Voice Over – The times they are a changin’!

Have you noticed that the Voice Over landscape is changing?

If you’re in the US, Canada or the UK, you’re quite possibly doing most of your work, auditioning and recording from your home studio.  

Of course, if you’re booking big ‘commercial’ jobs, you’ll still be either going to a studio to record or being produced from a studio, via ISDN, Source Connect or other digital transmission services.

If you’re in Australia or New Zealand, you’re lucky enough to still be booked in the same way as we always have, from samples on your voice demo.

We all love the collaborative process with creative interaction!

But no matter where you live, things in voice over are changing.

There’s a lot of talk about the way things are changing and not everyone’s a ‘happy camper’.

The question is, do you embrace change or sit on your hands and whinge about the good old days and how simple it all used to be? I’ll go for ‘option a’ any day!

So, let’s look at three aspects that have changed the way we all work .

1 The Home Studio

The rise and rise of the home studio has taken many older voice over pro’s a little by surprise.

Having a home studio means that you:

  • need to be tech savvy – or be willing to learn!
  • must invest in gear,
  • need to be well versed in recording and editing, and
  • have to become your own engineer – a skill that some of us do well and others, not so well!

There are many online directories that require you to produce the work yourself from a home studio.

I’ve noticed that often this work is in the low budget area of voice over. It’s often telephony (on hold messages) or for inclusion in a website – for sales videos, site navigation, e-learning, or explainer or training videos.

A growing industry is the ‘online audio production outfit’ who are making low budget products for regional radio, and offering astonishingly low rates to voice artists who have their own studio.

If anyone will settle for booting-up the computer and working for $25-50 bucks a track, then go right ahead. But in my experience, the scripts are usually pretty awful!

If you want a voice over hobby and work for peanuts, then okay, but using it to build a career is never going to work.

I know there will always be a client with a low, low budget. But the downside to sending a script to a beginner or semi-pro is that that they won’t have been directed through the work. And it always shows when it’s on air!

Common mistakes include:

  • mis-pronounced words,
  • missing the meaning in a sentence, and
  • generally not understanding the art of connecting the message with the listener.

The commercial/advertising world knows only too well the power of using the right voice to deliver their advertisers message.

And it’s in that world the voice actor is valued and respected.


2 Auditioning

In the US, voice over actors have been auditioning for FREE for some time.

In Australia, we don’t do that – we’re usually cast from our demos (or our reputation) and just get booked to do the job.

There have always been occasional situations in Australia where you’re asked if you can do a certain voice, accent or impersonation. You’re then invited to give a sample over the phone. But our ‘audition’ has always been called a ‘submission’, where you’re booked to go to a studio and work with the script. 

And we’re paid – lucky us!

Generally the thought of having to audition for FREE, is not something we like the sound of.

But I do know that this voice over trend is beginning to appear via online directories that are largely overseas based.


3 Rates and Fees

Voice over fees have been structured for years. In Australia, Canada and the US, voice over rates had been negotiated via out respective Unions with Industry, more specifically the advertising industry and rates were structured and accepted by all.

I believe it’s not so good in the UK, where voice over rates have changed little over the years.

I’ve heard people say that the Union in the UK was weak in relation to fees for voice over. But as an active member of my union in Australia (where I’ve been involved with rates structures in voice over since the 1980’s) I know that unless those working in voice over talk with their union and instruct them on what they want to achieve, nothing ever gets achieved

Even in the ‘other’ areas like non-broadcast, that is industrial and corporate (or created for business) where there’s no ‘industry’ body to negotiate with, the rates we charged were arrived at via a process of finding out what the client would be prepared to pay and what we’d be prepared to accept.

But today the whole question of rates and pricing is much more complex. The growth of the voice over industry, fuelled by the digital world and companies whose websites use audio and video in their content marketing, has meant that pricing for voice over in some areas has been difficult to bed down.

In fact, the precedent set for extremely low rates in some areas, may well be a train that has left the station!

We’re doing work (through Equity in Australia) to create a fairer system of pricing for online voice over that’s based on reach. It’s not simply about thinking that if it’s online, it’s everywhere. Creating a fee for anything that goes online is definitely not a one-size-fits-all scenario!

If we want to continue to book work in this area, we need to structure a fairer system that reflects the reality of the business.

We must look at whether they’re offering only local or regional services, with a small reach, or they’re set up as a national or international proposition earning ‘squillions’ from their endeavours.

As we move closer and closer to a more globalized voice over industry, we need more than ever, to be on the same page. And to do that, we need to be more connected – information is power in this world!

We need to have:

  • the same definitions,
  • use the same language, and
  • base fees on the same or similar structures.

Here’s a link to a blog put together by Dave Courvosier, (lovingly called Courvo) who heads up WoVo, a US based, worldwide association of professional voiceover actors, that seeks to inform and empower voice artists globally. In it he points to the issue of pricing in an extremely succinct and important way.

The valuable thoughts of our own Matt Cowlrick (an active member of WoVo) are part of this blog. 

If you’re a working voice over pro then look at WoVo and join up. I’m a member and I know the value of this organisation will only increase into the future.

Whether you’re just beginning your journey into the professional world of voice over or you’ve been in voice over for years, the ‘times definitely are a changin’.

The old ways still exist in many forms, but it’s time to embrace the changes technology has brought, with an open mind and a flexibility that will allow us all to survive and prosper.

As Charles Darwin said…

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, but rather that which is most adaptable to change”.

Happy voiceovering!