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?