Focus Your Demo For More Success - Part-2

This is a follow-up to our recent article in which we observed that many people spread their demo too thin, trying to present something for everyone. In voice over casting, companies seek specialists who can deliver superior performance in precisely the genre they need.

Who loves a Jack-of-all-Trades? Jack’s mother, that’s who.

But you can’t focus your voice over demo until you focus yourself.

The same way that many people include too many genres in their demos, many people -- especially those starting out on their VO career path -- do not focus enough on the one or two marketable niches or genres that are best for them. They thus become great at none.

Determining your best niche should begin long before you even get to the point of producing your first demo. After learning the “basic basics” of voice over performing, work with a coach to find out what voice over genre you are best qualified for. The coach should be someone who is familiar with today’s wide range of voice over genres, or part of a comprehensive coaching team.

Then, as you continue your studies and practice, focus on developing your skills in that area. Try other things and learn other stuff (it’s all helpful), but aim to become really, really good at one thing.

It should be a type of voice over work that combines the Big 3 of specialty selection:

  • What you can sell.
  • What you enjoy doing.
  • What you do very well.

You can’t do much about market demand, except to choose a specialty where demand is high, or where there isn’t much competition (yet still sufficient demand).

You can’t do much about what you most enjoy -- Different people happen to like different things.

But you can do a lot to identify and market what you do very well.

So how do you assess your marketable niches and genres? Which are in your wheelhouse? Here are considerations. You must find the intersection of all these considerations:

What’s your natural voice, or what about you sounds natural? Be yourself. The days of sounding like some famous VO talent, or an announcer, or “a thousand voices” are long gone in most genres. For example, if an Edge Studio producer needs to cast a certain voice, we hire that voice. We don’t ask someone to affect their voice in order to sound like them, no matter how well we know and like the latter talent. Yet, don’t try to be unique. We should explain: The emphasis here is on not trying to be unique. Rather, be yourself
. . . because you are already unique.

What’s your typical delivery? Natural is in, but if you know you are overly theatrical, and can’t stop it, then leverage it. For example, consider Audiobooks, Animation, or dialog Commercials.

What is your passion? What are your interests? For example, if you’re a golfer, consider golf Tutorials, sports Promotion, or narration for companies in the field. Similarly, if you know everything there is to know about Line-6 guitar amps, who you gonna call first? We know a math teacher who now reads math audio textbooks.

Do you know the vernacular? For example, what’s an architect with an art history degree going to do? How about Museum Tours, and program Narration?

Do you speak a language or have an accent? Many voice actors work hard to lose a foreign or regional accent, but they get rid of only 90%. Then they have a hard time getting work in either language. Yes, learn to be adaptable… but never lose how you originally sounded, and use it because it is natural! Accents and linguistics are useful in audiobooks, museum tours, and textbooks.

How available are you? Promo talent & national commercial talent repped by agents need to be readily available during the daytime. If you get work via “Pay-to-Play” audition sites, you need ready online access. If you do audiobooks, a single project has you working many hours each day.

Are you an actor? A trained actor, we mean. If you are, you might focus on Commercials or Animation projects. If not, there’s work in Video News Releases, Telephony, nonfiction Audiobooks, Documentaries, and many other genres. Pick one or two and specialize. And remember that acting skills can be acquired along the way. Many voice over genres require you to express emotion -- or not -- to some extent.

Do you have a good home studio? If so, and if you’re comfortable with the technology, you can pursue genres that are often served from home (such as Promo and Telephony, but also others). On the other hand, we were asked to analyze recordings by a woman who lives above a subway – sadly, with that kind of constant low-frequency noise, long-form voice over is out. Not to worry. If that’s the case, or if you’re not tech savvy, you can work out of a local studio. Just don’t go for low-paying jobs which won’t cover the extra cost.

What’s your temperament and physical nature? Are you fidgety? If so, then long-form is not a good focus. Ditto if you lack physical or respiratory stamina. But there are plenty of short-form genres. Pick one.

Are you inquisitive? A good market researcher? Everybody, whether new or established in the voice over business, should keep an eye out for new market opportunities. If you’re naturally inclined to do that, there are many directions on which you might focus. Consider recent history: Emerging marketplaces and industry sectors have included GPS, Video Games, and Apps. Video Games continue to grow.

Looking ahead, we predict growth in:

  • Technology. Research and learn as much as you can. When we ask vendors to tell us about new products, they often ask us to test them. And when we try something (and it’s not confidential), we blog about it. Word spreads.
  • Certain Voice Over Styles. Be certain: what we said above about being yourself still applies. Don’t try to make a living sounding like somebody else who you don’t naturally sound like. However, as with anything in life, there are stylistic trends in voice over genres, and it helps to be aware of them. Use your ears. Listen to other voice actor demos, in various genres. We see commonalities of styles that clients and casting pros request. If you’re not sure what you’re hearing, a session with a currently-performing voice over coach can help.
  • For example, Video Games have become popular, and if your strength is anywhere near this niche, your competitors likely have Video Games on their demos. But don’t just copy them. Keep up on the latest -- it’s easy to learn these styles by going to an arcade, sampling video games online, or going to a retailer.

  • Training videos and websites. Work with a voice-over school that is up on industry trends. Not just the voice over industry. All kinds of industries. Especially if you can identify an industry that you enjoy and has strong demand for what you do very, very well.
April 12, 2013
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Learn how to better focus your voice over demo to find success.
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voice over demo, voice actor demo, better voice over demo, voice over success, voice actor success

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