Here’s what I know… as voice actors (and creatives) if we can find an excuse to not have to market ourselves and our services, we’ll try and find it. Not because we don’t want to book gigs. Just because so many VO’s feel overwhelmed, frustrated and confused by marketing.
With that in mind when I’m asked – at least once a week – “should I be marketing myself since I’m planning on making a new demo?” I often assume it’s another talent looking for a reason to not have to do marketing… at least for another few weeks.
That said, it is a fair question.
If the demo you’re currently working with is dated, or it’s a demo you’re not proud of, then it makes sense that you wouldn’t want to market it to potential new clients. At the same time, if your new demo is coming really soon (as in, you’ve already recorded it and it will be delivered in a few weeks) I can understand why you’d want to hold off.
If you’re going to be sending something to people, you want to send them your most current and best quality demo!
Does that mean you can take some time off from marketing? Chill on the beach? Snooze in the hammock in your backyard?
Sorry. No. Get your butt back in the office! 😉
If you’re waiting for a new demo to be delivered before you start sending out emails to your leads and prospects, there’s still plenty of work you can do to get ready in the meantime.
Such as… finding those leads and prospects!
Marketing your #voiceover business is an ongoing process. There’s ALWAYS something to do.Tweet Quote
Once that new demo arrives, you want to be ready to start marketing it immediately. The only way you can do that is if you’ve got a database built up and ready to start contacting.
In the weeks before the new demo comes, make your mission to find as many leads as possible and get them into your CRM (Free Training: What is CRM?). Get those leads sorted, tagged and organized so that the day your new demo arrives, you’re ready to begin emailing them!
Marketing is an ongoing process. Something that never ends, whether you’ve got your demo yet or not. There’s ALWAYS something you can be doing!
So … let’s talk demos… The good, the bad and the ugly.
As an agent, I get sent numerous demos a DAY so I can confidently say that I’ve heard and critiqued hundreds of demos. And of all those demos, the vast majority are horrible and not necessarily because of the talent but the talent’s lack of knowledge on the basics of a professional sounding demo.
The first thing I should say right off the bat is that there are a TON of ways to make a good demo (and varied opinions on that) but there are some pretty hard and fast rules on what makes a BAD demo so really, if you can avoid what NOT to do then you are miles ahead of the majority.
First of all, let’s talk about what the purpose of the demo is. When you’re applying for a job, other than a voice job, you usually submit a resume, right? Well, your demo is exactly that… your resume. It’s an audio sample of what you’ve done and what you can do. Your demo is a way for you to either get an agent or to directly get a job so it better be good because it’s your first, and many times, ONLY chance to make a good impression.
If you submit a less than great demo, you may not get a chance to submit again so it has to be good. But here’s the most important thing… it HAS to sound professional! Your level of talent can always get better with experience but if you send me a terribly produced demo of which you have obviously not done your homework on… it just tells me you don’t care and I’ll never give you another chance. Again, in the real world, would you apply for a job with a resume on ripped paper, in written pen and with spelling mistakes throughout? Of course not! So why would you submit a less than perfect demo?
Years ago, demos were ALWAYS snippets of voice over work that you had already completed… so basically an audio resume of some of your past jobs. And they were also much lengthier… one and half, two minutes… maybe even longer. I may be old school but things were a lot more clear cut back then because agents/casting directors/producers etc. knew that what they were hearing on a demo was an honest representation of what that talent could deliver because they were samples of REAL jobs, jobs where quite often a half dozen people are staring at you behind the glass and hurling confusing direction at a rat-a-tat-tat pace. These demos would show those who listened to them what the talent could do in the REAL world.
But yes, things have changed. And now, there are umpteen studios/producers chomping at the bit to take your money to create a manufactured demo that makes it SOUND like you’ve done jobs in the real world even when you haven’t. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a producer who knows what he’s doing without spending an arm and a leg but it seems to me based on the demos that I’m hearing that there’s a lot of guys out there producing demos that just have NO idea what they are doing and the talent is the one that suffers. So doing your research and listening to agents, casting directors and producers on what they want to hear is MUCH more valuable then listening to the guy whose sole purpose is to take your money and then send you on your way. It’s also important to know that the “rules” of the demo are ever changing so you need to be listening to the guys that know the trends because even if a demo producer has years of experience producing demos doesn’t mean he knows what’s relevant today.
Which brings me to… what is relevant today? Again, there are lots of ways to skin a cat and varied opinions on what makes a great demo… the DOs so to speak… but the DON’T are pretty universal and are the main reasons your demo will get tossed so its probably the most important thing to know. SO here are some hard and fast DON’Ts when it comes to the demo.
Do’s and Don’ts of Voice Over Demos (An Agents Perspective)
DON’T MAKE YOUR DEMO TOO LONG!! Less is More… demos now are around 1 minute to 1 minute 15 in length … anything longer than that and no one’s listening anyway and if your demo is trying to get you an agent, your agent is going to have to edit it to that length anyway so don’t waste your time trying to give us 20 reads in 2 minutes because it just doesn’t matter… we won’t listen.
DON’T START YOUR DEMO WITH MUSIC OR CHIT CHAT!! The first thing you should hear on your demo is YOUR VOICE! Sounds simple enough but too many demos that I hear start with lovely musical interludes or a little introduction from the talent. No, no, no, no, no. R u crazy? You have a minute or just seconds to impress who’s listening to your demo and you’re going to waste that valuable time with music or chit chat?? Would you start off your resume with a pretty picture??? Nooo, you get right to the meat of things.
DON’T PUT STYLES OF READS ON THERE THAT YOU CANT REPLICATE IN A MATTER OF SECONDS. If you need to do more than 2 takes to get to a style of voice… DON’T DO IT!! It has to be comfortable for you and if its not, leave it out. If it’s a stretch for you, LEAVE IT OUT! If it isn’t something you can get to in a drop of a hat… LEAVVE IT OUT! Your demo should be you, as you speak day to day, you may finesse your intonation and diction accordingly but do not “put on” you voice Why? Well, quite often you are hired off your demo and if the client says to you, I really like that second spot on your demo… can you give it to me like that? And you take half an hour to get there… they are not going to be pleased and are they going to hire you again?? Not likely!
DO NOT PUT ACCENTS OR CRAZY CHARACTER VOICES ON YOUR GENERAL COMMERCIAL DEMO!! Accents and Character reads are a good thing but not on your commercial demo… they should be put on a specialized animation demo or character demo. If you want, you can put a character or accent maybe at the very end to show your range but certainly nowhere near the beginning of the demo. Now if accents and character are all you do, then make sure you say this off the top to whoever you send the demo to.
DON’T OVER PRODUCE THE DEMO! We want to hear your voice! Not music and sound effects and great production… sure it may sound sleek but it takes away from your voice… and that’s NOT what you want to do. And don’t include transition snippets between spots…it sounds corny and dated and again distracts the listener from your voice.
Want more advice? Check back Friday for Part 2 of this post, including more DO’s and DON’Ts
Ta-Da! Voiceworks is a Toronto based talent agency representing professional VoiceOver.
One of the panels that took place at the Midwest Voice Over Conference was a demo critique. A few brave souls anonymously submitted their demos for a panel of experts to review and share their thoughts.
“Put on your demo the kind of work you want to do in the future.” This was a quote from Rodney Saulsberry, and it’s really great advice. When it came time for me to put together my new commercial demo, every spot on it is for a client I want to work with one day. It’s equal parts motivation, goal setting and law of attraction.
“Originality of characters is important for character demos. Not shades, colors or impressions of other characters.” Cristina Milizia offered this really great insight. You need to create your own characters in your own voice.
Uncle Roy discussed the importance of having a personal connection the scripts. When we worked together narrow down scripts that would be on my demo, this was a big deal. Because I was choosing brands I already wanted to work with, I had a much more personal connection to what I was reading in the booth. That definitely came through in my performance.
Another common theme shared by every panelist was the importance of range. A demo needs to demonstrate all the styles you’re capable off. Whether it’s authoritative, sexy, cool, friendly, passionate, or whatever. Range in this sense isn’t about characters or voices or accents or dialects. It’s about the performances you’re capable of delivering.
Make A Wise Decision
Your demo is one of the most important investments you’re going to make for your business. You want to make sure you’re getting it right. As you’re looking at the different options for who is going to produce it, these are a few of the things you’re going to want to consider.
Choosing the right producer is a big decision. Take your time, do your research, be prepared! Then choose wisely.
When Uncle Roy first sent me the demo Wednesday evening, I must’ve listened to it about six times trying to convince myself it was even me. Seriously, guys. He pulled reads out of me I didn’t know I had. I’ve said it before, but now here’s the proof.
If you’ve been giving even the slightest consideration to making a new demo, I’m 100% throwing my support and endorsement behind Uncle Roy!
I’m sitting in seat 2A of Delta Flight 4181 heading for Buffalo. We’re cruising along at 20,000ft and as I wave so long to the breathtaking New York City skyline, I’m reflecting on a weekend I’ll always remember.
If you read my previous blog (It’s Commercial Demo Weekend With Uncle Roy), you’re aware of the story of how I came to record my demo with Uncle Roy. Now that the recording is complete, I’m reminded of how wise a decision it was to choose Uncle Roy in the first place, over all the other options out there to get a demo done.
It’s An Experience!
With Uncle Roy, you don’t just record a demo. You have an experience… which is likely why he’s everyone’s favourite Uncle! Sure, when you’re done, you’ll walk away with one of his KILLER demos. But really, you bid farewell to Bloomfield, New Jersey blessed with so much more!
Beyond a demo, I needed a confidence boost. I’ve built this incredible voice over business for myself. I’ve experienced success in ways I never knew in a 20 year career in radio and television. I’m earning more money, having fun more, and living more life than I never did before. Still, somewhere deep inside of me there’s always been a small voice that had me questioning. Doubting.
Dealing With Self Doubt
“Am I good enough?”
No matter what I seemed to do, I couldn’t shake that voice. Even as I booked new work, signed new clients and coached others to new levels of success, in quiet moments alone in my studio, sometimes I’d doubt myself and my ability.
“You’re good enough for these voice overs, but not those.”
“You can only do these genres, not those.”
Coaching others to think positively is part of my business, but I’ll be the first to tell you, it’s not always easy to do.
When I walked into the WhisperRoom at Antland Productions, I was nervous, timid and unsure of myself.
When I walked out at the end of the day, I was inspired, encouraged and, most importantly, confident. Credit to Uncle Roy.
How Did I Do That?
Don’t ask me how – I’ve yet to figure it out and may never – but, somehow, he pulled reads out me I had no idea I had. Reads I’d never delivered since recording my first voice over in 1995!
When I told him I couldn’t, he’d push back. Not aggressively, but gently, with humour and, dare I say, a little love. He knew just how to coach and direct to stretch me in a way that challenged me to find a voice I’d not previously discovered. Not a character, to be clear. Rather, my own voice. Used to it’s fullest potential.
Even his wife Cheryl, while sitting around the table in the “train room,” chimed in to challenge me. “I think you should have him read the Polo spot,” she said to Uncle Roy.
“What’s the polo spot,” I inquired?
“It’s a sophisticated, cool, sexy read.”
“Yeah, I definitely don’t have an ounce of that in me!”
“We’ve already got too much material,” Uncle Roy pointed out.
I Told You So!
In the booth, I fought it (like in this outtake clip). Those deep down seeds of doubt seeking a little light. Uncle Roy paid me and my protests no mind. Cheryl said we should do the spot. We were doing the spot.
It took a while. It wasn’t pretty. God bless Uncle Roy, who may be the most patient man on the planet. Even after a full day of recording all the scripts they’d prepared for me, delivering styles I’d never delivered before, at 9pm, we we’re back at it finding something else in me.
The next day I sent Uncle Roy a text. “Tell Cheryl she can say, ‘I told you so.’”
When the final demo is delivered, I may not recognize myself; unquestionably though, I’ll be proud of myself!
Yes, there was recording. There were plenty of laughs (XLR Condom, anyone?). People following our adventures on Facebook may have questioned if we were actually doing any work at all!
So Much More Than Just Talking Into A Can
There was Chinese food like I’d never tasted from Wo Hop. Sign me up for more French Toast bagels with fried eggs. Mouth-watering thin crust pizza and Shrimp Parm Heroes will most certainly bring me back to Bloomfield! Authentic New York Cheesecake has probably ruined all other cheesecake for me.
Pez breaks happened frequently. If you’ve recorded at Uncle Roy’s you’ll get this. If you haven’t, go and you will!
I stood in awe of an Emmy trophy, and posed for a photo with it. When I sent my brother-in-law a picture of an original animation cell from a Cookie Crisp commercial Uncle Roy worked on, Uncle Roy became his hero too.
Melissa Exelberth is the best parallel parker I’ve ever had the pleasure of driving with. Like! A! Boss!
I drove over the Brooklyn Bridge and the George Washington Bridge. I saw the sites in Manhattan. If there’s a more spectacular skyline than NYC at night, I’d like to see it.
Who wouldn’t want to ride in a ’38 Plymouth? Heads turn on every street corner, from every store window. People gawk in awe. They smile. Wave. Nod their heads in approval. I felt like a king!
Yes, recording a demo with Uncle Roy is indeed an experience.
An experience that transformed me into a voice actor, not just a voice talent.