3 Things You Should Not Do with Voiceover Demos

Phil Sutfin (co-founder of ACM Talent Management), Erik Sanchez (Casting/Track Director at Sticky Audio Labs), and Jim Kennelly (producer at Lotas Productions) speak about “The 3 Dont’s of Voiceover Demos”

Three established professionals in voiceovers talked to Realtime Casting about those things in voiceover demos that often work against a voice talent.

Hil Sutfin Realtime Casting ACM

Phil Sutfin, ACM Talent

Phil Sutfin – Co-founder at ACM Talent Management
1. Don’t cheap out. Your demo is a calling card. Don’t cut corners on quality. Your demos should have all the bells and whistles to show your best. How much it costs may depend on where you live, but make sure if you are seeking to find an agent, make sure the quality of the demo echoes the market you are trying to work in. If you cannot afford to make a demo, wait until you can afford it. You will save money that way.

2. Don’t try to throw everything and the kitchen sink into a demo. Agents are looking for a signature sound. If you think you do everything, you had better know that everything you do is undeniably great. If not, it will only be a distraction. a former colleague once added, “Every one wants to think they can be every color of the rainbow, when they may do just as well serving one color of the spectrum.”

3. Don’t let your demo go stale. Keep your demo updated every year, if you can. If you have aged out of your demo, it is time to make a new one. That one demo you find perfect will not be the one you use forever. Make sure you update your demo as much as you can with new work, even if that means once a year. Fresher is always better. Why? Clients want to catch you in the moment when others are hiring you as well.

Sticky Audio Labs and Realtime Casting

Erik Sanchez, Sticky Audio Labs

Erik Sanchez – Casting/Track Director at Sticky Audio Labs
1. Don’t try and do too much. Allow the listener to hear the focus on your strengths as a talent, and not the weaknesses. If you can do one thing REALLY well, there is a possibility of having a career based around that one thing.

2. Somewhat related: Don’t save the good stuff for the end. Put your strongest work first. You stand a chance of keeping a person listening.

3. Subjectively speaking: The feeling I personally have is that if you are making a demo, choose well-known brands and concentrate on making the listener feel good about listening to you. Of course, there are exceptions, but the majority of the time (a voiceover demo) with depressing, serious, or sad spots just takes away from the “excitement of the ride of listening to a voiceover demo”. You want your voiceover demo to take the listener for a fun ride.

jim kennelly realtime casting rates

Jim Kennelly, Lotas

Jim Kennelly – Producer at Lotas Productions/ GM Realtime Casting.
1. Don’t make the demo too long. The shorter and more specific a demo the better. I need a demo that loads quickly and demonstrates exactly what style of voice I’m listening for, or my client is trying to find. Short and to the point. A :30 or :45 second sample is plenty. I make decisions on who to audition very quickly. I won’t listen to 2:00 minutes to find a little sample.

2. Don’t create a voiceover demo that cannot be sold to others. When I listen to a demo I’m thinking about one thing, “Can I sell this voice?” That’s it. And that’s exactly what you want me to be thinking. Voiceover is a business and we’re all trying to be successful.

3. Don’t leave your best work for last. Put your best voice up front. Put your “real” spots up front. Don’t make a producer search for a good voice and don’t waste anyone’s time. “First Impressions” are everything with your voiceover demo. Your voice demo is made for me to like your voice. You want your demo to make me send you a script and invite you to audition. Once you start to audition for me, I’ll quickly know if your demo accurately represents you. And hopefully, I’ll better understand your talent, your voice and how we can start working together.

About the blog contributors:
Phil Sutfin
Prior to co-founding ACM, Phil has been at the vanguard for the voice-over industry as both a talent manager and agent at International Creative Management. At ICM, Phil stood at the helm of one of the largest voice-over commercial departments in the country offering complete services in commercials, promos, narration, animation and celebrity endorsements. Most recently, Phil founded Flatirons Creative Management; a specialized voice-over management firm emphasizing innovations, personal attention and collaborative relationships between voice-over clients and industry creatives. As a talent agent, Phil founded the renowned on-air promotions department at SEM & M before directing the New York commercial division at ICM.

Erik Sanchez
Erik is a thirteen-year casting veteran and former talent agent whose stops have included Sound Lounge, and International Creative Management in Los Angeles and New York. Erik’s focus at Sticky is voice casting & directing for commercials, radio, promos, digital shorts and narrations. Erik enjoys rare expertise on both coasts including Toronto as well as extensive knowledge of new media and celebrity talent and negotiations.

Erik’s past clients include such brands as AT&T, Geico, Ford, Chrysler, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Gatorade, UPS, Dominos, AOL, Claritin and Kraft. His work also spans dozens of advertising agencies including BBDO, Leo Burnett, Y&R, Ogilvy & Mather, The Martin Agency, J. Walter Thompson, Droga, Digitas & MTV. Currently, he is working on a Celebrity Cruise Campaign and just finished casting the new Charter Communications TV campaign.

Jim Kennelly
For 30 years, Jim has been the director, producer and owner of Lotas Productions. He specializes in finding the right voice for commercial voice-overs, creative radio spots, documentary and corporate narrations and global communications. Jim didn’t always enjoy the safety of the studio. After graduating Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications, he traveled microphone in-hand on a documentary crew to the world’s hot spots. Jim traveled the world three times to cover political, social and humanitarian aid subjects. From Southeast Asia, to the Middle East and Central America, he was an eyewitness to society’s challenges.

In 1985, Jim returned to New York to cast, record, direct and produce at Lotas Productions. He is known for his thorough and inventive casting based on his clients’ needs. Jim enjoys a national reputation in the voice industry for his honest insight and positive attitude. Jim is an experienced professional with global credentials and has established himself as a trusted expert in the voice-over industry.

What is the future of our voiceover industry?

Realtime Casting founder, Andrew Peters, poses the question, “What will our industry look like in the coming years?”

future voiceover

Excitement means questions, and that’s ok
With the new Realtime Casting website design about to be launched, I thought it would be a good time to pose the question:

“What will our industry look like in the coming years?”.

In the past couple of years, as a company, we have been talking about “the future of our industry” or “how to be part of the future”. We have been working tirelessly to make that dream a reality.

I can tell you now we are about to change the way we all do business as the concerns of a voiceover industry are addressed and applied to our new design. We have seen for many years that the producers in the non-union arena have been used to fast turnarounds, and like most websites, they are asked to “take a chance” on the quality they receive.

But we are about to deliver the Union voiceover industry to the online environment in a way that is neither intimidating nor does it sacrifice quality. We will offer something that is fast, easy to use, and deliver amazing quality voiceover talent. It will take our industry beyond what is happening online now, which many call a “race to the bottom”.

Making imagination a reality

Voice talent: Can you imagine our voiceover agents being able to receive a script from a producer and run their own audition online within 15 minutes?

Agents: Can you imagine agents not having to email dozens of talents, download ZIP files, or explaining to voice talent how to name files, while keeping tracking of elongated email threads?

Producers: Can you imagine hearing from “those voice actors”? We are talking about the voice actors you heard on television, movies, and radio, that inspired you to think, “I need that for my project!”. You will be the best producer because you knew where to find “that voice” you heard in a hilarious Super Bowl ad, for example.

Realtime Casting will make that happen, make it easier, and faster without the headaches. It has to happen because other websites have put such a large emphasis on “speed” and “low cost”, and you never know what you are going to get. These websites represent a market that many professional voice actors have either avoided, or for lack of a better word, “graduated” from.

The future of the voiceover industry
This is the future as it works now: You have businesses that offer people looking to get started, or professionally work on to build a personal client list for themselves; a client list that may or may not be “established”.

The future of the voiceover industry will be established members of the voiceover industry seeking quality on sites like Realtime Casting.

Other markets are plugged in and will provide what they do, but when a producer wants to work in the Realtime, Union, voiceover industry, the very voiceover jobs that inspired thousands to “get started”, they will now have that website in Realtime Casting.

Speed is ok, BUT ONLY if the quality is truly professional
Jim Kennelly recently wrote about how quickly he cast a voiceover job, booked and recorded it. It was ALL done within an 8-hour work day, from start to finish. But here is the important part:

a. The job paid Union rates
b. A Union voice actor was hired
c. The talent worked with a professional producer
d. The job was cast through an online casting website
e. The Union voice actor still worked with his agent

Was it fast? Yes.

Was there an invite to pay the talent less? No.

Was the experience positive for every working professional in the voiceover industry? Yes.

This is the future of our industry. Speed is ok, as long as it does not infringe upon the voiceover careers of established businesses. Fast turnaround, high quality, and no borders, are requirements as well. The future of the voiceover industry means bringing every professional into the mix, and adapting to changing trends in web technology, just as long as people are not asked to be paid less.

Casting from abroad into the USA
Another example is when Realtime Casting received a request from Australia. The client called me and asked if I could help cast a US voice talent for a job he was doing in Melbourne (my hometown).

I said, “Sure send me a script and brief!”

Once I received the script it was posted within a short time, and we had a full playlist of amazing auditions and selected Jeff Rechner. Within a few hours the session took place between Jeff at his home in his studio in Los Angeles. Jim Kennelly helped with the recording with a phone patch in NYC with the client in Melbourne.

The client was blown away by the quality and speed.

Musings of a Talent & Business Owner
For people like myself, voice talent who got into the business before mobile phones, computers, even fax machines, all the changes in technology looks like one big celebration of Star Trek.

What I have come to realize: The truth is we have all this amazing technology, studios at home, connectivity like never before and opportunities to expand and grow our business. But some years back I could see the inequality in the industry, all the innovation was mainly non-union, and they had nothing to lose. The fact is, at a time when we should have been adapting to changing technology, we “opted out”. We stuck to our beliefs for better or worse.

The truth is agents need professional well-paying jobs. The truth is voice talent can work with or without agents, yet their careers reach a new level when they start working with voiceover agents. The truth is voice talent and agents need a website they can trust to look out for them when they are not looking; the pure definition of “quality”.

There is a popular brain-washed online belief that producers love having the ability to squeeze voice talent out of every dollar, but that is not true either. One thing to remember is producers at ad agencies have clients they have to please, and the client always wants quality for his/her brand. Most of the time the belief that a producer has negative intentions is born of the absence of a necessary communication method on a website. The absence of reassurance always leads to negative thoughts.

Producers also pay attention to their bottom line, and they often examine cheaper ways to find the right voice quickly. Yet after years of trawling through thousands of auditions from “getting started” types, they are starting to manage their “energy” as much as their “finances”. It just pays to work with the “tribes” you are used to working with. This is not a statement of arrogance. It is a statement that people work with different people at different stages in their career.

Our team has put much on the line to make Realtime Casting the future of our industry, a tool to help talent be seen and heard, and get paid properly. Realtime Casting helps producers audition talent quickly without compromising quality. Realtime Casting WILL help agents audition their own talent on an auditioning platform to help them satisfy their clients with speed and accuracy.

I believe times have changed once again. I believe it is now time for a smarter voiceover industry to step up to the plate, and support the real voiceover industry online; the voiceover industry they love and remember.

Most Common Voice Over Question Asked of Realtime Casting Founder

Andrew Peters, founder of Realtime Casting, explains the most common question he receives and how he answers it

Andrew’s Gear…

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This is a question I hear all the time, “Andrew, what voice over mic do you have?” or “What mic is best for me?” and of course, “I am setting up a home studio, what gear is best?”. Funny enough, I have asked the same questions to others.

The important thing to consider is, “What gear do I need for recording my voice?”. This may seem an obvious and strange question because you want to record your voice, right? If you take a look at our Realtime Casting training channel on Youtube (below), there are different kinds of home studios for different requirements.

How do you know what is right for you?
All voice over mics react differently to a person’s voice. Some will say, “Don’t use a shotgun mic for a female voice because of the brightness already in the mic!”, which I am sure can be an issue.

What are the standards?
The answer could be the 416, U87, and pre Avalon, but having said that…myself I have neither of these. There is no point spending the money on top of the line equipment, if you do not have a good space to record in. Questions you may want to ask yourself first:

  • Am I recording to audition?
  • Am I recording for broadcast?

I have always opted for broadcast and it has paid off. I had one client that I recorded for from home when I first built my home studio, and although the set up was basic, it allowed me to experiment. The engineer I supplied voice tracks for gave me advice on how to improve the space I had. When I moved to a new home, and built a proper studio, this engineer was a great help to me.

I also sought advice from a trusted audio supplier, who asked me, “What do you need to achieve?”. I answered, “Super clean, flat audio.” I bought a Microtech Gefell M930 mic, a Grace M101 pre- amp; altogether a great package.

realtime casting

The booth matters too…

The booth was small I had to be careful it did not sound too boxy. I also had to set up my control area to make sure the sound was accurate. Once set up properly I invested in some more gear:

Neve compressor

realtime casting

Top of the line monitors

MSP10

New purpose built computer with an RME sound card…and a Mackie mixer.

realtime casting

All of this was expensive, but I have now used this gear daily for 7 years and expect to be using it for many more years to come.

Investing the money early on with expert advice

By investing early I was able to go to market and source new clients, mostly over seas clients (working with overseas clients is a topic for another blog). Now, 80% of my work is recorded in my home studio, which has also allowed me to leave life in the city and move by the coast. In short…

  • Invest wisely
  • Get good advice from people you trust
  • Remember, if you are not an audio engineer, leave it to the experts.

Speaking of…Do you have any questions for our audio engineers?

If you need any information from Jim Kennelly or Dylan Tishler of Lotas Productions, or myself at Realtime Casting, comment below or  please drop us a line through our homepage!

Voice Over Recording Studio Etiquette

Dylan Tishler, recording engineer at Lotas Productions, talks voice over studio etiquette

realtime casting dylan tishler

Dylan Tishler, Audio Engineer at Lotas Productions

Humans in the Analog World

It is becoming less common in this digital era, but every now and then we experience human interaction in the voice over studio. Most Realtime Casting members have had, and maybe miss, this experience of auditioning in person. It is great for voice actors. Someone else is recording and directing allowing you to focus on your delivery, while you learn, get paid, get feedback, and see the people you are working with.

Here are some things to remember to make a good impression:

1. It’s a Team Effort

Whether you‘re at a studio or an agent’s office, keep in mind that everyone around you has a role. A studio manager may be scheduling, printing out scripts, and greeting voice talents. The director is helping the talent understand his or her vision, and the engineer is making sure every performance is captured well.

Making a good impression for the director is paramount, but you will likely come in contact with the studio again in the future. Simple phrases like “hello”, “please”, and “thank you” show that you appreciate the help and maybe go a longer way than they did years ago.

2. Don’t Touch That Dial

Many home studio voice talents have become skilled engineers, and as you know, audio gear is expensive. You might be capable of adjusting a microphone stand, but your studio  engineer isn’t aware of your home studio experience.

Let him or her take care of all things microphone-related. When you’re finished, gently place the headphones somewhere safe.

3. Ask Questions

Do not be afraid to ask questions. In fact, asking questions can show that you’re interested in the project. Unsure about something in the script? Your director is happy to answer.

Need a pencil to write notes? Just ask. Are there several talents waiting to audition after you? If yes, it’s OK to still ask questions, but try to keep the questions focused on the job and brief. If your first read is off the mark, your director will guide you.
This may be tricky, as you want to increase your chance of booking. Just keep in mind that your director or engineer may have a tight schedule.

4. Make Life Easy For Your Engineer

It’s hard to gauge the skill-level of your audio engineer at an audition. Who knows? Maybe you can teach him/her something, but do not act like it. The skills you deal with can range from “top-notch engineer” to “person who only knows how to press the record button”.

Flubs and misreads happen all the time, but it may be wise to say “pickup” and leave a small pause to make sure any engineer can make the edit.

5. Clean Up Time

Home studios are great because…you’re at home! No one knows how messy the room is or that you’re in your pajamas, and that’s great! When you’re requested to audition somewhere else, though, it never hurts to show your best manners.

It’s not an on-camera audition, but looking clean and presentable is always a good idea. No one ever went wrong by being over-dressed, but things can go wrong being less than presentable. If you’re noticeably sick and probably contagious, there is no need to share too much information. If you bring water, food, or tissues into the booth, think of your peers and clean up after yourself. The last thing we want to do is clean up after others.

6. It’s a Pick and Choose Industry

There are many voice actors out there. Clients often have multiple choices and usually prefer to work with someone they like. We all do, but get this…Sometimes the client will allow the studio or casting house to make the choice.

You never know who’s making the final decision and what’s being factored. Realtime Casting’s advice?

Be nice and courteous to everyone!