microphones

The Audition is the Job

As a full-time, professional voice over actor, we all know that the audition is the job. Whether auditioning for an agent, for a pay to play, or directly for a client, booking is based entirely on how good our audition read is. Sure, people who have connections can get doors to open but, ultimately, voiceover is a tough industry with a lot of really talented actors and your auditions have to be really good to stand out against the crowd. Often, hundreds of people will even submit for jobs with minimal pay, so when you are going after the coveted commercial gigs, you really need to wow your clients.  It’s nice if you ask for feedback; but, ultimately, if the listener does not hear what they want in the first four seconds, you will not book that job. That’s it. As someone who has done more commercials than I can count, you need to nail your audition reads. You have to stand out in the beginning. If there is nothing unique about your read, yoo will not book. So here are some things that I think about for commercial reads:

Who is the Client?

Both the person casting and the end client matter. If the client is a well known luxury brand asking for a sophisticated voice and the person casting is an established ad agency with an abundance of options who has asked for a young adult voice, do not go in with your most sultry Kathleen Turner sound hoping to stand out. They want what they want. And when they want sophisticated luxury, don’t give them bubbly and upbeat. I also DO read the specs. I have had people tell me not to read them. Why on earth would you not read something that the person casting the job has spent time writing? I actually stopped working with a well-respected Los Angeles coach again after that person advised me no to do this. I thought it was not a good idea. In this scenario, they are the boss and we are the potential hire. Sometimes the clients ask for two reads and want very different takes in each read. If you don’t read the specs, you won’t know. Now, we all know that sometimes there is a great disparity between what books a job and the end result, so give them the read that books and do not worry about the end result until after you have booked.

Microphone Technique Matters SO MUCH!

There are so many good microphones, and most good microphones are very sensitive. I have a Neumann TLM 103, and the

In this pic you can really see the back side of my Neumann TLM 103, but the position in my booth matters so much! I cannot move it from that side to the other or the sound and audio quality completely changes. In my reads, proximity to the mic also matters a lot!

placement of my mic in my booth matters a lot. My proximity to the mic matters. I have learned that my proximity can be used to evoke very different moods and create a sense of closeness and intimacy. I also have learned that I have to be careful not to fidget during a read, because shifting from side to side will cause irregularities in sound and my mic with pic it all up! A good coach teaches this technique. A good talent listens to their work before they submit. Make sure you listen to your recording and you can hear these subtleties. It would be such a shame to nail the read but lose out because your audio quality is less than pristine. Audio quality is everything, and you are only as good as you sound in this business. If you want your commercial auditions to book, they must sound excellent.

Sometimes the client Just Wants Good Samples- SO GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT!

Four times this week I was emailed for jobs that either wanted very specific demos or samples of work I had done in a specific genre. All were new clients. This is awesome! Either you paid to produce a demo that showcases your best abilities, or you booked a spot because you killed it! Either way it’s a win, so respond immediately before someone else does and show this new client exactly why you are the right one for the job! I keep a lot of such samples accessible via drop box, so that even if I am out and about, I can get them right to a client and they do not have to wait. More importantly, their end person does not have to wait!

Lastly, I want to broaden your thinking of what an audition is. Anytime you put yourself and your voice or samples in front of a client that is an audition opportunity! A phone call, and of course a cold call, gives a client a chance to hear you. A direct email to someone you have met with your demo likewise gives a client a chance to hear you. Meeting someone at a conference or a networking event and talking about why your service is different from that of other voice actors is an in-person audition: you have their undivided attention, they hear your voice, and you are speaking! An audition is not just a read with a script or a demo submitted. Always be prepared with you 30 second elevator shpiel and be proud of who you are and what you do. Sparkle!

Where Am I Going With This….

Even though I work full time, as a mom of teenage twins, I am in the car A LOT. My SUV has a great sound system, and I confess I enjoy belting it out. The other night I had a realization though: unless my four year old niece is in the car, I am typically belting it out alone. And it is not that I am not playing great music, because I can assure you that it is always a party when I drive. I think it has more to do with the personalities of my husband and kids.

I asked  my son Jack why he didn’t want to belt it out? Perhaps the music should be even louder? His response: it’s just not him. He, and they, are just not wired up that way. In contrast, I can’t keep it in. I dance. I rap. I pour my heart and soul into it. ACDC. Snoop Dogg. Gladys Knight. Jonas Brothers. It doesn’t matter, I’m into it! So what on earth does this have to do with voiceovers? Well, people often ask me how I got into voice over or how I started booking work. It’s a tricky question. There are a lot of talented people who do what I do. There are also a lot of people who have had access to the training that I have had. They may even have the demos that I have. So, what sets us apart? Our schtick. Our unique personality and spark. The ability to put my dignity, airs, “whatever” in the metaphorical back seat and whoop it up for the clients, is essentially what I have been practicing for years. One of my beloved coaches, Fred Frees, used to tell me if I was going to “make it” I had to be fearless in front of the microphone. This singing in the car is exactly the same thing. When you have the reckless abandon to belt it out in front of everyone, odds are you will also be fearless in front of the mic.

Are there personality traits of Voice Over Actors?

So here’s an interesting question that I get. Just like in every field, all types come to voice over. I do find that the industry friends that I have are kind, supportive, and an overall super friendly bunch. We all have to wear our emotions on our sleeve, because if you can’t hear them, no one will hire us! So, I do find that in voice over people are typically willing to share, and that openness makes everything better.

Do We Actually Sing In Our Work?

Yes!  I have had to sing for Indie Video Games, Toys, and Commercial Jingles. I have also sung for mobile apps with Nursery rhymes.  Some people who have had a lot of musical training have singing demos. I do not, folks just ask me to do it and I send them my best. A lot of the voice over talents that work in animation sing a lot. As that has never been my bread and butter, I do not do that.

What If We Don’t Sing or Sing Terribly?

Don’t worry! Our job is not musicians. There was a spec on a job I was sent last week that specifically said that they wanted someone who was not perfectly on tune so that it sounded natural and not overly polished. I think a more commonly sought after skill is the ability to sing in character, which has a lot more to do with staying in character, and less to do with hitting each note perfectly. That being said, when I have sung for toy demos, I have to do scales and have to hit each note in the middle and it takes a lot of work and concentration for someone who did not grew up singing!

My Thoughts

I did not go into voiceover because I wanted to sing. To the contrary, the jobs that involve that component are typically my hardest.  The point of this is that the silly abandon that we have when playfully, often gleefully belting it out in the car whether we are alone or have an audience of 3, that is what we need to bring with us into the booth for every job. The ability to switch gears as quickly as a song changes on the radio is priceless. The ability to reinvent ourselves every two minutes is also priceless. All the professional training in the world cannot change the feeling that you have in your gut. I have been told by another coach that I “dive in” rather fast. I believe that, too, is one of my greatest assets! Whether it is a new station I am imaging for and each take on a line needs to be fresh, or a 15 second holiday spot, or an eLearning module, be the talent who is willing to shake things up and delight your client at every turn!