Entries Tagged as 'voiceover advice'

#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.

are you ready?

Are You Ready_VOSome years ago, the singer and Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth was in concert at the Hollywood Bowl. As part of her concert, she evidently pulls up a random audience member to sing one of Chenoweth’s biggest hits, “For Good” from the show Wicked.

On this night, she randomly chose a woman named Sarah Horn. Sarah identified herself as a voice teacher.

Unrehearsed, the orchestra began playing and this happened.

The video was an Internet sensation with millions and millions of views. It was a magnificent, inspiring performance and Chenoweth’s reactions were equally as wonderful.

Some years after that video, Sarah Horn was asked to give a TEDx talk in Riverside, California. Her presentation was entitled “Be Ready: Lessons from the Hollywood Bowl”.

Horn’s message was clear: random as her selection was, she had rehearsed that song before the show…. from a young age, in her bedroom singing to the cast album, literally hundreds of times.

She had rehearsed as a voice teacher, learning about music and the human voice. Because of her deep passion for singing, Horn was constantly preparing, never not rehearsing and always performance ready.

It was, in short, her life’s preparation for that thing that she was so passionate about (her singing) that allowed her to get up in front of that audience at the Hollywood Bowl with a performance that hit it out of the park. She didn’t know when she would get the call, but she was ready when she did.

As a voiceover talent, are you THAT ready?

Have you been working scripts since you were old enough to know what a script was? Have you always consistently experimented with new tones in your voice. If some producer asks “give me a series of 3” can you say “I can give you a series of 33!” and mean it?

Do you even know what “give me a series of 3” means?

It’s those examples and more that most professional voice talents can say yes to…because they ARE ready. Performance ready for almost anything a producer can ask them to do.

In an old biography for myself, I wrote rather unpoetically:

“As a high school student, Peter K. O’Connell garnered strange looks from his parents as they passed by his room when he would practice his announcing skills by reading magazine advertisement copy out loud. While they might have expected to hear a record from Bruce Springsteen, Peter’s parents got Ed McMahon instead.”

That sounds funny but it is a 100% true story. The quizzically look my Mother gave me through my bedroom door one time as I was reading commercial copy from a print magazine was very funny. She didn’t understand why I was ready out loud from a magazine. Was this what my puberty was going to be like, busting out into an open reading of magazine print ads? What will the neighbors say?!!!

But I wanted to be ready.

I’ve worked on voiceover and announcing since high school. At that time, I became brave enough to not be self-conscious about performing (and I was – and still can be – very self-conscious). I worked all the time on my reading, my pronunciation, my sound, my characters, all of it.

I still do.

This is not to brag but merely to serve as an example to those who want to be in voiceover that THIS kind of dedication (almost obsessiveness) IS what it takes to be a professional voice talent.  And to be ready.

To become so practiced, to able to do something so well that, when called upon in the most unprepared of circumstances, your mind, body and spirit instinctively over take any immediate nerves or challenges to allow you to easily do that thing you’ve worked your whole life to perfect. In this case, voiceover.

Voiceover is not about having a nice voice.

It IS an art. It DOES require consistent practice. You MUST be focused. Not because you HAVE to but rather because you WANT to!

That want, that desire, that very NEED to be a voice talent is what will fuel your engines to work so hard and to constantly improve as a voice talent.

Just so, one day, you too will be ready.

3 Steps to Fix Your Twitter (maybe 4)

Fixing Twitter For Voiceover TalentsMaybe Twitter is working just fine for your voiceover business.

More likely, though, you don’t really have a focused business purpose for Twitter.

Twitter is designed to be very customized so even if two voice talents compared their Twitter feeds, likely it would be different…please don’t worry that you are doing it wrong. You’re not.

But you may be able to do Twitter more efficiently.

If you’re just looking at Twitter for fun, you don’t need a plan. But it’s also, in my opinion, kind of a waste of your business day if you spend any time there.

Should you want to use Twitter for a myriad of voiceover business objectives, putting some thought into it will help you make sense of Twitter and make it work for you.

‘But Peter,’ you whine, ‘this sounds like work.’

Yes there’s some work involved. We are talking about Twitter as business tool, you tool!

Relax, though, as I’m going to chart a course for you to help you think all this through.

I’ll also give some examples of what I do so you can either copy some of what I do on Twitter or run fast in the opposite direction…but at least you’ll have a plan!!

Peter K. O'Connell Twitter

  1. Decide what you need Twitter to do for you?

The assumption here is that you want to do more with Twitter than just play. You likely want to have some kind of objective, like:

  • I want to network
    • It could be with prospects, clients or your fellow voice pros
  • I want to be educated
    • I want to learn about industry trends (mine or the business categories I work with most); new technologies, or even social media trends from people smarter than you or me
  • I want to stalk
    • In a business way, not a creepy way – most likely involving prospects or current clients (maybe also your peers) as a way to learn about what topics, trends or observations are important to them — you DO already follow all your clients on social media, right?!

You may want to do one, some or all of these things and that’s OK. You may even want to execute something totally different. But as you look at your current and future Twitter connections, I would advise that you identify and follow your custom objectives with a specific agenda in mind because I think it will help you moving forward

  1. Identify your top Twitter targets

You want to network? OK, but with whom and to what end?

You want to be educated? OK, but what about and with whom do you want to achieve that knowledge?

You want to stalk? Which prospects do you want to follow and what do you want to achieve (awareness, new business, a referral)? Are they specific people or a category of folks?

Just following someone on Twitter is simple. And not likely to move the business or educational needle terribly far.

It would also be wonderful if these folks you followed on Twitter would follow you back, but that’s not a given. They might not initially be interested in you, as people don’t immediately follow back on Twitter like they used to do. Or they might not pay a ton of attention to Twitter. Everybody and company uses social media in different ways.

The point being you should have a kind of mental strategy about what you want to achieve with Twitter targets.

Twitter listsIf you can’t fathom a strategy quite yet, that does NOT mean you should not move forward with Twitter. You can at least get your ‘followers’ list organized and Twitter has a great internal tool for that.

It’s called Twitter Lists. Twitter Lists allow you to create your own lists within your entire list of the people you are following. You can also subscribe to lists created by others.

How is that helpful to you?

Viewing a timeline of just people from a specific list will show you a stream of Tweets only from the Twitter accounts on that list. While there can be some benefit to subscribing to other people’s lists, I personally just focus on lists I have created – occasionally checking other lists to see if I’ve missed somebody in a category.

For example, voice talents are always looking to get on voice talent rosters of audio production companies. How many audio production companies are you already following? How many are following you? (If you’re not sure, check out follow tools like http://unfollowerstats.com/).

My recommendation is that you create a Twitter List of Audio Production Companies and tag all your current connections to that list (a list as big or small a list as you want).

Then figure out what other lists you’d like to curate on your Twitter account (you can have one Twitter connection on more than one list if you like, it’s your list!). Again, this is valuable because with this list, you can see only the Tweets of those on the list. This is a big time saver, a great way to see customized conversations and trends — and all of it leading to the next big fix.

  1. Tweet thoughtfully

For some folks, the idea of Tweeting is truly butt clenching, for fear of not knowing what to say. For some folks, they just type what ever is on their minds (often proving they have nothing to say).

If you have focused on what you want to get out of Twitter (step #1) and from which audience you want to interact with (step #2), step 3 shouldn’t be as challenging and you won’t come off a s a moron (see above folks with “nothing to say”).

Rule #1 on Tweeting thoughtfully is to remember to treat each tweet like you’re speaking to a person…don’t be intimidated by 140 characters…just be you, for lack of a better term. Don’t “act” like an expert, your content will prove your expertise.

Rule #2 is tweet like you would like to be spoke to. For example: what do you like hear?

  • You like to be sincerely complimented
    • You can simply “like” a Tweet by somebody on one of your list (they’ll likely be notified of your like and may check out your Twitter profile – make sure that your profile page is updated and looks nice)
    • You can send someone on your list a compliment on their Tweet – throw something personal in there, more than “nice Tweet” or “thanks”
    • You can share the Tweet with your audience (people whose Tweets get shared usually get notified about that and it may help you get followed back)
  • You like to learn new things
    • If someone on your list has shared something that you really like, say thanks but tell them why it was helpful
    • You might try doing this via “direct message” on Twitter, and a conversation might ensue
  • You like to share things that are interesting to you and that you think others also my find interesting
    • So share what you like – if they don’t like it or aren’t interested, it’s no crime, people will move on and not think worse of you

The bottom line is you MUST offer content (i.e. Tweet) for people to begin to notice you but it’s best not to just Tweet for Tweeting sake – offer a thoughtful content that reflects who you are either professionally or even personally if you’re comfortable doing that

Make Friends First AudioconnellRule #3 would be don’t sell. This is more my rule than anything else but I have not seen one example of someone actually selling via a Tweet and people buying, at least not in voiceover.

At the very least, be indirect. For example: “I’m really excited that my new commercial #voiceover demo is done. If you like, check it out at www.audioconnell.com

When it comes to tone on Twitter (or Social Media or Life) my rule is to at least attempt to talk with people, not at them.

SO now what? What’s the follow up after I do all this?

Well, what you’ve done by creating these lists is you’ve got the start of a database. People you can learn from; connect with and possibly get some business done. So craft a plan to do something with all this information. Like what?

For example, from the aforementioned list of audio production companies, why not go to their Twitter account, click on their web site link and gather some contact data to put in your company database. Then send them a letter, introducing yourself and your information- maybe request to be added to their voiceover roster. Then a few days later, follow up by phone.

Did Twitter just become a lead generation tool for your business? That’s for YOU to decide.

Hope this helps.

Some quick thoughts on a successful email blast

Voiceover talents love their email blasts.

It gets the message out to your “people” and putting a blast together is not terribly burdensome with all the online services available to help (they are not very costly either).

Depending on who you speak with, of course, email blasts are either the dumbest or the smartest marketing you can do. I’ll let you guess which side thinks they get better results from their blast.

There are two main drivers to a successful email blast: your list and your content. Which is more important? Both.

Let’s look at this two ways.

1. General Email Blast

Some voice talents write one email message or newsletter and send it to their entire list, without segmenting the list by categories (I’ll explain categories in a moment). This is the simplest way to do email blasts and can work if the message applies to everyone on your list.

2. Targeted Email Blast

This kind of blast involves creating an email message to just one portion of your list and sending the blast to them. For example, say you had a great idea for an email blast about your commercial production work. Let’s also say in your database, which you have previously broken up in to categories of people you work with and contact, you had a ton of commercial production contacts. BUT in your database you also had a ton of audiobook producer contacts too. In such a targeted email blast, you would omit the audiobook producer contacts from this specific blast because the message does not apply to them.

Which blast is more efficient? Depending on your message, both.

But I would suggest that voice talents send more general email blasts because it’s easy and are missing the marketing boat.

If you can target a specific message to a specific audience that would benefit from that message, spend the extra time to reach out to the RIGHT people, not just ALL the people.

Hope that helps.

the moral of the voiceover story

audioconnell ethics in voiceoverOne of the many panel discussions that took place at VO Atlanta talked about Ethics in Voiceover. Fortunately, the discussion was not entitled “In Search of Ethics in Voiceover”.

That would have been sad.

Overall, ethics-wise, I think the voiceover industry does pretty well. Maybe an 80-85 out of 100.

Ethics is defined, as you probably know, as being the moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity.

We all have ethics and morals but differing degrees of each.

I did not attend that session because I was doing something else so I cannot give a fair (or really any) representation of the discussion.  Those who did attend seemed to enjoy it.

One of the panelists during that particular session is a voice talent I have been friendly with for a number of years and who is also a fellow blogger, Paul Strikwerda. According to his published statistics, his blog is much more widely read than mine.

Here, I just have you and me, while Paul’s blog is read by thousands. Can’t say as I blame the readers because I’ve read my stuff. Just long winded pablum here 🙂 .

So Paul wrote about his experience at VO Atlanta on his blog and also about his answers during the Ethics Panel he was a part of. Having read his responses on the blog, I do not take exception to any of his answers because his answers about ethics come from his perspective and they are his way to approach his business. We all do this individually in every line of work – which is precisely what makes such a public discussion tricky, in MY opinion.

But the one question from the panel that Paul highlighted in his blog (I believe he was asked the question, he did not ask it himself) elicited from me a response different from Paul’s.

Two people, two perspectives, each right within their own views. Your milage may vary. Consult your doctor before taking any medications.

The question was:

Do voice talent have an obligation to consider the impact of their pricing on the greater voiceover industry?

Paul’s full answer to the panelist’s question can be found here, but in short, his answer is yes, talent do have an obligation to consider the impact of their pricing on the greater industry.

Peter’s full answer to the question can be found below, but in short, his answer is no, talent do not have an obligation to consider the impact of their pricing on the greater industry.

Full disclosure: if you asked ’15-20 years ago Peter’ the answer to this question, I would have said ‘yup, they do…no low balling ever, hurts all of us! End of story.’ I might have even stomped my foot or harrumphed! Possibly both.

‘Today Peter’ still believes that that lowballing is a lose-lose tactic. It’s a poor business tactic that to me shows desperation, a horrible lack of self worth and undermines the low bidder’s professionalism (both real and perceived). So I don’t do it and I don’t think others should either.

I’ve said so many times, in many forums. Again, sometimes with a harrumph!

But in this panel discussion, the question focused on whether there is an ethical obligation to consider your fellow voice professionals when crafting your own pricing.

From a competitive and business standpoint? Sure.

From a moral stand point, no.

All low-ballers are not unscrupulous opportunists. I know this because I’ve met some of them, spoken with them and heard their stories. One would be unfair, unkind and unprofessional to paint these folks that I’ve met with a broad brush stroke of being sleazy or something worse.

But I would generally categorize these low ballers as often (but not always) being desperate, somewhat ignorant regarding business and most surely lacking professional confidence. Those that I have met are guilty on all three counts. Do their actions hurt our industry? Yup.

But what are their reasons for their low rates? Let’s look at that for a moment.

Of the three categories above, I’d like to focus on desperate. Specifically, I mean financially desperate.

Whether it’s to make a mortgage payment, a car payment or just put food on the table, many of the low-ballers in voiceover that I have met don’t have much money and aren’t sure how to make it. They cannot listen to nor hear a discussion about fair pricing in VO because they have significant money issues as well as an unceasing fear throbbing in their head that drowns out the discussion.

For better or worse, that is their life situation. They are in survival mode, sometimes barely survival mode.

Now, the harder edged me of some years ago would have told them ‘then maybe VO isn’t for you and get out of the business’ or at least get a second job! But watching and listening, I see how edicts and absolutes don’t fit each and everybody.

So am I to stand on a rock looking down on these low-baller folks with a pointed finger and a booming voice, questioning their moral responsibility to their fellow voice actors about pricing if they can’t feed their kids because they lost a job by charging $50 more, just so it fell in line with industry standards? Short answer: no.

Regarding the above statement, I will add here, lest you think I’m being accusatory, I do not believe Paul or many others would answer yes. In addition to the individual perspectives that I mentioned earlier, there are always individual situations. That’s why ethics and morality are necessary but they are soooo tricky. You gotta look case by case.

Yes there ARE really sleazy individuals and companies in voiceover who undermine our professional standards, including rates. Those folks need to be publicly and frequently called out for their unprofessional behavior. Bang the drum, hand me a drum stick!

But I cannot personally exclaim a universal moral decree that every voice talent must think of others (and fall in line) when crafting their pricing structure. If you need that, join a union, which is built on a national rate card! That’s a real benefit.

My point is not every low baller is “a bad guy”.  And beyond that, there are no simple or absolute answers.