied such assertions).

I found their practices improper and unethical (to BOTH voice talents and the hiring companies) and I left the P2P sites I’m referencing. But their models still exist and thrive to the detriment of novice and (strangely, to my way of thinking) more experienced voice talents.

One has to respect that every voice talent has the right and even the obligation to run their business as they see fit. If they have a financial need to try and make money via Pay 2 Play voiceover sites, then the discussion is over for them.

Voiceover P2P Ethical Business audioconnell

They will not consider the downsides of Pay 2 Plays because they cannot do so…to do so would mean they would have to either drastically change their own business plans or even cease working in voiceover. I understand the financial imperative to them personally and I respect the argument.

And it also needs to be said that there is at least one other, smaller Pay 2 Play voiceover web site, run in Europe, that I believe is ethical and is not having as negative an impact on the voiceover industry, save for some projects with ridiculously bad fees that I personally noticed.

So if change is a constant in business and change has created large P2P companies who are negatively impacting the voiceover industry, what options do the rest of us have in what historically should be just another cycle of change, albeit what I and many others consider unethical change?

A simple answer is to publicly and repeatedly expose the unethical business practices of these large Pay 2 Play sites. Doing so will help new voice talents better understand the P2P playing field (and let them make their own decisions). It might also allow established talents to understand what their business relationship with these unethical P2P companies really mean to their business and the industry they hope to thrive within. They too will make their own decision.

My friend, Erik Shepard, who is also one of my longtime agents, has recently resurrected #voicestrong . The purpose of this campaign is to foster discussion about, and even put pressure on, the unethical business practices among Pay 2 Play voiceover sites. Erik made a video about his opinions (many of which I share – not all).

I believe the history of this particular hash tag in the VO industry came about after a rather unprecedented interview that voice talent Graeme Spicer of Edge Studio held with the CEO of possibly the most questionable and unethical of all the Pay 2 Play voiceover sites.

The interview, pretty infamous among those of us in the voiceover world, was a total public relations #fail for the CEO, who offered inconsistent and embarrassingly thoughtless answers to direct and reasonable questions about his own company’s documented and dubious business practices. A later presentation by the same P2P company at VO Atlanta in 2016 confirmed the company’s complete lack of respect for the voiceover industry and those who work in it.

Full disclosure – at one time, early in its creation, I was friendly with the CEO and his spouse who also works as an executive at this company. As their business methods changed, so did our interactions. There’s that change again.

If #voicestrong can help bring to light the unethical corporate business practices of those who I believe take certain advantage of people in my industry who might not know better, then I too am #voicestrong.

all voice talents are steve whitmire

There’s on old saying that you haven’t really worked in radio until you’ve been fired.

True of my old business, but for my current business I’ve always felt the saying should be you haven’t really worked in voiceover until you’ve been hired…for the day. The next day, until you get a VO job, you’re still not a voice talent.

muppet montageSteve Whitmire, who has worked with Jim Henson’s Muppets since 1978, has been the puppeteer and voice of Kermit THE Frog since Jim Henson’s death in 1990.

We found out this week that Whitmire had been fired from that job in October of 2016. He evidently kept the dismissal quiet in the hopes the Muppet executives would have a change of heart.

As of this writing, they have not.

Just a brief background, before I get to the meat of this post.

When Jim Henson died, I kind of lost my interest in the Muppets. Not out of any disrespect for those that continued after him but just cause when I saw Kermit in a show or movie, I knew Jim Henson wasn’t there. I know I am not supposed to think of the actors at all when I watch The Muppets, but I do.

I thought of Henson and it made me a bit sad.

Through Henson’s children and the talented puppeteers and writers, the show went on as it should. Steve Whitmire was elevated to the puppeteer and voice of Kermit and has performed admirably. Whitmire should be nothing but proud of his work and how he honored Henson with his interpretation of Kermit.

Under whatever circumstances or whatever ‘new creative direction’ the Disney management (who now owns the Muppets) wanted to move forward in, I don’t know. Whitmire was called and told his services were no longer required. He stated recently that working for the Muppets and being Kermit was very much a way of life, given his tenure and history with both Henson and the company.

This job was clearly very personal to him. I very much respect why that was while also admiring his great talent.

To be clear, I do not know Steve Whitmire.

But to me it seems likely, having read his recent blog post, he’s been living with a great deal of pain and sorrow since October 2016. He may be well over it by now and I hope that’s the case.

It’s a pain and sorrow almost every working voice actor has known at sometime.

I have been there. Maybe you have too or, if not, someday you likely will be.

Though not within anything as incredibly famous and ingrained as Whitmire’s work, I’ve been fired from a few really nice, longer-term voice acting jobs over 35+ years.

Sometimes the firing was because of a “different direction” for the project, a couple of time I screwed up (it happens) and sometimes I just could not give the producers what they wanted, hard as I tried.

That subsequent feeling of failure, depression and fear for the future (“do I even have a career”) after losing one of these gigs can be paralyzing.

‘Get up in the morning?! What for?!’

And yet we must get up in the morning. And the morning after that.

As much as we may identify our lives with our jobs, we are MORE than our jobs.

We have much to offer other clients or in some cases, other industries.

It is SO hard…but we must move on when we lose these big gigs.

We cannot wallow. Wallowing can start to feel good after a while but it leads to excuses, laziness and a list of other not good things. Do. Not. Wallow.

We need to remember what we were like when we got that nice, big  voiceover job…what was our attitude, how did we present ourselves, how did we sound?

What was our mindset? Likely, it was that the world was our oyster and we wanted to go out and get the big gigs. We need to do it again. And we can.

Yes, we’ve been handed a slice of humble pie. We ate it and now we move on. Only WE can control our future. But also, WE control our future.  That’s pretty cool!

We are voice actors, we have skills, we have talents and we have contacts.

Train, audition, network, market, repeat.

Losing a big gig may FEEL like the end of your world. But it isn’t, as long as you won’t let it be the end of your world.

I hope this helps.

‘you were their second choice’

2nd place trophy audioconnellA silver lining?

I prefer streets paved with gold.

But life doesn’t usually let us win every voice-over job and so it went today as I was advised, “you were their second choice”.

If you’ve been in voiceover for more than a day (and I’m not sure what percentage that is at the moment) you’ve likely been told at some point you were a prospect’s second choice for a voiceover job.

If you’ve been up for a job in almost any industry, you may have been told you were a second choice.

It happens. Now what?

Well nothing really. The bus left without you so you need to see about getting a different ride.

Sure, you can punch a wall or kick a dog (I’m personally OK with the wall option but not the dog…ever) but it doesn’t fix anything.

The real answer is that if it festers too much inside you, you need to get mentally tougher or quite seriously quit the voiceover business. The voiceover business is a business filled with rejection. Which is why it’s so great when you do land a new VO job.

As Pollyannaish as it might sound, it is not a bad thing to come in second. First is best but third is worse.

The point is your performance was really, really good. However, left up to the SUBJECTIVE (look it up) ear of a producer, they liked one other voice better. You cannot control that. No one can.

So if you can’t get over learning you came in second on a voice gig after more than about a minute, start working on your resume because you will need to look for a new job. I mean it. Get out of voiceover, for your own good.

Everybody else…move on. As I know you already have. Good job.

And congrats on that audition…you truly nailed it.

local is not as sexy?

WWDLFDWhat follows is not a religious story, it’s a voiceover business story written thousands of years ago.

Most who know me won’t be surprised that I was in Church the other day but you might be surprised to hear I was paying attention while I was there.

And what I heard didn’t so much speak immediately to my spiritual side as to my voiceover side.

Yes, our all-knowing God wrote a kind of parable about the voiceover business.

Long before there was a voiceover business.

I told you, this is a voiceover business story.

The quote from reading was this:

“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and in his own house.”  ~ Mt 13: 57

The context of the quote depicted the disrespect and disbelief shown to Jesus in his hometown as he began his adult work spreading the word of God to those he had grown up around and who knew him as a child. The locals.

Let me be clear at the outset: I do not think I or anybody else is like Jesus nor do I believe that voice talents should be treated like prophets. This is a business story!

The quote IMMEDIATELY took me back to Buffalo, NY and the years I spent working to get voiceover work locally, especially from advertising agencies.

I remember one instance in particular that illustrates the issue well.

There was an owner of a boutique (read: small) ad agency in Buffalo who seemed generally quite proud of herself (even featured herself in her own commercials for her agency). Some friends at a networking mixer had introduced me to her. She asked me what I did and I told her I was a voiceover talent — this got her attention.

“Oh you are? We get all our voice talents from New York City.” I was about to say something like ‘that’s nice’ when one of the people in the circle (who was a client of mine) jumped right over me (incensed by the rudeness and tone of this agency person) and said “Oh Peter is really quite good, you should use him!” Love that client!

Buy Local FirstBut that story reflects a truth in voiceover that I know personally and I have found (talking with VO’s around the country) is pretty universal. Local voice talents, no matter how qualified and no matter how many national brands they have voiced for, just don’t seem to be good enough for some of the producers in their own region.

What is the VO’s fault? They are a local voice. To some media producers, a voice talent from their own area is perceived to be less talented versus a voiceover from another market, further away.

It was a problem for Jesus and it’s still a problem for voice talents. Sometimes the local folks don’t see our value just because we are local.

This doesn’t mean that voice talents don’t get ANY local voice work and, to be sure, some voice talents are very popular around where they live. I have a very good relationship with many WNY producers and really enjoy working them. But there is a kind bias against local talent by some local producers…everywhere in the country.

I’m fortunate having moved into a new area. I am now the ‘new’ guy, a fresh voice! ‘Let’s try the new guy!’ Yes, I say, lets!

And maybe having moved away from my hometown, I’ll be some WNY media producers’ ‘out of town’ voice guy. That would be a hoot.

I offer this story for some of you who I just know are experiencing the same issue in your voiceover business. Burdened wit the same confused frustration I used to have. I want you to know not to feel bad about it and just move on.

If Jesus had to deal with it too, then we ‘local’ voice talents are in pretty good company.

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!

 

an old voice-over friend has passed

VO-BB Microphone IconMaybe you feel the same way, but I can only tolerate so much of Facebook recently, with full-blown idiots of every political persuasion hell bent on proving their idiocy to the world. Ponderous. “Hide” is a useful FB tool. Yet I still check in occasionally on FB to check on the world.

Aside from the above silliness, some sad and unexpected news made it in to my Facebook feed last week.

VO-BB_logo_VoiceoverBulletinBoardThe Voiceover Bulletin Board (the VO-BB) closed up last week. You can still read it, but you cannot post anything new. Foundress of the board and one of my absolute favorite female voice talents, DB Cooper, got frustrated at some feedback she got from a post of hers and turned over the closed sign on one of the most important internet sites for aspiring and professional voice talents.

I don’t begrudge her the right to shut the place down whenever she wanted and for whatever reason she chose. She can’t begrudge me, though, the right to be sad it’s gone.

When my friend (and another killer female voice talent, Connie Terwilliger), directed me and others to the VO-BB so many years ago, I didn’t realize how this new place would change my professional and personal life with industry news and insights, new friendships and a place to be silly (well, and plain stupid…sometimes I was stupid in my posts but an apology usually fixed that).

Thinking about the board and its members and the discussions (and jokes and rants and drama….we’re talking voice actors here…always drama), I started to piece together how so many of my current professional and personal relationships started on this board.

How?

Fellow voice talents who’s comments I read on the board; those who read my comments on the board; voice-over talents who started a business relationship with me because of the board; voice actors who I met at an industry function who knew of me through or because of the board; FaffCon (always FaffCon, which began through the VO-BB); Bob Souer inviting me out to lunch, which beget multiple meetings among VO-BB’ers for years (with more always to come).

So I’ve just made a quick list of voiceover folks I’ve met via all the above permutations that came about because of the VO-BB. Each of these folks have truly made my voice-over journey so much richer because they have been some part of it.

The list has left me a bit gob smacked (and guilty, for fear of those I have no doubt and inexplicably left off, with no malice intended). But I list it as a tribute to what DB created and nurtured over all these years, on her little plot of land on the interwebs.

In NO order of priority:

1. DB Cooper
2. Bob Souer
3. Doug Turkel
4. Connie Terwilliger
5. Liz deNesnera
6. Bruce Miles
7. Philip Banks
8. Lee Gordon
9. Peter Bishop
10. Rowell Gormon
11. Amy Snively
12. Diane Maggipinto
13. Todd Ellis
14. Mandy Nelson
15. Frank Frederick
16. Mary McKitrick
17. Elaine Singer
18. Chuck Davis
19. Anthony Mendez
20. Dave Courvoisier
21. Dan Friedman
22. Tom Dheere
23. Ben Wilson
24. Pam Tierney
25. September Day Carter
26. Moe Egan
27. Jeffrey Kafer
28. Donovan Corneetz
29. Tom Test
30. Vance Elderkin
31. Kara Edwards
32. Caryn Clark
33. Bobbin Beam
34. Terry Daniel
35. Roger Tremaine
36. Lance Blair
37. George Washington, III
38. Erik Sheppard
39. John Florian
40. CC Petersen
41. Melissa Exelberth
42. Jodi Krangle
43. Chris Mezzolesta
44. Dave DeAndrea
45. Craig Crumpton
46. Bob Bergen
47. Michael Schoen
48. JS Gilbert
49. Diane Havens
50. James Clamp
51. Trish Basanyi
52. Monk Schane-Lydon
53. Jane Ingalls
54. Paul Strikwerda
55. Bruce Jacobson
56. Darren Altman
57. Mara Junot
58. Fran McClellan
59. Dale Leopold
60. Lori Berman
61. Talmadge Ragan
62. Scott Pollak
63. Lauren McCullough
64. Randye Kaye
65. Melanie Haynes
66. Larissa Gallagher
67. CC Heim
68. Jordan Reynolds
69. Kristin Lennox
70. Martha Mellinger
71. Rosi & Brian Amador

I am at once heartened and heartbroken when I look at the list, the members of this always-welcoming club. While I expect we will continue our friendships, it seems we shall not have this special place to visit and update.

Maybe it will come back again and maybe we will appreciate it more and treat it better if it does rise again. If not, at least we had it for a time.

“And”, to quote Robert Frost, “that has made all the difference.”

UPDATE: Working with D.B. Cooper, Bruce Miles has resurrected the VO-BB so this wonderful LIVES AGAIN!