Monday, January 31, 2022

Her million dollar voice is SO familiar

If you watch live awards shows you have heard her voice announcing the presenters, guests and such. Her name is Randy Thomas. She began making money with her voice in radio years ago, where women were largely pushed to the side. Men ruled and women played second fiddle. But Randy broke those barriers. If you're a female voice actor, you have Randy to thank, as she kicked in the door for those that followed her.

No doubt, live announcing a huge event like the Oscars with millions watching,would be nerve- racking. But she's got it down; a real pro. 

Here's a link to a very brief piece about her I found online speaking from her home studio. 

                                                                 

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Hoarse throat relief in a bottle

 One of the challenges of voicing many scripts is that your voice may decide to get in a funk from time to time. Dryness, raspiness - just plain ol' sore throat. Not being able to deliver projects on time can mean money lost, or worse yet, the loss of a client.

I heard about a terrific product from that great animation voice talent and coach, Pat Fraley, called "Entertainer's Secret." This stuff's been around for some time and professional singers (including Billy Joel and Katy Perry), as well as voice over folks, swear by it. You spray it into your throat or sniff it into your nostrils. It's distributed by a company out of Indiana. The bottle indicates the main ingredient to be Aloe Vera Gel.

I ordered several bottles and keep them handy in my vocal booth.

I know that there are many other tricks of the trade that VO folks use to keep the voice fine tuned such as nasal irrigation with saline solution, but this stuff works for me. And it's not messy. 

Check it out here

"Leave that jewelry at home!"

Pretty much common sense, but if you're going in for a recording session, leave your jewelry at home, or at least put it in your handbag. Loose fitting jewelry can make a bit of noise and  microphones are very sensitive. The producer and audio engineer will not be pleased with you if you bring unwanted sounds to the recording session.  I have a guided meditation I listen to and at some points you can hear the narrator's wrist bracelet in the background. Not good. OK, keeping it short and sweet on this post.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

"Do I need a website to be a competitive voice actor?"

Those just jumping into the voice over world may wonder whether a voice over website is a must. Some may think it costs too much money to have a website. I believe if you DON'T have a website, you're potentially losing money/business. A well thought out website is your online "storefront." If done right, it gives you credibility. It's a place where potential customers can go to listen to your voice demos, read testimonials (powerful), see actual examples of your voice over work through videos you've recorded for, tells folks a bit about your background, answers questions with an FAQ, and contains details about how to reach you.

By the way, it's not expensive to have your website up on the Internet. You generally pay a quarterly dollar amount. The companies who host websites are very competitive. Do some investigating. You might be surprised.

I won't speak for others in the voice over industry, but I will give you my experience with my website. When I decided to leave my on-air radio career hosting a midday show in Charlotte about 15 years ago to go full-time with voice over, I was fortunate to have the help of our radio group webmaster. I told him I needed a "basic" website put together so I could land voice over jobs. He graciously agreed to meet me at the station on a weekend (a good thing--no distractions in the building) and he put the website together, as I looked over his shoulder. At one point he asked me what I wanted to call my website--"John Miles Productions" Or, "John Miles Creative." I suggested we go with "productions" as it was a bit more all inclusive. So, "John Miles Productions" was born. That website gave me confidence to approach people for work. I was able to send out marketing emails to production companies and direct them with a link to my voice demos. Back then, things were a bit different; I would sometimes receive an email or phone call from someone I had just emailed my information to same day. "Good timing John. I have a voice over job you might want to do." None of this would have been possible without a website.

I highly recommend hiring a competent web designer to create your website. Some voice talents like to put their own website together (e.g."WIX"). In my opinion, that's OK, as long as it looks neat and clean and contains the information I mentioned in the first paragraph of this post. And by all means, there is no need for flash and tons of bells and whistles. The people who may hire you want TWO things from your website. They want to hear your voice demos, and they want to know how to reach you. Put your contact information (i.e. email and phone number) where it's easy to see. Of course, same thing for your demos. There's always been a lot of talk in the voice over industry as to whether to put a picture of yourself on your website. I've taken the "no picture" route. Some feel it's a good thing to have a picture as people like to see who they're dealing with. I'll leave that debate to others. I don't want people judging me by what I look like. I want them judging me by what I sound like. Some voice talents are in their 70's, or even 80's, and they sound much younger. The great, late, narrator Peter Thomas' career spanned 7 decades! He was 92 when he died and still had narration job offers! (You no doubt heard him on TV many times. A real legend. "Forensic Files" was one of his shows.)

After putting off a much needed voice over website update for way too long, a very talented nephew of mine from Ohio put together a wonderful website for me. He did an outstanding job, and I'm proud to have a website I can send potential customers to where they can hear demos and read about my background. A HUGE thank you to him. I have absolutely no eye for website design, and he took copy I provided and made everything work. 

So, the answer to "Do I need a website to be a competitive voice actor?" I believe is... YES. I know there are voice talents who get work from so called "pay to play" websites like Voice 123 and Voices.com and do not have their own website. They use those sites to upload their voice demos and provide background information. That's fine. I just know from past experience that a personal website is a definite plus. I think that those who ignore it as a very effective marketing tool, do so at their own peril.  A website gives you "presence."

Here's a link to my new voice over website. It allows me to put everything in ONE place. And it looks professional. It gives the potential customer/client the impression that I'm a pro and ready to go to work. And that's a good thing.



Tuesday, January 18, 2022

"This copy stinks!" (A warning for you). And an Orson Welles drop by

 I don't think there's a voice actor who's been around for a while who hasn't received copy from clients/producers that lacks proper punctuation, has misspelled words, or awkward phrasing. 

It's very frustrating for you, as the voice talent, because your goal is to make your read "sparkle." But that little voice inside your head says "I'm never going to be able to make this sound professional. Just too many errors." 

When in a recording session with a client, although tempting, never make fun of or mock the copy. The person directing you may have written it! He or she may not appreciate your on the spot critique. They may think it's a masterpiece.You feel otherwise. Keep it to yourself.

The best thing you can do is to roll with the flow. But you might want to politely say, "Where it says _____, do we want to say_____ ?" Defer to the client. They're paying you. If you're recording from your home studio without direction, you might want to email the client and ask about certain things before you start recording. Sometimes the client is "English second language" and they may be counting on YOU to smooth it out. This is common with overseas companies.

When I lived in Carolina, I use to drive down two times a week to a well known music service company that also produced on hold messages galore. I would sit in a booth for an hour and read message after message as the audio engineer captured my voice over in another room. Almost every session, there was  a piece of copy that would come up that looked like no one had bothered to proofread it. More than a few times,  I had to bite my lip. (And I have broad lips. Ouch!) Sometimes, the audio engineer would chime in with "Let's try it this way..."

Now, because you've read this post this far, I want to share with you an entertaining, old school recording session with the late, great, actor/producer/director/writer Orson Welles of "Citizen Kane" and "War of the Worlds" fame. He was recording a voice over for frozen peas and burgers, and to say that he was critical of the copy would be a huge understatement. Listen to how his anger builds with every mistake, and then he explodes before walking out of the session. It's a true classic. And funny too! Here's the link.

Friday, January 14, 2022

"Let's Get Ready To Rummmble!" (No, this is not about your family's last holiday get together)

 Years ago, I received an email from a gentleman who wanted me to record a TV commercial for him. As I remember, it was for a small/medium sized market. I asked him to email me the copy before I committed to recording it for him. I immediately noticed the copy contained the phrase "Let's Get Ready To Rumble!" I had read somewhere that the phrase had been trademarked by boxing announcer extraordinaire, Michael Buffer. If you watch sporting events, you've no doubt heard his over the top announcement at the beginning of a boxing match.  (Pic down below). He gets between $25,000 to $100,000 to say those five words, depending on the match! Yep. How sweet is that? He had the phrase trademarked back in 1992, and since then, it's been used in movies, TV shows, video games, Washington political hearings and beyond. (OK. I made that last part up, but it IS fitting).  In fact, it's estimated he's made $400,000,000 to date off the phrase. He and his company vigorously enforce the legal use of it.  He's actually made more off the licensing than ring announcing. 

Back to that customer who wanted me to say the phrase in his TV commercial. I emailed him back and clued him in. He had no idea it had been trademarked.  We went with some variation of "Let's Get Ready To Rumble!" and all was well.

This reminds me of the Wendy's TV commercial back in the 80's with Clara Peller-the onscreen, feisty, grandma known for her gripe, "Where's the Beef?!" Humorous, to say the least. Back then, the phrase caught wildfire and was being heard and seen everywhere; including on a huge bunch of tee shirts. Wendy's trademarked it back in 1984. I interviewed Clara on my radio show when I was on in West Palm Beach . She and her manager son were in town that weekend for a Senior Olympics event. Clara was extremely hard of hearing, and the story goes that when she was taping a TV commercial, with a few other grandmas standing behind a counter with her, a producer hidden down below tapped her on the ankle to bark those famous words "Where's the Beef?!" right on cue.

Now all you and I have to do is come up with another catchy marketing phrase that everyone wants and trademark it. I'll give you 50 percent. You in?