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Voice Talent Can Give Feedback Too, Ya Know?

As voice talent, we sometimes get feedback during and after sessions. Sometimes, it’s crickets. But you booked the gig, right? So why should it matter? I’ve found that the more long-lasting relationships in voiceover can start with feedback — from both directions. As a general rule, in my experience, voice talent just does the gig and moves on. They don’t think much of it. Which could explain the misplaced idea that voices, by and large, are a commodity. But those who seek and give feedback are set up to build longer relationships with clients. And that’s something that voice talent should be looking to do — build relationships so that there is a steady roster. But why are talent so averse to giving feedback? I’m not exactly sure. I could guess that maybe it’s because they fear losing the client or future gigs. Or, they might think, “I’m just a cog, I don’t need to worry about it.” To me, this feels like the wrong way to approach building a relationship. Case in point. Today, I had my second session with a client that I absolutely adore. They make the sessions fun. They ask for opinions from everyone on the team (talent included) on what they think will be best. I really feel like a valued member of the team — not just the guy who talks into the microphone. Added bonus? The client shared that the creative is working really well. As voice talent, you should feel really good about that. I know I do. If it’s working, be proud. So back to the topic at hand. On... read more

The Packing List: Don’t Forget Your Mic

I travel quite a bit in my “day job.” But voice work never sleeps and I always needed to be ready.

As a habit, I used to pack up my Blue Snowball whenever I hit the road. That poor thing was super-bulky just got bounced around like crazy and finally broke.

But it did serve me well many years ago — and it was a good USB mic to take on the road.

Is it top-of-the-line?

Not exactly.

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Voice Talent’s Worst Nightmare: The Winter Cold

Yep. It’s running through the Zanger household. The Winter Cold. A one-year-old and a four-year-old with the sniffles. And mom and dad ended up getting it as well. Not to be a baby about it, but I seem to have received the brunt of it. What makes this just horrible is that, as voice talent, a cold (and allergies) can absolutely obliterate opportunities. Unless, of course, it’s a read for cold or allergy medication. There is really no amount of digital wizardry (at least I don’t think so) that can cover up a cold. Trust me, I’ve tried. And failed miserably at it. Thankfully, the client had a longer than usual lead time so I was able to shake the icks and get the reads done well. I drink tea with honey. I try eucalyptus steam. I would even try a necklace of garlic if I knew it could help. Fortunately, as a rule, I only get these things once a year — around this time of year. Knock on wood. It’s a real pain in the tuches. But, alas, it looks like the cold wins the day today. What do you do when you get hit with the sick?  ... read more

More Practice = More Confidence

This one will be short and sweet. I’m noticing that my reads are getting better. Actually, I’m noticing that my auditions are getting better. Will they translate into bookings? Gosh, I hope so. But even if I don’t mine something out of this last batch, I am acutely aware that I am reading better. But it’s not so much just about a better read. It’s more about a confident read. What separates the two? Here’s what I’ve noticed of late. A good read is to spec. A confident read is to spec, plus the conviction that you can read it better and outside of spec (the lovely second and third takes). A good read is about being crisp and following the “rules” of voiceover. A confident read is about that same crispness, but with more presence. A good read gets the job done — that is, fulfilling the requirement for an audition. A confident read gets you on the short list — going past what’s expected. A good read means you just “read.” A confident read means you attack the copy, even if it is the “whisper take.” How to gain confidence? Keep reading. A lot. This little revelation has me going back to some auditions from months ago. I’m taking a closer listen. And, in some cases, I’m redoing them just to practice and improve. There is a noticeable difference. Not that the first batch sucked (in fact, I booked a few things from them), but I just knew that I could do it better. Practice does make perfect. In voiceover practice creates confidence. And that’s a currency any voice talent can... read more

When Multiple Accents Trip You Up

I was born in Minnesota. At age 12, I moved to New Jersey, just outside of Philadelphia. I attended college in Denver. I’ve lived in Portland for 21 years. Think about this geography for a second. The first twelve years of my life were spent with long Os. Saying “yeah” was common. At twelve, I moved to a place that has the most, er, unique accent. These were formative years. Colorado? No discernable accent. Oregon? Same deal. So the last two kind of cancel each other out in this scenario. Which leaves the first two firmly in play. When I first started in voice work, I didn’t think that I had an accent. In fact, I worked really hard to keep the Minnesota/Philly thing under wraps. As a general rule, I don’t think I have an accent. Sure, I can turn it on when needed (which is incredibly rare), but I’m pretty much not considered “the guy with the funny accent.” There are times, however, when certain words get either the Philadelphia or Minneapolis treatment. In a few cases, New York peeks out to say hello since most of my work outside of voice work is there. “Car” is one of those words. I recall a radio spot that I voiced for a dealer in Portland where they got the buffet treatment. At the front of the read, I said “car” like central casting of “Fargo.” At the end, I was squarely in the Delaware Valley with “cawh.” I sent over three versions. And the client picked the one (you guessed it) with the obvious homages to my first two geographic... read more

Your Year Will Come Down To Moments, Not Big Things

What voice talent doesn’t want to book the home run gigs? And if you are, a very big hat tip to you and forge ahead, my friend. But in my experience, I’m noticing that success comes in the little moments first. It could be the small innocuous gig that comes out of nowhere but leads to everywhere. It could start cementing your name and voice talent in a specific category. It could very well be the aforementioned home run gig that your friends and colleagues (and potential clients) will hear far and wide. The natural inclination of voice talent (yours truly included) is to take the entire “voiceover world” and lump it into one large, unwieldily thing. It can morph you into lack of confidence and the dreaded “deer in the headlights” mentality. It’s just too big of a world out there — and if you think that you can tackle it all at once, you’ll drive yourself crazy and potentially miss out on some choice work. But by breaking the big world down into more manageable pieces, you have a better chance to focusing your efforts and improving your chances or evolving. For example, if you are focused on tech VO (which seems to be a theme with me recently), then by all means, do everything that you can to position yourself there and squeeze out as much as you can. You’ll be working and will have the chance to share a hopefully impressive body of work. This approach may also allow you to cross over into other voiceover areas. It is contingent upon those little gigs — the moments — and... read more

The Types Of Established Voice Talent

I liked this post from Doug Turkel today on established voice talent getting jammed up about newcomers. He pulled the Godin card (well played, Doug) and went deeper into the subject. I thought it was well thought out and reasonable in its approach. And it got me thinking about the types of established talent out there — and how they have reacted to change over the years, including the dearth of new talent that has burst on to the scene. In my experience, I’ve noticed that established people in this business do, in point of fact, fall into one of a few categories. And I have some strong opinions on it. Established Bitter Talent The first category is the established bitter talent. They are generally inconsolable on everything and no matter what happens, everything is horrible and an affront to their talent and sensibilities. Generally way old-school, these people annoy the living s**t out of me and clearly have nothing better to do than complain. They still get a good chunk of work (good for them) and roll along nicely. Their talent may be undeniable and, ordinarly, they would merit respect for their accomplishments. But, since they are screaming babies, I don’t give them the time of day and have passed on quite a few of them for projects I’ve had as a producer/creative over the years. Good, paying gigs, by the way. Their thinking on newcomers is that of expected petulance. I get where they’re coming from (and if you read the great post by Doug, you’ll see what I mean) — but, come on. You’re a pro.... read more

Instead Of Resolutions, Think About A Theme For 2013

(Originally appeared on the Advertising Week Social Club blog.) My voiceover manager out here in Portland is rather wise. She’s been in the biz for a very long time. She was at agencies (at one point, with a young fella named Andrew Keller — you may have heard of him), production houses and the like. One of the billions of things that I love about her is that she sends out these little reminders and quotes to the talent roster each day. It’s a breath of fresh air and some very good and interesting perspective. Recently, she sent out a note about how she chooses a theme each year — instead of resolutions. A theme, she notes, gives a clear path and direction. It’s a mission of sorts that can be checked and improved upon throughout the year. Think about all of the resolutions you’ve made over the years. How many of them have you actually followed through on? If you have, then a marvelous Pork Pie hat tip to you. But, if you’re like me and most people, then you build the list, blow it and go on with the rest of the year without a rudder. A theme keeps everything in place. But it’s not necessarily easy to figure out what a good theme can be. The good news? You can build a list of things that you really want next year and then build the theme backwards. Let’s say that you’re a Junior Copywriter and your goal in 2013 is to be a Senior Copywriter. Think about the steps (or resolutions) that you need to take... read more

Are Smaller Budgets Actually Better For Voice Talent?

Recently, I was in a discussion with a colleague about rates for voice talent. As things have changed over the years, the structure of talent fees has become even more perplexing and confusing. SAG/AFTRA rates are easy to get ones head around (to a point), but when it comes to rates above and non-union, it really is a wide open deal. Everyone charges different rates for different things. One of the issues that came up was the idea of smaller budgets. But not just smaller budgets for smaller projects. The $200 hollers. We were talking about smaller budgets for bigger projects. I brought up the point that brands and agencies really want and like big-name voice talent (who doesn’t?), but the consensus was that the rates to get them may be too high in light of this contraction. “Everyone wants John Corbett,” I said. “However, most can’t pay ‘John Corbett’ rates.” So is this actually an opportunity for “regular” (I can’t think of another term for it) voice talent? The me and you out there toiling in the universe, making our way from gig to gig? It’s hard to say. But the thought might not be too far off. It seems as though that if the budgets are contracting, then this could potentially be a renaissance of sorts for voice talent who aren’t celebrities. It could open up some interesting possibilities. Putting on my creative/producer hat on here, I can say that if I could end up saving money and getting a great product at the same time, I’d probably go the less expensive route. And when I say... read more

The Simple Brand Thank You = Loyalty For Life

Not too long ago, I made the switch from Pro Tools to Adobe Audition. Part of that switch included shedding myself of some bulky equipment that was taking up far too much space. I just needed something simple. And, at first, I was thinking of getting a smaller board until my pal out here in Oregon, let’s just call him The Swedish Gangster, got me hip to a sleek, elegant core audio box known as a Duet by Apogee Electronics. It’s tiny and takes up very little space. It’s also a powerful little bugger. But the quality of the equipment is secondary to the honest, simple thank you I received after I completed a super-simple survey for them. Hi Doug, I’m so happy to hear you are very satisfied with your Duet 2. We really appreciate you taking the time to answer our customer survey. It’s great to hear more about your projects! Thank you again for the support and we wish you the best of luck with your future productions. Best, Linda Why is this so great? It came from a real person with a real email address. So, if I ever need to get in touch with someone, I have a direct line. The thank you was just simple. I wasn’t being upsold. I wasn’t offered a million things. It was just “thanks, we appreciate the fact that you took the time.” Despite its brevity, it felt genuine and real. I honestly do think that Linda and Apogee are actually interested in my work. Bonus! I think we can all agree that the simpler, the better. Right? Apogee hit it... read more

Saying Goodbye To A Friend

As I mentioned last week, we lost a dear friend, Steve Forsyth. The memorial was yesterday. Heavy hearts for sure, but also a chance to share the good things (and there are too many to count) that he did in his all-too-short time in this life. The important reminder in a day like this? Live your life with everything you’ve got. Mean it. Say “I love you.” Don’t put off that note to a friend. Smile. Share. Give. Be the beautiful person you are. Every day. You may not have known Steve, but I assure you, you would have loved him. Just like everyone else he... read more

Selling Out With VO Spots? Hardly

I’ve had the concept in my noggin for awhile. It’s been bouncing around until I finally just decided that it was time to pull the trigger on this thing. I’m doing radio spots to market my voice work here in Portland. And I shall proudly and shamelessly promote these bad boys. I’ve heard some people say that this type of advertising for voice work is akin to “selling out.” It’s not. It’s “selling.” I’m also running banners on adland.tv and ads on LinkedIn. Make no mistake, this is not a substitution for good ‘ol networking and hitting the digital pavement. Rather, it is meant to be in addition to it. And it’s also an experiment of sorts. And I’m happy to share how it all goes if you’d like. What are my expectations? At this point, I’m looking build awareness. I’m trying to be pretty strategic about it and putting my stuff in unexpected places. I want people to hear the signal, not more noise. I do want to book gigs, of course. But there is something bigger going on here and more long-term. “But you’re going to be on radio. How could that possibly work?” you ask. Again, the strategic piece of the equation will hopefully work. I’m on a slightly younger-skewing alternative station in Portland. I’m not really expecting to get loads of people reaching out to me. But the “right” people very well may hear it. When I say “younger,” I also mean: video producers, audio producers, creatives — the folks that listen to the station while they are in their agencies or studios doing any... read more

Senseless In Oregon

By now, most of you have probably heard about the senseless mall shooting here in Oregon. And never, in a million years, would one ever think that they would be touched by something like this. One of the victims yesterday, Steve Forsyth, was a colleague and friend. During my time at Entercom, he was unconditionally supportive. He was bright and funny. He encouraged me to stretch and to always “go for it” creatively. In 2007, after I left, he mentioned that he was thinking of following suit. I said,’ “Dude, do it! You’ll be perfect at this.” And he was. Steve was built to be one of the best in marketing out here. But he was built to be a loving, caring human being first. Most importantly, he was an amazing husband and father. And my thoughts, prayers and love are with his family. There really isn’t anything else to say here at this point — other than I hope that you keep the people who you love and care about close to you. And tell them how much they mean to you.... read more

I Forgot How Hard Promo VO Can Be

It was only 4 lines. ABCs (for those of you who don’t know, ABC means three takes — the producer picks A, B or C). And my voice was shot after just doing that. I have always had very deep respect for the men and women who do promo work. I do a little bit here and there, but not nearly as much as some of the great pros out there. But today reminded me how demanding and challenging it is. To those of you out there who do promo work on a consistent basis, a HUGE hat tip to you. Well done.... read more

Your Role As Voice Talent: In The Booth

You’re in the booth and ready to go. On the other side of the glass is an engineer and perhaps a few people involved in the project. You are the talent. And, in my experience, there are a few things to think about when the door shuts and you’re ready to go. All Phones And Anything Else Digital Off Yeah, you’re busy. You might have other things going on and emails on the way. But you are there for a reason. To voice a project. I’ve been in sessions where phones have rung (as producer, not talent). There was even one where the talent had the nerve to actually take a call while we were in session. It was such bad form that I was almost impressed and let him take it. If your producers and/or client needs to take a call, let them. Ordinarily this isn’t an issue, but if the agency is calling with something critical, let ’em take it. Don’t sweat it. And don’t show them that you may be put off. It’s part of the gig, kids. Stay Focused And Shut It All Out One of the things that I really like about being in a nice, soundproofed room is the feeling of complete and utter stillness. There is this delicious moment before the engineer or client pops on in the headphones where it is the most beautifully deafening silence. In that nanosecond, I lock my focus in. It’s a pure state — even though it could be 2 seconds — that is cleansing. From there, I am ready to take it on. Try it next time you’re... read more

Ever Thought About Your Voicemail?

“Record your greeting, then press pound.” Then you’re done, right? Like most people, I blitzed right through recording my voicemail. Today, I realized that I needed to change it. Here’s why: There was an awkward pause at the beginning. I sounded half asleep. I sounded distracted. I was clearly not smiling. I was talking way too fast. There was nothing in it that made me sound like anything other than a robot with long hair. This is one part of marketing that we oftentimes forget. If people hear the things I just listed above, then I wouldn’t be surprised if they think, “gee, he doesn’t sound too nice.” The point is, that’s not how I really sound. I’m actually much friendlier (I hope) than I was letting on. If this is one of my verbal calling cards, then I was clearly in trouble. So, why do we just throw away the voicemail? I asked a colleague about it. “Honestly, I didn’t really even think about it. It’s just something that is so ingrained in my business behavior, that I just ripped through it like I would any other business-y thing.” But where is the balance? I’ve heard some crazy, odd and weird voicemails over the years. After the first couple of times, it got annoying. Quickly. It also didn’t ooze “I’m a professional.” I’ve heard voicemails done by people’s kids. That’s fine. If you’re running a daycare or something. Outside of that, totally unprofessional. There has been bad rapping. There has been karaoke. Yikes. But most of these have been from people other than voice pros. Most of the voicemail... read more