Getting Started in Voice Overs

Getting Started in Voice Overs
Guest blog by The Lowry Agency voice talent Dave Courvoisier

At least once a week I get an e-mail or phone call from a total stranger…but someone who is no stranger to a similar feeling I had almost  five years ago…the feeling that making oodles of money in Voice-Over work was gonna be a cinch…practically effortless.

I’m not exactly sure where or how they find me, but their query is getting predictable:

“Hi, I’m Bill, and all my life people have told me I have an incredible voice.  Right now I’m a __________ (mechanic, accountant, DJ), but I want to do voice-over work.  I ran across your name, and was wondering if you could help me?”

Been there, done that…however paying it forward has its merits, and many have mentored me along the way, so I believe it’s my responsibility to offer that helping hand, too.

Hence, the following is straight talk for “great voices” hoping to get into the business of voice-acting:

1)  A good voice is not good enough.  It’s not even a basic criteria anymore.

2) Can you read out loud, and make it sound like you’re just talking to someone — and say it in 20 different ways?…10
different dialects?…and PERFORM at the drop of a hat?

3)  This is a business.  You need a business plan, investment capital, passion, and stick-to-itiveness.

4)  Voice-acting is 9 parts marketing, 1 part voice-talent (well maybe 80/20…but not a percentage point more!)

5)  You need better-than-passable computer hardware/software/networking skills, and a fast internet connection.

6)  Are you willing to accept criticism, swallow reality, and keep coming back?

7)  How well do you handle rejection?…even when you know you’re better than your competition?

8)  Eventually, you may have to invest $3,000 – $5,000 just for passable start-up equipment and marketing materials.

9)  You’ll need to be your own accountant, PR person, web-author, and self-promotions guru.

10)  Get ready to go back to school. Voice-Over 101.  Coaching and education is an on-going necessity.

11)  Accept that growing opportunities are counter-balanced by declining compensations, and increasing competition.

12)  How enterprising are you?  Work well alone?….for weeks on end?…with no one but yourself for encouragement?

13)  Is your spouse/significant other/POSSLQ* on board with this?….we’re in for a long haul!

14)  This is a huge, varied industry, what segment do you want to target?  AudioBooks? TV Imaging? E-Learning?

15)  You have to like more than the sound of your own voice…you have to like the feel of headphones on your
noggin….A LOT!

Now, far be it from me to discourage anyone’s dreams.  However, I have found no quick way to answer the question of what it’ll take to get into voice-overs.  Meaning the answer itself is getting fairly involved AND time-consuming.

My latest tack is to just ask for the neophyte’s e-mail address and bury them in resources so deep it takes weeks to get through it all.  Then, if they come back, I’ve got at least a qualified candidate to talk to.

Hence, the following list is my preferred set of links to voice-over nirvana for n00bs.

http://www.voiceoveruniverse.com

http://www.vo-bb.com

http://www.edgestudio.com

http://www.audioconnell.com &  http://www.peterdrewvo.com

http://www.voices.com

http://www.voiceoverextra.com
http://voiceoverresourceguide.com
http://www.voicebank.net

Voice talent Bob Souer publishes everybody’s favorite VO blog:
http://www.bobsouer.com/blog

You’ll also find an occasional flash of brilliance-wanna-be on my daily blog: “Voice-Acting in Vegas”
http://CourVO.biz

And, another close friend of mine (Bobbin Beam) who also blogs, wrote
her own version of advice for starters which is excellent:

http://blog.bobbinbeam.com/2007/08/30/advice-for-voiceover-hopefuls.aspx

http://blog.bobbinbeam.com/2007/08/30/advice-for-voice-over-hopefuls-part-ii.aspx

http://blog.bobbinbeam.com/2007/08/30/advice-for-voiceover-hopefuls-part-iii.aspx

http://blog.bobbinbeam.com/2007/04/02/just-beginning.aspx

John Florian of VoiceOverXtra sends THIS link to his site esp. for beginners:
http://www.voiceoverxtra.com/newcomers.htm

Also, there’s a thread on this very topic on the VO-BB which is one of the resources noted above.  But the specific link to the newbie thread is here:

http://www.vo-bb.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=6908&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0

FROM DAVID HOUSTON:  EXCELLENT ARTICLE:
http://davidhoustonvoice.com/blog1/2006/08/getting_started_my_take.html

From WAYNE JUNE: Another top-notch resource in this area:
http://www.waynejune.com/where_to_start.html]

The Importance of Branding Yourself Properly as an Entertainer

The Importance of Branding Yourself Properly as an Entertainer

This morning I had the pleasure of having a pleasant initial phone conversation with an author and public speaker.  This particular conversation inspired me to write a blog on a very important subject:  Branding Yourself.  One of the benefits of being artistic is that you can promote yourself using your own unique creativity.  However, without proper structure, sometimes the creativity you use can also limit the effectiveness of your own branding.

Social media has given us the opportunity to reach out farther than we ever have before. This is a great thing It’s also a bad thing if not done right.  The artist has such a heavy desire to get their career moving that it often causes the artist to rush through creating a solid plan, which can mean costly mistakes. Haste really does make waste. In general, artists also tend to take advice from people who really aren’t experts in the field they need, but may have had more success than we they have, and so out of respect the artist will listen to them and try to emulate them.  This could be a devastating move to a career.

In order to maximize a career opportunities, the artist should always strive to build a solid team around them who is driven and knowledgeable in whatever area they specialize in. The artist should make it a priority to brand themselves as best as they can until they are able to build that solid team of professionals around them.  Branding is something that involves creativity, consistency and most important, discipline.

When building a brand it is critical that the artist has a game plan to market the brand.  Make sure the image is completely in tact, and by image I mean making sure the photos are professional, the logo communicates your brand effectively,  the website and social networking pages are all consistent in imagery, message and so on.  Don’t confuse the brand with things that don’t showcase who the artist truly is what is unique to them. The artist is the focal point and product. People purchase what they like and understand.  Anything else is a waste of time and effort and ultimately leads to nowhere.  Artist websites should be a giant advertisement of the artist and not of anything else.  Artists need to learn how to position themselves in a way that leads to people noticing them. The “buzz” is what the artists should be looking for, and that doesn’t happen with ill prepared branding.

In short, take time to develop a brand that IS you, be strategic in the planning of launching and marketing it, and above all else, be disciplined and diligent in executing it and maintaining it!

How to Approach Managers in the Entertainment Industry

How to Approach Managers in the Entertainment Industry

As I continue to try and understand how people who claim to be artists refuse to research the career they say they want, I remind myself of my original intention in writing these blogs:  helping people understand what they need to do to attract the professionals they need to build a team around them, which is vital to succeed.

I am constantly approached by people who use the Internet or call me to inquire about what I do and how I can I help them.  As an entertainer, you are a self-employed business and should treat yourself as such.  You must be just as professional as the people you want to surround yourself with.  If you can’t take the time to visit the website of the people you are contacting to learn about them and find out what they do, why are you contacting them? It’s a waste of time and energy.  It shows the entertainment professional that the artist doesn’t care enough about their career to actually work on it.  The artist needs to take the time and initiative to research the entertainment business and care enough about their careers to take the right steps to understand what they are getting into.  If the artist blindly contacts entertainment professionals without doing their homework or developing a relationship, they will most likely be ushered out the door.

Please take the time to use the Internet or any other tool you can find to research the career you supposedly want to be a part of so badly.  Find out exactly what a manager, agent and PR person do for the artist so that you can figure out whether or not you need them.  Doing this research will educate you and empower you as an artist.  It will also help you to avoid wasting your time, and the time of the entertainment professional you are approaching.  Be professional and respectful towards us and we will be respectful in return.

Once you have done the appropriate research, assuming you learned what a press kit it is and what it consists of, you can find out what that is in my blog “The Promotional Kit”, make sure all the data is current and make sure you are thorough. Write a cover letter explaining to the professional why you think you would be a good fit for them and explain your strengths.

If you are contacted, you may have an initial meeting together.  You can then take this time to interview the professional to see if they are a good fit for you.  Just remember, don’t behave in such a way where you exhibit a sense of entitlement, unless you bring a lot to the table, and even then I would put the ego in check.  You aren’t “all that” until you actually are.  Artist development & creating a name for the artist so that the career can flourish is a tough job.  The professional needs to believe you, as the artist, are worth the investment.  If you haven’t already created a name for yourself as best as you can without the help of a professional, then you are not in a position of power.  In my experience, the best attitude to have is to be confident but humble.  A good team is a team that is a good fit for each other.  This kind of relationship is the foundation for a great working one!

Do your research, know what questions to ask, and then, if they accept you, be prepared to work your butt off with no excuses.

Remember, this business is all about networking, building relationships and doing your homework to make it happen.  Once you’ve done that, you can shine!

Why a Professional Voice Over Is So Important To Restaurants

Why a Professional Voice Over Is So Important To Restaurants

Say what you want about Jack In the Box restaurants…you have to admit the company has a professional operation.  The food is hot, delivered in an orderly fashion, and comes at a fair price no matter where you happen to find a franchise.

But do you want just “professional” when you’re eating?  No. That’s why a chain like Macaroni Grill might be a more quality choice.  The ambience is pleasing.  Food is prepared with care from a unique menu, and the service is usually charming.  Absolutely professional, but with a quality component added.

Still, for a top-of-class experience, something is missing even at Macaroni Grill.  That element is refinement.  In Las Vegas, when you visit Ferraro’s new restaurant across from the Hard Rock resort, you’ll see the added attraction of gourmet food from award-winning chefs, a table setting and service second-to-none, even a Sommelier to suggest the perfect wine to go with your choice of entre’.  Professional?  Absolutely.  Quality? Unquestionably.  Refined?  But of course, Monsieur!

There are no signs to indicate Ferraro’s combines professionalism, quality and refinement.  People just know.  Enjoy a meal at Ferroro’s and there’s no mistaking the impression that you’ve reached a position near the top of the culinary dining experience.

This is not a put-down of fast-food restaurants.  Quite the opposite, because, you see…even Jack In the Box understands that to be successful in the marketplace, their working-class product must nonetheless be portrayed in popular media with professionalism, quality, and refinement.

Make no mistake, the voice behind that silly guy with the white cone-head was chosen through a talent agency audition process that weeded out the un-professional, poor quality candidates with little refinement of their craft.

Puh-leez!….how many cheesy late-night, local TV ads have you suffered through, where the spokesman is likely the company’s owner, president, or maybe the secretary.  There’s no mistaking the impression that you’ve reached a position near the bottom of the advertising experience. People just know. The unprofessionalism, lack of quality, and absence of refinement portrays no product you would ever buy, visit, consider for purchase, or otherwise patronize.

Viewers, listeners, buyers, and consumers can smell the odor of “cheap” a mile away.  It’s a turn-of.  No – more than that, it engenders an internal promise never to participate in THAT product.

Savvy company owners, presidents, managers, and ad agency executives choose a quality, professional, refined portrayal of their product/service with fancy graphics, good copywriting, enduring images, and the delivery — either on camera, or through voice-over — of a talented, experienced actor.

A voice-actor can bring the worst copy to life….can elicit emotion from the most colorless pictures…and can do it all in 30 seconds.  There’s no mistaking the impression that you’ve reached a position near the top of the advertising spectrum.  People just know.

Like a fine chef, a true voice actor takes pride in his/her work…achieves professionalism by working their way up through the ranks…exudes quality through years of practice and training… and proves again and again a sense of refinement through experience.  Most have found success in voiceovers through a tough evolutionary process known as survival-of-the-hardest working and most talented.

You could pay a lot less, and grab Clancy, the clean-up guy to be the voice of “Jack” the cone-head.  Clancy may be able to mop floors, but it actually takes a professional, quality actor to produce a refined sound as sarcastically silly and convincing as the brand spokesman for Jack In the Box.

People just know.

How To Use Social Media For Entertainers

How To Use Social Media For Entertainers

In many of my discussions with people in the entertainment business, they want to know how to best use social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace or reverbnation. These tools are essential into spreading the word about your music, product or career.  First, I would say you need to understand where this particular industry is at and use Google to research and understand the tools being used.  Learn some statistics and develop a strategy for maximizing the use of each tool.

It is crucial that all of your social networking pages are linked together, which will allow all of your pages to be updated at once. This will save you massive amounts of time by not having to go to each page for individual updating.  Most entertainers who are developing a game plan also need to try to develop a fan base, as well as create buzz about your next show, CD, Movie or what ever it is that is coming up next.

Understand that social media is still a personal form of networking even though you are behind a computer screen.  You still have to be real and available.  Learn to update only about 25% of time about your career.  Promote others, develop conversations and be available to talk to an extent.  I do caution against getting caught up in people who just want to flirt and have no intention of becoming a fan or a consumer.  This will cause massive amounts of wasted time and not help you reach your ultimate goals.  With all that needs to be done in an entertainment career, using your time wisely is of utmost importance.

Social media for the entertainer should have a game plan of turning new followers into fans and then consumers of your product.  If this is not your final goal then you are wasting your time. If you are a musician, it is all about the number of impressions you make which may attract endorsement deals, fans, booking agents, venues, and sales for labels.   For other types of entertainment you should know at least the basics to help develop a social media-marketing plan that will work for you.

Social media marketing campaigns should be constant and consistent.  Be aware of your metrics and the tools you are using to track your success.  Be diligent, concise and always have a plan.  It is so important to the success of your career that you know your goals and execute a plan to meet them.

Does Your Band Have What it Takes?

Does Your Band Have What it Takes?

So many times I have a meeting with bands after a call from one individual in the band that is carrying the load.  While this can work and has happened in the past with certain groups, it is certainly an attempt at swimming up stream for the band and not fair to the individual doing all the work.  Unless the band is at a point in their career where they can afford a team of management, PR, Booking, legal, graphic design, web design and photography, they need to be able to handle the bulk of this on their own, with the exception of legal of course.

A band is team of individuals that hopefully are all on the same page as to what the bands vision and goals are.  It is up to each individual to carry his or her own weight and not pile all the responsibility upon one person.  There is usually one person who is the “leader” but hopefully the band works on an equal basis unless ownership dictates otherwise.  Each person needs to have defined roles and responsibilities and do their best to live up to them.  If any individual is not pulling their weight they are slowing the band down or putting them at a stand still in the career path the band has chosen.  This is not fair to the band.

I recommend that the band have a meeting or two on just business and have everyone pick the jobs they can do best or have time for. Not everyone may be able to put in the same amount of time or money, but that isn’t the point.  It’s about taking some of the responsibility and sharing it so it isn’t overwhelming one person and falling through the cracks.  Things that need to be done are booking, social media, growing the fan base, email campaigns, business plans, marketing plans, tour management, press releases, endorsements etc… There are so many things that need to happen for a band to have maximum impact and everyone needs to help out and do their share. If the band is not able to handle a certain portion such as writing a marketing plan, then they should seek out professional help with this particular item to help them get to the next level.

Band agreements are a great way to get everyone on the same page, explain the expectations, pay structure, touring expectations, per diem, royalties, band ownership and so on.  It should be drawn up by a lawyer and signed by everyone.  If any member of the band can’t sign it or is unwilling, they are probably not the right person for the band.  Everyone needs to be willing to put in as much as they can both time and money wise.  It should not be the responsibility of just one person unless it’s just their name on the band.

Starting a Career in Music

STARTING A CAREER IN MUSIC

 

So many times I come across musicians trying their best to start a career in music but struggling to find out the best way to do it.  They are swimming upstream and forever trying to play catch up with no clear direction.  They have no game plan to go by or even goals set to measure their progress. It is my intention with this blog post to help set a few things in motion for musicians who are struggling with this particular issue.  We all know how paralyzing it can be to feel completely overwhelmed, and this is not what you need when launching a career.

First and foremost you need a vision. A definable vision statement that you can explain who and what you are.  A mission statement is next and this explains the path you are taking to get to your vision. It’s hard to sell yourself to any industry expert if you don’t know who and what you are and where you want to go.

Then you need to develop a business plan of some kind. It doesn’t have to be some monster plan until you are seeking capital or label placements.  You need to have at least the goals and marketing plan done here.  Basic financials would be great as well but can be added later.  There is no point in recording a CD if you don’t have a fan base to sell it to and a way to distribute it you will just have a garage full of unsold CD’s.   It always best to have a game plan before making major purchases. Remember YOU are the product not the CD.

Once you do you have a plan in place, image together and a CD or EP to market, plan on spending a couple years on just this one package of music. You don’t need to rush into another writing another CD. Chances are that while this music may get old to you, most won’t have heard it and it is fresh to them.  Then you need to concentrate on booking yourself as much as possible.  Keep at it as much as you can and don’t give up.  You most likely are not going to find a good booking agent until you have radio airplay, management and a label.  This is up to you so be diligent!

This is just a quick lesson on what to be thinking about so work hard, play out as much as possible, track everything you sell and give away and let wisdom guide you!

When Does An Artist or Band Need a Manager?

WHEN DOES AN ARTIST OR BAND NEED A MANAGER?

So often bands or musicians seek out management thinking that they need management from the start or just too early in their careers.  With all that needs to be done for an artist’s career, it can seem very daunting and overwhelming.  Artists are often so confused by the amount of information available — and most of it not very good — that they are often more paralyzed due to the staggering amount of info and no clear direction.

The role of a good manager takes on so many forms: often a business consultant, negotiator, accountant, image consultant, promoter, etc.  They require pay for their services and most bands can’t afford their own bills, let alone that of a manager. While a manager is often needed to achieve almost any measure of success in the music business, most bands and artists know that a manager can’t do it all and that success or failure is solely the responsibility of the artist or band.  The artist or band have the final say and have to provide the show and content that makes them marketable. If they aren’t able to provide that or aren’t committed to their own success, then rarely is it the fault of a manager when goals aren’t achieved. The band and artist are the “Founder” of the company and the manager is the “CEO.”  This is called the “music business” for a reason.  Artists and bands have a ton of responsibility to achieve the success they are seeking.  If the band or artist isn’t willing to work as hard as the manager, then it is very difficult to achieve anything and the manager is wasting his time at this point.  A commitment on both parties is essential to make it work and the band or artist needs to trust the manager’s advice and handle their responsibilities whether the band or artist agree or not.

So that begs the question, when does an artist or band need a manager?  The answer is simple.  Not until there is something to manage.  Most artists and bands don’t perform enough or have enough to work with for a manager to do anything with and be effective.  The artist or band should be playing 80+ paying shows a year and have a very solid press kit before seeking out management.  There should be a solid fan base at least regionally if not nationally.  In the beginning stages of a band or artist’s career, it is wise to seek out a good manager who offers hourly consultation to be able to help set the artist or band in the right direction. The manager can then follow up at regular intervals if the goals are being met, before signing the band or artist full-time, when they are ready.