Marketing Voiceovers On-Line
Getting Found and Cast
by Peter Drew
The Voice-Over Revolution
The Internet is revolutionizing the voice-over business. Today quality remote recording of voiceovers can be done virtually anywhere. With a PC, mic, and Internet connection, almost anyone can set up shop as a voice talent.
A few years ago, a remote session entailed a voice over talent standing in a commercial production house studio, say, in L.A., taking direction over the telephone through a “phone patch” from, say, New York City.
The next innovation in remote recording was the satellite link. It sounds great on either end, but it’s very expensive, so it’s suited only for sessions with the biggest budgets and most expensive talents.
A few years after the satellite link came the more economical ISDN, which stands for Integrated Services Digital Network. ISDN is a digital hookup via the telephone system. Each location is connected to the other through a piece of hardware called a “codec.” An ISDN hookup is preferred by agencies and clients with budgets large enough to accommodate the additional cost of recording an out-of-market voice over artist.
The latest, and, so far, most liberating technology available to voice over talents is the now ubiquitous .mp3 file—the same file type used for swapping songs over the ‘Net. A voice talent anywhere in the world can set up a home studio and be in business. The talent records the voiceover, with direction via phone patch, if desired by the client, into a PC equipped with simple audio editing software. Next an .mp3 file is created and then sent as an email attachment to the agency and/or client. No expensive satellite or ISDN linkups. No commercial production facility. Simply put: no middleman.
Is this a good thing? Not entirely. The home VO studio explosion can be likened to the desktop publishing frenzy of 15 years ago. Just because you have a powerful printing press in a box on your desk doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to produce coherent, well-designed publications. Everyone thought they could buy PageMaker, print some business cards and letterhead, and, voila, an instant living publishing newsletters. Of course, the vast majority of these desktop publishing newbies discovered it takes more than technology to succeed. First and foremost, it takes talent, training, and experience to use the tool, the software, effectively—and most important—profitably.
With that caveat out of the way, and assuming you have the chops to make a go of your home voice-over business, let’s look at how the Internet also has revolutionized promotion of voice over talents.
Drumming up business
Before the home studio, voiceover artists had to go to studios to record. Promotion included distributing your demo on cassette or CD to production houses, ad agencies, talent agents, and casting agents; making phone calls; sending reminder cards with your latest credits; sending thank you gifts to clients at holiday time; and networking with anyone and everyone. Actually, to be successful, you still have to do all of those things, but now you have additional promotional opportunities via the World Wide Web.
So, where to start? First, put up a website. Design it yourself or hire a site designer. www.magicInet.com is a new hosting service specializing in helping voice actors and other performers get their website on-line. What should you put on your website? The most important function of your site is to feature your demos. It also should highlight your credits, contact info, and bio. The best way to learn about voice-over website design is to look at voice talent sites. Do a search for keywords, e.g. voiceovers, voice overs, voice over talent, voice over artists, and any other search terms you can think of and see what other talents have done. If you’re designing your own site, subscribe to a couple of search engine optimization email newsletters, e.g. WebProNews and SiteProNews. They’ll give you lots of helpful design info and help you “optimize” your site, so you get high placement in search engines.
OK. You have your website up and hummin’. Now, be sure to put your website’s address on anything and everything you mail to prospective clients: you demos, stationery, business cards, reminder cards, etc. If you still have reams of stationery left, then just include the website address in the letters you type and print. For all those demos, business cards, and reminder cards still sitting on your shelf, buy some labels, print your website address on them, and stick ‘em on.
There are plenty of places on the World Wide Web to promote your voice over services, both free and for a fee—BUT BE CAREFUL! Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware) is the operative phrase. Here are some free places to place a link to your website:
http://www.voiceartist.com/, http://www.radio411.com/addlink.htm, http://www.starsnsites.com/voice/index.html, http://audioworld.com/
As for paying for to listed with an on-line voice talent site, be sure the site is legitimate. Unfortunately, like so many other things that start off well, a few bad apples begin turning up. Before you pony up any dough, be sure to speak/write to other talent listed on the site to see if the site has actually gotten them any work. Here are a few legitimate fee-based websites:
www.mktmania.com, www.voice123.com, www.gotvoices.com, www.1212.com, www.voicefinder.biz, www.voiceoverselect.com, www.interactivevoices.com, www.commercialvoices.com
In addition to fee-for-inclusion websites, there are fee-for-inclusion CDs, which are distributed to ad agencies, production houses, talent agents, radio and TV stations, etc. Again, CAVEAT EMPTOR! There are scam artists who have discovered that voice-over people can be very eager to promote their services. These scammers offer CD demos that, well, either never get made or sent. They sure take your money, though. So, be careful. Make sure any company you deal with is reputable. Ask for references. If it’s a start-up operation, wait until the first CD is sent out and is in circulation for a while. Then call some of the participants and see if they got any work out of it.
Groups and forums
There are a lot of voice over related groups and forums on the Web. Go to Yahoo Groups and type in voice over, voiceovers, voice over talent, voice over artist, etc., and you’ll find many groups where you can drop in and learn from others. Participate if you’d like, but remember, anything you post in these chat rooms stays there pretty much for life. If you might regret saying something, then keep your fingers away from the keyboard.
Marketing vs. talent
You may be the greatest voice talent on the planet, but, if no one knows who you are, well, then that’s wasted talent. So, get out there and promote and make your business a success.
© Peter Drew, 2005