Entries Tagged as 'voice talent'

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!

source-connect is the standard and i’m a standard bearer (that means i have source-connect in my voiceover studio)

Voiceover Peter K. O'Connell Source-ConnectThere are nice things about being in a club.

I’m not talking about the leather-chair, cigar smoking clubs out there (I’ve been members at those kind of clubs…they are not that big a deal).

I’m mean like clubs where members share a common interest and can talk about things you each know about and, as a member, you can learn from people who share your interests…like audio production and voiceover. Turns out there’s a kind of club for that.

Technology brought a lot of change to the industry, some of it bad (pay to play voiceover web sites) and some of it good.

One of the good things was Source-Connect, which uses codecs and the internet to offer recording studios, media producers, voiceover talents like me and other audio professionals high-quality options to record and monitor recording sessions remotely.

ISDN AUDIOCONNELL.COMSource-Connect is (has been) replacing ISDN, which was the industry standard for remote recording. ISDN always sounds great, no doubt about that. The down side of ISDN is that it was expensive to connect to ISDN studios with over priced codec boxes and copper wiring via the telephone company’s system to make recording sessions happen.

After a while, between criminals in the street trying to steal expensive copper wiring and criminals at the phone company jacking the ISDN rates up (because they didn’t want to support an unprofitable service like ISDN)…studios and talent needed a new remote audio recording tool.

Enter Source Elements and Source-Connect. The faster the internet got, the better signals got – Source-Connect  allows super high quality remote audio recording with extremely low latency (if any at all).

Studios anywhere in the world can connect with me on Source-Connect (username: audioconnell) and the recording can be voiced by me here in Raleigh, NC voiceover studio and recorded on the other end (again, anywhere in the world) if they also have Source-Connect.

Oh, and with Source-Connect, a connection can be bridged to an ISDN recording studio if the studio only has or prefers ISDN. So I am still ISDN compatible, without the expense on my end.

That’s why I am a card carrying member of the Source-Connect club. The service makes it easier for my clients and it also make it easier for me.

Easy is the new black.

If you’d like to record with me using Source-Connect, just let me know. Voice with you soon!

audio’connell in portland, oregon (all the beautiful people)

Portland Oregon Voiceovers July 2019

Portland Voiceover Friends (around the U from left to right) Marc Rose, Bruce Miles, Emma Miles, Jen Gosnell, Peter K. O’Connell, Karyn O’Bryant, July 2019

If you’re going to travel from one ocean to the other, it’s sure is nice to have friends waiting for you on the other side.

So I did the Portland, OR trip this week…lovely weather too, so much nicer than the oppressive heat and humidity of Raleigh in the past few weeks.

I was very fortunate to have my friend Bruce Miles coordinate a lovely dinner with old and new voiceover friends….I’m told Portlandia is a foodies paradise and the two dinners we’ve had out there have been great.

So in addition to Bruce, his lovely and so fun wife Emma joined us – she’s not a voice talent, she’s better than that!

Jen Gosnell was there, taking a break from her family and voicework, great to see her. New Portlandian Karyn O’Bryant (who was on a VO-BB video chat earlier with Bruce and host of much more famous voices) came out to the party too. And I got to meet Marc Rose, a voice talent who runs Fuse Audio Design, where he also produces music and sound effects and teaches VO too.

There was an abundance of talking and noshing and just a great evening. I’m both pleased and honored that they would come out for some dinner.

Hope to see them again soon.

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)