Saturday, December 28, 2019

The passing of Don Imus

As a former radio deejay, I have been keenly aware of the  long, storied, often controversial career of Don Imus. He spent 50 years on the air which in and of itself is unheard of. He said something once that stuck with me. It had to do with the idea of mentally editing what you are going to say on the air before you open the microphone. A sort of "mental rehearsal." Know what you're going to say. Get to the point. I tried to do that throughout my career. Good advice.

He was fired 4 times. There's an old saying in radio, "If you haven't been fired a time or two, you ain't doing it right."He got fired from a station once out in Stockton, California not far from me because he said the word "hell" on the air.  Can you imagine? That was at the very start of his career before he hit the bigtime in New York. My Dad enjoyed Imus because toward the end of his career he got into frequent political chit chat on his show and would often have well known political figures in the studio. Senator Bob Dole comes to mind. My Dad loved to read about and talk politics. Things often got heated at our house.

Imus could be grouchy, mean, angry, and often funny on his show, but through it all, he was always himself.  Listeners knew what to expect when they tuned in.  At the height of his career, he was making around 4 million dollars a year. He became a very rich man, but he gave back with his charity work and "Imus Ranch" for children in need. Just recently, I saw him being interviewed on CBS Sunday morning with Jane Pauley and he became quite emotional as he mentioned he had regrets about  some things he said or did on air that were hurtful to others. Teary eyed, it was a very rare moment indeed where he showed a side of himself others had never seen.  It was like he was reviewing his life and he looked rather frail. He was without a doubt one of a kind and there will never be another Don Imus.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Seller beware on Craigslist!

It's been quite the week here in my studio. I have a decent collection of voice over books that I'm looking to hand down to an aspiring voice actor. They're all in very good shape and on Craigslist under the "For Sale" books section. Last night around midnight, I was in bed and received a text message wanting to know if the books were still available. I replied they were and not hearing back from the individual, I went back to sleep. Next morning, I received another text saying he wanted to buy them and would pay me with a money order  PLUS pay me an extra $40 for them and he needed my name and address. I had been through a similar thing on Craigslist and a huge red flag went up on this.  I texted back and told him to stop trying to scam people. He disappeared. I'm in the Bay Area and his phone number was from New Jersey. In my ad, I specifically stated "Cash Only" and "Must pick up at my place." A variation of this scam involves a bogus check he or she gives you that you can deposit at your bank's ATM, but the bank will discover it's a fraud and you will be on the hook to make good on it.

And earlier this week, I responded to a voice over ad for a job out of L.A posted on Craigslist. A few days later, I received a reply from an "Alex" who said he had a $992 voice over job for me and they were making arrangements to find a recording studio near me so I could record there and they could direct from L.A.. There was some other weird wording about "I must be of a good mind" and other strange stuff having nothing to do with voice over. I emailed him back and said I would not be able to do the job because I had seen this scam outlined before on a voice over forum I frequent. There are a lot more details to this particular scam.  Just Google "Voice over scam" and you'll see lots of links.

So, just be very careful. There are some low lifes that for some time have been trying to dupe unsuspecting voice over talents. One final thing. When I listed my stuff on Craigslist, there was this information below. A good and timely reminder.

Avoiding Scams

Deal locally, face-to-face —follow this one rule and avoid 99% of scam attempts.
  • Do not provide payment to anyone you have not met in person.
  • Beware offers involving shipping - deal with locals you can meet in person.
  • Never wire funds (e.g. Western Union) - anyone who asks you to is a scammer.
  • Don't accept cashier/certified checks or money orders - banks cash fakes, then hold you responsible.
  • Transactions are between users only, no third party provides a "guarantee".
  • Never give out financial info (bank account, social security, paypal account, etc).
  • Do not rent or purchase sight-unseen—that amazing "deal" may not exist.
  • Refuse background/credit checks until you have met landlord/employer in person.
  • "craigslist voicemails" - Any message asking you to access or check "craigslist voicemails" or "craigslist voice messages" is fraudulent - no such service exists.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

The voice of Porky Pig and Bob Bergen

I love the story of how the current voice of Porky Pig got the job. Of course, years ago the great master of cartoon voices, Mel Blanc, did the voice of Porky  and a ton of others. Go on You Tube and search his name and there are plenty of videos of his TV appearances. You'll be amazed. Now, about Bob Bergen. At age 14, he "cold called" Mel Blanc's house and secretly taped the conversation with Mr. Blanc.  The first thing Mel asked Bob was, "How did you get my number?" Bob was seeking out advice and Mel was kind enough to help him. Rather than me give you the specifics, you can hear this conversation on Bob's website, "BobBergen.com." Click on where it says, "Cool Clips." By the way, Bob said on a voice over forum board I frequent that every year he has to audition again to be the ongoing voice of Porky.  I'm sure it's a treasured job. One more thing, Bob's one of the nicest guys in the business. Always giving on spot advice to other voice actors and helping when  he can. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

"I'm living on the air at WKRP in.....Mansfield, Ohio"

The start of my radio career wasn't exactly like the TV show "WKRP in Cincinnati," but it had a few wacky/odd moments. (None like the famous WKRP "turkeys dropped from high above" episode. A must see on You Tube!)

Upon graduating from high school in Strongsville, Ohio, I told my Dad I wanted to go to a broadcast school in Cleveland to become a radio deejay. He said, "Son, I don't know about that. It's a dog eat dog business." As usual, he was right. After considerable begging, he agreed and gave me a very reluctant nod of the head to enroll. The cool thing was that the instructors were deejays I heard on the radio in the Cleveland market. One of mine was "The Real Bob James." He was on WGAR, a very popular station at the time. Bob was very funny on air and would go on to co-found the American Comedy Network. It was a comedy service that radio deejays subscribed to for funny material they could use on their radio shows. I listened to Bob on the radio and held him in high regard. In short, I was thrilled to have him as one of my teachers. Upon graduation from the school, I started sending out my demo tape to radio stations around the country. Much to my surprise ( and my Mom and Dad's too), I got a phone call from a radio station in Mansfield, Ohio which was about 45 minutes south of where I grew up. It was a Mom and Pop AM/FM station called WCLW. They had a reputation for paying low wages and hiring guys like me who had zero on air experience but wanted to get in the radio business as a deejay. After a telephone interview, they hired me to do an afternoon show on their low wattage AM station. ("Hello. Is anyone out there?") My Mom and Dad had to have been in a mild state of shock. I actually got a job at a radio station!Thus began my very long and journeyed radio career. Even though at first I was awful on the air, I knew, with dedication, I could improve and work my way up to the better radio stations and actually make a living being on the radio. WCLW was owned by an elderly couple and their daughter Lynn ran it like a drill sergeant. One day, early into my employment there, she told me I was going to do a remote broadcast on an upcoming Sunday afternoon from a pet cemetery! The goal of the broadcast was to get people to buy a burial plot for their beloved pet. I'm thinking, "What in the world am I going to say on air about a pet cemetery of all things?" It would be the very first of many awkward on air assignments she would give me that were very much a "sink or swim"situation that eventually would make me a better broadcaster down the road. Other remote broadcasts would include a ladies clothing store in downtown Mansfield with a bubbly Julia Child- like owner on microphone with me talking about all the wonderful selections to buy. And at another broadcast chatting on air about the love making virtues of a waterbed with the inventor Charlie Hall, who was doing a live appearance at "Aquarius" waterbed store. I had many on air assignments at that first radio station that would force me to ad-lib and be on my toes. It was all quite the crash course and it turned out to be a very good thing  in preparing me to work at much bigger stations in the years ahead.

WCLW will always have a special place in my heart. It gave me my start. For that I am truly grateful. 

Saturday, October 12, 2019

My love affair with... (wait for it!)...You Tube

As an avid music lover, when I'm not recording voice overs or marketing my business, I'm often on You Tube playing songs I haven't heard in years. Songs you rarely hear on the radio anymore but may have been a big part of the soundtrack of your life. Todd Rundgren's "Hello It's Me" comes to mind. It's one of those songs that never gets old no matter how many times I have heard it. I also like to read the comments below the video post of the song. It's cool to see what people are thinking with their likes or dislikes comments.

But from a voice over standpoint,  I use You Tube to check proper names that may come up in scripts I'm recording. Or product names that are not necessarily running commercials on radio or TV. I learned early on to check multiple videos for pronunciations of the same word as relying on only one video may not give you the correct pronunciation. In other posts on this blog I have recommended Forvo.com and Howjsay.com as helpful for pronunciations. Often they will not have a pronunciation for a proper name that can be found by doing a search on You Tube. Using You Tube for pronunciations has saved me a lot of time. Just make sure you double check the pronunciation.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Perhaps my most favorite voice over job...ever

I was tipped off by a good client of many years that his company was filming at locations around the world for a new, inspirational TV show called "In Pursuit of Passion." And, much to my delight, the lady who was hosting the show (Tracy) was looking for someone to narrate it. So, I emailed her and told her of my interest. She agreed to email me a script for a short audition. I did not see any film of the show beforehand so I was a bit in the dark as to the energy needed on the narration. I went with a slightly upbeat take and emailed her a link to download the MP3 audition. She got back to me and said it was a bit too cheery and upbeat. With that direction in mind ( for which I was very grateful), I recorded a second audition and sent that to her. I was happy to receive an email from her saying the second take was solid and we would go with that. There was a total of six episodes to be narrated from places like Africa and Greece. It was a fun but somewhat challenging narration as the scripts contained quite a few proper names. And of course, those needed to be said correctly. I was often able to go to Forvo.com for pronunciations. (One of my favorite sites). I was delighted when she sent me a link to see the completed episodes. The show airs in select markets here and abroad.

A funny aside. A brother of mine in Ohio called me on a weekend and said he and his lady friend were watching a show on TV and at the end in the credits my name "John Miles" came on screen. He asked if it was me.  I scratched my head and told him I didn't think so. After he described a few parts of the episode he watched, it dawned on me it was me! I had recorded the narrations for the episodes the prior year and had sort of forgotten about them. Here's a link to one of the episodes from Africa. I must say, this is in my top 5 of all-time favorite voice over jobs I have done.


Monday, September 16, 2019

Magical Mornings

I totally enjoy getting out of bed early and getting at the day. I was raised in a small country house in Ohio with one bathroom. I have quite a few siblings (8) and mornings were very hectic. There was no such thing as "sleeping in." My Dad, who was a fantastic drywall and  plaster man, made sure that we got our outside chores done-raking the apple orchard, cleaning the barn stalls where we kept a few horses, weeding the garden, and so on. And yes, he made a list of chores in the morning before he left for work and would check to see how well we had done when he came home. He was a taskmaster for sure, and as a young boy, I sometimes resented it. Later in life, I came to realize it was a good thing as I was held accountable. My Dad's motto was the familiar refrain, "If you're gonna do something, do it right, or don't do it at all."

I learned to enjoy waking up early and starting the day. That motivation has stuck with me to this day. As mentioned in another post on this blog, Dad and I would often play early Sunday morning golf. As in, still kind of dark outside and dew on the grass.  My brother and I slept in a bunk bed. I remember Dad coming in early Sunday morning and shaking me and telling me to get up as we were going golfing. It was a special ritual.

And today, as I do voice overs from my home studio, I find mornings to be very special as there is the promise of a new day and the expectation of getting things done and accomplished. Not to mention, it's quiet. And every voice over artist who records can appreciate that. Some of my most productive work has occurred at 4 or 5 AM. But don't worry, if you hire me to do a voice over and you want to listen in as I record, we don't have to go with "crack of dawn" times. I realize early mornings aren't for everyone!

Monday, July 8, 2019

"You want to be paid for your voice over? Don't be ridiculous!"

If you go to Craigslist and look under "Gigs" and then "Creative" category, you will often see
job leads for voice over work. I'm use to it now, but my jaw use to drop open when seeing highly
detailed specs for a voice over job with no pay. Zero. Zilch. Nada. If you do voice overs, it should make you cringe. You've paid good money to buy your recording equipment. You may well have taken voice over lessons which are far from free. Plus voice over seminars/webinars to stay sharp and current. You have ongoing business expenses. Your website updates and maintenance. Yearly taxes. And here is someone on Craigslist offering you nothing for your time, expertise, and skill set. You deserve to be paid! I just had a producer approach me on a Friday afternoon who had received one of my marketing emails and was in a rush frame of mind. He needed a 5 minute long voice over for a high tech, corporate video. I zipped him back a very fair quote to which he said "Sorry. That's too expensive for me. I can pay $100."$100 for 5 minutes of professional voice over for a corporate video is extremely low. Plus it's a high tech narration which will more than likely take extra time to record properly. I thanked him for the "opportunity" and passed on the job. Just out of curiosity, I went to Yelp to check his studio and customer comments. He had quite a few complaints about shoddy work and 1 star ratings. Not good. I'm sure he found someone who is desperate for work who recorded it. We all have choices. But sometimes it's OK to say 'Thanks. But no thanks.' Stay away from the bottom of the barrel jobs. Once word gets around you work for free or on the cheap, it will be very difficult for you to charge a fair rate. 

Friday, July 5, 2019

My 20 foot commute from bed to studio

No doubt, working from home has its advantages. Living in the Bay Area, the traffic can be beyond awful. Years ago, voice over talents needed to head out to recording studios to voice projects, now we can work from our home studios thanks to the Internet. So, sitting in traffic jams is a thing of the past. Plus, when clients/customers come calling with rush or urgent requests, we can quickly access our home studios and turn voice overs around in no time at all. If I had a dollar for every time a client or customer said they appreciated my very fast turnaround, I'd be a very wealthy man. For all its advantages, working from home has some caveats. There can be distractions. Working alone, it's important to "self police" your work before sending it out. Stay in the moment. Focus. Allow yourself some mini breaks if you're working on long projects such as e Learning or audio books.  Working from home means no more boring conference room meetings with a bunch of overly talkative sleepy heads. (I will give one former boss credit. He always ordered pizzas in during our meetings.) Rejoice in the fact that you're able to make a living from home and ditch the honking horns and road rage incidents. And water cooler talk was never really that interesting anyway.

 OK, time for another cup of coffee. Sugar and cream please!

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Fame can be a fickle thing!

Mid 1980's. I'm hanging in the front reception area at country music station WIRK in West Palm Beach after my midday show. Rhonda was a fun, sassy, thirty something, African American receptionist who answered the phones and gave listeners their prizes when they came in. It's a blistering hot South Florida day when the door swings open and in come two dudes with tank tops on, flip flops, cut offs. One of them approaches Rhonda and says "I'm here to tape an interview with Terry Slane." Terry was our morning deejay and program director. I immediately notice it's country music superstar Roy Clark. And back then he was on TV... a lot. Hee Haw, commercials, TV concerts playing his electric guitar to perfection. So, Rhonda says, "Your name?" He says, "Roy Clark." She gets on her phone and calls Terry. "Hey Terry, there's a Roy... um... er... ahhh... I'm sorry sir, what's your last name again?" He pointedly says, "Clark." "Terry, a Roy Clark is here to see you." She then hangs up the phone and tells Roy that Terry is on his way up. Terry comes up and shakes Roy's hand and the other dude's hand and off they go. I chime in, "Rhonda, that's Roy Clark! How could you not recognize Roy Clark!?" She loudly says, '' I don't listen to this country music crap, John. I'm a Rhythm and Blues girl!" I fell down laughing. Later, I thought, no matter how famous you think you are, to some people you're not famous at all! The man with him was his brother in law and they were out fishing at Lake Okeechobee before coming in to do the interview.


Friday, April 19, 2019

Sibilance. Ugh!

Without a doubt, sibilance is one of the most annoying things to deal with in the audio world.  In short, it's a harshness to the ear upon voice over playback. Most often it's a sizzling "s" sound.  Of course, this is not wanted and needs to be "tamed" either during recording or in editing afterward.  Some people's voice can naturally be more sibilant than others. And the position of the mouth to the microphone can cause excessive sibilance. Too close can cause problems. Instead of speaking directly into the mic, position it at a 45 degree angle from your mouth. Experiment a bit with different microphone positions. Also, be wary of very inexpensive (cheap) microphones that can cause lots of sibilance.

In post production, there are what are called de-essers. This is a type of compression application designed specifically to deal with sibilance. Almost every digital audio recording software has some form of de-esser under the effects category. Not all de-essers are created equal. WAVES has just come out with a plug-in called, not surprisingly, "Sibilance." It's gotten good reviews and is sometimes on sale on their website.

Another option to getting rid of annoying sibilance in a recording is to manually drop down the volume (around 4 to 6 db) of those sibilant sounds. When viewing the waveform zoomed in a bit in your audio editor, a sibilant "s" will often look like a small football shape. Just highlight that with your mouse and drop the volume down as mentioned above.

Bottom line, most everyone has some sibilance when they speak. There are ways to deal with it when editing that will greatly improve the quality of your voice overs.

Friday, February 22, 2019

A mighty Craigslist ad

Back when  I was moving from radio guy to voice over guy, I was planting "seeds" to find new business/clients. I have found that emailing people and companies who need voice over to be somewhat effective. Forget about spamming and just shooting out emails all over the place. Try to find a name on the website, so you can personalize the email. Keep it brief!

Years back, I wrote a short, free, classified ad on Craigslist about my services. A gentleman emailed me and said his company (an educational one) had a lot of voice over needs. He asked about my rates and turnaround time. That got the ball rolling. To this day, years later, I continue to get quite a bit of work from them, for which I am truly grateful. You never know where the work is going to come from. Once you get the work, be your very best. There's nothing quite like a satisfied client and repeat business, for which you do not have to audition.


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Haters gonna hate and the Golden State Warriors

One thing's for sure, if you're living and breathing, you have people that will go negative towards you. For. No. Apparent. Reason. Sometimes supposed friends. A family member. Your jealous brother in-law "Tim." A person you hardly know. Haters. There's no shortage of them. They create false drama to make you look bad. Inside, they feel inferior and want to knock you down a peg or two. If you start to talk about your success stories or wins, they have fingers in their ears. Volumes have been written about how to deal with the haters in your life. A common conclusion is to create distance between yourself and the hater. 

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, home of the amazing Golden State Warriors. You don't have to visit too many online sports forums to see the depth of "haterism" for the team. Pretty simple to understand. They're just so darned good.  Not to mention Steph Curry as one of the greatest of all time. Psssst! I'm not a New England Patriots fan, but I'll give QB Tom Brady his due. He, like Steph, is undeniably talented in their respective sports.

So, when you're under attack from a hater, frenemy or enemy, remember the old saying, "The best revenge is massive success." (Frank Sinatra). It works wonders for your frame of mind.





   

Thursday, February 14, 2019

My Burt Reynolds interview

The recent passing of Burt Reynolds put me in a very reflective mood. 1985-1986 were especially exciting years for me as an on air talent. I was on WIRK, a heritage country music station doing a midday show. Burt's people at his ranch in Jupiter, Florida approached our management team with the idea of building a broadcast studio in his gift/souvenir store, and  relaying the signal back to our main station, and then out across the South Florida airwaves.  I was in the right place at the right time. My daily routine consisted of driving to the main radio station in the morning, picking up commercial and music logs for that day, then driving twenty some miles up the Florida turnpike to the ranch studio to do my show. I interviewed lots of recording artists as well as celebrities-many of them friends of Burt's. One time, he showed up at the studio to do an interview with me and you would never have known you were talking to a very big movie star.  He was very real and gracious with his time. Here's a postcard I held on to through the years from his gift store. R.I.P. Burt. And thanks for being so kind.


Dolly Parton and working 9 to 5

 It was great seeing one of my favorites being honored on the recent Grammy Awards. Dolly Parton was joined on stage with other singers who helped salute her amazing career. Naturally, part of the song medley included her mega-hit "9 to 5".  I told a relative of mine recently that when you work full-time (or close to it) in voice overs, if you're looking for a 9 to 5 job, this business isn't for you. You'll have rush requests at  all hours. Being available to record is key. Not to mention, with overseas clients, you're dealing with different time zones.

Dolly is such a smart business woman. A large amount of her wealth comes from successful enterprises, including her fun, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee amusement park-"Dollywood." And royalties from songs she has written like"I Will Always Love You." 

Back in my former life as a radio deejay, I played tons of Dolly's songs. Always good stuff.
An American treasure. Still going strong at 73.

Congratulations on your long, successful career Dolly! Bravo!