Developing Voice-Over Talent

During the first 15 years of my career, I had a real simple method of developing new voice-over talent:

  1. I would first focus on a small group of men and women.
  2. Next, I would provide them with as many opportunities as possible.
  3. From there, they would come up to my agency’s recording studio and I, or my booth directors, would spend a tad more time directing them, providing them with pointers, building their confidence and sending them on their way with a better understanding of the audition process.

The combination of repetition and attention was consistently effective. If I compared my results with the 80/20 rule, I would bet my real success was closer to 50/50. Of course, financial success is relative, but the roughly 50% I’m referring to had no other jobs beyond voice-overs.

Client Satisfaction

Better yet, my system was incredibly efficient for the clients for the following reasons:

  1. They were getting auditions almost every day, and while some were at a casting director’s, most were at our offices.
  2. There was no need to hire a coach, as my booth directors and I became their de facto coaching staff.
  3. They already had our representation so there was no reason to produce a demo.

In fact, as they booked we collected their spots, until they had a demo of real material that we then edited together.

In the end, the total cost was virtually nothing. Granted there were transportation and opportunity costs, but in the end, I cannot think of a client that was ever truly in the red.

Things Have Changed

Actors generally need a demo now to get an agent’s attention. The exceptions are film, television or stage actors, who create a buzz for an on-camera commercial client, which somehow gets the attention of voice-over agents.

Regardless, 95% of the actors need a demo and that will generally cost them between $1000 and $2500.

Performers also do not have enough auditions to get better, and without these at-bats, need coaching and work groups instead. After everything is said and done, $2500 to $5000 can easily be spent.

Everyone is also working from home, so they need equipment. Taking into account that almost everyone has a computer these days, there are still costs for a mic, mic stand, pop screen, pre-amp, software, foam padding etc. In the end, decent equipment will run between $500 and $2000.

How Much Does This Cost?

Those three things can easily add up to $10,000 without yet booking a job. Even worse, if you spend less, you likely are increasing the time needed to be successful so the short-term savings may actually be incurring even greater long-term costs.

The more and more I think about this, the more often I think that voice-overs have evolved into all the other professions you need college for except there are no scholarships, student loans or Pell Grants. Pushing this analogy further, there is also a vast gulf in the costs and quality of coaches and demo manufacturers like there are for universities.

No Guarantees

You may do everything right and hire a top coach and demo maker, but like attending Yale or Harvard, there is no guaranteed success. There are only better odds you will be successful. The reverse is true for talent choosing the wrong path. Whether you realize it or not, your odds of success are incredibly slim regardless of how much money you spend unless you align themselves with the right people to nurture you and provide you opportunities.

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