Friday, December 12, 2014

Are On-Line Meet-Up Groups Good or Bad?

They are both good and bad.  So for my final blog of 2014, I present my ten arguments, five for and five against on-line meet-up groups. Keep in mind this is an opinion blog and what I suggest is only my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

Arguments for participation in on-line meet-up groups:

1.  They help offset the isolation that comes naturally with working from home.
2.  The members hear new ideas and concepts.
3.  Members share their successes.
4.  You build camaraderie among group members leading possibly to future referrals.
5.  They can be a good thing when things aren't going so well because you have the opportunity to see that others may be having the same experience and can help you figure out how to fix it.

Arguments against on-line meet-up groups: 

1. On-line meet-ups can never be a replacement for real live, face-to-face, meetings which force members to find YOOTH (you're out of the house.)
2. You can share your ideas and find that no one else agrees with you which leads you to believe  and they all think you are a crackpot.
3. You hear of other members successes and you haven't experienced similar successes which raises your anxiety level.
4. You withdraw further back into your shell because you don't want the other group members to think you aren't doing very well.
5. They can be a bad thing because you're looking for solutions and the group members can only share what works for them. They can't help you because you need to find your own solutions.

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Fanboy of Fireside Al

As we begin the holiday season, I am drawn to memories of my days as an avid shortwave radio listener. I can't tell you exactly what date that began but I can tell you I was very young, probably about twelve years of age. My grandfather Everett Reed and I had very little in common. He found me and my toys a bit of an annoyance. We had a duplex house and he and my grandmother lived in the other apartment. There was a doorway between them, so I had easy access to their side of the house. Grandpa Reed was always a mystery to me as he had a wooden leg. Later I would learn that he lost one leg in a tragic motorcycle accident caused when a drunk driver swerved into the path of the cycle. That was in 1921. So for the rest of his life he had a prosthetic leg. He got around reasonably well.

One day I saw him string a long wire from his bedroom window to our garage/barn. This wire disappeared into a hole in the window casing and he connected it (an antenna) to his radio that sat beside his bed. Every time I visited their apartment, especially at night, I would see grandpa sitting in a chair beside his bed listening to the radio. Sometimes I would hear things like: “This is Radio Moscow,” or “You are listening to Deutsche Welle,” “This is Radio Canada International,” or “This is the Voice of America.” Sometimes I would just hear him listening to conversations that began with a jumble of letters and numbers and ended with the word “over.” Then another voice would say similar letters and numbers, talk for a while and then say “over.” When I asked him what that was, he said they were hams. He told me hams were amateur radio operators from all parts of the world. Sometimes they would use their voice and other times they would just send messages using the morse code. He listened to the voice conversations for hours on end. When I took an interest in the shortwave radio he suddenly had more time for me. We had something in common. Grandpa died about a year later. Grandma said I should have his radio which I gladly accepted. Thus began my personal shortwave radio listening.

Shortwave listening was where, in the 1970s, I discovered a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation program called As It Happens. One of the regular hosts of that program was a gentleman named Alan Maitland. As It Happens was broadcast on the regular CBC Radio Network every evening from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and was also carried by Radio Canada International, the shortwave station. So, every evening I found myself listening to the broadcast, long before it was picked up by public radio here in the US. A regular feature of As It Happens was a segment they called “Fireside Al,” “Porchside Al” in the summertime. Alan Maitland would play the roll of storyteller where he would tell a classic tale or other story he found interesting. I was not the only one that liked Alan Maitland. He became very popular and remained a co-host of As It Happens from 1974 to 1993. To this day the CBC replays some of his best stories. The Gift of the Magi and The Shephard are often rebroadcast. Sometimes you can listen to them directly on the CBC web site, but that usually requires a flash player. Here is a You Tube link to the later story. It runs about 30 minutes but is well worth the listen. There are many great storytellers available to listen to these days, too numerous to list here. But, this fanboy will always regard Alan Maitland as the best.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

There's Something Wrong with 40 Under 40

For years now the business community and its corresponding journals has been obsessed with a concept called Forty Under Forty. They select young business professionals under the age of forty to celebrate their accomplishments. What's wrong with that? A lot is wrong with that.

The whole concept of putting the young professionals on a pedestal as if some sort of god like creature gives them a greater than thou unrealistic view of the world. The universities have already done serious damage to their students by instilling a “the world owes me” attitude that was rolled up, tied with a ribbon and presented on graduation day. What this group really needs is an attitude adjustment and a reality pill with a chaser of failure to wash it down.

The United States of America may not be the only country but certainly leads the way when it comes to its disrespect and disregard for its elders with the knowledge and experience they possess. They have gained this knowledge by being allowed to fail and then by learning from those failures.

Am I biased? Certainly. Why? I think it's because I fear for the day the forty under forty finally get to experience reality. I believe they will come crashing to the ground like a rocket with a bad fuel stage, in a blaze of glory. Then, as Edward R Murrow once said on his radio show, “I Can Hear It Know.” The forty under forty will wonder: “What went wrong?” What happened?”

Here's what happened. They forgot to embrace their elders and didn't seek the sage advice the experienced could share; advice that could propel their career and might protect them from the crash and burn that is their destiny.

Disclaimer: The writer of the blog is well beyond forty years of age and is generally accepting of youthful opinion and ideas as long as they are tempered with reality and experience.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Climbing the Ladder of Success

The young and energetic are always eager to climb the ladder of life. Yet little do they realize that each step along the way might be met with a rung that's a bit shaky and they might risk a fall. That risk shouldn't discourage but often it does. Even those that have been in the business a while find that the tree house isn't as easy to reach as we once thought. We have to be cautious of each step. One wrong move and we're back at the base of the tree. If you take it slow, it's an amazing journey.

Ladder photo - copyright 2014 Jerry E Reed
The voiceover business is a system “in flux” as some say. The dictionary usually defines that as meaning it's in a state of constant change. Well, that's certainly true. Last time I talked about adjusting a voiceover delivery to different age groups and demographics. This week it's about needs and wants. The treehouse I alluded to previously is that “prize' or “big job” or “ultimate gig” that everyone so desires. But once you reach the top, is the prize the same as you had believed or did it change along the way?

What was it you were seeking anyway? Was it a great job, perfect voiceover gig, to be famous? Or, was it to be comfortable in life, to be a good provider, to be financially stable or just be a good mom or dad? We all make choices based upon what our needs are, emotionally and physically.

I am fortunate to have had two very successful careers prior to jumping into voiceover on a full time basis. I spent 22 years in broadcasting, a career culminating with development and ownership of a regional farm news network serving 43 radio stations in the Northeast. Then it was 24 years in a new career of public relations and promotion. I worked with the beef industry, an agricultural lobbying organization and an American Indian nation with a casino. Voiceover has always been a sideline. With each of the full time careers I didn't reach the top but I found a limb of the tree that allowed me to be comfortable, rewarded financially and to enjoy many of life's comforts.

I'm a lot older and somewhat wiser for those experiences. Now, I focus on being a successful voiceover talent. It's an inner drive that keeps me reaching for that big treehouse. But, I am enjoying each branch of the tree as I head for the top. So, my point is to always reach for the next rung in the ladder of success, but realize there are some nice comfortable limbs where you can “sit a spell.” There are things to experience, places to see, and great people to get to know along the way. Don't be in such a hurry to get to the top. You'll miss life's amazing journey.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

What Goes Around Comes Around

Warning: This blog is written by and contains wisdom of a senior citizen. Proceed at your own risk.

When I first entered broadcasting as a teenager, “The Announcer” could still actually be heard on some radio stations around the country. There was a local announcer by the name of Elliott Stewart that still rolled his “Rs” and had perfect diction, something you never heard in a real conversation. While I didn't roll my “Rs,” I tried for that perfect diction. But gave that up when one of my mentors told me to “be more conversational.” He said that if I wanted to hear an example, I should listen to Arthur Godfrey. “Arthur who,” I questioned. The TV & radio show was actually called Arthur Godfrey and Friends and was still on the air in my early radio days and continued till 1972. Art had a knack for conversation. As a matter of fact, that's all his program was, a program length conversation. He was also quite controversial, but I won't go into those incidents here.

Then came along a couple of hot shot radio program consultants by the name of Bill Drake and Gene Chenault, both now deceased.. They further perfected the idea of some earlier radio programmers who played the top 40 popular records over and over and the announcer would insert short but rapid shouts or yells between the records. The news reporter was to deliver a sensational news report usually of 2 minutes or less at twenty minutes after and before every hour. Out the window went the conversational delivery. I don't think broadcasting ever recovered.

So you see, the goal of being more conversational has been with us for a long time and is appropriate in many situations. But it depends upon the audience and whom you are targeting. So, if you are going after the “baby boomers” you might want one style of delivery because the audience might relate better. If it's generation “Y” you seek, often called the millennials, you may need a different style as this generation doesn't want you to “sell” a product, yet wants to be catered to. The younger audience today wants to discover your product through their friends and generally rejects formal advertising unless it appeals directly to one of their interests. Today, we are much more aware and responsive to our audiences. We have adjusted our messages and delivery to multi-cultural segments of our population and to the needs of the huge LGBT segment which has gained much wider acceptance in recent years.

My point in mentioning this is to suggest that the more styles of voiceover we can master and deliver the more marketable we can be. But, finding a niche and appealing to it is worthy of a specialty.

Today the casting directors and creative directors often ask for a conversational read but is that what they want or do they just want to appeal to their target but don't know what to ask for? I think it's a little bit of both. Knowing what appeals to an audience segment can give a voice talent a huge “leg up” as they say. Here's a link to an interesting article that might provide some insight. It's called Consumer Segments of Consequence in 2020: Are you prepared?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Don't Call Me That

I have had this discussion with others in the voiceover world. On occasion it has turned in to an argument that I probably didn't win. Here it comes. How dare you call me a voice actor. Now, there it is, my argument starter. It's my opinion. So let's call it a draw before we even start the argument. If you are interested, read on.

Voice Actor Image
I never wanted to be an actor. I hated being on stage taking on the persona of someone else. That's because I am me and I can be no one else. That's also why when I was a youngster I always wanted to be a radio personality. And, I did that for 22 years. The fact that I don't refer to myself as a voice actor probably riles a lot of people and probably limits my marketability as a voice talent. Then again, I refer to it as my vocal niche.

Everyone has a personality and a style. Mine happens to be that of a warm and conversational guy. I love bringing my personality to a client's material. So, when I take on a project, I bring to the microphone a little bit of me, oh OK, a lot of me. Most of the time I'm a nice guy and I think that comes across in the projects I tackle. But, if you piss me off I can be an S.O.B. (some other brand). So if a potential client does tick me off or I offended them in some way, we probably never got to do a project together anyway. There are a handful, I have to admit.

So, if you ask me to be a character in a video game (highly unlikely) or commercial, I'll give it a try. If you want the character to have a personality like mine, we're “In Like Flint.” But, the actor you seek is just not in me.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Keep Commitments and Be Direct

I know I'm supposed to be thick skinned in the business of voiceover. And, generally I am. Knock me down. I'll just get up again, brush myself off and start over. And I'll keep starting over till I can stay standing.

In business relationships and in life I always do what I say I'm going to do. If I tell someone I will call them back tomorrow, I will call them back tomorrow.
How often has someone said to you, “I'll get back to you” and doesn't? It's happening more and more to me and it drives me crazy. I think that's because I'm a man of commitments. If I tell you I will do something, I deliver.
For example: If you contract with me to do a voiceover project and I tell you that I'll have the finished project done by Friday. I will have it done by Friday. If I can't meet that commitment due to something beyond my control, you will get a call or email from me explaining the circumstances and with it a request for an extension.
Image: I'll Get Back To You - Business Man

I have had occasions where I have had discussions with potential clients who use the “I'll get back to you” line as an “I don't want to deal with it now” stall or brush off. They really wanted to say, “I'm not interested in talking with you right now. Go away.” However, I can see right through their vague exercise in temporary politeness.

At one time there was a potential business collaborator who was really excited about doing business with me and worked with me to create a sample we could use to attract customers for our joint effort. Once the initial presentation was complete, I attempted to contact him to check up on potential clients. Calls were not returned, emails not responded to until one day I finally got a response by email. His reply was: “Let me see where we left off and I'll get back to you.” That was the last I ever heard from him. To my knowledge I didn't do anything wrong or inappropriate. Perhaps, he just got busy and was either was no longer interested in the collaboration or his business changed and he saw no reason to continue the relationship. But, he never would tell me directly what the issues were. A year or so later we had occasion to be at an event where our paths crossed. I said hello to him and he returned the greeting with that “Do I know you?” look. I will remember this exchange forever and it has permanently scarred any future relationship.

This is why I always keep commitments and do what I say I will do. I know that if I don't, my business and reputation are at risk.  

Saturday, September 27, 2014

10 Things I Learned at Faffcon 7*

* Disclaimer: No trade secrets will be shared here and no golden nuggets given away without consent. This is an opinion blog and as such these are MY opinions skewed by age and experience.

For those reading about Faffcon for the first time let me explain what it is. It's an un-conference, a meeting concept re-developed and improved upon by Amy Snively for the voiceover industry. Up to 100 working voice actor/artists gather at one geographical location with the hope of learning, sharing and futher developing their already successful careers. It's a concept that seems foreign to some but once experienced becomes quite habit forming.

Ten things I learned at Faffcon:

1. The global voiceover talent base, while extremely competitive, is a giving and sharing community.
(Just ask the Words on Wings program of The Child Language Center in Tucson, AZ.)
2. My issues and problems growing my business are not unique and are experienced by many others.

3. To get the best out of the event you need to learn how to stay up late, as some of the best sessions are not planned activities and occur after hours.

4. While its demise has been widely predicted, ISDN is here for the long haul or at least till that last pair of copper wires are snipped and yanked out of the wall.

5. While being a voice talent requires a “jack of all trades” approach, sometimes for productivity sake you need to be willing to “farm out” some of the work.
Wise Owl keeping watch at Faffcon7

6. It's OK to hate cold calling. A lot of people do. But, don't suggest that you hire someone to do it for you because it's a concept that won't get a warm reception in the voiceover world.

7. While some working in voiceover have a fan base, it's much more advantageous to have many advocates.

8. Voice talents, for the most part, have a split personality. There's the creative self and the marketing self. The former is very confident and the latter is quite insecure.

9. It's OK to have a voiceover niche and everyone should find theirs. Because we can't be all things to all people.

10. Repeat #1.

Note:  I also learned that Tucson is a great place for a nature photographer to spend the weekend.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Why is it labeled “work” if it's so much fun?

I can think of only one job I've ever had or been given that I really hated. I may have disliked certain features or activities associated with the job, but never the job itself. I think that's because of my philosophy of work and why I always worked, in addition to the financial reasons. The one I hated was the ditch my father made me dig, as a 16 year-old, in our back yard when we had problems with out septic system. I hated it and could not think of one thing about it that I liked.
But all of my jobs, as an adult, I liked. Oh sure there were people I didn't like working for and aspects of the jobs that I didn't really care for. But, the jobs themselves were either rewarding experiences or activities that I enjoyed doing. I even sold paint at Sears when I was in college. Helping people find the right color and all the accessories they would need was kinda fun.

I loved broadcasting and loved being an entertainer on the radio. I found marketing and public relations to be challenging and the rewards of seeing the results of my efforts always made the jobs quite enjoyable despite difficult bosses, or clueless clients. I always tried to keep focused and forge forth with a positive attitude, because I loved the work.
Now I've moved on and am focusing on my voiceover business full time. It's one more job that I absolutely love doing. Again, those long days in the studio when I seldom come up for air and unreasonable deadlines that often loom can make things challenging. I still love it, though. It's still fun. When the project is finished, the editing is done and I review the audio, I have a sense of pride in that work. The icing on the cake is when the client sends me a check.
I guess I have been fortunate to have always had jobs I liked. As a matter of fact they have all had a “fun” side. That's because I always made sure they did. It's all in the attitude. If you look at the job at hand as difficult, too time consuming, too menial, too messy, or too much work, well, you're looking at it all wrong.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Out of the Closet

This blog entry is not a warn and fuzzy one or a rant. It's just something that needs to be said.

The theme song from the film Mash was a song titled: Suicide is Painless.

That is the furthest from the truth. The pain is felt by many: family, close friends and if you are a celebrity, your fans. The recent headlines containing the news of the suicidal loss of Robin Williams brought great attention to the stigma of mental health disorders.

This issue is certainly known in my own family. I am the unofficial historian for several of my ancestral families. While doing the research on my paternal grandparents I discovered that my great grandfather, whom the family never talked about, committed suicide. Not only did he take his own life, but he staged the event so his family would see the results when they returned from a trip to the movies one evening in 1927. No one knows the real reason he did it, other than he was in poor health physically but certainly his mental health was not good either. This event was kept a secret in my family for several generations. The stigma was so strong that when I revealed this in a document I prepared for our family history some members of the family were flabbergasted and told me that I should remove the information suggesting that “this was not something you want to read about in a family history.”

If you visit the Veterans Administration Hospital in Syracuse, NY you will not see the “Behavioral Health Unit” listed on the floor directories. You will see the sixth floor and the eighth floor, but the seventh floor is not listed. It's not like the 13th floor in a hotel that doesn't exist. It's there but just not spoken of publicly. The stigma associated with mental health is still very prominent.

It is time we started talking about mental health issues, openly. If you know someone that is in trouble, seek help, not only for them but for yourself to help you help those in trouble. Like many other issues in our lives once taboo, it's time to bring mental health “out of the closet.”

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

It Has Been An Interesting Ride So Far

It's been a while since my last blog entry. It's not that I haven't thought about it. It's just that every time I sat down to write something I ended up scrapping what I wrote. Plus there are times when other events in our lives take over and get us sidetracked.

I reached another birthday milestone this summer, number 67. I also realized that it has been ten years since my wife of 36 years passed away. On a happier note, I celebrated year number nine with my new partner in life. I continue to believe that the voice over business will be fruitful in my senior years, despite the constant call for young voices. One day they (whomever they are) will realize that to reach the people that have all the money (retiring baby boomers), they'll need someone that can “talk the talk” and “walk the walk.” 

Damn it's been interesting ride so far. So, I decided that it might be fun to do a little biographical sketch. Who am I and where did I come from?

I grew up in the small farm community of Schuyler Lake, NY, those were my pre-teen years. As a teenager, I discovered that I wanted to be a radio announcer and disk jockey. I practiced and practiced and practiced. I did everything the experts suggested. I studied and got the necessary licenses that the FCC required. I apprenticed under the top pros in the market. Then I applied for my first job and they hired me at the top popular music station in Utica, NY. That was at the ripe old age of 16. It was only a Sunday night gig that summer but I was happy playing the hits. Then my dad was transferred at the end of the summer and I had to give that up. So, I had to start all over again in a new location. It took a few months of hanging out at the local radio station before I landed my second job in radio which launched a career that spanned two decades. It was something that I wanted to do and I did it. At the age of 19, I joined the U.S. Air Force and was fortunate to be classified as a Radio and TV Production Specialist and served in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. During the time I served with the Air Force and the years after I landed on air jobs in Denver, Colorado and San Angelo Texas, then back to New York to Watertown, Binghamton and Endicott. It became clear even back in the 1970s that the income I needed to raise a young family was not to be had as a DJ. So, I decided to develop and launch my own business, a radio network.

So, after 15 years as DJ, announcer & program director, I started the RFD Radio Network, which later would be known as the Northeast Farm Report. The idea was to provide radio stations with a daily rural and farm news and interview program. It caught on quickly and became popular with the audiences of 43 radio stations in the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. I had an opportunity to sell that network in the mid 80s to a company that wanted to merge my network with the farm news offering it had with the radio station it owned. I suddenly found myself back in Utica NY after being away for nearly 20 years. I continued with the newly merged enterprise for three more years.
It was during this time that I made the acquaintance of some people what were starting a new video production company concentrating it's work in the area of dairy farming and other agricultural topics. They needed a voice-over talent and on-camera presenter. I traveled across the county with this group to do work for The National Milk Producers Federation, Eastern Milk Producers Cooperative and more. That work was noticed by others and I started doing both voice-over and on camera work for other production companies with clients such at Syracuse Research Corporation, Crouse Hospital, & Amoco Oil.

Then came a new opportunity. Some farmer acquaintances, prominent beef producers in New York State, had formed an organization, The New York Beef Industry Council, to promote beef consumption to consumers, but were struggling to do that work over the farm kitchen table, as volunteers. So, they decided to hire a staff to do the work. I applied and became its first Executive Director and with a staff of four we were tasked with collecting the promotion funds from beef producers and then coordinate promotion efforts with other state beef councils as affiliates of the national beef promotion program. The well known “Beef It's What's For Dinner” campaign came from that affiliation. Beef was my thing for the next twelve years. I even managed to get the opportunity to be the voice of a national radio commercial for Veal, The Special Choice. But as promotion money started to shrink, due to changes in the cattle industry, after 12 years I sought out a new opportunity.

The state's major farm lobby group, The New York Farm Bureau, needed a director of communications to replace someone that that secured a government appointment, which was not all that uncommon for them. I applied and was appointed to that position. I continued to do voice-over and on camera work as a side venture. The experience at New York Farm Bureau was a brief two years and came to an end when my wife's declining health required that I spend more time looking after her. A job two hours distant was making that difficult.

Another farm acquaintance that had become the Director of Media Relations for The Oneida Indian Nation, was looking for someone to join his staff to help with media relations as the Oneidas were growing their resort and casino, as well as other business ventures. Since this opportunity was closer to home, I joined them and would work with the Oneidas for the next eleven years as I continued to doing voiceover and on-camera work for production companies as well as the production company owned by the Oneidas. It was in 2011 that the communications department there was restructured, just the incentive I needed to focus on my voiceover business and make it full time. So here I am and as they said in the famous Virginia Slims Cigarette commercial: “You've come a long way baby.”

Friday, June 13, 2014

My Life Without Animation

In the voiceover world I have just done the equivalent of swearing in front of a three year-old. To actually say, out loud, that you don't watch animation is just something that is taboo. So many people make their living as characters in animated projects. I feel a conversation, one you might hear in a therapist's office, coming on.

Therapist: “Well, Jerry what traumatic event happened in your life to make you not like animation?”
Jerry:”I think it's all in my imagination.”
Therapist: “ Tell me about that, Jerry”
Jerry: “ Well, as a child when I watched animation, I didn't know who the voices were and they became the character. When I watched Popeye episodes, the persons playing the role of Popeye and Olive Oil became the characters. When I heard the voice of June Foray in Rocky and Bullwinkle, I only knew her as that character. Today, when I watch, my brain pulls up an image of June. When I listened to Bob Dryden play one of his many roles on CBS Mystery Theater on the radio in the 70s and 80s, I had not met him yet and could only imagine the character in the play.”
Therapist: “So if you know the person or have a real image you have a problem with that?”
Jerry: “I do. It's not the actual animation that I have a problem with. It's beyond that. I cannot watch Shreck because when the donkey appears on the screen, my brain pulls up an image of Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop.”
Therapist: “Go on.”
Jerry: “I like to call it the 'theater in my mind.' I have listened to thousands of old radio drama broadcasts. My mind is conditioned to set the stage or scene. It creates the characters using audio cues, narrative descriptions and the sounds the characters make. When I see the character on the screen, my imagination now has a conflict, between real, imagined and what's before me on the screen.”
Therapist: ”How does that differ from Meryl Streep playing the role of say Margaret Thatcher or Miranda Priestly on the screen?“
Jerry: “I'm not sure. For some reason I know that it's Meryl Streep but my brain allows me to accept the character she is playing. However, if I heard her voice in an animation project, I would always pull up an image of Meryl Streep instead of the character being portrayed. It gets in the way.”
Therapist: “And this prevents you from watching films like Kung Fu Panda and Madigascar?”
Jerry: “Yup. Jack Black is always going to be Jack Black and Reese Witherspoon will always be Reese Witherspoon to me. Now if they had selected voices that I didn't already know visually, I think I would be fine.
Therapist: “You're a sick man Jerry Reed and need professional help beyond what I can provide. I have to say one thing. You are missing some very creative, talented people working at their craft.”
Jerry: “I know, but I think I'm beyond help at this point, a lost cause.”

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Twenty Phobias Troublesome for Voiceovers

The blog is a real quickie this time around. 
I present twenty phobias that might get in the way of a voiceover career. 

1. Atychiphobia- Fear of failure.
2. Atelophobia- Fear of imperfection.
3. Bibliophobia- Fear of books.
4. Chrometophobia or Chrematophobia- Fear of money.
5. Chronophobia- Fear of time.
6. Decidophobia- Fear of making decisions.
7. Doxophobia- Fear of expressing opinions or of receiving praise.
8. Gelotophobia- Fear of being laughed at.
9. Glossophobia- Fear of speaking in public or of trying to speak.
10. Isolophobia or Autophobia or monophobia - Fear of solitude, being alone.
11. Kakorrhaphiophobia- Fear of failure or defeat.
12. Laliophobia or Lalophobia- Fear of speaking.
13. Logizomechanophobia- Fear of computers.
14. Logophobia- Fear of words.
15. Macrophobia- Fear of long waits
16. Metathesiophobia- Fear of changes.
17. Phonophobia- Fear of noises or voices or one's own voice; of telephones.
18. Ponophobia- Fear of overworking or of pain.
19. Psellismophobia- Fear of stuttering.
20. Sesquipedalophobia- Fear of long words.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Things that Clique

or go bump in the night.

If you have children, you've likely found that the word “clique” entered your vocabulary somewhere around the teen years, perhaps even before. I revisited the subject recently and as I was reading I suddenly realized that our “voiceover” industry, now that it has fully embraced social media, has started forming just that very thing. They're out there whether we want to admit it or not.

Sherri Gordon on writes in her page about bullying, “Kids are often attracted to cliques because they place a high importance on being popular or cool. Cliques give them a place where they can get that social status.”

The Nemours Foundation in it's on line article about How Cliques Make Kids Feel Left Out
says “Kids who get into cliques usually want to be popular and feel cool. Sometimes kids think that belonging to a clique will keep them from feeling left out.”

To the voiceover industry I ask these questions, and I don't have all the answers :

Does any of this sound familiar?
Is our industry falling victim to an age old problem of cliques?
Are you one of the chosen ones or being left along the side of the road?
Do we alienate people intentionally or is it just the cruel way human nature works?
Are we afraid to welcome new voiceover friends because they might be competition?

The Wiki How to Do Anything site How to Run the Most Popular Clique in School has a great little page about forming a clique. The article gives ten steps. (I have paraphrased.):

1. Figure out who you want in your clique.
2. Pick your clique members and hang out with them
3. Ask yourself: Are you cool?
4. Be aware of yourself and your looks.
5. Make rules for your clique to follow.
6. Have a badge that no one else can wear.
7. Make sure you have a way to communicate (Social media is an obvious one.)
8..Are you the alpha in your clique?
9. Have a few parties once in a while.
10. Oh and, have exclusive sleepovers.

I hear, all the time, comments like “our industry is very supportive.” Well that may be true but is it supportive of everyone or just those that have made it to the inner circle. How often have you seen a newcomer post something on a social media site, a very thoughtful and interesting comment or discussion, only to be ignored? Then when an “inner circle” member posts that same thought or story, the industry jumps in on the discussion. For some reason the original Disney Jungle Book comes to mind. I can hear Louis Prima singing now - “Ooh-bi-doo, I wan'na be like you. I wan'na walk like you, talk like you, too."

Have I hit a nerve? Take a look around. I hope so.

Friday, April 25, 2014

I Suck at Marketing

I'm a professional voice artist and have been doing it for all of my adult life, I'm a pretty good cook and quite accomplished at baking artisan breads, if I do say so. I take decent photographs, specializing in nature photography. But I SUCK AT MARKETING my voiceover business. There I admit it. That's the first step right?
Image of Jerry Reed - Voice Talent
Jerry Reed - Voice Talent
I know I am not alone in this business of voiceover. Others have the same problem. No matter how hard we try, the marketing skills are not easily mastered. It's just something we don't very well. That's what agents are for right? Oh, but agents aren't interested until you have a proven success record. Here they come the chicken/egg, horse/carriage arguments. The pay to play sites position themselves as voiceover marketplaces but do little to promote the talents that have paid to be on their roster. It's not enough just to give talent an opportunity to audtion and fend for themselves. What is needed as a team of professional marketers that will go to bat for specific voice talent, promoting them to companies for projects where a voice is needed. There's a whole world that exists outside the casting call arena, a world that hasn't a clue what a casting call is or how they work. It's a world that's just finding out about explainer videos, a world that still uses the secretary to voice the power point or the company phone system. These people just know they need a voice for a project but don't know where to to turn to get one. Often they try the P2P sites and come away frustrated having to listen to a whole bunch of auditions. All they know is they need a voice and 90% of the time don't even know what they are looking for.
So here's an opportunity for someone to be not only an agent but a promotion/marketing specialist. Why don't these exist in our industry? For it to be worthwhile, the commission would have to be quite generous. Agents don't get a very high commission, in my opinion - usually 10-15%. But what if that person was offered a higher commission rate to actually promote a specific talent? I'd be first in line if I didn't have to do the marketing. Not only do I not like doing it. I SUCK AT MARKETING.  

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Voiceover Wisdom from a 150 Year Old Book

Years ago I picked up an old book at a used book sale, out of curiosity, and filed it away on the book shelf. The book, Sanders' High School Reader by Charles Walton Sanders was first published in 1856. So it is long out of copyright. I often look to old books that are in the public domain for practice material and stories to record as a storyteller. This particular book has a great deal of prose and poetry and includes material from leaders and teachers of that time period. For some reason I pulled the book off the shelf early this week looking for something else and stumbled on some wonderfully helpful material for voice actors. The very first chapter of the book caught my eye and contains six sections in a total of 44 pages:
Sanders' High School Reader - Spline View Elocution
Accent and Emphasis
The Rhetorical Pause

This is the kind of stuff they don't teach in school anymore and so valuable for voice actors. I found the section of inflection to be most useful, especially for the copy mark-up symbols that I will be using in the future to help me use the correct tone when delivering copy:
Sanders' High School Reader - Title Page Horizontal Line - Monotone
/   Right Leaning Slash – Rising Inflection
\   Left Leaning Slash – Falling Inflection
The curve or open U – denotes Circumflex where the first part of the word rises and second half falls or the opposite. An example might be: “If he is going to roME than I'm going to PARis. 
There's also a section of mark-up symbols for making notes on your copy for modulation. 
 This is good stuff, not only for the mark-up symbols but especially for the voice lessons within.
Language changes over time and many of the examples used in the book might be a bit dated. But, I found these forty-four pages to be some very valuable tools for me as a voice actor. Perhaps you will too. You can download the entire book for free from Barnes and Noble as a Nook book or as an eReader/PDF from Google Play-Google Books.

Google Play Store/Google Books
Barnes and Noble also has a copy for free.

Check out Sanders' High School Reader by Charles Walton Sanders. Great material that has stood the test of time. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Five Rules for a Great Interview

In my last blog I talked about my days traveling throughout the Northeast US capturing stories from interesting rural folks. It was a wonderful time in my life and many of those stories and anecdotes remain permanently embedded in my memory. I would never have been able to share those stories with the listeners of RFD Network without adhering to some basic rules. These rules didn't come from a book or a college class. They are MY rules and they worked for ME. As I look back I realized that these basic Jerry Reed Rules of Interviewing can apply to many of life's situations. So here they are:

Rule #1 – Research and Review

Before conducting an interview, familiarize yourself with the topic. If you go into an interview cold with no knowledge whatsoever, it will show. You need not be an expert but should be familiar with terms and have some basic understanding of the topic you are going to discuss. Otherwise, you will find it difficult to move on to the next rule.

Rule #2 – Relax and Engage

For you to have a great interview you and your subject will need to sound relaxed and conversational. I always engaged in an informal short conversation prior to even getting the microphone out of my kit. It helped to make the subject feel comfortable talking with me and it allowed me to gauge how responsive the person will be to my questions.

Rule # 3 – Ask and Listen

For any conversation to be engaging the two people involved both need to listen to each other. The interviewer asks questions and then needs to stop and actually listen to the response. It may take your conversation in a different direction but that's OK. You can always steer the conversation back with subsequent questions, But, if you are an active listener and engage in the conversation, you'll be amazed how smooth the interview ill go. You can edit it later.

Rule #4 – Capture and Record

This can mean an actual recording or capturing the conversation by taking notes. An actual recording is best, in my opinion, even if your end product will be written. That way there's no mistake what was actually said.

Rule #5 – Be Gracious and Thankful

Politeness and being gracious go a long way. You want to leave favorable impression. I always looked at each interview as an opportunity to build a relationship. It may not be a long term friendship but the person you just interviewed is very likely to share that positive experience with others. And that is part of your reputation under construction. Once you conclude the interview, you need to make sure you show your appreciation for the time the subject spent with you. Just say thank you and mean it.  

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Use it Up, Wear It Out

Make It Do, or Do Without

I never knew how important those words were when I first heard them. I was interviewing an old country doctor who was still making house calls in the early 80s. The interview was broadcast on the RFD Network not to be confused with RFD TV a very popular TV cable network that came into being much later.  RFD Network was radio network that I developed. When I sold it in 1983 it was providing forty-three radio stations in the Northeast with a daily farm and rural news and interview program. I traveled throughout  Pennsylvania, New York, and the New England states interviewing interesting rural folks about their lives and the things that made them fascinating people with interesting stories to tell. 
Getting back to the doctor, I'll call him Dr. Rose. He was a very conservative doctor with modest means who throughout his career made house calls, once something every country doctor did. He told me interesting anecdotes about some of those house calls. He was fascinating to talk with. He said something that stuck with me and I often share the philosophy with those that will listen. This doctor didn't appear to have much to show for his many years in practice. I don't know what he had in the bank. He said that he operated on a basic philosophy the he learned from his parents during the depression.  If he bought something, he used all of it without wasting any.  He didn't buy new when something he had worked perfectly and served its purpose.  He made do with the things he had and if he didn't need it, he did without.  Hence the phrase: “Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do or Do Without.”
I also met another man in my travels. His name was Gene.  Now, Gene was a dairy farmer who somehow managed to provide for his family quite well during his lifetime.  If you visited his farm, like I did, you would quickly notice that his farm didn't have any of those big blue metal and glass silos that all the other farmers seem to have. Gene believed that he could do quite well without one and therefore didn't burden his farm with the expense keeping his profit margins much wider.  He must have known Dr. Rose, for he seemed to be operating on the same premise only buying what he needed. Add to that was Gene's philosophy of only buying what he could afford.  If he didn't have the cash, he didn't buy the item. He just saved until he had enough to buy it without adding debt. 
I operate my voice-over business on much the same philosophy.  I hate debt and will go to all extremes to avoid it.  That means I have to suffer what I call Voiceover envy. I watch from the sidelines as many of my fellow voice artists traverse the earth in search of the next great voice conference to attend.  Yes, it helps to rub shoulders with your peers and meet new people, something I should do more of. But, when I don't have the cash, I simple don't go. Has it hurt my business? That's hard to tell. From the sound of the tweets and social media posts everyone else has more work than they can handle. I don't believe a word of it. This business had an ebb and flow.  Sometimes there's work and between jobs there are serious dry spells.  If you are one of those that truly has more work that you can handle, I'm happy for you. 
So, I probably won't be winging my way west to faff about or be in the crowd in the one and only conference called – Voice. Regardless how temping the frequent flyer miles are or how much fun that drinking activity at the local waterhole in the pre-conference hours might be, I regret that I'll just have pop open one in your honor as I save the bucks for more important things, like a Sennheiser 416 or a Neumann TLM103.  I might even be able to buy a Neumann U87 with the money I might save.

(Those items I listed are highly desirable microphones for people in the voiceover industry).

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

In A World of Puppies and Kittens

There I've got your attention.

I learned a great deal when I left broadcasting in the mid 80s to venture into the world of public relations and marketing. I quickly learned that Beef was not what's for dinner in many households and that healthy eating messages weren't going to change people's habits much. I learned that consumers generally think farmers are good, honest people and the products they produce are for the most part healthy.  I learned that many people dream of striking it rich through gaming and never give up but do give up millions in the quest. I learned that consumers generally do not trust big business and their government.  I also learned that advertisers and marketers will never completely reach their target audience because the target constantly moves and changes its face. I also learned how important one word could be.

I remember a time when companies separated marketing functions from public relations and most of the time had separate agencies doing the work without having contact with each other. Bizarre. Thankfully, some of that has changed in the last 20 years.  Some say that social media is changing the face of public relations and for a PR practitioner to survive and be successful, a focus on social media is imperative. I think the problem is much more basic than that.

I'm not going to go in to a long tirade here on the subject.  However, it is my belief that somewhere along the road oft traveled, the word “relations” was dropped or misplaced.  We used to hear these terms:  media relations, public relations, customer relations, employee relations etc.  When the industry started using abbreviations like PR and MR I think they managed to forget the most important word in the phrase: relations. 

I used to speak to college groups about my experiences, offered suggestions and often talked about that very word.  Young students, wide eyed and idealistic had all sorts to grand ideas on how they planned to change things once they obtained that parchment to hang on the wall and ventured into the world.  I doubt if my opinion changed very many of them. But, I told them that they should never forget or misplace the word “relations” and that it would be the single most import word to ever impact their career.  Without a focus on relationships, success can never be obtained. It's true in our personal lives. It's true in our business lives and it's certainly true in social media.

So, I say to a world that loves puppies and a kittens, remember you need have to have a relationship with that big clumsy elephant in the room or you might get stepped on.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Noises in the Studio

Admit it. You've dealt with these.

After several years of makeshift home recording solutions, I finally spent a summer, about 4 years ago, creating my current recording space. I found a place in the lower level sometimes called a basement. Our home has as much living space in the basement level as there is above ground. So, there's a family room, a workshop for my “home improvement” tools, a storage room, office, full bath and a 6 x 8 space that I converted into a home voiceover studio. I bought the half inch thick sheet rock, and layered them with Green Glue (r) in between. I treated the room acoustically and added the necessary lighting. Since the space faces a foundation wall I don't get any outside noise, except for the weekly trash hauler truck with the faulty muffler whose vibration resonates through the earth. The draw-back to this space is that it is near the main heating/air conditioning plant and the water heater which have to be dealt with come recording time. The room has a nice tone for recording. I'm happy with the results.
Like most people doing their voiceover work from home, I also need to come up with solutions to common problems. So here are my problems and how I deal with them:

1. HVAC – I have a forced air system that supplies heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. It happens to be on the other side of the wall of my voiceover booth. It was unavoidable. The layered sheet rock blocks out most of its noise but if the HVAC is running my noise floor rises to about -45 db, not acceptable in my book. So I either warm up the house to a higher higher temperature than normal or cool it to a lower than normal temp before I start a recording session. Then I simply shut the system down (on/off switch) for the next hour to hour and a half. I record for that period then turn the system back on and use the next hour to edit my work. The house stays relatively warm or cool during that period until I re-energize the system. It works pretty well.

2. Water Heater – It's located in the same space as the HVAC. The water heater runs on natural gas. So, when it's heating water it sounds like the exhaust of a rocket ship. This is not good. The water heater has a thermostat dial on the front. If I am impatient and don't want to wait for the cycle to finish, I simply adjust the dial to a lower temp to shut it down. I have to remember to turn it back up after the session so no one gets a cold shower later.

3. Washer & Dryer - Both of these appliances are on the upper level and at the far end of the house, as is the refrigerator. The only appliance noise from upstairs that I have to deal with is a faint low frequency groan of the dryer that vibrates through the floor above when it's running. The simple solution - we do laundry when I'm not recording.

The Wiener Dogs - Jake and Penny
4.The Wiener Dogs – My partner is away during the day. That leaves me with two miniature dachshunds and a cat. As most people know, the cat sleeps most of the day so he can prowl at night and crinkle plastic bags with his claws. He knows this annoys us and will wake us from a sound sleep. Any person that has dachshunds in their family will tell you that they bark at anything the moves. This can be a problem. Our two hot dogs do sleep a great deal and love to cover up under a comforter or blanket. So, during recording sessions, I make sure the drapes are pulled and doors closed so they can't see out. This cuts down on barking noises and is reasonably successful most of the time, except when someone else is walking their dog in the neighborhood. They know. I don't know how but they know. This too shall pass in time.

5. Noisy Clothing – I learned very early on that nylon wind pants are a no-no in a voiceover studio. As a matter of fact anything nylon seems to make a noise that is simply unacceptable. So I keep the the clothing to functional soft cotton fabrics. Fleece, cotton t-shirts and well broken-in blue jeans work best for me. I suppose cotton pajamas will work too. Hmmmmm.....I don't have any of those (ha ha).

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The best made investment

for a voiceover business.

Fresh out of high school, I decided to enroll in a small but growing local community college. I had no idea what I wanted to do or what I wanted to learn. I was just a kid enthralled with broadcasting and being on the radio. But everyone said I needed to go to college. So, I enrolled in the business/accounting program figuring I would need a good knowledge of business to make it in the world. My heart and head weren't into it so I dropped out after a year and a half. I would eventually go back to college and complete my education later in life. Accounting 101 was the single most important course I would enroll in, that first year of college.

It was clear early on that I was not cut out to be an accountant. But, getting that basic understanding of accounting and bookkeeping principles was an important learning experience, one that I would keep coming back to for the rest of my life. I didn't even realize how important it was at the time.

So when it came time to put together a blog entry this week I was having a bit of a writer's block. So, I decided to load up the tax prep software that I had purchased to see if I could get a start on the filing of this year's income taxes. I keep great records and the process went along very quickly. I was done and ready to file the return in no time.

Having a system to keep track of your business is essential. Computer software makes the record keeping easy. But, if you don't have the basic understanding of what you are doing, you can easily be overwhelmed by the task. So, today I give you my recommend list, very unscientific, of things I think everyone should do to keep track of your voiceover finances.

1. Get organized and have a system – This can be as simple as eight or ten manila folders in a box. If you keep things electronically, then a folder on your computer with sub folders. Mark or name the folder with obvious titles such as: advertising/marketing, communication expenses, internet services, office expenses, vehicle expenses, utilities, professional fees, and miscellaneous. Do this even if you also have an accounting system on your computer. You'll need these folders to easily retrieve a document later, especially at tax time. This brings to mind tip #2

IRS- Schedule C snapshot
2. Use the same account names as your taxing authority - If you are in the US, set up your system of expense accounts to reflect those used on the schedules designed by the Internal Revenue Service or to reflect those used by the tax revenue entity you report to. You'll be very glad you did at tax time.

3. Take an adult education or on line course in basic bookkeeping. There are many of these available on You Tube for free. Take the time to learn, despite the fact you may be using Quick Books, Quicken, ZoHo Books, or other computer based system. If you have a basic understanding of double entry bookkeeping and the principles of debit and credit, your year end obligations to the government will be less daunting. Knowing that I have kept good records during the year, I simply print off a standard report called an Income Statement and transfer the amounts to the tax form. Voila! I'm done.

4. Ask your tax adviser - If you don't want to take the time to learn about bookkeeping, then meet with your tax adviser at the beginning of the year. Ask him or her how he or she would like to have the information organized at the end of the year. Then, keep up that system throughout the year.

5. Keep good records - I am a firm believer that keeping good records of money coming in and money going out is critical. I am reminded of that old saying from back in the 60's. “Do you know where your kids are?” Translated that would be: “Do you know where your money is?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

All work and no play

 makes Jack (Jerry) a dull boy 

The title of this blog is an old English proverb we've all heard. And it's true, especially in the voiceover world. It is my belief that even if we are booking work every day, we all need diversions to keep life interesting and to keep us fresh.

The past couple of months I have found myself in the studio doing several long form projects. Previously, I always focused on shorter recordings, brief explainer videos, commercials and children's stories, obviously brief.

When the opportunity presented itself to get involved in reading some longer screenplays for a film producer I jumped at the chance and the money was excellent. These projects, always due with a short turn-around, required me to be in the studio for many hours at a time, several days in a row. I was not conditioned for this. It was then I realized how valuable and healthy it is to have diversions and other interests. I was already doing something that I took for granted as to its overall value.

Back in 1969, when in the US Air Force I was assigned to a one-year tour of duty in Thailand, during the Vietnam War. As a Radio and TV Production Specialist I was deployed to The American Forces Radio and TV station at Takhli, north of Bangkok. It was there that I grabbed the opportunity to buy, at significant discount, my first 35mm camera. The air base had a hobby photo lab where I learned also to process my own film and make prints. Times have changed and I rarely make prints now opting for digital display. But, photography has since been of great interest to me.

So, between these long form voiceover projects, I make sure I get out with the camera. I find it very healthy, gets me out of the studio, and is quite refreshing at the same time. Nature and the great outdoors is what I like best. So the adrenalin always builds when I see an exciting shot and then when I realized that I captured the image digitally, I feel the excitement and am eager to share my outing with others. So, I usually post some of my best shots on the social media sites. Here are some of my recent

Snowy Owl

Juvenile bald eagle



Admiral Butterfly


Red Tailed Hawk

Sunrise at Silver Lake

Old Abandoned Home

 Photography is my healthy diversion. What's yours?