Entries Tagged as 'voice talent'

Bev Standing Her Ground Against TikTok

(If ever there was a name that was ripe for a headline, it’s my friend’s name: Bev Standing. That’s a writer’s gift, right there.)

(L-R) Voice talents Glad Klassen, Peter K. O'Connell and Bev Standing

Voice talents Glad Klassen, Peter K. O’Connell and Bev Standing in 2018

Professional female voiceover talent Bev Standing is one of those voice talent friends where I cannot remember the exact time we met…it’s like she’s always been in my orbit. Part of that comes from her proximity to Buffalo, NY (where I used to live) and her home across the border in Welland, Ontario Canada. I was blessed to see her many times in our various VO meetups. She is a total pro, lovely to be around and work with and…certainly knows her stuff.

Anyway, Bev Standing is defending herself against what I consider a pretty egregious misuse of her voice files by the social media company TikTok, a video-sharing social networking service owned by Chinese company ByteDance.

Bev, who in addition to being a VO also runs the VO Watercooler page on Facebook, did one text-to-speech voiceover project involving Chinese translations for the Institute of Acoustics, part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in 2018.

More recently, though, her voice was being used by various videos on TikTok from that recording session. These additional uses, as I understand it, were not part of her agreement with the Institute of Acoustics. That kind of unauthorized use is actionable, so Bev lawyered up and filed suit recently in the US. District Court, Southern District of New York.

See, here might be another GREAT headline: the case might be known as ‘Standing vs TikTok’. These things practically write themselves!!

Text-to-speech, if you are unfamiliar, is a process where voice actors read a large script of sounds (think “-er”) and specific words that can be manipulated by computers into sentences that – in some cases – sound very much like a human voice, resulting in full human voice sentences.

The full story on this suit is much more completely reported by John Florian at Voice-Over Extra.

I had gotten wind of this problem some months ago but didn’t know until today that the suit had been filed. I think this is a very wise move on Bev Standing’s part…and brave, because such suits can be emotionally and financially draining. But it must be done.

Text-to-speech (TTS) jobs for voiceover talents became a very enticing proposition around the time Apple introduced us to Siri…the most famous TTS project since “Hal” into 2001 A Space Odyssey (except “Hal” wasn’t actually TTS).

But I’ve always been wary of TTS projects for the very reason Bev is bringing suit…reckless usage of entire voice files that can be close to impossible to contain once the files are released.

Basically, a voice talent is sharing their entire talent (their speaking voice) with a client for unlimited use – supposedly for a specific project. But if that entire file gets out to somebody else or is used for other purposes (for which the talent SHOULD be made aware of and compensated for) the talent has very few resources to stop that abuse.

It will be left to the courts to decide this – but if it sounds bad, looks bad and smells bad…it usually is bad. This sounds like TikTok has created a problem for itself that my friend Bev rightly aims to correct with her legal action.

Writing a useful Voiceover Profile for Source-Connect

Peter K. O'Connell Voiceover Source-Connect Profile 2021With so many more voiceover talents jumping on the Source-Connect bandwagon in the midst of COVID-19, some voice talent may ignore a key marketing tool included with their Source-Connect membership.

The Source-Connect user profile.

As with almost all things internet, every Source-Connect member can (and should) fill out their profile. There’s the basic form to fill out (name, rank, serial number….that was a joke, don’t try to search for rank and serial number).

But the important part, in my opinion, is the biography information below the form.

This is where I think thoughtful voice talents have the opportunity to stand out successfully.

There will always be a few producers who blow past the Source-Connect bio opportunity and not read it because…whatever.  Some voice talents may feel the same way. That’s fine.

There are a few more producers who may be torn between picking from some Source-Connect voice talents whose sound is similar, who both obviously have Source-Connect but whose profiles say and convey different things.

Those conveyed differences could be the distinction between you getting and losing the gig. Those same million variables exists on every voiceover job, I know. My point here is: with a little work now, do it right, set and forget it and you’ll have a better shot of getting the job.

You want that possible advantage, don’t you?

Here are the things I think you should make sure you include in your Source-Connect profile biography.

OVERALL
This biography is absolutely NOT like the biography (the “About”) page on your web site. This should be informative, concise, easy to read and extremely focused on the needs and wants of the studio producer reading it. Lots of meat, very little warm and fuzzy.

THE STUDIO
Many but not all people hiring you will own their own recording studio, your Source-Connect session will be recorded in their recording studio. To the people who do the hiring, studio information can make a difference. Be as detailed and yet as matter of fact as you can be. Those recording in closets, do your best to describe your custom built or custom designed recording space. You need not feel shame as long as your recording space SOUNDS professional…no doubt most Source-Connect using producers have recorded more than one voice talent who voices from a good sounding closet.

THE TOOLS
Especially with (but not exclusively to) recording studios, engineers will look with a keen eye at your list of mics, audio interfaces and software. They do not have many ways to ensure for themselves they are going to be receiving quality sounding audio BEFORE they actually hear it in the session so reading about your gear IS important to them. That said, don’t get into a “brand-panic” or fall into an inferior mic complex or some such thing. Just make sure you consult with an audio engineer (the George Whittham’s of the world) to make sure your studio tools give you a quality, broadcast-ready sound BEFORE you try selling yourself ANYWHERE, let alone via Source-Connect.

THE CREDITS
The word credits is born of word credibility. While your entire Source-Connect biography is about establishing your recording credibility (studio and performance) – listing your professional voiceover credits is a way to assure producers that whatever project they have you in mind for…their session with you will NOT be your first voiceover recording rodeo (this is true for any professional voiceover biography). Your list of voiceover credits allow the media producer to know other producers and specifically other brands (hopefully, well known, easily identifiable and respected brands) have trusted your professional voice talent and/or recording abilities and so can they. Anywhere from 7-10 featured brand credits (across multiple industries) should assure them you are an experienced, professional voiceover talent.

Peter K. O'Connell Voiceover Source-Connect IconTHE YOU
Probably the biggest difference between your “ABOUT” biography on your personal web site and your biography on your Source-Connect web site is “The You”. On your web site, you can talk about your likes and family and unicorns and rainbows. All fine.

Not on your Source-Connect biography…at least that’s my opinion.

Producers are usually rushed for time when hiring a talent and if…IF…they take the time to read this part of your Source-Connect profile (and again there are no guarantees they will) give them ‘just then facts, ma’am’.

If you want to tie in a few words about your personal brand (very few) and location, that’s fine. Keep it short. For example, in my Source-Connect profile, I mention I used to live in Buffalo, NY and now live in Raleigh, NC. Some producers from years ago may remember me from Buffalo, not realize I moved to Raleigh and thus may not be sure I am the same guy. That location detail has professional, business relevance to my profile. Otherwise I wouldn’t include it.

Why so much info on a profile that is supposed to be so brief? Because to be concise, you have to be fairly thoughtful about those few, right words…about sharing the most valuable content. I hope this blog has offered you some helpful guidance and ideas.

V.O. North 2020 was Virtually Great

Peter K. O'Connell Voiceover V.O. North 2020This past weekend’s V.O. North was my first virtual voiceover conference. It worked out well.

Look, nothing will ever be as much fun an in-person conference. The interactions and the spontaneity of in-person events cannot be matched.

What would be worse, though, would be to not have ANY voiceover conferences at all and I believe that was Tanya Buchanan and Dervla Trainor’s thinking in going ahead with V.O. North 2020. They were the event producers.

Me and 250+ of my closest friends all agree theirs was the right decision.

From the execution of the web-based seminars (which was technically pretty much flawless) to the content and even the evening parties…we all had a great time.

Tanya invited me to moderate 4 seminars this weekend with a total 14 presenters and they were all so (individually and collectively) terrific! The content was practical and applicable, the information shared was thoughtful and insightful and the presenters very willing to share their knowledge. Of course all the attendees were extremely nice.

Special thanks to my panelists:

  • Tanya Buchanan from Ta-Da Voiceworks (full disclosure, my Toronto-based Canadian agent for at least 8 years and friend for longer)
  • Roger King from PN Agency
  • Carol Rathe who is now retired from Go Voices
  • Roberta Romano who is the director of the Voice Department at Fountainhead Talent
  • Erik Shappard from The Sheppard Agency (full disclosure, my agent for at least the past 12 years, maybe more and friend for longer)
  • Ralph Streich from Vancouver’s RED Talent Management
  • Long time friend and fellow voice talent Bev Standing who now heads up the Canadian division of Gravy for the Brain
  • Voice talent David Toback who also oversees GVAA
  • Vancouver-based voice actor Noel Johansen who runs On The Mic
  • British voiceover artist Rachael Naylor who owns The Voiceover Network
  • Los Angeles-based voice actress Rachel Wohl
  • Audio producer (and Calgary Flames hockey fan) Bruce Crews who work with On Air Studios in Calgary
    Long time friend and voiceover talent Liz de Nesnera
  • Los Angeles-based audio producer and sports ball fan Andrew Silagy, who is the terrific Talent and Production Manager for Snap Recordings

Y’all made my job very easy. Thanks!

another way voiceover has adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic

Ta-Da Voiceworks Toronto Voiceover Town HallEvery business, every industry and everyone of us has changed either a small or large part of our lives because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That includes voiceover.

When the pandemic first started, advertising trailed off for a while, brands and corporations shifted from a marketing attitude to a survival attitude. Consumers seemed more focused on toilet paper than a new car or going to the movies…which they couldn’t do cause anyway because all the movie theaters shut down.

We did get more telephony work (those of us that do that kind of voiceover work) for businesses that wanted to talk to consumers in their on-hold messaging about how their business WAS going to work with customers during the crisis – new protocols etc. Or for business that needed to shut down — their message on-hold addressed how to best communicate with now work-from-home employees.

Voice talents too changed the way they communicated with clients and prospects, I think. I know I found myself calling to check on the people more than checking on new business opportunities. Recording studios and ad agencies were among many industries who suffered a round-house economic punch from COVID-19 and I’ve worked with many of these folks for a long time.

It feels now like we are rebounding, day by day, little by little. How we move forward and what is ahead is not certain but as Churchill said “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” So we keep going, us people folk.

There ARE some positives for the voiceover business that have come from the pandemic. One of them is that we have been forced to be better communicators – in how we talk to our peers, our vendors and our customers.

One big way I saw this was with one of my voiceover agents, Tanya Buchanan of Ta-Da Voiceworks in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Voice Talent Peter K O'Connell Ta-Da Voiceworks 19Some weeks ago, she called a town hall of all her talent – the majority of which are Toronto-based or living in and around the GTA (Greater Toronto area). She does have some American talent on her roster as well and I am one.

This online meeting was more than just a Zoom voiceover meet-up.

The focus of that first meeting was to help many of the Toronto talent figure out how they were going to record either auditions or jobs during the pandemic. Toronto is a unique voiceover market in that many media producers there much preferred voice actors to record at local studios versus recording in home studios.

In the U.S. many voice actors record from their home studios regularly, but trust me, we LOVE going to outside studios to record. There, we just record the voice and don’t have to do any post-production….it’s heaven! Plus those recording studios have free snacks!!!!!!

With the pandemic, many of the voice actors in Canada’s largest media market immediately had to learn about building home studios, having Source-Connect, buying the best types of microphones etc. It was a lot for any group of people to learn and digest in short order.

Tanya wanted to help ease the stress for her talent, provide resources for them and ultimately serve as the calm voice of reason. She was.

In short, Tanya smartly managed her voice actors…who ARE her business. Questions were answered, apprehensions were calmed and some of the more experience VO’s on the call (who have home studios, etc.) could share their knowledge with their voiceover peers who were less experienced this particular area. She further built her team.

From that first COVID-19 town hall, Tanya has smartly grown these Zoom meetings into monthly, lunchtime Ta-Da Voiceworks talent meetings where trends are discussed, agency policies are updated, local knowledge is shared among talent all while Tanya further cements her credibility as a top Toronto agent who has her talent’s back.

Her communication is solid and her roster clearly appreciates it.

All that, created from the ashes of the pandemic, has bred a significant amount of loyalty from her talent. I can assure you, after almost 40 years as a professional voiceover talent, that kind of loyalty to an agent is not always a given.

my voiceover booth is famous

Peter K. O'Connell, voiceover talent, in his audio'connell Voiceover Talent Studio in Raleigh, NC.

Voiceover Talent Peter K. O’Connell, a 1986 graduate of the University of Dayton (OH), is featured in the University’s Class Notes article and social media post in January 2020. O’Connell is pictured in his voiceover booth at his audio’connell Voiceover Talent Studio in Raleigh, NC.

One of the more pathetic attributes of any professional voiceover talent is our strange pride in our voiceover booths.

Peter K. O'Connell Studiobricks Assembly 2

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

Whether we have had one custom designed (I’m thinking of your former, magnificent Pool House VO booth, Joe Cipriano) or purchased a pre-made booth like my StudioBricks One Plus VO Edition, we voice talent boast and preen about our booths and recording studios.

Some of that boasting is probably to justify the expense…even when these booths quickly pay for themselves (thank goodness)…it’s still one of the biggest one-time business investments a voiceover talent will make. The VO business, as a rule, does not have the kind of large capital expenditures than many other types of business owners experience. That’s one reason many folks want to become VO’s…and it’s a poor reason.

Another more business-based, marketing reason is that our professional voiceover booths are a point of difference versus many voiceover talents who rent someone else’s studio to record or just record voiceover in the their closets. Our voiceover booths are more professional looking, almost always more professional sounding and present to producers the expected aural and physical representation of where a voiceover talent should be working.

If image isn’t everything, in this case, it IS something.

So we feature our professional voiceover booths in blog posts (like this), social media posts (which this blog will soon become part of) and our marketing materials for web sites, direct mail and networking. If you don’t tell advertising agencies, recording studios and video producers that you have a booth…they won’t know about your professional voiceover booth.

UD Magazine Winter 2016-17 (not the real cover)

No this is not the REAL cover of University of Dayton Magazine. The guy in the pink shirt just pasted himself on there. What a goof!

It was last summer that I got my latest copy of University of Dayton Magazine, the alumni magazine of the 2020 Men’s Basketball Atlantic 10 Champion University of Dayton Flyers (yes, that was a blatant plug for WINNING Dayton Flyers’ basketball, so what?). Oh, you’re right, that IS the same University of Dayton Magazine that in 2017 wrote an article about one of their famous voiceover alumni.

Like I said, last summer in my office reading the new University of Dayton Magazine and I notice a section I had seen before, UD Notes. It features updates from alumni and sometimes pictures of University of Dayton alumni holding an issue of University of Dayton Magazine in a unique place…like a foreign country or inside the cockpit of a fighter jet.

For no other reason than the idea just popped into my head, I thought to myself ‘I’ve never seen anyone take a picture of a University of Dayton Magazine issue inside a voiceover booth.’

So I grabbed one of my kids and we took a picture. I filled out the University of Dayton Magazine alumni notes form with an update, attached the picture, then promptly forgot about the whole thing.

Male Voiceover Talent Peter K. O'Connell in University of Dayton Magazine January 2020

UD Notes from University of Dayton Magazine January 2020, featuring Male Voiceover Talent Peter K. O’Connell

However, there it was in the latest issue, a picture and class note. And I got some calls from it. Free publicity.

What I did NOT count on was that they also post these Class Notes on line! That was a surprise I came across this morning, more than two months after the issue came out.

I don’t know everyone who has seen it or will still see it and what kind of business opportunity this represents. From a business perspective, I know it represents very clearly that doing something is better than doing nothing.

 

 

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!