Never one to back away from an argument. I ended up getting into a good one with a person that was frustrated at his floundering voiceover career.
I first noticed his conversations in one of the many social media sites. He was complaining that despite all the things he was doing to be a voiceover artist, he wasn't getting anywhere. He had done some radio DJ work in high school and felt that his voice was good enough to get him into the business. He’d read a few books, watched a few videos, subscribed to all the social media stuff and was upset that he still wasn't making any money.
Of course, one listen to his demo helped to explain things perfectly: it was abyssmal.
Now, I’m not trying to be mean, but this demo was truly hideous. It sounded like he’d recorded it with a headset microphone in one take and was filled with an ungodly melange of reverberant genres, styles, and plosives: The first clip was super loud and clipped, the second one was quiet and droned on about some PSA he’d remembered from his radio days...then there was a character bit where he was trying to sound like Mark Hamil’s Joker character from Batman, then a cheesy “in a world” movie trailer impersonation of Don LaFontaine, then a commercial with the music drowning him out, followed by a horrible Asian stereotype of a character, (think Mickey Rooney from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” only worse)
And so it went...for three and a half minutes.
I tried to explain to him that his demo wasn't doing him any favors. I explained that a demo should be only about 60 seconds, contain your absolute best material and be professionally produced (or at the very least SOUND like it was professionally produced.) He argued that he couldn’t afford to get a demo cut and this was the best he could do. I tried to give him some more pointers: make it one specific genre, either character, or commercial or movie trailer, but not all of them together. He argued that he was trying to show off his range.
Basically every point I used to help him understand why he wasn't getting work was shut down in an argument. He didn't have a website. I explained that you can get one for dirt cheap or free. He argued that he didn't have the time to learn how to design a site - even one that was mostly built for him.
He asked me if I thought he should try to join a pay-to-play site because he heard that people could make good money that way. I explained to him that he needed to focus more on coaching and learning the necessary VO skills before dropping the money for something like this. (And if he had money to dump on a P2P, why wasn't he spending that money instead on some training?)
Sadly, everything I did to try to show this guy the error of his ways fell on deaf ears.
During our last exchange of emails, something inside me snapped.
Now, I'm a service-oriented kind of person to begin with. I love to try to help someone solve a problem or overcome an obstacle. Which is why I love doing voiceover. I love helping businesses to be more successful. But this... I just could no longer bear to hear this guy harangue about how frustrated he was with the business. I’d had enough of reading his “woe-is-me” emails and decided that perhaps the “tough love” approach was the correct course of action. So I explained to him - in less than diplomatic terms - that his lack of skill and terrible attitude more than anything else was killing his success. I told him that I couldn’t help him if he didn’t want to help himself, and wished him luck.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of people out there just like this guy. They get these ideas that they can make money just by talking into a microphone without doing anything. This industry is exploding with new talent, but for every new voice that "makes it" there are hundreds that don't, They are too blind to see that the main reason for their failure is that they don't take responsibility for their actions.
It comes down to this: if you want to make a go of being a voice artist, you have to want it. REALLY want it. You have to dream about it, visualize it, plan it out, then work that plan. You want to be a voice actor? What acting skills do you have? You want to be a commercial VO? How well can you cold read? You want to be successful? What steps are you taking to make that a reality?
You want to be a VO? Prove it.
You get out of this business what you put into it. No one magically becomes a successful voice artist without a lot of work. If you can’t picture yourself doing anything else with your life, then with a lot of patience and training and persistence you will start to head down that path. But if you stand there grumble-fisting and blaming everything else for your own lack of commitment - feeling like the world owes you something, ignoring solid advice while demanding to know why you aren’t successful yet...
all I can say, is “maybe it's because you suck.”
About Rob Marley -
A Los Angeles native, Rob is an accomplished voice talent, coach, producer and writer, now living in the hill country of Austin Texas.