Working from home has become the new norm. Tens of millions of people had suddenly been converted from office workers to digital home-mads when the shutdowns began. We left our one on one relationships at work and shifted to virtual co-workers, no longer sharing a workspace and the casual conversations at the water cooler. The business trips stopped. The cold coffees in the break rooms ceased to exist. And the things that connected us and gave us variance in our lives came to a halt. For so many, these disconnects made us feel lonely.
I remember when the pandemic started many of my colleagues and friends in the voiceover business joked about their many years of experience working from home. Like them, I had been working from home for many years. As a full-timer in the voiceover industry, you work in a booth, or a closet, or any enclosed space that will help reduce reflective noises. And for most, they come out of those spaces after a full (or partial) day’s work to interact with their families and friends and enjoy activities.
My life and experience working from home have always been different. Before becoming a voiceover talent, I worked in the school system as a substitute and afterschool teacher. As you could imagine, I was never alone. I was always busy, with tens and sometimes hundreds of kids around me. There were parents to talk to and co-workers to congregate with and share outrageous and unbelievable stories about the kids. After school, I hung out with my co-working friends.
But in 2006, after 2 years of part-time voice acting, I made a commitment to being a full-time voiceover talent (after I was fired from substitute teaching). No more hanging with co-workers or seeing the kids. Or conferencing in person with parents to discuss why their kid’s behavior at school was markedly different than it was at home. No mas! And as a result, I became far less relevant to the people I worked with. To make up for this, I involved myself in activities.
What’s So Different About Me?
When I left my job, or rather, when my job left me, I had to find different things to involve myself in. Unlike so many of my friends and former co-workers, I don’t have a family. Over the many years, I have had many girlfriends but I don’t have any children. I don’t even have a dog. For much of those years as well, I lived alone. While I saw even my youngest brother get married and have beautiful daughters, I decided that a life of travel was the path for me.
I am also an introvert who has always forced himself to be social, and it’s worked for me. I have found friends in new countries while traveling. I’ve encountered new buddies while working out in the gym. I have new friends from attending various Spanish meet-up groups. And even found some guys who gladly and repeatedly dropped me on my head doing judo (lol). I have made friends based on the activities that we have in common which has warded off loneliness. But generally, when those activities were over, I was back to the voiceover booth and back to being alone.
So Why Do I Feel Lonely Now?
The pandemic really highlighted how fragile my associations were. It shone a spotlight on how I had medicated myself with travel and meet-ups. It was initially tough and made me feel lonely. Unlike my co-workers who had their children, spouses, and dog to huddle around the barrage of news coming in about the virus, I did not have that. I was actually working doing radio imaging (alone in the booth) to inform and encourage people to stay home. All the meanwhile spending no time producing nightclub commercials, because they were locked down. I was also suffering from health issues that started before covid.
All of the things that I had occupied my time and mind with were crumbling around me. My social interactions have been reduced to social media and a sharp increase in on-screen time. My time in the gym halted and my only exercise was a brisk walk from the studio couch to the bathroom before my bladder gave way. There was no more swimming. There was no martial arts training. Instead, there were short drone flights around the neighborhood with my DJI Mavic; at least until that fateful day when I flew it into some electrical wires (RIP Mav).
Suddenly I was doing nothing but scrolling. My health and good sense dictated that I follow the CDC guidelines. It wasn’t long before I saw posts from here in Georgia and other red states where everyone was back out and about. Heck, at that point the pandemic had just started a month prior and some clubs were back open. Everyone was having fun. They were in the bars, hanging out in Miami, going out to restaurants and I was still sheltering. The gym re-opened in June 2020. Some of my gym buddies went back to working out immediately. Some were decidedly cautious. But regardless, I allowed my membership to lapse and have still not renewed.
What Now? Do I Go Back To Normal Now That I’m Vaccinated?
No! The pandemic isn’t over. 94% doesn’t mean 100% effective and there are still breakthrough infections. The number of people getting vaccinated with both shots is waning. And the anti-vaxers are getting louder. All of this means, that as the summer progresses, I take caution in finding things to do outside with my girlfriend. We still plan to do activities but in a controlled manner. I’ll get back to medicating myself with travel. I have already started flying again, but I take extra precautions. But in all of that, I’ll still be working from home.
The Covid pandemic has taught me a few lessons. It has taught me that people need people and to strengthen the connections that I have with others. It’s taught me that working from home isn’t for everyone. Being a loner is ok. But I don’t have to feel lonely. It’s important to discover commonalities with people and to keep up with them. The pandemic taught me that we are all mentally vulnerable and the necessity to continually evaluate one’s psychological health. I am still learning the value of random calls with the thousands of unused names and numbers in my contacts list. Because when dealing with the stress of toilet paper and gas shortages, we need others to relate to who are dealing with the same crap.
A colleague of mine once said to me “The job of a Voiceover Talent is to wake up every day and voiceover audition.” Well, I’m terrible at my job. I do not audition often. My career as a voiceover talent has never been about auditioning. It has always been about marketing, personal relationships, and internet sales. But I do voiceover audition from time to time. And I do land some of those auditions. This was one of those times.
Sometime in May (2019), I auditioned for a voiceover for Publix. I have auditioned for Publix many times in my career. I have landed one and been put on hold for several more. As with all auditions, I recorded it in my home studio and forgot it. A few weeks later I received an email from my agent in Atlanta, Jeffrey Umberger, that I was on hold for the job. (On hold means that they are considering multiple talents that may fit what they are looking for.) I let Jeffrey know my availability and again went back to marketing and promoting.
Auditioning is very different from the style of marketing that I do. While some talent have found success in both auditions and marketing strategy, for me, who is not much of a multitasker, I prefer marketing. I feel more assured when I can speak to people and find out exactly what they are looking for as opposed to sending my voice off into the interwebs and hoping that what I said and how I said it was exactly what they want. Auditioning is a guessing game and a numbers game at the same time. It’s definitely a competitive sport also, except in this competition, my livelihood is at stake.
Also, I have always thought of what I do as a business and not just me being a freelance talent. 95% of the work I have gotten in my career was based on business and not doing some voiceover audition or relying on agents. Had I had to rely on agents, this voiceover thing may have been reduced to a hobby. I guess that’s why I never felt comfortable betting on auditioning, in spite of the fact that I am a talented capable voice actor.
My 7 Step Voiceover Audition Process
When I do audition, I have a process. I have shared this process in classes that I have taught but I will share some of it here for free. I start with a dry read. Having never seen the script before, I read it out loud. Having done voiceover for 15 years now, my dry reads are pretty darn good and usually have no errors. Also, my experience in live announcing also helps. For me, the purpose of saying it out loud for the first time is just to get it out of my head without prejudicing myself about what it should sound like. At this stage, there is no perfection.
My second read is to iron out any kinks in my dry read. It’s kind of a dry read but better. Throughout this process, I am recording these reads and I listen back to all of my reads as they get better. My goal is to reach 7 reads before I take any of them seriously. On the road to the seven reads is the 3rd and 4th which I use to help me memorize the lines.
Memorizing The Lines In The Audition
Memorization helps me feel that I am doing more than just reading lines. When you don’t know the material, it shows in the read. By my fifth read, I remember the lines and give it another try and I often have what I call an “AH HAH Moment.” This is not to be confused with a “Haha Moment.” The Ah Hah moment is when you have a realization about the script. It’s when you start to see the interpretation of the script differently.
My Ah-Hah Moment
My sixth read is where I lay down my Ah-hah moment read. It’s where I play with the words. After memorizing it and seeing it differently, I begin to own the copy and inject my personality into it. By the 7th read, I perfect the audition. This is the one I should go with. Sometimes I do more than seven reads though. Some scripts are more difficult than others. Other times I have more playing to do with the copy and have even more Ah-hah moments.
And sometimes I just project myself with different moods. Maybe a sad mood read or a read where it is really outrageous sounding. It’s not that I think they will pick that read, but they will see that I can read copy well in case they need to make changes in the script when we do the real record.
Don’t Obsess Over Your Voiceover Auditions. Edit & Send
From there I start editing. I don’t second guess myself in the editing process. Whatever I have already recorded is what I am going with. My process does not include re-recording. I only edit at this point. I use some lite compression and other tools that clean up the sound a bit but never anything that is too noticeable.
There is a lot that goes into voiceover auditions and the number of steps for me is just one of them. Figuring out how to connect with my target audience is important too. But this kind of thinking is how I landed this voiceover audition and others in the past. It probably doesn’t hurt that I have a great voice too.
Listen To The Voiceover Audition That Got Me The Job Below —–>>>
Political Voice Over matters. Because we, as voiceover talent speak for the people. Turn on the TV. Take a look outside. Depending on where you are you may see calm or you may see mayhem. And unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that what federal and local leaders decide for us has a substantial impact on our daily lives. This is a time where being neutral is impossible. Covid 19 and the effects that it has had on our economy will affect everyone. And the racial tensions in the United States are boiling over AGAIN! We all have a voice in this. So what do you do if you are a voice-over talent asked to do voiceover that hurts or hinders the causes that you stand for?
I’ve never understood how people could vote against their own interests. Yet tens of millions of Americans do it all the time. I guess I don’t understand them because I completely comprehend cause and effect. Candidate A says that beer is banned and you are a beer drinker. Yet you voice a commercial for that candidate? He is also against microphones that cost below $2500 because lobbyists and his donors are expensive mic manufacturers. So now you can’t crack open a brew when you want to and he has demanded that you get these super expensive mics. How do you stay neutral enough to do political voice over ads for Candidate A? I can’t.
Candidate A is hurting me and my business. And even if I attend AA meetings (I don’t actually consume alcohol) and earn enough money from doing political voice over for his ads to buy that Neuman U87, I know that he is simultaneously hurting my industry and all the best parties that I attend. This changes life as I know it. And even if I benefit in the short term, I lose overall.
Voicing Commercials for Politicians that Align with my Values
I recently completed my Political Voice Over demo. I decided to do one because I am passionate about the effects that all politics and policies have on our daily lives. I was born to take the side of the less powerful. My family came to the United States as immigrants in the 1960’s. Most of my grandmother’s sons served in the armed forces before they returned to buy homes and had families. It was important for them to educate their children well and be part of what happens in the neighborhood to its people.
My father and uncle were always a part of some action committee, political office, or school position. Both of my parents served as PTA president at my school at some time. When I faced repeated harassment and bullying and physical assault, which included being choked once, by the NYPD, my father knew what Captain to go see at the precinct.
Because my father was a vocal member of the community board and worked with the police in some cases, he spoke with the person in charge after an officer put his hands on his teenage son (who was just walking home.) Still, the policies on a citywide level prevented any action from being taken against the assailants. Effectively, my voice was silenced. So when I think about the voice over work I do, I think about having a voice first, and what I am representing.
Who Am I Voicing This Ad For? Know Your Candidate
I consider that the candidate that I am endorsing might actually win and take an anti-immigrant stance, or encourage the use of the police as a militant arm of indiscriminate racism. I consider that that candidate may win and take a public health or environmental stance that can harm communities that lack the resources to fight back. I consider that when Candidate A pays me for that political voice over, I’m gonna have to pay it back in the form higher taxes on the middle class and poor, to the benefit of his rich donors. There is no benign effect. It will come back on me.
Recently I was asked to do political voice over work for a national figure that seemingly supports the same police tactics that terrorized me as a child. I was honored that my talent was considered good enough for the national stage, but I had to decline. I asked a fellow African American if he would be interested in the referral because he voices ads for both sides of the aisle. I have also been asked to do political voice over for pro second amendment rights in a state that borders the one I grew up in. Understanding how guns get into the hands of criminals and the harm that is caused with those guns, I had to also decline. Cause and effect matter to me. I help them win and they make me lose.
What I Stand For
There are causes that represent other groups that have little to no immediate effect on me. But I stand for them because it is the right thing to do. I have a unique opportunity to be in a position where I may be called on to be a voice for the voiceless, to be the strident messenger for the silenced, and to communicate the narrative of the muted. Sometimes those people look like me and speak like me, but can’t speak up like me.
Check Out My Political Voice Over Demo Here
Dedicated to the memory of my brother Julian who died suddenly in late May. Born and raised in the UK, he was passionate about British and global politics. We never missed a chance to trade political barbs with one another. Brexit was his Achilles heel.
Radio Imaging IS the reason I started doing voiceover. I absolutely love it. Especially Hip Hop and Urban AC Radio Imaging. I admired the big voice guys I would hear on Atlanta radio who would break out of character and say funny and outrageous stuff. As a recent college graduate at the time, I knew I could do what they did. I had the big voice. I had the humor. I could tell great stories. Years later, I’m a talent, accumulating more and more stations. 2019 was a very successful year for me in Imaging with the help of being signed to the Mix Group. But I’m always humbled by new stations regardless of where they are in the world or how large or small they are.
I’m working on a brand new radio station. I am setting up a radio station and so I want to talk a little bit about getting started with a brand new radio station I’m Dane Reid the voice-over guy check me out.
So my agent hit me up and said okay Dane we got this new radio station for you I’m always excited about a new station I love radio imaging so this is a really great opportunity for me once all the paperwork was signed they take care of all that stuff on the back end I immediately got in contact with the program director I wanted to know a couple of things I wanted to know.
What their old sound was like? I wanted to know the format of the station. I wanted to know what the morning show and evening drive was like, because all of those things are gonna play into the way that I image the station. I am the official voice and I’m the branding voice for that station and so it was very important that I get what they want right and so I asked a bunch of questions. I asked what they liked most about my demo and what the program director told me was that he really liked the energy that I put in. I had smile, things like that, right.
So I listened back to my own demo and I try to mimic what I’m copying myself to make sure that I captured the true essence of what they wanted what they saw on what they expect for the imaging so they send you a packet and the packet has like 15 pages attached to it and so I’ve been working on that all weekend because I’m about to go out of town and I want to make sure that I get it right to make sure that you get it right you want to make sure that you read the lines multiple times in multiple ways unless it’s a line that I just know that I absolutely nailed it. So I may say “let’s keep it moving” right? “let’s keep it moving” or “let’s keep it moving” (all said differently), right? So they have different vibes to them. And I also look to see what section so they may be you know talking to consumers some of it requires voice acting some of it just requires the big voice.
Some of it just all depends. I’m not gonna give the same kind of energy to “here’s a slow jam” and to “here’s the quiet storm” as I’m gonna give to “the Saturday night party” you know saying so you just have to be very thoughtful about those kinds of things when you are setting up or a station additionally I listen to the station because that’s also very important again it’s all about a vibe about capturing that vibe and recreating it and sending it back to the station because for a year two years three years and hopefully many more years to come I’ll be the voice of this station so I just wanted to give a quick video about radio imaging and I’m Dane Reid the voice-over guy. Subscribe to my blog subscribe to my youtube and I’ll check you guys out later. I’m Dane Reid. I’m gone peace
Wanna Hear Some of What I Do?
I used to steal software and plugins for voiceover. I started my career with Cubase LE which came as free software with my Emu 1616 audio interface. As I realized the limitations of that software, I wanted to grow but I didn’t have the money to grow. But having friends in audio engineering, I found out that there were ways to get what was called cracked software.
My first cracked software was a Cubase SX. There was a company that was famous for cracking audio software called and I used to find their software either online or through a friend who had it. Cubase 2.1 was how I really learned to produce commercials. But a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is only as good as the plugins. So for that, I had to find more cracked software.
Free Plugins? Or Digital Piracy?
The hot plugins of the day were waves plugins. Waves were really good and really expensive. Of everyone that I knew who did audio, maybe only one of them actually bought any of the waves plugins legally. Waves plugins could run 10k for a bundle. Being who I am I had to have the best bundles. I had the waves platinum, mercury and gold bundles at some time in history.
As my career grew, I never really considered buying the actual plugins. They were still out of my reach in price. Plus, what was the point? I was getting them for free. Free beats cheap any day. So I perfected my skills with free software and even upgraded as more cracked software replaced the older versions. I went from Cubase SX to Cubase 2.1. Then I moved on to several Nuendo versions for a few years. Meanwhile, voiceover and commercial orders piled on. I had a nice workflow.
I never shorted on hardware though. I bought my first Neuman for $1500. UA LA 610 for $1400. I owned several computers. A Mac and a PC and a PC laptop. I had travel gear and swapped out several audio interfaces at that time.
The Day It All Went Bad!
So what happened? Well, one morning I got up to do my work. I had several commercials in the pipeline for the day. I fired up my computer and my trusty Emu and then started Nuendo and BAM. Nothing. It wouldn’t start. I tried it again and still nothing. So I restarted the computer hoping that would help. Nothing again. I tried a few times and no result. I was in a bad position.
I called a friend and fellow talent to ask if I could come to his house and record this work and he asked me what had happened. I told him. And his response was something I didn’t expect. He said to me “Why don’t you just buy the software?” I had never thought to actually buy the software. So I did. I bought my first version of Cubase, which was Cubase 5. It cost me $300 at Guitar Center. I came home that morning with my dongle and installed the software and BAM…. Nothing!!
At this point, I’m even more panicked. Installing and getting up and running was much easier with cracked software. So I called Steinberg to help me. I went over several things troubleshooting with the tech before I finally had to admit to the tech that I previously installed unauthorized software. He went silent for a second, and in a judgemental tone said “Well then you have to wipe your entire computer clean and reinstall windows to install Cubase properly.
You can imagine my horror. But I had work to do and the day was coming to a close by now. I got off the phone, backed up as many of my files as I could, and wiped my hard drive. I realized that I had to change at this moment. I did put the plugins back on the computer because I needed them at that moment but over time I began to buy them. I didn’t buy all of them but I bought some.
Pay The Money. It Will Pay You Back!
Over the years I replaced Cubase 5 with Cubase 7 Artist. I also bought Cubase 8 Elements for my mobile rig and then upgraded to Cubase LE AI Elements 9.5. I also bought Cubase Artists 9 for my desktop home studio. That version made all of my 32-bit plugins obsolete so now I had to buy all new plugins. That’s when I bought the Apollo Twin and then the Apollo Arrow with all the plugins for those machines. Now, I can’t steal plugins. I buy them. I also fell in love and buy the Izotope plugins. I have several of those bundles for mixing and mastering. I continue to buy software and plugins for voiceover. For Christmas, I bought UAD’s Manley VoxBox and Valley People Dyna-Mite.
Where To Find Free Software
You don’t even have to steal software and plugins. For plugins, there are literally thousands of free ones online. All you have to do is google free audio plugins. For a DAW everyone knows about Audacity which is free but you can also download a free version of Mixpad which seems better than Audacity.
In my opinion, I get the fact that starting a business or learning a new craft is very expensive, but with free software and plugins for voiceover available now, don’t steal. Don’t steal anything actually. People work hard designing this software and they deserve to make a profit for their efforts. I left some links in the description for Mixpad and Audacity.
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On the surface of things, I may seem like the luckiest guy in the world. I’m a digital nomad who makes a living with my God-given talent, my voice. My voice has allowed me to travel all over the world, freedom to decide how I spend my days and has set me in the company of some pretty famous and interesting people. And my work is heard literally by millions of people every day. There are so many reasons Why I Love Being A Voiceover Talent. So what could a guy with so many great fortunes have to complain about when it comes to being a Voiceover Talent? Here’s my list.
When I think about the things that I don’t like about being a voiceover talent, most of it comes down to the business aspects of the job. But there is one thing that relates directly to the job itself and that’s auditioning. Imagine that you have an advanced college degree in something and you have years of experience in the field. Now imagine that every day you go into work and before you put in 8 hours you have to interview for the job you’ve held for years each time in order to even start work. That’s what auditioning is like. It’s like a job interview every day. It’s maddening for me.
I have heard of talents who literally audition for work all day every day. This is what they do until they nail the job. For me auditioning is frustrating. Literally, you are competing against sometimes hundreds of people for one position. And certainly, I have landed many pretty spectacular jobs from auditioning but the process can sometimes feel like a time-waster. Instead, I have based my business in voiceover in marketing my voice and cultivating relationships with clients. But still, auditioning remains a part of what I do.
Who Do I Trust?
Shady managers, agents, producers, websites, and coaches all prey on talent in the voiceover industry. Some of us know who they are. Some of us don’t. The voiceover industry can be a very lucrative field even if you’ve never stood behind the mic. Many people know that and make money legitimately from it. But there is a growing population of people who lack experience and worse, morals, who are guiding others’ careers. They have everything from profit-sharing schemes of talents entire income, to quickly made demos for talent who obviously are not ready to make one. As these snake oil salesmen penetrate the mainstream of the voiceover industry, it’s tougher to tell who is who as many reputable people are befriended by them. As a voice talent, knowing who to trust to help grow your business is becoming as cloudy as Manhattan smog in the early 80’s.
The Pressure To Perform
When you think performing in voiceover, you may immediately think about copy interpretation and executing the right voice or character. But no! The real pressure for a VO professional is to be what Marc Scott calls a VOprenuer. Day in and day out marketing of your voice. For someone who entered into this profession because of their talent, this can be difficult.
There are no guarantees in life but starting any business has a unique set of risks. There is uncertainty about the future of the industry as a whole and then there is a person’s individual uncertainty about competing in that industry. There are questions and doubts about how will you retire from this industry? How will I provide insurance for myself and family? There is also the everyday questions of “where will the next job come from?” In any small business, what you kill is what you eat.
Dealing With Scissors
I probably came into voiceover at a time when rates for VO services were at an all-time low. But that money was still great money for me. But for the professionals who enjoyed even bigger checks for many years before I arrived on the scene, these checks were barely enough to pay for their 7 Series BMW’s. I was an undercutter. 14 years later I struggled to pay off my Acura in 24 months with these rates. Well, the scissors are out again and this time they keep cutting. Rates are getting lower.
Websites who promise new talent work and at the same time promise clients extremely low rates have big budgets to help them rate at the top of google searches. These websites are corporate-minded, not individually concerned and so they have invaded the industry from multiple angles in an attempt to make talent and agents mere low waged hourly-like employees. This is, of course, a fight that as the talent we must push back on both collectively and as individuals.
Billing- I Am Not A F$%king Collection Agency
Whether I’m fighting with Paypal over a chargeback scheme by a customer or calling a client several times a day to collect on an overdue invoice, the part that I dislike about my job is being a collection agency. It’s probably the most disliked part of any business. Comcast wishes they didn’t have to have a collections division either. But unlike Comcast, I deliver the work with quality, on time and with great customer service. So I deserve to be paid on time. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Many people are not content trying to drive the rates to almost nothing. They want to make sure that they actually get it for nothing. Others feel as if the interest is accruing on the money they owe me in their accounts so they should delay delay delay. This is extremely inconvenient because meanwhile, this puts me in the position that Comcast is calling me (I’m kidding.) Either way, I tire from having to collect money that is a given that should be simply paid to me.
I’ve added safeguards to ensure that I’m paid. I collect money from certain categories of clients before the work is performed. I also use services that confirm that the work was sent to and received by new customers. And I’ve reduced the number of clients who I accept PayPal from (Because PayPal doesn’t support it’s service providers). At the end of the day, the best way to get paid is to get paid upfront and avoid frustration.
Truthfully, I was having a bit of fun writing and recording this vlog. Some of it was a bit exaggerated. All in all the benefits of being a voiceover talent for me are greater than those things that drive me crazy about being a Voiceover Talent. It’s a great job to have. And had to give advice to anyone who is frustrated with voiceover or who is discouraged from continuing, I’d simply advise them to have fun. Release the pressure. Learn as much as you can. Just do it. It’s worth it.
When people ask me how I got started in voiceover, I know what they are really asking; How to get started in voiceover and more importantly, how do they get started in voiceover? I also realize that they are listening for an easy answer. Since noticing that, I ask whether or not they are interested in doing voiceover, and from there, that shapes the way I answer the question. I either explain that their path in 2019 will be different from my path in 2004 or I tell them the actual story of my journey.
If the question is truly ” How I got started in voiceover ” then the real answer is long and complex. It started with my professor in College, Bill Clark mentioning to me that I should do voiceover. It was really early in the days of the internet and little info was available about…… really anything. I search the local newspaper, found nothing and quickly gave up. But as time went on and I graduated with a major in mass media, the word voiceover continued to resonate in my mind.
Fast forward a few years and I was working in the Fulton County Georgia School system. It was a job I enjoyed but it was never meant to be permanent. Voiceover seemed to continue to come up and I kept hearing big voice radio imaging guys like Mitch Faulkner, Pat Garrett, Mike Johnson, and others. I would imitate them and frequently said “I could do that”
But the catalyst to me actually getting started was being in New Orleans with my dad in the lobby of our hotel when I began thinking seriously about doing voiceover. I was still with the school system but what Bill Clark had advised me to do years prior was heavy on my spirit. At that moment, I concluded my thoughts when just shortly after, my homie Dolvett called me from Atlanta and said immediately upon me answering the phone, “Yo, I don’t know why I was thinking about this but, I think you should do voiceover”. I had never spoken to him about this prior.
When I returned to Atlanta, I got to the much-matured internet of 2004 and called the first voiceover talent I could find here in Atlanta. I wish I remembered her name, but she advised me to get a demo and send it out. She also told me a great studio that did demos. (That’s not advice I would give an aspiring voiceover talent today. Go get training first) So, I followed her advice. I called the studio and scheduled a time to record.
The studio session, much to the surprise of the engineers went so well that they gave me my demo free. The owner told me that I was the first aspiring voiceover talent, out of hundreds, to record with them who he actually thought had a future in the business and so he wanted to pay it forward by helping to launch my career. I was excited. I sent that demo around to different studios and agents and landed my first voiceover job on local radio playing a robot in a health product commercial. It paid me $75. I was also signed to a local agency, Arlene Wilson Management.
That year for Christmas, my then-girlfriend bought me my first microphone, the Rode NT1A. I, of course, had to buy an audio interface to go with it so I purchased the Emu 1616, which at the time was cutting edge technology. The Emu came with multiple recording programs, which included Cubase LE, which I became so accustomed to that it made Cubase my lifelong DAW. I worked this set up for 6 months when I found one regular client who paid me weekly which afforded me the ability to buy the TLM 103 microphone.
Throughout my early career, I attempted many things to make money in voiceover. I started a very expensive voiceover ringtone website which I profited only $6 before Apple’s Iphone killed the ringtone business. I sold my bible verse call-back tones to a company in Canada. But I also began doing radio commercials for local nightclubs, a skill I learned from a mentor in radio imaging named “Postman.” In 2006, I stopped working in the school system to do voiceover full-time.
By 2008 I published my first audiobook called “Dana The Procrastinator.” It was a physical hardcover book combined with a CD which was produced by my brother Omari and voiced by yours truly. Dana the Procrastinator was loosely based on my lifelong struggle with procrastination. It combined my two favorite pastimes, voiceover and writing. The book was great for me but was short-lived. I visited schools and bookstores from Atlanta to New York speaking and conducting workshops. Being an author even took me to Jamaica where I read to children at the Jamaican Public Library. But by 2009, the sales came to almost a halt and I was struggling financially.
At the end of 2009, I had lost the girlfriend who had encouraged me in my career up until then. While tough, it was the motivation I needed to push me to succeed and make bolder moves. As an introvert, I was forced to leave the house to find what I no longer had socially. My girlfriend was my crutch and I had to encounter other human beings which made me go out more. This meant using my business as a reason to attend more functions and meet more people. A new network could help make me more successful. While I lost love, I expanded my network. From there I began traveling outside of Georgia to find work. This was the formula which proved to be fruitful.
I’ve done a lot of things since 2010 keep my business going and growing. Training and educating myself to understand the voiceover industry has been helpful. Additionally, I have broadened the types of voiceover that I do. I’ve taken on much more narration work in the past few years. I started blogging and interviewing established voiceover talent to increase my own visibility in the industry. Also, I wanted to learn from other pros.
I have grown greatly over the years from how I got started in voiceover. My journey will not translate the same way into your journey if you are just getting started. The industry has changed. Technology has changed. The world has changed. My hope is that even if voiceover itself no longer exist 15 years from now, that I can be comfortable from the work I have done in this industry. And that I continue to be proud of that work.
#voiceover-career #african-american-voiceover-talent #How-to-get-started
I started working on a plan to create a full-service, professional mobile voiceover and production studio comparable to my home studio about a year ago. It began when I purchased my Universal Audio Apollo Twin and began tweaking it to get the best sound of my career. Once I realized that Universal also made the UA Arrow, I began planning how to get the best sounding commercials out of a mobile voiceover studio.
Voiceover and audio professionals are very particular about their sound. While it’s the talent that gets you the VO gig, a persons sound can quickly ruin for them. Throughout my career I’ve had moments of sound issues. There have been times when there was noise from the background, or reflection from the room. But in all those moments I was able to fix those issues, except when it came to my mobile voiceover studio. Those issues are much harder to fix.
Because I travel for both business and frequent adventures around the world, it’s important to be able to record wherever I go. I have been caught off guard and had to even record a radio imaging voiceover in the bathroom of IAH moments before I boarded a 10 hour flight to Brazil. I had no other options. It was me, my cell phone and an echoey bathroom and a job that had to be turned in before I landed. I also once recorded in the parking lot at the airport in San Jose, Costa Rica with my mobile voiceover rig. When I listen back on the sound of those recordings, they all sound bad. There are various problems with a mobile studio. The first of which is that you can’t control your environment.
Most talent aren’t recording in the bathroom of an airport. They are recording in a hotel room when on vacation. And mostly these environments are out of the control of and unknown to the voiceover talent before entering the situation. We use things like pillow forts and kaotica eyeballs to get the best sound but I’ve never been able to get the same sound that I get at home. I think part of the reason is that the home studio isn’t mimicked by the mobile studio.
Even though I have a better environment at home, I also have better equipment that filters the environment. At home for example, I have a DBX 166 exclusively to gate noise. As you can imagine, carrying that around “on holiday” would be quite awkward. So instead, whatever hardware I have for the mobile voiceover studio has to do the same as the home studio, but in a much more compact form.
I’ve tried the iRig Mic Studio, the Steinberg UR 22 and most recently the Focusrite 2i2 recording bundle, but none of them gave me the same warm compressed sound that I get at home. And none of them offer the same plug-ins. So when I found out that Universal Audio created a thunderbolt compatible smaller version of the Apollo, I was super excited. The only problem is that my PC was not thunderbolt compatible. So in September of 2018 I bought a Dell XPS 15 (9575). I loved the big bright screen and the portability of it.
I then purchased a gently used Rode NTG3. At home I have a Sennheiser 416 but didn’t want to carry that around with me everywhere I go. It’s a tough piece of gear but it’s also expensive. I was able to get the Rode NTG3 from eBay for only $300. Additionally I purchased several plug ins by Izotope like RX 6 and another Plug-in which cleans up audio that my good friend and colleague Jean Francois Donaldson swore me to secrecy about. Now all I needed was the same interface.
The UA Apollo has grown in popularity among voiceover talent over the past few years. I purchased mine in 2016 at the recommendation of an old High School friend who is now a world class engineer. The plug-ins that come with this thing are incredible and duplicate the sound of some of the greatest analog hardware in the history of gear. Plus the dedicated DSP chip processes the audio on the Apollo itself, relieving your computer of the strain.
The UA Arrow does the same but with one less DSP chip for slightly less power out the box. It offers the same on screen interface to allow you to control your studio like a pro studio. None of the other audio interfaces that I’ve tried had the same level of control. And out of the box, the UA Arrow has the same plug-ins that I mix with like the Precison Rack Strip. The Arrow also has the DBX 160 plug-in and the UA 610 which both recreate the effects of hardware that I use in my home studio. In fact included in both the Arrow and the Apollo are the:
UA 1176LN Legacy
UA 1176SE Legacy
Ampeg SVT-VR Classic
Marshall Plexi Classic
Precision Channel Strip (Precision Mix Rack Collection)
Precision Reflection Engine (Precision Mix Rack Collection)
Precision Delay Mod (Precision Mix Rack Collection)
Precision Delay Mod L (Precision Mix Rack Collection)
Pultec EQP-1A Legacy
Teletronix LA-2A Legacy
It’s still early. I haven’t fully tested the system with all of the components in an uncontrolled environments. But the elements are there and this is the best hope I have for having a mobile voiceover studio that sounds like my home studio. If you’re an established voiceover talent, please share your experience with the Universal Audio Arrow or with the mobile gear you use. I am always keeping my eye open for new audio tech.
Your agent gives you a call and says that you booked a job that you auditioned for weeks ago. If you are anything like me, you auditioned for it and totally forgot about it, so the call is a welcome surprise. But then you are told that the recording is scheduled to take place at an outside studio. “Ok” This is different but as a pro, I’m ready to record wherever I need to.
But this still takes me for somewhat of a loop. Back in the day recording voiceover almost always took place in big time studios. Some talents were even flown in from whatever city they lived in to record in NY or LA. Some of that still exist but far less than ever before. Technology has eliminated the need for talent to come into “THE BIG STUDIO” as often. Things like ISDN, Source Connect and now new technologies like IpDTL have made giving talent direction in the comforts of their homes a lot more convenient.
And convenience is the name of the game in my voiceover business. I’ve spent a lot of money and time building a home voice over studio with great sound so that I can turn work around quickly to clients. But sometimes clients want VO talent to focus on voicing work and not engineering. That’s when the “In Person Studio Sessions” comes into play.
What To Expect?
When you get into the studio there are several people who may be there. There is the sound engineer, producer, client, copywriter and sometimes other talent. This may vary but you should understand the role of each one of these people in the process. There me be a lot of chatter around you as each person discusses the script, the sound and the voiceover read. Try to pay attention so you can get it just right for everyone in the room, although only one person will give you actual directions. It’s also good to know who everyone is because there may be an opportunity to network here.
Also there will be a script laid out for you, most likely in the booth. You should have received this script before the session but be aware that sometimes there are last minute changes that happened before you got there. Sometimes these changes occur while the client, producer and engineer confer about your read. You won’t always hear what they are saying and this can be nerve wrecking, but be careful not to let this unnerve you. A tense body is never good for your reads.
You Should Be Prepared
Preparation starts before you get to the session. You may get instructions from your agent. Be sure to follow them carefully. Know your lines if they have been given to you. Go back and listen to what you submitted for the audition. You may have recorded several takes and don’t know which one booked so get familiar with all of them and consider new reads just in case. Google the directions to the studio. Know where it is and how long it will take to get there in heavy traffic. Just like with a job interview, you want to get there 15 to 30 minutes early. And just like with a job, be familiar with the product before the interview. You won’t be asked questions about it but it will help you with the read. In the video I recorded related to this blog, I recorded for bump patrol, a product that I actually use.
Lastly remember that you are not recording voiceovers in your own studio. You are in someone else’s territory. Don’t touch anything!! Even if you are familiar with the kind of equipment in the studio, it is not yours. And also remember to dress appropriately. You want to be comfortable but not bummy. I wrote an entire blog on image that you may want to check out. This may be your chance to network for future work. When doing so, be cool about it. People do business with people they like. If they ask you for a card, have one ready, but also remind them that you work through your agent.
With everything to remember you keep in mind that this process should be fun and relaxed. If you spend most of your time in your own studio recording yourself, here is an opportunity for you to record and not have to do any editing. Use your body when needed to get the job out. Ask for feedback. You never get that at home alone. And remember that you booked the job above all other talent who auditioned so there was something they saw in you that got you in the door. Don’t Worry. Be Happy!!
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