voice over workshop’s kick in the pants – march 2009

voice over workshop kick in the pants

Voice over talents who subscribe to voxmarketising or who train with the Voice Over Workshop occasionally receive a free e-mail from the Voice Over Workshop’s owner (who also happens to own audio’connell voice over talent and this blog/podcast) with his advice on how to earn billions of dollars in voice over (which none of them ever do). Nonetheless, subscribers saw this first…so if you’re seeing it for the first time now, you are at the end of the line. Subscribe now to fix that.

If you’re like many of my voice over friends heading into the last month of the first quarter (Q1 for the “suits” in the audience) you’re either enjoying a feast or experiencing famine.

Some folks have got a ton of voice over business in Q1 and others have called the phone company numerous times this quarter to check if the ringer on their phone is broken (it’s not).

In January’s Kick in the Pants, I mentioned putting together a marketing plan. Some of you have done this, some have you have called me for help and some of you are still on hold with the phone company about your possible “ringer” issue.

Well let me assume for a moment your marketing is under control. How are things on the demo front? You know, your REAL business card – the voice over demo!

Voice talents are usually in two camps on this issue:
1. Produce it themselves
2. Have someone else produce it for them

Now because I run Voice Over Workshop I need to make clear it is NOT my goal to solicit demo work from Workshop students ever. I produce only a few demos a year for people (primarily not with Workshop participants). Some Voice Over trainers focus on voice demos as a key revenue source, using training as the bait. I don’t care for that business model personally.

Having clarified that (I hope) I do think it helps to have a third party produce your demo and it’s usually worth the money. My primary thought is that you are too close to your work and you need a fresh perspective. That opinion offered it’s not the point of this KITP.

What I DO want to talk about is who listens to your demo BEFORE you put it out into the marketplace. I have some suggestions.

As an example, let’s talk about your commercial demo. Say you’ve had a really talented producer put it together and you both feel it’s great. It very well may be but I’m sorry to tell you – you’re not done with your demo’s production (or you shouldn’t be).

My advice is that you seek the ears of about three other qualified people to critique your demo. You want to know from them their honest take away from just one listen of your demo. You are looking for trends.

Listen – if you ask 3-4 people their opinions you’re just as likely to get 3-4 different opinions…so what should you hope to take away from this exercise? If you get 2-3 people noticing the same sort of thing on the demo or all agreeing on an issue without having spoken to each other (and reviewers should never speak to each other or even know who the other reviewers are during this exercise) then you know you have a demo issue (or if its all positive….you’ve got a great demo!) Better to know now!

What are the demo elements about which you want feedback? There’s a ton but since you’re likely asking a favor, start with these primary areas:

• “What did you think of the first 15 seconds of the demo?” Sadly for all the work done on all 60 seconds (on average) of a demo, producers often make up their minds on a voice in the first 15 seconds or less. Your “money voice” and your finest performances need to be there. If your reviewers consistently say your best work was not up front…well then Houston, we have a problem.

• “What did you think about the order of the demo elements?” This too goes to the question of “is my strongest stuff up front?” But it also highlights if one or more demo elements seemed out of place or – to their ears – stopped the demo in its tracks (in a bad way). The demo flow you and your producer hear may not be the flow a hiring producer hears.

• “What did you think about the pacing of the demo?” With this question you’re searching to learn if they heard a demo that was “too slow” or “too fast” or that had “too many different cuts” or “not enough vocal variety”. Admittedly, this question will likely give you the most varied opinions of all but it are good to get those too. A different perspective is not a bad thing for voice demos.

Not your Mom and not your spouse. Nice people both but unless they’re hiring VO’s, they offer nothing to this party.

Certainly in this instance if you can find a broadcast producer at an advertising agency who you know, that would be valuable…even more so if they share it with their department to solicit opinions. Sure, if it sucks, it could cost you a few credibility points but you wouldn’t have been hired by them anyway and if you retool and it sound better in round two…they’ll be impressed by your growth.

A video production company producer or commercial producer for a TV station would be another good choice for what I feel are obvious and similar reasons.

Should you ask another voice talent? That’s not as easy a question as it seems. You would want to solicit the opinion of a voice talent with some strong producing credits in both commercials and demos. Maybe a good way to judge is to listen to their demos…if you thought it rocked, give them a call. The worst they could say is no.

Every producer of voice demos has their own way of doing things…indeed; this all is part of my way of producing a demo. But I also think probably not surprisingly that it makes the most sense because even third parties can get too close to their work to consistently be omniscient.

It is important to note, however, that if changes or alterations are required following this kind of listening party, it should not be a poor reflection on your producer…be it you or a third party.

The hiring of voice talent is a completely subjective process. One person’s opinion – based on their client knowledge, professional experience, personal opinions or bias, momentary mood, trouble at home…all that junk…is what colors the selection process for voice over candidates on any given day. All that stuff also goes into the listening of a demo too.

I liken it to panhandlers sifting for gold – the sand is all the different opinions and mood stuff the demo listener brings to the table. The gold is the feedback that either strikes a chord with you or that joins the chorus of demo reviewers, offering you consistent feedback.

There are some very talented demo producers in our midst and on this list and I would invite them to review this blog post and consider my invitation. I’d love to hear your opinions on the Top 5 elements that go into producing a commercial demo. Blog it on voxmarketising.com and maybe we’ll get you into the podcast’s roundtable.

Enjoy the ride!

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