coronavirus notes from the flying voiceover

VO_Atlanta_LogoMost everybody in VO knows that I am on planes…alot. Travel is part of my marketing life just like voiceover always has been a part of my life.

I’ve traveled through most of the major modern health and terrorist challenges America has faced over the past 2-3 decades.

I go to two or three big conferences each year. Many of them during prime cold and flu season.

On many trips, I see my VO pals for lunch or dinner.

Cars, planes, trains, hotel rooms & people…germs everywhere. Sometimes I get sick (not yet, knock wood). Maybe you do too? Imagine that.

Oh, and I live with three little germ factories too. I love ‘em.

I respect the reasonable concern about the Coronavirus…but for most us, health-wise the virus would be manageable…based on the stated, published insights of real medical professionals.

So watching people, groups, events, financial markets and even countries go quite nuts about the Coronavirus has been kinda disappointing.

Unless your health is compromised by age or special disease states…the Coronavirus will be only an unpleasant flu. Not enjoyable but far from deadly. Yet panic has reigned and that panic is causing bigger problems.

While basic hygiene and thoughtful, simple behavior will help keep us all healthy, people aren’t emotionally handling this virus very well.

My point?

As everything does in this blog, my point about this virus comes back to voiceover.

Peter K. O'Connell Moderates Voice-Over Agents Panel VO Atlanta 2016

VO Atlanta 2016’s Voice-Over Agent Panel. L-R Peter K. O’Connell, audio’connell Voice-Over Talent (Moderator); Erik Shepard, Voice Talent Productions; Jeffrey Umberger, Umberger Agency, Tanya Buchanan, Ta-Da Voiceworks; Marci Polzin, Artistic Talent; Susie De Santiago, De Santi Talent and Ralph Cooper, Capital Talent Agency./i>

Soon voiceover event producer Gerald Griffith is set to host VO Atlanta, a voiceover conference in like it’s 8th year now. I’ve been to VO Atlanta twice…I even accidentally hosted a voiceover agent panel once, because….Jeffrey Umburger.

But Coronavirus is causing what I imagine is a big business headache for small business owners like Gerald and hundreds of (small business owning) event producers like him right now.

It’s small business guys like Gerald who really take it on the chin in situations like this…there are many of these event producers who are in a no-win situation because of this darn bug. Gerald’s got hundreds of people coming to Atlanta…two hotels involved, I think…untold airfares booked, hotel fees charged, food contracts signed, talent fees accounted for and no doubt some panicky sponsors whose checks have long ago cleared. Now Gerald and event producers like him have some tough business decision to make. Go or no go?

I don’t have any inside info on any of this regarding VO Atlanta…I’m not attending the show and I am not involved with it in any way. But I know business and I know event planning. So I have been quietly praying (on behalf of all the small business “Geralds” out there) that each event producer has a good event disaster insurance policy.

For event planners, it would seem the Coronavirus scenario now before them is a business nightmare that I envision being second only to what faced the event and travel industry with the Legionnaire’s Disease outbreak I remember from the 1970’s. Two different health situations yet both impactful to the event and travel industries.

I gotta say…I’m indifferent about the financial impact on the attendees or sponsors of a possibly cancelled VO Atlanta (if it comes to that whether by a personal attendee’s decision or if the event calls off). The financial impact of a cancelled VO Atlanta on those folks will likely be annoying but absorbable (unless they financially over extended themselves – and then, they made a bad business decision…we’ve all been there, done that). Costly yet that’s the risk inherent in owning a small business.

The financial impact on an event producer, however, could be significantly more overwhelming.

Do me this favor, keep a good thought for those who have taken the biggest financial risks in these scenarios….the event producers out there.

We hope they have insurance, we hope their risk is manageable and we hope they will be financially OK with whatever decisions they have to make.

For them, the panic of the Coronavirus I think is like the (hopefully never realized) unpredicted Category 5 tornado bearing down on our  neighborhoods…and we cannot get out of its way.

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.

 

 

MEDIA RELEASE – O’Connell Brightens Crest Toothpaste’s Radio Campaign

Crest logoRALEIGH, NC – February 3, 2020 – – Oral health is a serious topic but Crest Toothpaste injected some creativity within the brand story of its Pro/Active Defense Toothpaste’s national radio campaign.

The radio commercial, featuring character voice actor Peter K. O’Connell as a race track announcer, imaginatively communicates that cavities are the only winners in a race among those who do not care for their teeth with the proper toothpaste.

About Crest Pro/Active Defense Toothpaste

Pro/Active Defense Toothpaste does more for mouths to keep them healthy for the future (vs. ordinary toothpaste). It takes a 360° approach to protect and future-proof the whole mouth. Its Active Defense Technology neutralizes plaque bacteria for clinically proven healthier gums. Activated foam is delivered to all areas of the mouth to shield & defend against potential oral health issues. It is ADA accepted to help prevent cavities, plaque and gingivitis, and prevent or reduce enamel erosion from dietary acids, and reduce sensitivity.

About Peter K. O’Connell

From Fortune 500 companies to companies that think $500 is a fortune, multi-award winning male voiceover talent Peter K. O’Connell has shared his voiceover and audio production skills with a wide variety of companies, world-wide. In addition to national radio commercial for Crest, Peter’s commercial and narration clients also include brands like L.L.Bean, IBM, Duracell Batteries, General Electric, Massachusetts State Lottery and Kraft Foods.

O’Connell owns audio’connell Voiceover Talent, a division of O’Connell Communications, LLC. He can be reached via audioconnell.com or peterkoconnell.com.

– 30 –

NOTES FOR EDITORS

CONTACT:

Peter K. O’Connell

Your Friendly, Neighborhood Voiceover Talent

audio’connell Voiceover Talent

P.O. Box 5493 | Raleigh, NC 27512-5493

PH. +01 716-572-1800

EM. peter@audioconnell.com

W. audioconnell.com

COMPANY MEDIA CENTER

http://www.audioconnell.com/media

PETER K. O’CONNELL VO CREDITS

VO Credits Link

COMPANY NAME SPELLING

Use lower case letters- audio’connell or audio’connell Voiceover Talent

COMPANY NAME PRONUNCIATIONau·di-o’·con·nell (awe-de-oh-kah-nel)

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!

Jeopardy’s Announcer, Johnny Gilbert, is Amazing

Johnny Gilbert Jeopardy Announcer

The original and current announcer for the syndicated broadcast of “Jeopardy”, Johnny Gilbert

As much as I focus and study the voiceover industry and it’s players, I still miss stuff.

I catch up eventually but I don’t know that I’ll ever catch to voiceover legend and RECORD HOLDING ANNOUNCER Johnny Gilbert, the announcer for Jeopardy.

Rightly so, a lot has been made about the health struggles of beloved Jeopardy host Alex Trebek. As Trebek has worked through his cancer fight, the most recent on-camera work of his now 35 year reign as host of Jeopardy continues to be a perfect as his first days.

But with Alex since day one of this version of Jeopardy has been his off-camera announcer, Johnny Gilbert. Gilbert’s opening line: “This. Is. Jeopardy!” is iconic and he continues his significant announcing duties more than 3 decades later with amazing perfection.

Gilbert is also the Guinness World Record Holder for longest career as a game show announcer for same show, now at 35 years.

Oh and this little side note of this working professional announcer: Johnny Gilbert is 95 years old!!!!!!!

Johnny Gilbert is an amazing voiceover talent.

Here’s some behind the scenes on Johnny’s work.

Requiescat in pace Frank Tavares

Frank Tavares NPRUnderwritingVO

Frank Tavares, underwriting voiceover talent of NPR for over 30 years, died in late December 2019.

You and I didn’t know Frank Tavares yet we both knew him.

Tavares, who died this week from complications resulting from ALS, was the underwriting (also known as the funding credits) voice of National Public Radio for about 30 years.  NPR fired Tavares in 2013, likely for the sake of change (just my opinion, I have no inside info).

Tavares’ opening line was usually “Support for NPR comes from…”.

His delivery was clear, attention getting and steady…just what you need in that kind of role.

Seven years later, it seems NPR is still trying to steady it’s underwriting voice ship, as you might expect when someone replaces a 30-year legend. As you may recall from my 2015 post, the first announcer brought into replace Tavares didn’t work out.

Subsequent to that, the then interim voice has become the regular underwriting voice….except I often hear a male voice now doing the support reads. So maybe there are two voices…maybe more?

I think NPR can’t quite decide who the network wants to sound like on these funding credits anymore.

In order to appeal to all their various, likely hyper-sensitive  demographics, I believe they’ll be the first network to hire a computerized voice for promos. A voice that appeals to no one but also offends no one.

Here is a link to NPR’s story about Tavares passing.