Entries Tagged as 'voiceover advice'

the voiceover negotiator (establishing & defending your voiceover rates)

Get Paid Fair Market Voiceover RatesSome voice talent come into the voiceover business with blinders on…all they see are microphones, scripts and money. The business part they kind of “poo-poo” away dismissively, only to find themselves later to be playing catch up or out of the business entirely.

There are lots of books and videos and classes and seminars on all this voiceover business stuff.  Today, I thought I’d share my perspective on how to establish rates and execute negotiations after almost 40 years in voiceover. This isn’t all inclusive (you have to PAY for that 😉 ) but I will share some of what I feel are key points.

The business part of voiceover starts almost immediately, when you get your first job. Say it’s a commercial for a local bank…a local bank that has multiple branches across your state. It’s going to be on the radio and it’s :60 seconds. The client who offers you the job is a video production studio doing the production and hiring of the VO talent.

The studio offers you $50 for the gig.

Boy are you excited, first paying gig, heard across the state! All my family will hear it! This is my big break…here we go!

The excitement is understandable and natural.

SFX: Splashing a bucket of cold water on the new voice talent

Slow down there, Secretariat! Don’t jump into the studio yet.

That $50 fee is WAY too low for a regional radio spot.

If you accept the spot for that rate, you’ve established yourself as a VO who works way below rates and trust me, the studio KNOWS the REAL going rates for voiceover. You’ll spend the better part of your initial career either digging yourself OUT of the hole (because snide word travels fast on cheap talent) or you’ll be underpaid for the rest of what only you will consider a voiceover career.

But, you say, they said that was the fee, take it or leave it.

The “that’s the fee / take it or leave it” response can mean two things IN ANY BUSINESS:

  1. This IS all I am paying anyone for this
  2. This is my current deal and I don’t want to let you know I could pay more

Here’s how a business person (and now you’re a working voice talent so: you is one ;)) handles this:

  • If the answer truly is ‘that’s all I’m paying’, you have to make a decision:

–> If you desperately need the money for food, rent or medicine (re-read and understand the word desperate…that’s important here) then take the job and make sure your payment terms are cash on delivery (COD); waiting 60 or 90 days for such a low payment payment is a kick right in the “no-no” spot!

–> Otherwise I would politely decline and explain my rates for such a project are X (“I would love to do the project, but my rates for the project you described is X.”)

With that last sentence, you just began to negotiate.

I know, your blood pressure just spiked a bit reading all this and there is a slight ringing in your ears at the thought of negotiating. Settle down. It’s a part of the business and you need to be ready for it.

Notice, I didn’t say you needed to be perfect at it? It takes time to learn negotiating skills but being educated at the outset by knowing your rates and being able to discuss them (negotiate) is the best starting place. And it’s not hard. Truly.

Just remember this key rule in negotiations: you have to be willing to walk away from the deal.

You have to be willing to say no to a deal that is not beneficial to you. If you give that one element up in spirit or in deed, you will lose every negotiation and will be financially screwed the rest of your very short business life. That’s not a joke. I am not kidding. #truth

There are books and classes on negotiation so, if you want, start at the library or Barnes and Noble. Read a few chapters. It won’t kill you.

Maria Pendolino Voiceover Talent audioconnell

Professional Female Voiceover Talent Maria Pendolino

If books do give you hives, well, don’t become an audiobook narrator but do contact my friend Maria Pendolino who is now offering classes on VO negotiations. These classes are not free but they are worthwhile. See what she did there, knowing her market value? She makes people PAY fairly for what she knows. You need to have people pay you fairly for what you voice.

The initial business part of voiceover for EVERY TALENT should immediately focus you on setting up rates for your business. What will you charge? Every business of any size does this and so must every voiceover business.

There are variables in our particular business that impact how voiceover is priced. They include (but are not limited to):

  • Will the recording be broadcast (TV, radio, web — yes web is seen as a kind of broadcast now, but will be priced differently than radio and TV)
  • If it is broadcast, where will it play geographically (a local town, a city, a state, nationally, internationally?)
  • How long will it be broadcast? (A month, 3 months, a year, forever?)
  • Will the recording be non-broadcast (sales meeting videos, trade show videos, audiobooks)
  • Are the terms of the usage of the recording you are making for them very specific?
  • Or are you giving them use of the recording for anything down the road at no additional charge? (A radio spot could be used in a sales video or as part of a message on hold…the sales video and message on hold SHOULD be billed additionally – which is why you need to be clear on terms of usage

If you are kind of lost at square 1 (i.e. setting my voiceover rates), here are some resources to guide you on what you could charge.

Global Voice Acting Academy LogoA starting point for non-union talent (if you do not have a SAG-AFTRA union card, you are non-union) would be the Global Voice Acting Academy web site. The grids will help you break down the genre of voiceovers and what the average rate is.

If you wanted to see how Union talent charge, you can look at the SAG-AFTRA site. The published rates are the base rates and can be higher, but so too are the Union’s fees for membership, etc. It’s all above board and there’s value to being in the Union for some folks…just read all of it to have a full understanding of rates and fees.

You may ask…what about an agent? Can’t I just get an agent and let them do all the negotiations? You can hire an agent…but an agent has to want you as a talent. Are you there yet?

The bottom line is you need to be able to negotiate rates fairly on your own behalf and know your worth. It’s just that simple and there is no successful way around that business fact.

Remember just a few things about the service YOU offer:

  • If producers have come to you with a job offer, you have something they want that only you can provide...there ARE other voice talents but there is only one you and that is part of your value – you are like the super-fast motor on a brand new sports car or a beautiful new roof on an awesome house that no one needs to repair for 20 years!
  • You are licensing your voice (which, we’ve established, has a financial value to it) so in essence you are charging a licensing fee (based on all those areas I mentioned previously)
  • There is a minimum time requirement for someone to use your services – even if the length of the production is really short (for the aforementioned $50 for :60 second spot – the producer would be even more insulting if he said for a :30 second spot, I’ll pay you $25…. so meet your minimum fee to start with and THEN assess your final rate based on the other variable
  • And just a reminder, because you must believe this to succeed: you have value as a voice actor and that value should have a competitive price – that’s what you are establishing and negotiating

Maybe your hands are shaking a bit now, you feel a little sweaty too, but it’s not the flu…it’s reading all this rate setting and negotiation stuff.

Well, better you work all that out now that in front of a business prospect.

You are stronger and smarter than you think you are. To own your own successful business, you have to be.

Good luck!

of background singers…and voice actors – same church, different pew

20 Feet From StardomAs you well know – if you know me at all – I am notorious late to seeing, listening or experiencing quality movies or music or events. I’m just busy and I have other priorities.

My feeling is I will see it or hear it or experience it when I am supposed to. I believe I have that kind of fate or guidance…spiritual or instinctive guidance, helping me through life and I appreciate it very much.

So when I tell you that in December of 2019 I have only now seen to 2015 Academy Award winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom, you won’t be surprised.

Neither will I be surprised that you probably haven’t seen it either, because it’s a documentary and they don’t get the promo that blockbusters do.

Voice actors need to see this movie.

The brief synopsis is that this movie studies (quite movingly) the history and impact that background singers have made on popular music. You hear from rock stars you know (who’s respect for background singers is immeasurable) and from people you might not know but whom you have heard and sang along with.

As you witness the movie unfold, you will be amazed.

But the movie also studies why amazing singers prefer to stay in the back ground…or try to step forward without always resounding success.

Sound much like voiceover to you?

I think it sounds EXACTLY like the voiceover industry and if you are a voice talent, checkout Netflix or another streaming service and revel in 90 minutes of culture, talent, history and…personal reflection.

I hope this helps.

‘hell no’ to the voiceover exposure offer

-Source: NEW YORK POST August 21, 2019

I was – all at once – shocked and not at all surprised to read an exclusive story this morning in the New York Post about a major business organization completely disrespecting a well-respected, very well-known and honored performer.

The organization wanted to offer the artist “exposure” (i.e. no fees or expense payment). Not even a car ride.

According to the story, with accompanying confirming quotes from the performer – the great singer Darlene Love was recently asked by the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) to perform her iconic song “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” at the NYSE’s 96th annual Christmas tree lighting, coming up in December.

Everybody with a brain in the music industry knows and respects who Darlene Love is…but the NYSE thinks after 60 years as a professional, Darlene Love needs exposure.

Exposure, not payment. From the world’s largest stock exchange, an organization profiting from trading billions of dollars daily.

Exposure not payment. For a singer, actress and music industry legend since 1959 to sing one of her biggest hits, an iconic song, live at – what I feel very sure is – a fairly expensive Christmas event.

Exposure, not payment. At Christmas!

To the offer, Love ultimately said not no, but hell no.

As a voice actor, you need to say the same thing to an “exposure” offer – whether it be a grossly low fee or no fee at all.

If you’ve been in this business for more than a minute, some jackass (man or woman) has come to you with a voiceover job that couldn’t offer you a fee but could offer you “great exposure” and that “might lead to more business down the road”.

Unless the offer is a charity you would otherwise support (so, without the “jackass”), the offer is baloney and will lead to nothing more than you devaluing your own business worth, while also being taken advantage of in a very public way by an unscrupulous business person you shouldn’t be working with in the first place.

Even those who are just starting out, who feel they need the exposure – if you don’t see your true value as a VO artist (and thus being willing to work for free where other ARE being paid) —then don’t be a VO artist! You not only disrespect yourself but you disrespect the rest of us in the voiceover industry. I am personally very not OK with that.

To the exposure offer in any industry – but especially voiceover – don’t just say no, say hell no.

voiceover agent advice: ready, aim, stop!

Gabby Nistico Guide VO Agents_audioconnell

If you have read this blog for any amount of time (and, I know, why would you?) you know that I am late to the party on almost everything.

For example, there’s this new thing called a flip phone…

Anyway, while perusing Instagram today, I came across post from Gabby Nistico about agents. This may have been around for awhile – I don’t know…remember…late to the party on everything.

What caught my attention was the tag line: “Submit to Agents with Care”. Well I have shared that sentiment with talents for decades (as have others), so I thought ‘this was a good start’.

I had to sign into something, probably a mailing list, to get to what the page was about…a fairly long list of voiceover agents.

For some of you reading this, that’s going to get you all excited. That list, however, is NOT the meat on the bone.

It’s a nice list…full of some great representatives and some completely useless agents (and to be fair, a similar list could be compiled of voice talents). Worry not, the reps are not labeled as such on the list and shouldn’t be…everyone’s mileage varies and opinions are like…well never mind what opinions are like, they all stink.

But again, the list isn’t the thing.

It’s the DIRECTIONS that accompany the list that contain the best advice you’ll receive this month. They are simple, almost basic. Likely you’ve heard what Gabby has written before, from others.

But now it’s in writing…there on the printed (web) page in black and white (well actually blue and white but whatever).

You know why she says it, and I say it and other pro VO’s say it and agents say it? Because it’s true.

‘Bull in a china shop’ does NOT work when trying to get an voiceover agent. But so few folks, especially newbies, listen.

So many folks are so anxious, so excited, so blinded by the concept of getting an agent or a new agent that the common sense gene is shut down and overrun by their stupid gland and they end up making a terrible first impression and lose an opportunity at professional voiceover representation.

Gabby Nistico Female Voiceover Talent

Female Voice Talent Gabby Nistico

So instead of ‘stop, drop and roll’, please now ‘stop, read and thoughtfully execute’ your approach to professional voiceover representation. Look at Gabby’s agent list, sure, but follow her directions that are right there! If you’re NOT ready to check all the boxes, wait to approach an agent until you are.

One last thought about this….the agency world is changing and, like voice talents, agents are dropping out of the business by choice or necessity. Now more than ever.

This means fewer agencies and yet the same or more voice talents who need/want representation.

So you, voice talent person, must now REALLY come across with your most professional work and demeanor and attitude and all of it…. super important! Yes, VO agents still need voiceover talents to have a business but voice talents need quality business partners…don’t confuse Gabby’s long list for a 100% quality list. That’s true in EVERY industry.

Check before you leap…talk to other voice talents about whether they feel their agents are representing them well. You look for referrals on plumbers, why not agents? Not to make too fine a point of it, but five of my agents are in the VO Agent Alliance. I’ve known these people for years. I am thrilled to be in partnership with them because of who they are as people and professionals) Their participation in the Alliance adds great credibility to it in my eyes.

I think it’s a great place to start when beginning the agency search…but they aren’t all taking everyone. Nobody said this agent search would be fast or easy.

Then, what are your expectations for your agents? Are you expecting them to bring you buckets of VO jobs? Re-think.

Agents, in my opinion, should be viewed as presenting opportunity for talents…not necessarily actual work. Yes,  work can/does come from agents (and that’s awesome) but it mostly comes FROM US…in our demos and in our auditions when we have the opportunity presented to us.

Securing the work is ultimately up to us. Hard fact. Deal with it or get out of the business.

Partnership also means that when a gig arises – that an agent did not bring to you but where their insight could be really helpful – give the agent the gig to manage. Yes give them the commission…bring it to them. If they are good, they will help you more than you know.

If you don’t trust them enough to do that or don’t want to share in the gig, I would ask you two questions:

• Why are they your agent?
• What kind of business partner are you? (Short answer, probably not a good one)

recording with robin hood

Robin Hood Studios Tyler Tx audioconnell voiceover talentAs I have mentioned in the past, I am a big proponent of finding local studios to record in when you are traveling. You meet new people and your recording environment is likely a thousand times better.

Well this week while in Tyler, Texas, I had some recording to do. I have been to Tyler before but hadn’t actually needed to record. This time, there was voiceover work to be done.

Off I went to Google. Immediately, I was drawn to one of the studios on the list. Robin Hood Studios. Great name, right?

Well more than a name, a cool history.

ZZ Top Platinum Album Robin Hood Studios audioconnell Voiceover Talent May 19

One of the platinum ZZ Top Albums at Robin Hood Studios in Tyler, TX

So Robin Hood Brians is the owner and chief engineer at the studio – which you wouldn’t know was a full recording studio just by looking at the building. The building WAS his parent’s house but since 1963 (and with additions built on) it is home to his historic, full service recording studio. For example, do you remember those platinum Z.Z. Top albums in the 70’s and 80’s? Several of them were recorded in the same studio I recorded in…I even had to wear a super long clip-on beard to record there (just kidding).

Voice Over Talent Peter K. O’Connell recording at the historic Robin Hood Studios in Tyler, TX, May 2019

The sound was great and studio was perfect in it’s eclectic-ness.

Robin himself is, as you might imagine, a font of rock and roll and broadcast commercial factoids and stories. He’s been doing this since the 60’s for goodness sakes! I think I was there longer talking to him than I was recording…which was fine with me as we shared great stories.

So if you are anywhere near Tyler and need to do some VO recording (or certainly music recording) I’ve got a place for you! Thanks Robin.

the voiceover agent series: how I partnered with Heyman Talent in Cincinnati, OH

Editor’s note: Often times I get asked by both new and experienced voiceover talent “how do you get a voiceover agent?” Or “how did you get signed with a specific voice talent agency?” It occurred to me recently that there are some interesting and fun stories about how I have partnered with my voiceover agents. Everybody likes a good story so I thought I would share a few of them in something I’ve entitled “the voiceover agent series”.

Voice Talent Peter K O'Connell Heyman 19 It is my recollection that an initial conversation I had with Lynne Heyman going back to at least 2007 (maybe 2006) was the discussion that was the foundation of my 12 year voiceover talent – voiceover agency relationship with Heyman Talent.

The call was me calling her about voiceover representation. She didn’t know who I was. I’m not sure I knew who I was…a question still pondered today 🙂

I was focused on Cincinnati for no better reason than it was about an hour away from Dayton, OH, where I had spent my formative college years at the University of Dayton in the mid-80’s. I had been to Cincinnati a few times and like it there. Also, I grew up a Reds fan of the Johnny Bench, Pete Rose and Joe Morgan era. The Big Red Machine.

Lynne was one of those folks who you immediately trusted when you were on the phone with her. She liked my demos and enjoyed talking about my perspective about the voiceover industry…she’d seen my social media posts, read my blog and could tell I was very involved and knew many folks in and around the voiceover business nationally. We talked then and later about women in VO, foreign voice talents and how to access them as well as the state of the industry.

Some years ago, Lynne wanted Laura VonHolle to take a lead role in the agency…which I think was a very smart business succession decision.

Laura VonHolle Heyman Talent audioconnellLaura, like her predecessor, was/is very talent centered, doing all she can for the talent but also holding the talent accountable. I’ve enjoyed a few conversations with Laura about how the business has changed in the past 5 years and it was great to get an agent’s in-depth perspective. Heyman handles print and on-camera – even more than VO – but listening to how the changes to the VO landscape impacted the agency side of the business was sobering. Of course, they have weathered it masterfully- and I am glad to be on the same team.

Athough I don’t think Laura ever forgave me for coming into to visit the agency on my way to a Reds game a few years back (the Red’s stadium is right down the street from the Heyman offices). I was going to the game and I didn’t have tickets for her (a big Reds fan). I briefly got the girlfriend/wife/mother stink eye from my agent. I now know that if I show up again at the agency on game day/night, I better have tickets for her.

And I will.