Voice Over Education Blog

August 2013

Is there a voice over agent in your future? by Elena Berger

So, you’re considering signing with a voice over agent. You’ve been freelancing, getting your feet wet and generating your own voice over bookings, and it seems time. From now on, your new agent will do all the leg work. You can simply sit back and wait for the phone to ring. You’ll watch your rates increase, and the number of auditions will grow exponentially. Your career will explode. All you need is that agent.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but that isn’t reality.

First off, odds are that you, like many self-represented VO artists, are non-union. Most VO agents are union-franchised and cannot work on non-union projects. This is a big consideration when signing with an agency. The job pool shrinks.

On the other hand, union actors have entrée to better-paying jobs. Rather than earning a one-time buyout for a non-union spot, union actors are paid residuals, which over the life of a commercial can be quite substantial. Also, VO talent agencies have access to projects and opportunities that are usually not available to unrepresented VO actors. This long list of union gigs includes commercials and campaigns, animated features, animated television series, audio books, and more.

Even so, an agent isn’t a magic wand, nor does an agent have one. If you decide to opt for representation, you’re essentially taking on a business partner. For any partnership to work best, the partners need to collaborate -- each pulling their share of the load, each focusing on what they do best.

In a voice over situation, here are ways to enhance the relationship.

Let your agent take full responsibility for what they do best.

How do you make your Jingle Jangle? by Carolee Goodgold

“O-O-O-O, Only Cheerios. The One and Only Cheerios.”

Oh, oh, oh, I was lucky to sing on that jingle! I remember the producer joking, “Well, there’s your mortgage payment for the year!”

Yes, the wacky world of jingles was once enormously lucrative. I have friends who used to be so busy singing jingles that they had a car service waiting downstairs to hustle them to their next booking! Sometimes it’s still like that.

But not so much. Other than local jingles, there isn’t that much singing being done anymore. All the more reason to be prepared for any good opportunity.

The jingle business has changed drastically over the past 10 years. Advertisers don’t spend money like they once did, and they cut corners whenever they can. Previously, you were paid on a sliding scale every time a spot ran until the 13 week cycle ran out and then started again. Now you are frequently offered something called a “wild spot,” where they pay a fixed fee for 13 weeks, or (even more insulting) you are offered a buyout, which was previously unheard of for a national spot!

In addition, musical trends have changed. Instead of hiring a jingle house to write an original jingle specifically for the product, advertisers now use popular songs, paying a large licensing fee upfront, but ultimately saving money on singers and musicians -- or even avoiding the need to re-record. They also spend a lot of time trolling on YouTube and iTunes, looking for unsigned bands with cool sounds, and pay them a relatively low buyout fee.

Still, as we can all hear, there are still singers being recorded, somewhere, every day.

An Essential for Every VO Talent Tool Kit by Scott Burns

On any voice over forum, you’ll find all sorts of discussions about what’s the best microphone, processing gear, soundproofing material and whatever. These are obviously important tools for a voice talent to have. But to really succeed in this business, there’s another item, seldom mentioned, that should be on your must-have list – a thick stack of Thank-You cards!

“What?” you ask. “Thank-you cards? What century are YOU from?”

As antiquated as this may appear in today’s digitally instant-messaged world, I’ve found thank-you cards to be a very effective means of marketing.

But I can hear you now, “Wait, how crass! Thank-you cards are supposed to be expressions of genuine gratitude with no ulterior motive.””

Well, of course, they are. They should convey a truly heart-felt thanks! But if you’ll quit interrupting me, I’ll share an a-ha moment with you, where such a note did that and much more.

One of the fun duties of my day job as audio production manager for Destination Marketing is to cast and hire voice talent for our clients’ radio commercials. I often need to turn the spots around “yesterday,” which means I have to scramble to find a talent NOW. So just the other day, I was again scanning my brain for tried-and-true talent, whom I knew, who have home studios, and who were probably in their studios now.

Enter the thank-you note.

Three Easy Things You Need to Know About Editing in Your Home Studio by Scott Harlan

Knowing when and how to make basic audio touch-ups can make using your home studio a lot less intimidating, even fun. It also pleases clients. But first, it’s important to understand exactly what your client expects to receive from you (or what they don’t want you to do). They may want you to do nothing, just send them the original recording. Or they might assume that you have deleted all but the good takes, edited out distracting breaths, downtime, coughs, etc. Or they might want you do more. Whatever basic tasks are expected, they’re pretty easy to do, but you must do them in a professional manner.

So let’s discuss 3 topics that are important in self-recording:

  • What "raw" audio means
  • The importance of crossfades
  • How to manage breath noise


Technically, “raw” audio means that the sound characteristics of the original recording have not been changed (that is, the audio has not been “processed”). But some people extend its definition to include “unedited.”

(What are examples of processing? One common tool is equalization (a.k.a. EQ). Equalization allows you to add or remove different frequencies to or from a sound, like the bass and treble controls on your home audio system. Another frequently used tool is compression . It evens out the volume levels of a sound by turning down the loudest parts, which usually results in being able to then make the whole thing louder. There are other processing tools too, but the point is that NOT applying an EQ, compressor, or other processor will mean that your file is unprocessed ... or raw.)

Slay ‘em on the first line (or “Have them at Hello”, for you mild-mannered folk) by Lesley Bailey

The people listening to your audition takes ... are not really listening. That’s right, the secret is out. In my many, many years as a casting director, I got to be a fly on the wall, and I can confirm this. The decision making for the voice picks is usually the copywriter’s privilege. And many copywriters came of age in the post-MTV generation where things are not faster, they’re instantaneous. Gone are the days of waiting for a reply to your letter, your phone call, your email. Now it’s texting, tweeting, and stuff that I myself can’t comprehend without it making my head spin. Back to the point – in auditioning, these young people are your audience.

For years I would have these writers attend the post-casting session in my office, where I would play things back for them. In between texting and sushi-menu-purveying, they would listen, a little, usually in the beginning. If they weren’t convinced, or captivated, it was, “go to the next one….” So now you know. And now you can take action.

To master the two skills I’ve just mentioned (convincing and captivating), here’s what you need to do:

First, to convince. This will be the most important part. Here’s where you show the writer that not only can you sound like you’re just “talking”, but that you get his POINT.

Look at this sentence:

  • Sometimes you just want a great latte.

I have had countless students tell me the “point words” here might be “sometimes” or “want”. But sometimes what? Want what? A LATTE. What kind? A GREAT one.

  • Sometimes you just want a GREAT LATTE.

Right? Doesn’t it make sense to “pop” those words? This tells the writer you GET IT. You get him or her. Boom.

Now what else? What if everyone GETS the copywriter’s point? Now you have to captivate.

Take a look at this sentence:

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