Ten to fifteen years ago if you wanted to audition for a VO job you needed at least:
- A decent agent
- To know someone in the biz
- Studio connections
- To pester your neighbor that owns that lousy pizza shop into making a lousy commercial
- Duct tape, a mask, a secluded location, a couple of kidnappers who work on the cheap
Now in the shiny, sparkly age of the interwebs virtually anyone can audition for any number of jobs through the various online voice marketplaces. There are quite a few, including voices.com, voice123.com and a slew of others. Sign up, set up a profile, upload your demo(s) and subject scores of unsuspecting voice seekers to your mercilessly brutal impressions of Bea Arthur or Jack Nicholson. Personally, I have a simply wretched impression of Bill Cosby and I do a petrifyingly abhorrent Christopher Walken but those are for another time friends (which is never o’clock).
The game has changed folks. Heck, I can’t imagine the hours and effort that previously went into audiobook (er…Books On Tape) research prior to the web and things like Forvo, Memidex and the Speech Accent Archive. The web has certainly made it much easier to chase your dream of being a voice talent right down into it’s cute, sparingly decorated little den so that you can bludgeon it to death and gnaw on it’s adorable furry corpse. Anyone with a microphone, some recording software and one of those fancy computeratin’ contraptions can access the myriad of audition opportunities online (about 4.6 bajakillion of them at my last conservative albeit highly scientific estimate). This makes for a highly contested and congested arena for voice talent as well as voice seekers. If you’re new to the game of playing the role of voice talent check out my previous rant on tips for auditioning HERE. If you’re a well crusted old barnacle you’re probably aware of what the online marketplaces have to offer.
No matter what your experience level or caliber, I do believe that online voice marketplaces are something that every talent should investigate. That is, until you either outgrow them or succumb to your seething disgust for them (or realize that until the Golden Girls Remastered ADR session which your Bea Arthur impression was made for is finally posted, you will never be hired). Total confession time:
- I started out my VO journey on two of the more popular online voice marketplaces several years ago and within a month made my initial sign up costs back and then some.
- I totally ate half an apple pie the other day. With ice cream. I regret nothing.
As I auditioned on these sites, I often wondered what the best approach would be. Wait until I see the one audition that really resonates with my very core (“Incompetent adult voice needed to narrate the history of video games and kung fu while eating pie”) or just audition for everything I could and see what sticks? So I experimented with my audition process, largely based on circumstances. Long, late day at the office day job = quality, while playing hooky from said day job or weekend = quantity.
I discovered a few things that I’d like to share. These are just my observations under my particular circumstances and your results may vary. I know it has been a bit of a contested debate in the voice talent circles as to which approach works best for the online audition services, quantity or quality. I’m going to lift the veil, blow the load and let the cat out of the bag for this rant and tell you right now (SPOILER!) either can work effectively. There, now that you’ve had me blow that life changing shamanic epiphany into your pie-hole (that had better not have any crumbs around it from my damn pie) you can stop reading and carry on with your bid’ness. However, if you enjoy subjecting yourself to my he-should-get-out-more-and-seek-professional-help witless wit, by all means carry on.
No matter if you audition once a year or once every 6 minutes, the voice seeker on the other end won’t necessarily know. Their only concern is if what they’re hearing speaks to them (pun intended) and reflects what they heard in their head or envisioned for the read. Can that talent deliver what they want in the way that they want it? Does the talent present their product professionally, honestly, courteously and with the skillz to pay the billz? If you can do that, you have a good chance of being hired, no matter if you’re doing it semi-annually or cranking it out hard and fast like a single guy at home on a Friday night.
Problems arise in either case when:
- You make mistakes
- The read sounds rushed
- You don’t follow the provided direction or instructions
- You have or use the wrong voice type for the read
- You use impersonal, irrelevent and/or static straight form letter communication
This is the noble path. Choose carefully and wisely. Read for the jobs that really sound like they were written for you. Better yet, the ones that your “money voice” will fit the bill for. We’ve all got a money voice, the voice that we perform the best with and is the most viable. It’s not right for everything but in those auditions that you are able to appropriately use it be sure to do so to the fullest. This also helps to use your time auditioning more effectively and efficiently as opposed to the quantity approach which is more like a machine gun spray to quality’s well placed sniper shot.
More Importantly, taking the path of quality can instill in you the compass to a specialty or niche, where by you will begin to see what types of gigs you are most suited for. At least those that you think you are suited for. The real test is by what you get hired for. Getting selected for more person next-door commercial gigs than anything else? That ain’t a coincidence. Doing a ton of podcast bumpers for different clients? Guess what you can focus on getting more work doing?
Quantity is the ninja to Quality’s samurai. Quick and dirty, get it done and move on. As long as you don’t make any of the bulleted mistakes listed above you’ll be ok and not totally 100% ninja, where you did your job alright but nobody heard or saw anything. Good for real ninjas (less ninja paperwork at the ninja office), bad for VO folks (less VO paperwork which is also called billing and invoicing).
I do believe that when it comes to auditioning you can look at it as a numbers game. The more you audition, the higher your chances of being hired. This applies offline too, so if you have an agent do your best for those auditions as well as what you track down on your own or online. Unless you are simply terrible the laypersons’ law of averages will eventually work in your favor.
In any of these cases, you are still at the mercy of the voice seeker and a number of other factors. So you delivered a good read (hopefully). Great. Now let’s consider some other factors. How many people auditioned for the job already? Your chances diminish significantly as more auditions roll in. What was your quote? Was it outside of the voice seeker’s budget? Was it so cheap that you besmirched your relative perceived value? How is your audio quality? Did your contact message seem nice, succinct and professional or like it was it written by a disassociated psychotic? Also, is your profile on that particular voice website complete, clean and up to date? Are your demos kick ass? Do you have positive feedback and testimonials? All of these things add up to the whole pie of selling yourself beyond just a good read. And whole pies are a rare thing, especially in this house where somebody goes around eating half of a pie in one sitting like some kinda’ Cookie Monster that like pies. Like a…a… Pie Monster. Although Cookie Monster totally just crumbled cookies up in his shameful esophagus-less mouth patch and allowed precious crumbs to carelessly fall to the floor, wasted. Squandered, like his hopes and dreams of ever having a cookie filled belly. Pie Monster on the other hand, does not eff around.
So, those are my thoughts. I wanted to stimulate a conversation and hear from you what you like to do in regard to dealing with online voice marketplaces. Did you find something that works for you or ended in horribly comedic disaster? Machine gun or sniper fire? Ninja or Samurai? Cookie Monster or Pie Monster???