You know that your demo is your calling card. It's the thing that represents you to potential clients. As I said in a previous blog post, it’s the most important tool in your voiceover toolbox.
Yet a lot of new and aspiring voice talent think that they can just crank out a demo by recording a few scripts and slapping them together. This is a big mistake. A voiceover demo needs to be given a lot of thought and preparation before it's ready to be sent out to producers, casting directors and agents.
Here are five things to think about when you're considering your voiceover demo:
1. No demo before its' time
A lot of new voice talent are deluded into thinking that all it takes is a mic, a computer and a good voice. They quickly realize that it takes a LOT more than this. You need to be able to not just know how to inflect emotion into a script, but why. And also how to change that inflection if the director wants something different.
Knowing the hows and whys only comes with time. With coaching, those skills show up faster, but it still takes time. This is not a get-rich-quick business. It takes training and a lot of practice to be able to pull something off believably, or naturally, or (everyone’s favorite buzz word) conversationally. Think about it: you are usually presenting your demo to people who listen to voice talent constantly. They're going to be able to spot an amateur within the first 5 seconds. “Fake it till you make it” isnt going to cut it here.
2. Know your range
if you sound like Barry White, narrating kids books may not be your best choice. Likewise - if you have a mid-range voice with perhaps a bit of an accent, you probably aren't going to get a lot of work for movie trailers. Find the areas of VO that you think your voice would be good for and go after those aggressively. Be honest with yourself. It also helps to talk with a vocal coach to make sure you’re heading in the right direction to begin with.
3. Be able to reproduce your skills on command. (Dance, monkey, dance!)
Ideally, you want people to hire you off the strength of your demo. So the demo needs to be an accurate representation of what you can do as a voice artist. There may come a time when you walk into a studio and a producer asks you to do something exactly the way they heard it on your demo. If you can’t pull that off, you’re screwed.
If you're focusing your efforts into character voices, be sure you can do that voice without a break for at least 4 hours a day. You may be able to sound like an evil Demon from the pit of Hell, but can you keep that voice up for 4 hours without blowing out your throat? If not, then it doesn't belong on your demo.
4. Your demo shows how good you are (and aren’t)
Meaning: It's not going to be perfect. this isn’t going to be your last demo. People grow. You learn new skills. I listen to the first demo I produced and I cringe. HARD. And this was what I was sending to potential clients. (No wonder I wasn’t getting much work!) Your demos need to be updated as you improve. Within a year or two, you'll probably have developed enough to the point that your demo might need to be updated or replaced altogether. As Chuck Duran says, "Don’t show how good you were, show how good you ARE."
5. Be memorable (for the right reasons)
There’s one guy I know who will carpet bomb every voiceover group out there with samples of his work - which are really just fake commercials that he thinks will convince someone. (newsflash: they don’t.) Honestly, his work is terrible. If I were going to hire a voice actor for a job, I’m certainly not going to hire that guy. Moral to this story: Don't be that guy.
You want your demo
to be remembered.
If you send out a crap demo,
IT WILL BE REMEMBERED.
I know talent agents that keep a file of the truly worst demos they hear and send them to friends as jokes. You REALLY dont want to be that guy.
What this all comes down to is confidence. You have to be confident that your demo is the best it can possibly be (at this very minute) and that your skills are adequately represented in the recording. This is why a coach and getting professional training is so important to your success. Dont overlook this.
Are you just getting started in voiceover?
I have an eBook of tips, tricks and tutorials on what it takes to get started in this business. If you're serious about becoming a voice artist, you should read this book. And it's FREE.
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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.