For us voice over professionals, few things are more exciting than doing a new demo! It’s up there with booking a huge commercial campaign, getting signed by an agent, and seeing an old friend. Why is a new demo so exciting? A voice over demo means opportunity. It is a new moment for us to say here I am, listen to this. This is what I can do for you! As a full-time, professional voice over talent, there are plenty of other female voice over actors booking lots of commercials. How do I make myself get noticed? The demo. So who you do your demo with, the coach and producer you choose to spend your time and money with matters, a lot. I have worked with some of the top coaches in the field, and I can tell you that I have had outstanding experiences and I have had experiences hat should have been better. Now that I am work as a voiceover coach and am on a demo production team myself, I am trying to educate my students along the way, so that they understand what to look for and how to advocate for themselves. Here are some questions you should ask every single time you do a new demo, whether it is a commercial demo or another genre:
- What is your script selection process like?
In my mind, the demo script selection process should be collaborative. The coach should work with you to find scripts that show both your range and are appropriate for your brand. If you have dream VO clients, this is the time to include those scripts. So for example, if you are doing an automotive demos, and you love Audi, you would include an Audi script. If you are doing a commercial demo and you love shopping at target, why not include a target spot? The scripts should not simply descend from above on demo day, be handed to you, and recorded. They should be meaningful to you and they should show both your range and what matters to you. They can be an interesting glimpse into your interests too! So, it is very important that you can easily talk to your voice over coach or demo producer about the scripts that you have.I find it to be the ultimate irony that we use our voice to speak for others, but often, even when we are making investments in our own business, if can be so hard to advocate for what makes the right sense for us. The strength of your demo very much depends on your scripts and you should love them!
2. How will the Demo Session Go?
Whether you are recording in person in a recording studio or remotely via Source Connect, ipDTL, or Zoom, the Demo Session is extremely important. It is your day to shine. Put frankly, you should be the star and by put on a pedestal on demo day. Nothing else matters except your ability to rock every spot. Since you have likely worked with your coach before, by the time you get to the demo, they should be able to bring out your best. There should not be any drama. I have worked with some coaches who move very quickly from script to script and some who spend a lot of time going through each script so they have lots of options, but at the end of the day you should feel amazing about your session. Anything short of that is not ideal.
3. Where do the video clips come from?
The world of video demos presents voice actors with an exciting opportunity to market yourself. Whether you are new to VO or new to a genre, having a video demo either gives you an instant bod of work in voice over or it immediately enhances your existing body of work. The catch, though, is that you cannot simply take an existing video or commercials and dub over it. That is not legal and violates all sorts of copy write laws. Instead, video producers, like the team that I work with at All Systems Go AV, need to pay to belong to a content library where they are legally and lawfully accessing the content. A video demo by any other means can get you into trouble.
The exception to using branded content is if you are putting together a video reel of actual work that you yourself have done. If you are the actual voice in the video, and were part of the team, you can then have a reel produced using the branded content! Those are amazing marketing tools and are legitimately yours to use.
Take a look at this demo. Ever single clip here is legitimately used from a content library my team pays to have a membership from. These logos, while they may seem familiar to you, have been altered more than 30% from the original, and are also legitimate to use. Every video demo should be done this way so that you are never at risk of having to remove it.
4. Deliverables: What is part of the package?
Different coaches price demos differently, so you are often not comparing apples to apples. Some coaches include some sessions, a video demo, and an MP3, others are charging for an MP3 only. You need to be very clear about what you are getting from the coach for their fee. When my team does a video demo, it includes necessary prep, script selection, the video demo as a whole and in parts, and the MP3 as a whole and in parts.
5. Is the demo producer flexible with the order of the spots?
This is really important. Demo producers typically send you their preferred order, but at the end of the day the demo is yours to live with and their preferred order matters less than your preferred order. I personally have had demo producers make changes without any fuss, and I worked with others who refuse to make any changes at all and insist that it must stay the way it is.