Last week I received a call from a young lady who wanted to make a voiceover demo. I asked her if she had ever done voice over’s before. She replied, “no”. I told her that I could make a demo for her that would make her sound great, however I would not do so without (at least) knowing what her current abilities were. I offered her a training and evaluation session where I would have her read some scripts, determine her abilities and offer direction and advice to help her get started in the business. If it turned out that she was ready, then we could talk about making a demo.
She was not interested.
I explained that it would be a “bad idea” to immediately make a demo since she had no experience. To do so would simply set her up for failure. The demo would misrepresent her, making it appear as though she were an accomplished voice talent, and if and when she got a job from this demo she would likely struggle and possibly fail miserably in a real recording session. “That situation could end your career before it even got started,” I told her.
The young lady explained that with her “experience” (she was fresh out of college from what I could ascertain) and “background” (as a singer) she would be fine. “This won’t happen to me”, she said. She also told me that since she has ProTools at home she would just make her own demo. I wished this young lady “good luck”.
I told this story to my wife and she said, “If the girl wants a demo, you should just make her a demo.” I know where my wife was coming from, if someone wants something and is willing and able to pay for it why not give it to them? I told my wife that by doing so, I would be misrepresenting this girl and setting her up for failure, I would also be compromising my own integrity as well as the integrity of an industry already suffering from an influx of amateurs, who have no experience, but have been told they “have a nice voice”.
I take the voiceover business seriously and I believe I have a responsibility to set the talent bar high. If you want to work as a voice over talent… go for it! But WORK at it. Invest some time and at least some money by taking a workshop, reading some books about the industry, listening and practicing. By the time you are ready to make your first demo, you should have been doing voiceover on your own for quite some time. In other words, you should have been practicing. How long do you need to practice? Only your ears and the ears of others can tell you. You should be able to convey the messages of a script (both written and unwritten) effectively, with NO EDITING REQUIRED
Making a demo is a critical part of your career. It is your business card and your resume’. When you submit a demo, you are applying for a job. In most industries, if you lie on your resume’ and the lie is discovered, you would be fired. Similarly, if your demo misrepresents you and your abilities, you are putting yourself at risk of being fired from a job. Furthermore, you are putting your reputation at risk, which could prevent you from getting future jobs (even if you’ve decided to put in the necessary practice time). Misrepresenting your abilities can be a serious burden on your desire and even your ability to have a career in voiceover. Unfortunately I receive great sounding demos frequently from “talent” who fall short of expectations when put to a live-session test read. These people almost never get a second chance.
The bottom line: If you want to break into the voiceover industry, be patient and practice. Record yourself and listen. Have others listen as well. Train your ears and your voice. Spend time with working voice over industry professionals. Do not set yourself up for failure and frustration. Do not make a demo until you are ready.
One additional message for engineers, producers and directors: help yourself, help the industry and help the talent (both new and experienced). Do not make demos for people who are not ready. This may save you and many others, time, frustration and money down the road. Furthermore, and more importantly, it raises the talent bar for the industry as a whole, helping to ensure that only truly talented professionals are working beside you.