Thursday, December 19, 2013

Thinking outside the voiceover box

Opportunity from new sources
I have to admit that the economy and changes that have taken place in the advertising world have made me think more than once about the state of the voiceover business. The industry has changed significantly since I started freelancing as a voiceover artist after leaving broadcasting in the 1980s. I have seen old sources of business dry up. Yes, I have even considered the competition from new talent entering the field with younger voices that seem to be hot right now. Finding opportunity often requires creative thinking/marketing. Many of my associates in the world of voiceover have been very successful creating new niches for themselves is such areas as: animation, e-Learning, audio-books, explainer videos, telephone messaging and more. Some are very successful in the area of radio and TV promo work. Others continue to enjoy their bounty by voicing radio and TV commercials. I never considered doing long form voice work such as audio-books, until the opportunity recently knocked at my door.
A LinkedIn connection, someone I have known for many years and have worked with in the past, contacted me recently and offered an opportunity. I can't share much about the opportunity due to a non disclosure agreement. But, I can share the overview. The voice message on my answering machine went something like this: “Hey Jerry. This is Paul (not his real name). I think I have a voiceover opportunity for you. As you know, I am working with Melody Productions (not the company's real name). My boss has a screenplay that he'd like someone to read it, much like is done in a pre-production meeting. It's about 150 pages and we want you to read everything: directions, screen descriptions and of course the dialog with some character. If you think you're up to it, give me a call?”
I returned the call and told Paul that I have not done anything like this before but would be willing to give it a try. He sent me some sample pages and asked me to read them as an audition. I did and his boss liked what he heard. Paul: “That is just what we are looking for Jerry. We have a screenplay that's 127 pages. How soon can you turn it around?”
This was on a Tuesday and I had no pressing business that week. So, not having done a long-form project like this in the past, I told him that I would try to get it done by the end of the week. I had the project done by Friday and the complete project was about 3 hours in length after editing. Whew. I got an email over the weekend that they loved it and wondered if I could do another the following week. The second was a bit shorter, only 120 pages, and I completed that in two days. Keep in mind the edits are clean but the projects are considered “scratch tracks.” I would need to spend much more time if these were to be finished audio-book projects. The client is happy and they got exactly what they wanted.
I do believe I have carved out a whole new genre of voiceover. So, there really is opportunity when you “think outside the box.”


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Eight Things A Voiceover Artist Must Do

Before the next home studio recording session.




This week it's a quickie and I speak from experience again as I share eight helpful tips I recommend considering before you head to your home recording space or studio.

Hmmmm........

This might be a fun mini-session for the next Faffcon or FaffCamp.

Here's my list.

1.  turn the thermostat of the HVAC to “off”
2.  turn off the ringer on you cell phone
3.  put on soft cotton clothing (no wind pants)
4.  drink plenty of water
5.  let the dog out to the back yard
6.  make sure no one is doing laundry
7.  send the kids to grandmas house and if that's not possible, bribe the oldest kid to take the little ones to Chuck-E-Cheese.
8.  If all the above fail, set your alarm for 2 a.m. and record in the nude when everyone else is sleeping.
I haven't tried that one, but it might be fun.  

Can you think of others to add?

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Blog in Your Own Voice?

What Better Way To Strut Your Stuff?



I took a look around the Internet. There are voiceover video blogs and a few like Rob Paulsen, Terry Daniel and Trish Basanyi who do audio pod-casts featuring guests. But very few, if any, professional voice actors who write a blog deliver that blog in their own voice. To this I ask:

Why the hell not? You're missing an opportunity.

I have to admit that I have only been doing a blog for about ten months. After I had written about six, it dawned on me that my primary craft is not being showcased here. If I'm going to write something, like a blog, every week or so as a component of my total marketing outreach, shouldn't I also voice it as well? It just made sense. So, since May every time I write a blog I also go into the studio and deliver that blog in my own voice. Then I add an audio player featuring that audio at the very top of each blog page.

I regularly read blogs from some of the top voices in our industry. I have also made it a point to visit a lot of other blogs by voice artists. I've found several that feature their demos and examples of their completed projects, to that I say bravo! But very few, if any, voice their own blogs.

If someone has a very good reason not to, I'd love to hear it. Leave your comments below here on the blog page.


So, for now, I guess I'm the Lone Wolf.     

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Tale of Two Truck Stops...

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.


If you believe all you read on the social networks about working voice talent and their prosperity, I am willing to sell you a bridge that connects Manhattan Island and the Borough of Brooklyn.

I am amazed at all the puffery. I know it's part of the marketing tactics. Look like you're working so you can get more work.  Yes, there is some truth in that thought. But how long before the voice seekers realize there's a lot of exaggeration at play?

VO Diner Graphic
Take a drive along the truck routes in the U.S.  Eventually you'll come upon a scene like this:   There are two diners located across the road from each other.  One is a sparkling new structure, handsomely landscaped with a brightly lit and colorful new sign. It has a newly paved parking lot, but there are not many cars or trucks in the lot.   The other diner looks like it has been there for many many years. The doors are a little beat up, the sign is has a few bulbs burned out, reminiscent of the old TV show Hot_l Baltimore, yet the parking lot is full. As a matter of fact, if you peak inside, it looks like there is a bit of a line of people waiting to be seated.  Which place will you select to eat?  I'm thinking that even before you answer that question, I already know the answer.  You'll eat at the busy diner and I know why.   It's just human nature.  If they look busy, they must be good. But are they really? And, how long before they realize it's the same 'ole diner food and that Emeril Lagasse and Giada De Laurentiis are the chefs at that new place?

Some believe that the above applies to the world of voiceover, too.  It's part of the game that is played on a daily basis. Some people also believe that it's necessary in order to get work. So, it has become the norm to flood the social networks with info on all the cool jobs we have landed.  The theory at play here is the belief  that others, in addition to our voiceover peers, will see this and just must  have our services, because they are in such high demand.  I don't know if I can buy into that 100%. I don't think the jobs will ever just come because you are already busy.  But, a voice actor doesn't want to appear desperate and idle either.

So if you look busy, will you get all the work?   Horse Feathers!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Never been fired...

but is that a good thing?


>

I have been laid off twice in the 50+ years I have been in the workforce but have never been fired from a job, ever. The two times I have been laid off were due to a company-wide downsizing or a departmental restructuring. Each of those times the departure was amicable, without prejudice. They were never personal in nature. I have never done anything to make an employer angry enough to cut me loose. Looking back I wonder if it's good or bad. In the world of voiceover, we rarely know we have been fired. More often than not, we just aren't rehired.
Until a couple of years ago, voice work was always a side line. I always had a core job that paid the bills, fed a family and created financial stability. So I was never concerned with the fact that playing it safe and never taking risks would come back to haunt me someday.

Arguments that it was good for my career.

1. I have always been a good employee.
2. I did my job to the best of my ability.
3. I strived to please, always staying within boundaries.
4. If I didn't feel I fit or wasn't right for the position, I resigned and moved on.
5. I had an impeccably clean resume.

Arguments that never having been fired is a bad career move especially as it relates to my voice work.

1. I never took chances, always played it safe and colored within the lines.
2. I didn't experiment with new concepts or tactics.
3. My creativity was throttled. I didn't give it a chance to fully develop.
4. I didn't have to learn about rejection.
5. I avoided learning how to be corrected and redirected because I didn't take a risk in the first place.

I don't think anyone should get fired. But, but don't let the threat of it hold you back or stifle your creativity. Take the risk. Be bold. “Grab the bull by the horns.” Someday, you'll be glad you did.




Monday, October 28, 2013

The Mystery of the Headless Woman

with the Fluffy Cat.





This a true story. People that know me well know that I have been an avid genealogist/family historian for many many years. My search for tidbits of data on the various family lines has possessed a great deal of my spare time. I have dug deep into old history books, interviewed family members and pestered relatives for old photos.
I have discovered relatives that served in most military conflicts since this country's infancy. The research allowed me to join the Sons of the American Revolution and The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. Three great great grandfathers served in the War of the Rebellion (Civil War). My ancestor William Washburn bought Oyster Bay, New York from its Native American owners and that deed is on display in the Teddy Roosevelt Museum there. I can prove a connection to at least five people that journeyed to this foreign land on The Mayflower. I have traced family lines on my mother's side back to the early 1600s in England. Family lines take me back to Charlemagne, King Kunetta of Wales and William the Conqueror. I find the Reed Family living in Vermont before the Revolution. But there's one mystery I have yet to solve – The Mystery of the Headless Woman with the Fluffy Cat.

Tin-Type Photo of Mystery Woman and her Fluffy Cat
I found this tin-type photo in a family album from the turn of the 20th century about 20 years ago. I never thought much about it until now. The mystery came back to haunt me this week when I had a visit from a distant cousin who also has a great interest in family history. Her great grandfather and my great grandmother were brother and sister. So, we are cousins several times removed. We spent the day comparing data, scanning photos and telling stories that had been passed on to us from our families. The time flew by and near the end of the day she pulled out a couple of old photo albums and asked if I knew any of the people who were not identified. There she was in the last leaf of the final album – that mystery woman with the fluffy cat. Neither one of use can figure out why these two families would have this photo. She must have been someone important enough or at least the cat was. We will probably never know and are left with these questions:

Was it someone that didn't like how her photo turned out and just grabbed a pair of tin snips and cut the head off? Was she a former concubine or consort that was no longer important to this family?
Was she someone these families despised and could not stand the sight of? Who was she? She's certainly not the wife of the headless Hessian soldier detailed by Washington Irving in the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Although our Washburn family did come from Tarrytown NY to Otsego County about that time.

We will probably never solve The Mystery of the Headless Woman with the Fluffy Cat.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tossing in the towel...

But wait. I'm not ready yet.

When I was younger I swore that I would never fall into this scenario. But, here I am facing the inevitable, asking the question: When is it time to just say “'screw this” and toss in the towel? I'm not there yet. But my list this week certainly is weighing heavily on my decision making process.

I know I'm not alone. Many in this business have spent years and years developing skills that have been honed and refined only to be told that they are no longer needed or desired or just not hired. The reasons, if given, are often shallow, not valid and youth driven. I was told early on to refrain from criticizing those that write the paychecks. However, when you reach my age, a ripe old 66, risking being labeled an ogre is no longer a concern. Hey, I still have Social Security to fall back on. So I put together a list of things that make the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

Here is that list:

1. Youth and experience don't mix. Age and experience intimidate youth and youth intimidates age and experience. Youth have to fail on their own initiative and do. The angst goes both ways. Seniors, like me, often stand firm, a stance that breeds inflexibility.

2. Shallow excuses. They are used in the voiceover business to easily reject. I don't buy them at all. You have heard them: too announcery, not conversational, too folksy, too dry. I would much rather hear: “I didn't like your sound.” “Your interpretation sucks” ”You're too old for the part.” Just be honest, which leads to the next one.

3. Lying and insincerity. These permeate our business. There's a Jack Nicholson line “You can't handle the truth.” The fact is, I can. So just be honest and look me in the eye tell me how you feel. I can deal with it. Honest rejection is easier to accept than shallow lies. I don't need sugar coating. If I piss you off, tell me so. If my personality bothers you. Say so. I won't audition for you in the future, saving us both time and frustration. I'm real. Be real.

Image - man at microphone4. Technology barriers. You don't have ISDN. You don't have the right microphone. You don't use the software we use. Letting technology stand in the way is a poor excuse and is a lazy way to weed out the cast of candidates. The fact is technology has increased the talent pool, making the selection process a little more difficult. Picking from a group of ten voices is much easier than selecting from 100. I will change my technology if the reason is valid. If it means I need to buy an Apple product (Are curse words allowed here?) or one from the great Northwest, then so be it. So, let's have some standardization and not use technology as a barrier.

5. Distance. You're not in LA. You need to be in NY. Job requires talent to be in Dallas or Chicago or Atlanta. Go back to #4 and update your technology. If you do, I will. But we both have to be willing to adjust.

6. And this is the granddaddy of 'em all. The announcer is dead. What a friggin' lie. I hear it ever day in national commercials and promos, from the top people in our business and I won't name names. The fact is the announcer is NOT dead and is VERY much alive. So, don't give me that weak excuse.


So, there's my list. How bout you? Any others you would add?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Ten Forgotten Small Market Radio Terms...

Diversion time again this week. Every once in a while I feel like writing something that's fun instead of venting or promoting one of my opinions. There are many of us who find ourselves in the voice over business having paid our dues at that little 1,000 watt am radio station in rural America. So, this week's blog is for all my fellow VO folks who have been there and done that. If you haven't, here's a peek at ten things we had to know in small market radio.

Jerry Reed as Announcer Graphic1. Rip N' Read - It is a term used to describe the process of retrieving the latest state and national news and sports from the UPI or AP teletype machine. The noisy typewriter of sorts banged out miles and miles of paper 24 hours a day. Usually, the announcer or DJ on duty had to read the news on the hour as well as being the DJ. He or she didn't have any time to write or edit news, so just ripped that long stream of paper off the machine and dragged it back to the on-air studio. Between records, the paper was ripped into pieces containing relevant news and weather and read live, usually without pre-reading, hence the term “Rip N Read.”

2. Slip Q – 45rpm and 33 rpm records were the source of most most music DJs played in small market radio. The equipment used to play these discs were usually huge heavy turntables made by companies called Collins, Gates, Russco and Rekokut. They were not known for starting instantly. So, to start a record without “wowing” (slowing gaining speed) we had to position the stylus on the disk where the music starts and hold the disc lightly with one hand letting it slip on on the felt pad that covered the spinning platter. When we were finished talking we would release the disc and it would start instantly and no one would know that it wasn't a perfect start.

3. Hit the Post - Today the DJs on the radio rarely talk over the beginning of music selections. But in the 50s, 60s and 70s a DJ was required to read liners, do the weather, and chatter up to the beginning of the vocal. He or she had to do this perfectly so that when the line ended the singing would begin. If he wasn't good at it he would “step on the vocal” or talk over it. If it worked perfectly it was called “hitting the post.”

4. Back Timing – Usually, the radio station was affiliated with a network, most likely ABC or Mutual as CBS and NBC went to the larger stations. The news or other programming from the network started at a set time. Some DJs were a bit lazy and usually selected an instrumental to play prior so that it could be easily faded down (lower the volume) at the appropriate time to allow the network program to start. But, if you were good, you figured out how much time you had left and selected a record of the appropriate length making sure you started it so that it would end exactly when the next program was to begin. This process is called “back timing.”

5. Cans – These are today known as headphones. But, prior to the hi-fi stereo days, headphones were pretty basic and crude objects resembling one or two cups held together by a metal band that would keep them on your head. You only used them for reference when your microphone was on and the studio speakers were muted so you wouldn't have screeching feedback. So, before you turned on the microphone you needed to make sure you put on your “cans.”

6. Carts – These were usually gray or blue in color, sometimes black. These were the predecessor to the ill fated 8-Track tapes and made primarily by two companies – Fidelipac and Audiopak. These cartridges contained an endless loop of ¼” magnetic tape that could be erased and re-recorded many times. Radio stations would record commercials that needed to be repeated often onto these and then played by the DJ on a special player when scheduled. There were longer length versions for up to a half hour in length but these were rare. Most of these cartridges contained enough tape for a 30 or 60 second commercial. Later, stations used these to play music rather that actual records that might get scratched. These were usually referred to as “carts.”

7. Ad-Lib – Today most radio performers are required to read scripts and commercials verbatim without any changes. But, in small market radio often the merchant would ask that the on air personality work from a fact sheet of information or from personal knowledge. The commercial might be considered “improv” using today's terminology. But in the day of small market radio the announcer might be asked to “ad lib” a commercial.

8. Daytimers – I know it's pretty obvious. Many small market AM radio stations often were restricted to operating between sunrise and sunset. The process dates back to the early days of radio and because AM radio waves travel farther at night, many small market stations had to wait to go on the air until after sunrise and had to turn their transmitters off at sunset. They didn't get much time in winter. These stations were known as “daytimers.”

9. 3rd Phone – Most every announcer and DJ had to have one. This is technically called a “Radio Telephone Third Class Operator Permit” and was issued by the Federal Communications Commission only after you passed a broadcast and electronic theory test. My first one was issued on April 17, 1964. and is still active, although no longer required.
Third Class Radio Telephone Operator permit This permit, with the added “broadcast endorsement,” gave you the authority to operate the radio station's transmitter. With it came the responsibility of making sure the station was transmitting with the correct amount of power and the requirement that you logged transmitter meter readings, usually once ever hour and if you didn't you might have your “3rd phone” rescinded.

10. Purple fingers – This goes back to item #1. Not only were you required to “rip 'n read” the news. If the ribbon containing the ink for the teletypewriter ran out, it was your responsibility to change it, and yes between records. It required a special skill to remove the old one and replace it with a new one that was saturated with purple ink. You had to do this without getting the ink all over your hands. If you were new at the task, you likely ended up the rest of the day sporting “purple fingers.”


Those are my ten forgotten small market radio terms of days gone by. I'm sure there are some I missed. If you can think of others, please leave a comment.  

Friday, October 4, 2013

Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves

or Wizards, Experts and Readers of Tea Leaves


45 RPM record sleeve - Cher - Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves
The recent announcement that Cher was to embark on a grand tour has her fans scrambling for tickets to be there in the front row on what could be her final go 'round. That's yet to be determined. One of her classic hits from the early 70s, Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves,
made me think about all the negative discussion I've seen in the past year or two about what some in the voiceover industry might label as
charlatans, shysters and snake oil salesmen (and women).





I grew up with a dad that didn't trust anyone. He was always looking on the bad side of people believing that everyone had thieving ulterior motives. He was not a trusting man. It was difficult for me growing up not to absorb some of the philosophy and I thought it was true most of my younger life. But, as I age, it can't help observe that most of the people I've come across in my career are pretty genuine. Most of them really want to do good things, but that addictive, dirty, physical thing called money too often clouds their “do good” vision.

Each day my email box and the social media sites fill up with offers of voice actor expertise, classes and events for a fee. Here are some actual headlines, subject text and event titles that I've seen recently:

Are You Ready To Make Money With Your Voice?
Break into V-O! Industry Secrets Revealed
How to become a voice over "A.C.E."
V-O Secrets Revealed: Get The Big Picture
Step Up To the Mic!
Voiceover Master Immersion Class
Voiceover for Gaming Course
Increase your chances of booking that really important audition
Are you serious about breaking into voiceover?
You're on the Air! (Make it in Voice-Overs)
Beginning Voiceover for Improvisors
Are your getting the best voice over rates possible?

Some in our industry question the motives of the people making these offers. But, I think they are all, for the most part, genuine and they all have something to offer. I know many professionals in our industry that offer to help struggling voice actors as mentors and yes there are many that charge for sharing their expertise. That's just the nature of the beast. Some are givers and some are profiteers. That doesn't make them bad. It just makes puts a dollar or many dollars between you and that info or training. But, that's a decision you should make and not let the “nay sayers” dissuade you. Everyone entering this line of work needs to establish a budget for training and pick the training that will benefit you the most. It's like being in a candy shop. “I want one of these, and one of these and two of those and a whole bunch of that one.” To which mom says: “But jerry, you only have a dollar. You'll have to pick the one you want most and can afford.”

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Rudyard Kipling Started the Rumor...

But was he correct? 



Back in 1888 Rudyard Kipling published a story within the book “In Black and White” titled “On the City Wall.” The first line of the one of the chapters in this story about a prostitute reads:  “Lalun is a member of the most ancient profession in the world.”  That appears to be the first time the phrase appears in print and it seems everyone believed him and has kept the myth alive ever since.
In Black and White - Inside PlateI recently attended the reunion of Binghamton NY broadcasters, as I am an alumnus. The Emmy winning actor and well known voiceover talent Ed Herrman was given an award at that event.  In his acceptance remarks he challenged the Kipling myth and said that he believed the oldest  profession is actually storytelling. I'd like to think he is correct.
There is no hard evidence but storytelling may be equally as old and goes hand in hand with another ancient profession - salesmanship.  In some cases the three professions most definitely are intertwined.  For, you need to tell a good story in order to be seductive and win the other person's favor, money and wealth for those services or goods you provide.  Hmmmm...

Here's my top five list of great aural storytellers in this century, some deceased:

5. Oprah Winfrey
4. Dr. Wayne Dyer
3. Paul Harvey
2. Bill Cosby
1. Steve Jobs

And the list of my favorite storytellers in the written form, only one of them is contemporary:

5. Rudyard Kipling
4. Washington Irving
3. J.K. Rowling
2. Edgar Allen Poe
1. The Brothers Grimm

This is an opinion blog, so I'm sure your lists differ from mine.  But, the important thing to remember is that we are all storytellers in our own way.  Some tell stories and make a respectable living doing so and some tell stories just because it's part of who they are.  Have you told a story today? I suspect you have.

* Disclaimer – I don't necessarily sanction the products or services some of the contemporary storytellers offer. However, as storytellers, they are/were masters.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Articulation is not instantaneous...




It often takes many years. 

I recently heard an interview with John Mayer on the CBC Radio One program "Q" with Jian Ghomeshi. If you've never listed to this show, by all means check it out. It's streamed on the Internet, rebroadcast in edited form on American Public Radio and available via RSS feed as a podcast.

Mayer was talking about his maturing process as a singer songwriter. He really is a brilliant artist and quite articulate at the same time. During the interview he simplified something many of us already know.  He compared his career to the young student just out of high school and college as being armed with this fantastic vocabulary and eagerness to use those newly acquired words.  They often write using that vocabulary without the maturity needed to properly articulate.  He said at first you want to show everyone what you can do with those words but it takes 5-10 years before the writing matures. That's the way he looks at his own career.  You can hear the podcast here:

http://www.cbc.ca/q/2013/09/02/monday-september-2/

Now, when I listen to the radio I usually multi-task and was busy doing something else when I heard that interview.  I stopped what I was doing to make some notes so I could write about it here. It suddenly dawned on me that the John Mayer analogy applies to other situations as well including TV news broadcasters, who are are prime example of this.  The young journalist comes out of college with this raw energy, armed with new tools and a big vocabulary. They spend several years in very small television markets maturing and learning how to best to use those new tools and discovering their niche.

Then it it hit me. The same thing happens in our world of voiceover. A new voice talent is eager to use all the tools he or she has acquired during the many hours of coaching and classes undertaken to enter this field of work.  I think that's one of the reasons that many of the leaders in our industry are quick to point out that it take several years of perseverance before success can be realized.  During those years the talent matures and discovers a particular niche, like: character voices or storytelling or medicalnarration.  It often takes time to figure out strengths and weaknesses.  Like John Mayer said it might be several years before a talent can properly and appropriately articulate with the VOICE.  Instant success is rare and often peppered with years of struggle learning to use that voice in a way that is marketable. Even seasoned talent have to occasionally rediscover and retool to keep up with the trends and the demands of an ever changing youth driven industry.

So what do you think?  Am I in the ball park here?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I think I'm getting out of my head.


Improv Class Appears to be Working.


This is part two of the blog story from a couple weeks ago. Remember  when I talked about my experience at the beginning of a six week introduction course into the art of improv? At the time, I was struggling with, as I have been for a while, getting out of my head. It's a term in the acting world used to describe someone that over thinks everything and is always on the defense. I can say that describes me to a T.

As I was entering this brave new world I came to the conclusion that my behavior was induced by working in the public relations field for so many years and having to always be on the defensive, carefully choosing my words so as not to be taken out of context or interpreted differently than I had intended. My job was always on the line.

Fast Forward to week five of improv class. I do believe that the process has begun.
This kind of reminds me of a song I played on the radio as a DJ many years ago by Little Anthony and the Imperials – I Think I'm Going Out of My Head.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3j9bAVqt3c

I'm still in my head but giving myself permission to speak freely without over thinking is an evolving process. It's not going to happen overnight. In improv class it has become easier each week. I think a lot of that has been due to familiarity with the team (other students). As we become accustomed to each other, our thought processes and personalities, we find ourselves becoming more spontaneous and not having to think about our responses. For me that is exactly how I interpret things. Again, I could be over thinking this, but it gives me pleasure knowing that I am, at times, able to just be me. Unfortunately, there are always going to be those “foot in mouth” moments when you say something that you wish you hadn't. I guess that comes with the territory.

As we near the end of the six week class we are starting to work on character development. For characters we repeat what we already know with a few embellishments. It's actually quite simple but takes practice. I found it quite easy to be a character when called upon as long as I allowed myself to just let it flow. Once I started to think about it – wham. I froze up.

Lesson learned: Characters are drawn from things we know and experiences we have had. There is nothing new and we don't need to create. So, I guess the fact that I'm the oldest guy in the class should mean that I should be able to draw upon a ton of life experiences and develop many characters. 

DVD Cover Image - Grumpy Old Men
Now, I'm asking myself the question: What kind of characters or roles should I pursue? I got it. Grumpy Old Man Improv. I would be perfect. I could just be myself. Besides me own experiences to drawn upon, who would be my role models? Why Walter and Jack, of course.


Now, will you kids just get off my lawn and wipe that silly grin off your face.  

Thursday, August 22, 2013

My top five voices of influence...


and they're not the ones you might think.




Who are the voices that I have most admired in my lifetime? Most people in the voiceover world will toss out names like LaFontaine, Blanc, Cullin, Hermann, LaMarche, Adler, Brick, Foray etc. For me the names are somewhat different and for various reasons, not necessarily because they were voiceover talents, but because they were extremely creative and talented men. Yes, men. I think that's beacuse I admired them and looked up to them as role models. So, these are my top five:

5.Arthur Godfrey – He was the champion of conversation (and controversy). Starting first on the radio and then embracing television, Godfrey was the person that I was often referred to as a young radio broadcaster. I was told that if I wanted to succeed in radio I needed to develop a conversational style, one the listener could relate to. People told me that I needed to pay careful attention to how Arthur Godfrey handled conversation and an interview. Surprisingly his radio broadcasts lasted until 1972. So his style of interview and chatter was readily available to a guy like me that had only become interested in broadcasting ten years earlier. Arthur Godfrey made you feel that he was speaking directly to you.

4. Ken Nordine – When I first heard “Word Jazz” and “Son of Word Jazz” many years ago I was most impressed with the voice behind what has been called “beat poetry.” Nordine established himself very early and was on the pop charts in the mid fifties appearing on Billy Vaughn's album “Song of the West” and a very popular hit recording of “Shifting Whispering Sands.”



Best of Chickenman Cover

3. Dick Orkin – No, not the Orkin man. In my teen years I was an avid listener of the big 50,000 watt radio stations WCFL in Chicago and WKBW in Buffalo. Dick Orkin was a staffer at WCFL along with Jim Runyan and Jane Roberts. They created Chickenman and later The Tooth Fairy for WCFL. The series became so popular that Orkin created a syndication company and started distributing the radio comedy series to other stations across the country including WKBW. Orkin is brilliant.



2 William Conrad – Gunsmoke was still running on the radio at the time I got interested in broadcasting, as was Suspense and Yours Truly Johnny Dollar, the last of the first wave of radio dramas. CBS later resurrected radio drama with Hyman Brown's Mystery Theater. To me William Conrad was the voice actor of voice actors. His portrayal of Matt Dillon was in my opinion far superior to anything James Arness could do for the television role. The nuances with is voice and the way he handled the character was top shelf in my book. I followed his career to TV with Cannon and Jake and the Fat Man, and others. Later, thanks to transcription recordings, I discovered his contributions to CBS's Suspense and another high adventure series titled Escape.

1. Stan Freberg – When I first heard his version of The Yellow Rose of Texas I knew that his bizarre sense of humor was going to be one of my favorites for a lifetime. Later he created, with the help of Sarah Vaughn the “Who Listens to Radio” campaign for the Radio Advertising Bureau in which he drained Lake Michigan and then filled it with Hot Chocolate, topped it with whipped cream and the Royal Canadian Air Force flew over to drop a ten ton maraschino cherry on top (woosh).

Be sure you play the link to that skit below. Brilliant!

Monday, August 12, 2013

I can do this...

 but first I need to “get out of my head.”



About a month ago I was given an opportunity through a casual friend I met at Faffcon 3 in Harrisburg, PA. Faffcon is a gathering a of voice actors and actresses who assemble to work on professional improvement through a series of non-conference type workshops. Peter Kappesser, known by his voiceover stage name Peter Katt, invited me to check out Salt City Improv's introductory class. Peter told me that he decided to take the class and others offered, extolling the benefits of improv to a voice actor. He liked it so much that he joined the troupe and regularly performs on stage at the Syracuse based theater. I was hesitant, but since others have also suggested improv's benefits I decided to take the intro class which lead to my enrollment in a six week basic improv series with instructor Jeff Kinsler. I don't think Jeff realized what a challenge I would be when he accepted me as student of improv.

Since I'm rapidly approaching the mid-way point in the six week class, I decided to describe my experience to-date, sharing what I have learned and the challenges ahead for a sixty-six year old who is still stuck in his head.

Gems I have learned

  1. Improv is not as easy as it looks.
  2. “Yes, and” are two very powerful words.
  3. Being a “good listener” is crucial to improv and life for that matter..
  4. It's not about me, it's about the team.
  5. Over-thinking is learned and they say it can be “un-learned.”.
I want start with numbers one, four, and five. In life, I tend to carefully think out what I want to say and how to say it so as not to offend or be singled out. That's what I call the “political science” approach. I am constantly over-thinking and analyzing. I have realized it's a conditioned approach I have acquired through life and through past jobs where I had to think and speak that way. I don't think I was this way when I was younger or even in my early days of broadcasting when I was a live, outspoken performer on the radio. As I look back, I see that improv was part of what I did. Young people have not learned to put that guard up yet, which makes it easier for them to do improv. Their imagination flows freely. I keep telling myself (and so does instructor Jeff) that I need to “get out of my head.” To date I haven't mastered it. I'm wondering if I ever will. I think it also has a lot to do with being part of team, something that's pretty foreign to me, having never been interested in or rarely participated in a team sport. Jeff says that the mind can only think about one thing at a time and that if I focus my mind on another activity, such as making silly movements or gestures that the words will come freely. It's easy for him to say. They don't. If I don't think, the words don't even seem to come out.

Numbers two and three are lessons I will take from improv and they will be forever part of my life, not just during class. The home work assignment from an early class was to utilize the “yes, and” technique in real life situations. Believe me. They are very powerful. In a conversation, you “yes” or acknowledge and accept what the other person has said and then you add to it. “Yes, and let me add to that by saying...” is more powerful than “Yes, but I like green better than blue.” “Yes, but” kills a conversation. “Yes, and” builds a conversation. If you haven't listened clearly, you can't very well do “Yes, and.” Yes and I have heard and accept what you said and add to that by saying...


So, the improv experience has already given me tools I can use. Time will tell if I will ever be able to “get out of my head.” 

 To be continued...

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Five Advertising Lies

That'll suck you in every time.



Free with Purchase
One man I had the opportunity to work for in my broadcasting career was Jim Graham. Jim was an early television veteran, “working his way up,” with the Dumont Network. He died several years ago and wasn't a pleasant man to work for. He had some steadfast rules when it came to advertising and the local community had a difficult time adjusting to them. He would never allow any advertising to run on the radio stations he managed offering: “Free with purchase.” He believed that if you have to pay money (buy something ) to get something for free, then that item is not free. So that would be false advertising. I agree and still do. It's only free if that person offering it will give it to you at no charge just for the asking. The proper phrasing would be “offered at no additional charge.” BOGO is an incarnation of this lie. Buy one, get one is only a lie if you add the word free. If you simply modify that buy saying “at no additional charge,” it's perfectly OK to do. But, the advertisers seldom do.

Images of various advertising offers

Nine tenths of a cent does not equal a penny. The gasoline industry has been doing this since the 1920s. It's rounded off anyway when you reach the register or pay at the pump. So it is one big lie. To make you think that $3.49 9/10 is not really $3.50. Show me how I can pay you 9/10 of a cent and I'll retract this.

BUZZ Words
Buzz words that mean nothing. They might as well be lies like: Super, King Size, Improved, Deluxe, Economy, Lite, Zesty and on and on. What did you do to the product to make it “New and Improved?” Why is it now a “deluxe” package? What makes it a “king size” or a “fun size” for that matter?” Please tell me how a beer or carbonated beverage can be “crisp.”

Offer ends soon order before midnight tonight. If you believe that lie, I have bridge that I'll sell you in the Mohave Desert. Never mind. The London Bridge is there at Lake Havasu City and is not for sale.

Gratuity included.

Wait a minute. It's not a gratuity if you add it as a charge. If I feel like be gratuitous or that your service is worthy of an extra cash bonus, then that's my choice, not your mandate. I will decide how much, thank you.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Who Are You...

Who Who Who (expletive deleted) are you?




Who Am I - Petula Clark
Petula Clark - Album Cover

This week's blog has nothing to do with voiceover. But, then again, maybe it does. If you were tuned in to pop music in the seventies you'll recognize that the title of this blog today is borrowed from the song of the same name written by Pete Townsend and performed by Townsend Roger Daltry, Keith Moon and John Entwistle, a.k.a. The Who. It made its way into the top forty in 1978 and gained a great deal of renewed popularity thanks to Jerry Bruckheimer's CSI. Petula Clark made popular another song with a similar title – Who Am I. There's a new TV show that's gained some popularity of late using another song title as it's show title – Who Do You Think You Are? Bo Donaldson and the Haywoods made that one popular in 1974.



Where is he going with this?
The questions being asked suggest that you really should know a little about yourself and where you came from. “Who Do You Think You Are” focuses on genealogy and is a blatant advertisement for a pay as you go genealogy service called Ancestry.com. I have opinions here but will keep them to myself. I bring this up because I think knowing your roots can tell you a lot about your own makeup and give clues to the inner workings of your own personality.

Knowing who I am and where I came from has been a lifelong passion for me. I have been researching my family roots for the better part of 35 years and have a pretty good understanding of who my ancestors are, where they lived and the lives they lived. For example, the Reed family was a very private family going back several generations. They lived in rural Vermont and in a secluded area of Northern New York. The Ables, on the other hand,  came to this country in the mid 1800s to find a better live than the one they lived in Darmstadt, Germany. Both families kept to themselves. The opposite was true of my maternal grandparents. Both my grandfather and great grandfather were merchants and loved interacting with people. So this explains to me why sometimes I'm very comfortable being very private and can function as a loner. It also explains why I can carry on a conversation with just about anyone and be very comfortable talking to strangers.

All of my ancestors were USA immigrants as some point. I have no aboriginal blood line that I know of and I have researched my family roots through the 1600s in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. One family came to England with William the Conqueror and has Flemish roots. I can trace my ancestors to several passengers on the Mayflower. Another family purchased Oyster Bay NY from the aboriginal natives living there and that deed is on display in the Teddy Roosevelt Museum. I have traced my German ancestors only back to the 1800s. Unfortunately, some German records are very difficult to find due to the two world wars that ravaged the country. Another ancestral family of mine left Ireland during the potato famine for a better life in America. So, I know who I am. I know almost all of the skeletons hanging in the closet and I know who was and is “out” of the closet.
I am fortunate that for many of my families, I have photos dating back to the mid 1800s, when photography became readily available. The images tell a lot about people.

It is still quite difficult for me to understand why anyone would not want to know about their family history. Some people are so focused on the “today and tomorrow” that they have little regard for the past. Knowing where you came from can be very enlightening for a voiceover artist and anyone for that matter. Voice actors are always trying to answer the question: “Who Am I.”

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A voice actor's vortex...

He finally feels the energy.



I took a couple weeks off from writing this blog to take a vacation and re-energize.

All of my life I have been around people who have talked about things like: “feeling the energy,” “the aura,” “the spirit within,” and “spirituality.” Being that I'm a “hands-on, have to hold it and touch it” kind of a guy, I always had difficulty understanding what it is that they were talking about. I suspect I have had those experiences but never could quite get a handle on something that I couldn't “reach out and touch.” I guess that's why I never could quite “get” the idea of religion. I was expected to have blind faith in something or someone that I couldn't see. I never could quite understand the concept.

It's one of those barriers that I have in voice acting too. I have always had difficulty taking on a role that I could only imagine. They appeared to be just words on paper. I accomplish the task but it takes great effort. Being an “announcer” was always easy for me. Ad-libbing, as a radio performer, was also easy. It was my own personality and didn't have to be someone else. Being a voice actor takes a whole different approach.

Sunrise - Airport Mesa, Sedona Arizona - Jerry's Voice the BlogThis vacation has helped me realize that I have to let go of the material things and just let the energy flow in order to take on roles that I can only imagine. I realized that it's not a one-step process. I first have to just absorb the environment. Our trip took my partner and I to Sedona, Arizona. Prior to our arrival, a new word was added to my vocabulary – vortex. I was told that there were four of them in and around the red rocks of the southwest. Early on the morning after our arrival, we woke before daybreak and drove to one of those spots hoping to catch sunrise from the airport mesa vortex. We climbed to the pinnacle of the red rocks just as the sun came up.
 
A cool breeze greeted us and a handful of others that had also arrived shortly after 5 a.m. My goal was to capture the sunrise with my camera, which I did and came away was some awesome photos. I had not really embraced the vortex concept yet as others had. They were there to “feel the energy.” Little did I realize that I would, too. I stood there in the morning breeze and when the glow of the sun warmed my face I experienced something I couldn't touch, but I could feel. I couldn't even talk about it, because I couldn't describe it. I could only feel it.

Buddha Beach - Stone Buddhas - Red Rocks State Park, ArizonaI experienced that same feeling a day later at the Red Rocks State Park. Again my goal was to take photos of Cathedral Rock, an image I had seen in the travel brochures and magazines. We entered the state park grounds and followed the designated trails to the red rocks that the brochures had described. This was the site of another vortex. I knew we were getting close when we came upon an opening where people that preceded us had balanced hundreds of rocks on top of each other in delicate formations resembling pyramids (stone Buddhas). I started to feel something again, but couldn't quite understand it. We proceeded along the trail to another opening where flat red rocks appeared and beyond that another area with that same pyramid type rock creations. There was that feeling again. I knew that thousands of people has previously been to that same spot. They call it Buddha Beach. These people appeared to have left something behind and it seemed to be coming from these balancing rocks. We couldn't resist and created our own, leaving our symbols for those to come.

Cathedral Rock, Sedona Arizona - Jerry's Voice the Blog
I revisited the state park area again the two days later with the goal of capturing a sunrise photo of Cathedral Rock. I got the shot, but chose a slightly different path back to the rental car. I felt something prior to coming upon another lone pile of rocks balanced one on top of the other in a clearing (a stone Buddha). It wasn't just a pile of rocks. It was left intentionally by someone before me. That person also left something else for me to experience, the energy.


Stone Buddah of Red Rocks, Sedona Arizona
I had been to two vortex sites, one of them twice, and I can actually say the experience has helped me leave some of my materialistic concepts behind. I know it's not an overnight process and will take more time. However, I believe the experience will help me be a better voice actor, one that can more readily take on roles and characters I can only imagine because now I know what it is to “feel the energy.”

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Shoot Yourself in the Foot...

and Your Voiceover Career Along With It.


I use all the social networks to promote myself and my voiceover services. I am always willing to connect to other professionals in the voiceover business for the networking opportunities. It certainly has helped in my case when a connection has recommended my services and I have landed jobs because of it. So, let me tell the tale of one such voiceover artist that asked to connect with me and what he did or didn't do.

I have one particular client that I work with regularly. I have done many many projects with this man at two different companies. We have stayed connected over the years and now use LinkedIn to stay up to date. I respect this man and know that we have a solid relationship. So, when he asks to be introduced to one of my LinkedIn connections, I know that it will not jeopardize my voiceover job opportunities with him. We will call him Bob for the sake of this story, although that's not his real name.

Recently, I had a connection request from a man located in one of the major cities in the South. This man we will call Jim. Although, that's not his real name either. When I received the connection request from Jim, he appeared well connected and recommended by other leaders in the voiceover industry. So, I accepted his request to connect. I didn't think anything more about it and didn't investigate further. So, Jim became listed as one of my connections.

LinkedIn makes regular public updates of new connections. Bob saw the update that I was now connected to Jim and reviewed his profile and was interested in adding Jim to his cadre of voiceover artists. So, he asked to be introduced to Jim. Before I responded to Bob, I took another look at Jim's profile and realized there was something missing. There was no link to a professional web site and other than a brief mention that he had a relationship with a public broadcaster, there was no information about his particular credits, or the company he supposedly was connected with. There were no audio demo and no link to video. Fail #1 However, he did have a Gmail address listed. So, I sent Jim an email through LinkedIn and a message to the Gmail account. I told him of the request from Bob and asked for a link to his demos and or web site where his demos could be reviewed.

I had already responded to Bob telling him that I could not recommend Jim as I had not heard his demos, but had written to him requesting links and further information. I would let Bob know as soon as I received a response. That was yesterday. I have not heard from Jim and he may not be a connection much longer. To further complicate things, I decided to look up Jim on Twitter. Found him. But his tweets and account are protected. Fail #2 . I looked for him on Facebook. I found him there, also. He's well connected to some pretty powerful people in the voiceover industry, but still no links to a web site or demos. This guy could be the next messiah for all I care. But, he's a giant failure in my book.


Hunter with Rifle - Shooting Foot
Am I too impatient? I don't think so. In our industry response time is critical. Seconds become minutes become hours become an eternity. I'm not a big ad agency exec and I don't have a big job to offer, but he doesn't know that. So why didn't he respond in this day of smart-phones with email? Beats me.

 Shall we take out the other foot while we're at it?  

Friday, June 21, 2013

Ten Terms New Voice Talent Must Know


Today a special edition blog post - Brad Holbrook had a nice article in Backstage titled “10 Top Tech Terms Actors Must Know.” I built upon his idea to compose my Ten Terms New Voice Talent Must Know.   I'm not an expert and this is not all inclusive, just my opinion.  So, here they are:
  1. Microphone
    You'll need a good one and there are as many opinions as there are acceptable choices.
  2. Recorder
    Many voice talents these days record from their home or home studio. You'll need some way to capture the sound from the microphone. Some will use a computer, others a digital recorder and yet others will use their advanced smart phones and tablets. Included here is also the software you will use to edit those files. Pick what works for you.
  3. Recording Space
    This is the area you have set aside to do your recording. Sometimes it will be a closet, a basement cubby-hole or a full fledged recording studio. Get some advice from a professional so the quality of your recording is the best you can possibly make with what you have available.
  4. Training
    Some call this continuing education. In voiceover we call this coaching. Get some from a credible teacher and don't ever stop.
  5. Demo
    This is your audio work sample, showcasing your voice and delivery styles. You'll need a good one or many. But make sure you do #4 first.
  6. Audition
    This is when a company or person has announced that they would like to hear from many people so they can choose the voice and style that meets their needs for the project that are involved in. You'll do many of these, quite possibly thousands in your career.
  7. Rejection
    Get used to it now. It is something that everyone hates, but must deal with. You will likely do hundreds of auditions before you have success and land a job. If you are lucky (and it's all luck), you will be successful and have many repeat customers.
  8. Marketing
    You'll never get an audition, a job, a referral, or voiceover opportunity by sitting on your hands. You will have to market yourself. Make sure that at every opportunity you let people know who you are and what you do. 
  9. Professional Web Site
    It's the daddy of your marketing outreach. In today's connected universe you MUST have one to promote who you are, your capabilities and how people can reach you easily and quickly. A blog is a web site but more like a newsletter and also complements your marketing outreach.
  10. Accounting
    Bookkeeping is a function of this and something you'll need to be familiar with. If you can't keep track of your money and who owes you money then you might as well just quit now and forget about going into business for yourself.
So, if you need a voice with a Warm Tone, Natural Finish follow this link: 
 I take cash, checks, credit cards and PayPal.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Horse, Horse...

Cemetery, bury all your horses.



In 1957 my parents decided that life in Odgensburg, NY was not their ideal paradise. My dad had taken a job that didn't turn out so good. Plus, there was a certain stigma lurking in that city. It was also home to one of the state mental institutions. People always joked about going to live in Ogdensburg.

So, they packed up everyone, my four-year old sister, newborn brother and me into the 1952 Ford Station Wagon, a U-Haul ® trailer behind and headed for Napa, California. They chose Napa, as their best friends, The Gosso family had moved there a few years earlier.

The interstate highway system was in its infancy and was only finished near a few major cities. So, we eventually found ourselves on Rt 66 headed west and hit every town mentioned in the song of the same name. There are certain things that a 9 year-old might remember: my first time staying in a motor hotel, tumbleweeds dancing across the highway in Oklahoma; being in four states at the same time (The Four Corners – New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah); traversing the Mohave Desert, and seeing all the orange groves and palm trees in Southern California. Oh and my very first custard ice cream cone. There is one other thing that comes to mind from that five day cross-country trip - Horse Horse a game that my sister and I played to pass the time. So, I would look out one side of the car and she would watch the other side. Each time we saw a horse, we would yell out “horse, horse.” But if you mistook a herd of cows for horses you lost a point. When we passed a cemetery on our side of the car we would yell out, “cemetery, bury all your horses.” The opponent would have to start all over again. Naturally that lead to some headed shouting matches. I think when we did the trip again in 1964 we played a variation and much more violent version called Punch Buggy, a game of spotting VW Bugs. There were a lot of bruised shoulders and arms after playing that one. We only lived in Californian for about a year and ended back in New York State to usher out the 1950s and bring in the 60s. It was an interesting time to be growing up. I got to be part of the the early days of rock and roll, the era of The Twist, experienced the surfin' sixties (no where near a beach) and was there for the third British invasion of the Beatles, The Stones, The Kinks, The Yardbirds, Freddie and the Dreamers, and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. I was there when the Stones played the Syracuse War Memorial in 1965. And yes, I even got to experience Mrs. Miller when she hit the charts with her rendition of Petula Clark's Downtown.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

I Don't Do “Dollar-A-Holler...”

and have no plans to really retire.



Dollar-A-Holler image
In my younger years I always told myself that I could never retire. I'm just too much of an active person to be idle. So, the plan has always been to focus on the official retirement age as established by The Social Security Administration, which for me is age 66.   So, that magic date is rapidly approaching. The first “big check,” as I like to refer to it, arrives in August.  

 Since the day I left broadcasting in 1987 to pursue  public relations and promotions,  I have always done voice over and on-camera on the side but never thought of it as a business.  Most of the time I traveled to locations designated by the client or video production company for the recording.  This guy of many interests always wanted to have a recording studio at home, which I have had in some form or another over the years.  Initially it was a suite with reel to reel recorders, then it was using computers. Long before USB audio interfaces became the norm and changed the face of home based voiceover, I figured out that the folks at Creative made a sound card with an external interface that accepted professional microphones and had both optical digital audio and FireWire inputs. I know that's just technical jargon. So, bear with me on this.
Audigy 4
That was back in the early 2000s.  I have had a digital recording system at home ever since and have continually upgraded to stay ahead of the curve.  I share this only to illustrate that having a home studio has always been my focus with the ultimate goal of utilizing that studio to continue to do voice work long after I stop reporting to an outside job on a daily basis.

In early 2011, I announced to my employer that I wanted to gradually reduce my hours with the eventual goal of full retirement by mid 2012. The plan was to focus more of my time on voiceover.  That full retirement came a few months early when the organization decided to eliminate the department.  So I took the severance package and bid the job farewell in January 2012 knowing full well that real retirement was just not in the cards. Another opportunity presented itself when the State of New York invited me to participate in a program called SEAP, the Self Employment Assistance Program.  It's a program that helps people start a small business while collecting unemployment checks but without the obligation of looking for work.  Before that I had not considered starting an actual “business” of doing voice work, but thought of it only from the performance perspective.  It was a good move because it changed my mindset.

So, Jerry Reed – Voice Talent, a business, was launched.  Like any young business there are start-up struggles with financial investments and periods of little income, which is natural.  Some say in the voiceover world to become fully established as a business can take many many years. I am fortunate to have had some savings and now I have that “big check” to fall back on.  Why do I bring this up again?   Well, the income is small but enough for me to look at it as seed money for my business. It also helps me to keep from being tempted to offer my services for “a dollar a holler*, ” just for cash flow. I know the value of my work and can stay focused on doing the best job possible for my clients.

The only drawback to this home based business is the lack of contact with people.   The Internet social networks help to some degree, but nothing can replace meeting eye to eye and face to face.

*Dollar a holler – a term often used in the early days of radio broadcasting to describe very low commercial rates being offered by a competing AM radio stations.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Dump the headphones...

...they're a distracting nuisance anyway.



When I got my first job in radio back in 1964, headphones were a utility whose only purpose was to reference other things. Let me explain. By that time a radio announcer no longer had the luxury of a studio engineer. He had to run his own control board, do the mixing of music, sound effects and do the announcing. I say “he” because it was still a very male dominated industry at the time. 

Stereo broadcasting was still in its infancy.
So, mono ruled because most radio programs were heard on AM. I was provided a headset that had only one ear cup. If there were two I would cover one ear and place the other cup behind the other ear leaving it free to hear what was going on in the room and was only used to know where the levels were in reference to my own voice. This system worked perfectly for many years.

By the time the 1970s rolled around, DJs had access to headphones for stereo music listening at home and began to bring these hi fidelity stereo headsets to work at the radio station. By this time, I was in management positions and saw a trend begin. The headphones were feeding the egos of the DJ's and they started to become infatuated with listening to their own voice and paying less attention to being a good performer. There wasn't much I could do about the problem and it is a phenomena still plaguing broadcasting to this day. The DJ's were not supposed to be listening to the music or their own voice for that matter. They were actually supposed to be spending the time while the music was playing to prepare for the next break. Of course the advent of voice tracking changed all that anyway. I left radio in 1987 to pursue a public relations and promotion career and no longer had to worry about the problem.

I did continue to do voice and on camera work, but never had to worry about headphones. When I visited a studio to record, the engineer always had an intercom and did his directing through that. The talent never had to wear headphones. There was only one time I really needed headphones and that was for a project where I needed to replace video narration but stay timed to the original script. The old audio was fed into my headset so I could pace myself. Again, this was a utility and not to hear how my voice sounded.

Today in my home studio I have set of headphones. And the only time I use them is when I'm in a remote session and the director is in another city, so I don't get feedback from the speakers. Again, the headphones are there only as a utility to hear the director, not my voice. That's what studio monitors are for.

If I'm alone in the studio laying down voice tracks, I never wear headphones. I don't need to hear my own voice. Besides, I find headphones are simply a nasty distraction like texting while driving. Plus, they're not good for your health anyway, especially if you have the levels jacked up too loud. What's that you say? I can't hear you?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Tree of Ripe Peaches


But which fruit do you pick?


I've been doing voice work for all of my adult life. The first twenty-five years were in broadcasting and the next thirty have been peppered with on-camera and voiceover projects that I did while pursuing a public relations career. Now, retired from the PR work, I focus my efforts on the voice business. Training is an important part of this business because we need to try to stay ahead of the curve and trends. Some fields of work call it continuing education. In the voiceover business we call it coaching. It's important to have someone you trust and can work with to help move your career forward. I feel bad for the young or old entering this field of work for the first time. There are so many choices. It's like trying to pick the best peach from the tree.
There's Bill, Penny, Chuck, Harlan, Crispin, Tom, Marc, George, Terry, Bev, Susan, Lau, Tina, Anne, Maria, Marice, Leslie, Linda, Scott, Barbara, Julie, Sherri, and the list goes on and on and on. How do they choose? I'm in the same situation and I've been in this business all my adult life.
I really don't know the answer to the question I posed. You could ask other successful artists who they work with. However, there are several factors at work here. There's cost. Location plays a role. There's cost. Specialty is a factor. There's cost. The number of experts is a factor. And finally, there's cost. Hmmmmmmm.
It seems to me there are as many experts as there are students to learn and the cost to access those experts could be somewhat prohibitive, unless you have unlimited resources. It must be a good business to be in if there are so many experts. I've heard many people say "Those who can, do and those who can't, teach.” Well, I could never be that harsh. There are many many great experienced voice coaches. However, there are some that have no business coaching. Some only coach because it's a cash cow.
So, here are some questions those coming into this line of work need to ponder, and I DON'T have the answers:
  1. How does a person select the right voice coach ( both personalities have to be compatible)?
  2. Are voice coaches credentialed?
  3. Is the coach I select interested in me and my career or just watching the clock?
  4. Will the coach work with me “one on one?”
  5. If I'm in Pocatello, is it possible for Skype sessions or Google hangouts?
  6. Does the coach expect me to come to New York, Dallas, Atlanta or Los Angeles for the learning experience?
  7. Should the trainer be the one to put together my demo or just be an advisor during the process?
  8. How much should I be willing to invest in this coaching/training?
That last question is one being bantered about today relating to higher education, also. People are starting to question the high cost of education and wondering if there ever is a return on the investment. Student loans amount to the lion's share of consumer debt today. I'm sure this is also a factor in the voiceover business. The experts are quick to point out that success in voiceover is contingent on having a good business attitude and a routine that supports that. I agree. But, I continue to wonder about the other factors. So, I toss out one final question.

Where does one draw the line on the cost of this continuing education?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Grumpy old man...

and I have a right to be.
When you write a blog you can write damn well what you want to write about and vent when you want to.  This week I do both.

When you reach my age you have several privileges you have earned by just being knocked around life for many years.  One of those is the right to be a grumpy old man “if you wanna be.”  OK,  you already have the images in your brain of  Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon being Grumpy Old Men.
There was a fun loving side of those characters despite their grumpiness.  So let me first say that I can have fun but have little tolerance for things that I once found necessary to“grin and bear.”

So, here's the “lucky seven” short list of things that will set me off:

1. “I duh know, it's not my department.”  If you work there, every department is your department.  It's your obligation to know about where you work, because I'm going to ask and you should know.
2. “It's just our policy and can't be changed.” Yes it can. It's just a policy and policies can be changed if it's not good for business or your customers.
3. Rudeness.  Be rude and I'll be rude right back.  Eye for an eye. You're fair game now.
4. Discrimination.  No matter what coat you wear or hood. You be you and I'll be me.  Get over your insecurities.
5. Religious zealots. No!  I don't want to be born again. I'm OK with who I am and the fact that your god is not my god, or is she?
6. You lied to me.  I can deal with those little white ones even though they are still lies. But an outright lie to my face?  That'll end the friendship instantaneously.
7. Resale price maintenance (RPM) (just another disguise for the repealed Fair Trade Laws). If I buy a product from your company, I have the right to resell it for what ever price I want.  I can even take a loss if I want to. That's my choice, not yours (Bose, Calvin Klein, Jockey, Oreck, Sennheiser,  et al).

Can they be avoided?  Probably not.  They are part of life these days.  But, I don't have to like 'em.

I guess I could be a hermit, although that is the name of my favorite cookie.  But being a hermit is not good for business in the world of voiceover.  Although, living in Upstate NY does feel like I'm living a hermit life.  So close, and yet so far away.  They say that the Internet is supposed to be to the saving grace for voiceover. They say that you don't have to live in NY City or LA. But, I have found that if you don't and you are not well connected with the people that make the decisions, you might as well be living in the Arctic circle.  So, the grumpy old man in me strikes once again.  You can't get auditions without an agent and you can't get an agent if you don't have regular national clients.  It's frustrating when you have done all the things marketing experts have counseled you to do.

"There he goes, venting again."