business

Don't Like Voices or Voice123? Check These Sites Out.

Pay to play sites are here to stay. Voices and Voice123 rule the roost for now, but they have some of the highest yearly fees and lowest quality gigs around. They're the Wal-Mart of P2P's; no gig turned away, no budget too small. Sure, there are more gigs than you could possibly ever audition for, but after being on Voices for about nine months now, I'm frustrated by the sheer number of postings with incredibly poorly written copy, or "sample" scripts that comprise entire 500-word plus projects, or hilariously microscopic budgets (I know I'm still a rookie, but I'm not doing a national TV spot for 100 dollars and neither should you). Voices has been a decent learning experience if nothing else, giving me access to tons of active copy that occasionally does lead to paid work. However, there are other sites out there that are definitely worth exploring and possibly investing in. #1 - e-Learning Voices/Commercial Voices

These sites are run by VoiceOverXtra's Rick Gordon. These sites target specific fields of VO, maintain small rosters of vetted talent, and encourage clients to select talent based off of their profiles and demos rather than have everyone compete through auditions.

#2 - Kingdom Voices

Having a niche is crucial for anyone's business. Kingdom Voices deals only with faith-based voice projects. Again, they vet their talent and keep their rosters small, something I think all working VO artists would want in a site. While I don't have personal experience with the site, their annual rate is much lower than Voices and the profiles allow for videos in addition to audio demos. Worth checking out if you want to work with faith-based communities.

#3 - United Voice Talent

While it's not the prettiest site in the world, I'm frequently invited to UVT auditions, all of which are well worth the time investment. Their pay structure is based on "talent hours", which are reflective of current union rates. It's audition based and you're not allowed to contact the client on your own, but at least the rates are fair and you're not inundated with hundreds of postings that aren't worth your time. Talent, again, is pre-qualified and there is no yearly fee. If you're in the VO game already, this one's pretty much a no-brainer.

#4 - The Voice That Speaks Volumes

Ms. Tish, a great voice talent in her own right, recently got into the casting game with this site. It's still very new, but being a talent herself, her approach takes the talent into consideration. With no fees, quality auditions, and personal email invites to pre-vetted talent (are we seeing a trend here?), Ms. Tish really seems to be moving in the right direction. I've already started seeing auditions for some great projects from Ms. Tish, and I look forward to seeing where she goes next.

#5 - Voiver

Voiver is still in beta, but I'm very excited to see where this one goes. They're handpicking talent and have some very promising features in the pipeline. Without giving too much away, they're changing the way the talent interacts with the client. Usually these sites operate in relative anonymity. I rarely talk directly to a client with Voices, rather I just get a yay or nay dispensed through the booking agent. Just because we're working online from home studios doesn't mean we have to through out the old way of doing things. I have high hopes that this site will really get it right when it comes to building lasting professional relationships, rather than simply getting a project done as cheaply as possible, as seems to be the case with Voices and Voice123.

Hopefully, with all of these sites taking a smaller, more personalized approach to the P2P (or F2P, as some of these are now) business model, the big names will finally get the hint that they need to screen their talent, screen their clients, and offer more reasonable rates. Of course, a balanced approach utilizing all of these tools, as well as the traditional routes of casting agencies, mailing campaigns, cold calling, and good old fashioned word of mouth are all needed to be successful.

Know of any other casting sites worth talking about? Let me know at voice@rexanderson.net and I'll add them up here.

-Rex

 

Where's the Work?

You've decided you want to get into voiceover. You've done some research, cut a demo together, and now you're ready to dive in. Where do you go to find work? I've been asked this quite a few times recently, and the general answer is: everywhere. It just depends on what kind of voice work you're looking for.

For smaller jobs of all types, I use voices.com. There are a million pay-to-play sites, and yes, the vast majority of jobs on there are extremely low pay, often with horribly written copy and next to no chance of repeat business or relationship building with the client. However, I've found that in my first year, it's a great resource to have. You get tons of daily practice, more auditions than you can handle, and plenty of fodder for future demos. Will I be using it a year from now? I'm honestly not sure. But for those starting out, it's a great way to develop your reading technique, hone your voices, and build your armor. And hopefully make a little money at the same time.

For audiobooks, look for local companies that act as proxies for big businesses like Audible and ACX. Or, simply go to ACX directly and start auditioning. This industry has exploded over the years and the door's wide open for new talent. The pay is typically fairly low, but each project is a good chunk of work and a steady income is possible, something which you aren't likely to find in many other sectors of VO.

The animation work is (mostly) in LA. Which sucks for me because that's where I want to end up (in animation, not in LA). If you want to go the animation route, make your own cartoon. Cartoon Network has been giving people outside the typical LA circuit the means to air their own projects to a multi-national audience and is the best way, in my opinion, to break into that industry.

For bigger, better projects, nothing beats a good agent. My highest paying work comes from the local agencies I'm slowly but surely building a relationship with. In a world where P2P sites seem to be taking over (even some agencies now only book using sites like Casting Frontier, which beg you to buy premium accounts for inane perks like adding multiple headshots to your profile), sometime the old ways still work best.

There's IVR/telephony work for businesses of all sizes. There's internet explainer videos for damn near every business and product in existence. There are documentaries and TV companies and radio stations and recording studios and ad agencies and production houses everywhere. I find work by emailing, cold calling, mailing postcards, handing out business cards, mentioning my services at parties, anything I can do to get a bug in someone's ear that I'm here, I have the goods, and they need to work with me. It's a nonstop hustle, but luckily there's more work out there than ever. Is it the possibly fictional halcyon days where landing a commercial spot would buy you a house? Not really, at least not for most. But you can still make a damn good living as a voice actor. Just get started somewhere and see what you can make of it.

 

 

When to Get New Gear

I'm a gearhead. I love talking about new plugins, hardware, the best mic for what kind of job, and the argument of old vs. new when it comes to AKG C414/C12 models (I write as I eagerly await my new AKG C414). So when it comes to figuring out what hot new item I need to improve my sound, I'm all about research, trying things out, and consulting with my fellow engineers Dave and Mike. There are different thresholds of gear when it comes to voiceover, and I'd like to try to map those out today.

Your Phone (Or a Tape Recorder)

Obviously, at the very least you need something to capture the sound of your voice, record it, and spit it back out to you. A simple tape recorder will do this (or, to update this past 1995, an iPhone can do this). I recommend, if you're at the very outset, starting there. Record yourself, listen back to your voice, and practice. Show people your recordings and get feedback. The performance is by far the most important link in the chain, so make sure you have chops before investing any further.

USB Mics and Laptops

Next would be the increasingly popular laptop and USB mic combo. It's likely you already have a computer with USB ports, so you only have to invest in one thing. But now that you have a mic, you're invited to the world of arguing over what sounds better. It's the first step into an endless journey of compressors, EQ's, condenser and dynamic mics, and much, much more.

In other words, on to the fun stuff. A USB mic like the Blue Yeti will make it so you can work. You can get a free DAW like Reaper or Audacity, make tracks, and send them to clients. In essence, that's all you really need, at least at first. Coming from a music and engineering background, I came into VO with the bug for better stuff. At the studio at which I interned, I got to play with the Neumann U87, the AKG C414, the Blue, and a host of great preamps and plugins. I saw firsthand what a difference hardware compressors and EQ can make over plugins, and why things like authentic tape emulators are so hotly sought after.

There's a legacy of sound to live up to, and a USB mic and some plugins aren't going to cut muster.

Down the Rabbit Hole

When you get to the point where you want to be able to dial in very authentic tones, or expand your abilities to audio production, it's time to get the ole wallet out and make friends with places like Craig's List and Sweetwater.

At this point, the sky's the limit. There are a handful of classic mic choices. The Neumann U87 is a near ubiquitous choice for smooth, clear, authentically replicated male and female vocals. There's the AKG C414, the son of the legendary C12, which is widely used in broadcast and audio production. Other mics in more modest price ranges include the Shure SM7B, which can take a beating and half, the Audio Technica 4050 Broadcast, and Sennheiser's MD 421 II. These are a few mics I've used over the years and ones I recommend trying out. There's something worth using in every budget bracket, you just need to do your research.

Currently, my setup is an Apogee AD-8000 AD/DA converter, two API VP-26 class-A preamps, Cubase Artist 7, and my trusty new AKG C414 XLS. This is in addition to a ton of plugins that I go through different rotations with, but I can definitely recommend Waves' SSL and L series compressor plugins. I'm already planning on my next big purchase, which will be a 500-series compressor/EQ with tape emulation, made by the people who made my favorite compressor in the world, the Distressor. The hard part is just waiting until I can justify another gear investment into my business. But hey, you feed the monkey, the monkey feeds you, as the old saying goes.