voice artist

Get Out of Your Head

You hear that perfect delivery in your head. Maybe it's an echo of something you heard on the radio or TV as a kid, a character in a cartoon or a personality ingrained into your mind. But is it you?  This can be an odd industry to navigate. You can be told, by the same person in the same breath, that you need to find your one true "money voice" and also that you need to be as versatile and far-reaching as possible. And they're both correct statements. However, those qualities may apply more to one area of the industry than another. For example, in animation and video game work, the further away from your own voice you can get and the more truly original, different styles of voices you can make, the more useful you'll be. But, in commercial work, you really only have to be yourself. And be as "yourself" as possible.

But, being yourself doesn't mean "don't try". It means being able to really let your personality shine through in any read, with bold choices that only you would make. I look at voiceover training like karate: you work on the mechanics (script analysis, inflection, diction, posture, and on and on) and when it's game time, you put it all out of mind. You don't want to get in your own way when you step up to the mic. Your money voice is easier to find than you might think. It's really a matter of training yourself up then letting it all flow naturally when it's time to do the work. The next time you read a spot, think to yourself, "Am I reading this as me or as a voice in my head?" The casting directors want to hear you, not you doing an imitation of what you think they want. It may feel weird at first, but trust me: it'll feel more natural, genuine, authentic, and believable in the end. And guess which direction keywords show up way more often than any others?

-Rex

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.

 

 

The Power of a Great Partner

My wife just finished the last class of her Master's degree in Marriage and Family therapy. She's been on a long road to her career, and now she's finally found her true calling and is giving it her all. I'm very proud of her and thrilled and she's discovered what she wants to do with her abundant talents and innate gifts. This milestone left me reflecting on how different our lives had become, not only since meeting each other, but year by year. I can't express how much it's meant to me to have a partner who always my back, no matter what. When we moved back to Baltimore from Denver and had no jobs lined up, she let me build a studio in our basement, on credit, despite that being an outwardly terrible idea. But, it allowed me to finish Random Battles' full length, and when I finally developed the courage, to start putting myself out there as a voice actor. It was a bit a long game, and an uncertain one at that, but I never got any flack for it.

It also helps that we have so many common interests. We both play in bands around town, including the fun one-off groups we assemble for Windup nights. She also acts on Meanwhile, at the Skull Base as XSV-15, among others, and knocks it out of the park every time (I daresay she might be a better voice actor than I am, but don't tell her I said that). Hell, our activities dovetail so much, that even though she's the one with the degree in operatic vocals, I'm the one who most recently performed an opera (as a narrator, but I digress).

It's invaluable to have someone in my life that not only understands what I do, but encourages and nourishes it. I don't think I could have come this far without the love, support, and understanding of my partner. As cliche as it sounds, where there's love, anything is possible.

 

Every Job Feeds Into the Next

I was recently interviewed for a college survey project about my career as a voice actor. This is the first time I've given an interview for something not involving music (I write for and play in Random Battles and Uatu) and I was immensely flattered to be asked. Throughout the interview, I noticed most of my answers had a bent of marketing and advertising. I hope I didn't bore my interviewer too much, but I had made the magical world of VO sound like a business 101 lecture. But there was one point I happened to make to that I wanted to explore.

Every job feeds into the next.

I haven't been a voice actor for very long (I went "full-time" back in October). Aside from this, I've been a wedding DJ (still am, in fact), a maintenance man, audio engineer, server, bartender, HUD appraisal manager, IT tech, and graphic artist. As you may imagine, none of these industries have a ton of crossover. But, I've taken the skills and tricks I've learned from each of these jobs and applied them to my current endeavors.

This is what constructs my unique business approach: You may have sat down to a Pro Tools session in a studio, but have you ever replaced the carpet and tiles in that room? Have you been the delivery guy who brought you lunch? You've been a guest at a wedding, but have you been the valet, server, maitre'd, bartender, or DJ before (being only an attendee at a wedding is a very rare and strange thing for me)? While this may not seem relevant to voiceover, these experiences have shaped my outlook on my new business and informed how I approach its various challenges. I've sold myself as a DJ to brides for years, which taught me first hand how to adapt my skills and shape my words in order to present the best possible product for my client. Improv skills help in that realm just as much as behind the mic, by the way.

I wouldn't have had the confidence to build my own home studio without having been a gopher at my dad's construction sites growing up or been a maintenance man at Meadow Mills, incidentally now about two blocks away from my house and home to theater troupes in my social circle. I certainly wouldn't have appreciated the relative freedom and empowerment running my own business is without having sat in many,  many offices on many, many unbearably boring days. Those memories provide extra catalyst for building a successful business, and let me tell you, it's a hell of a good one.

As I progress in my business, now every job feeds into the next by way of word of mouth or repeat business. As I grow as into voiceover more and more, the type of work is aligning more and more: instead of serving, DJ'ing and interning at a recording studio, I'm performing a school assembly, acting in a short film, producing an awesome podcast, and, well, DJ'ing. In five years, who knows, maybe I'll be discerning between audiobook work and IVR. A guy can dream.

 

-Rex