Monday, June 29, 2009
Starting us off in this blog series is Brian Thon (pronounced “tone” ironically), an energetic father of 3 from Richmond, Vermont. You can hear Thon’s voice booming over the phone when he calls into the office and we are excited to introduce him to you!
Name: Brian Thon
Locations/Areas Covered: VT, CO, IN, KY, WI and WY
How and why you got into the voice over industry
I started working in film before college and started dabbling in V/O then, doing some radio spots and TV commercials, but went into Corporate America after college and stayed there for 25 years. Though rewarding in some ways, I decided to make a change to something more connected to my heart, creative work that had captured my imagination years before.
I established a relationship with a local FM station, on a volunteer basis and that as I gained voice and engineering skills, the relationship grew. I started producing and voicing some short form spots on the radio when my wife saw a listing for a class on voice overs called, "You're On the Air!" with Dan Levine. After taking that class, I knew that V/O was a good fit for what I was looking for: Fun, creative and commercially viable. I was invited to and took the Such A Voice Master Class and had my first professional voice over demos produced. Before I even had the finished demos in hand, got laid off from my career "day job". Instead of replacing that position, I took my demos to market and made a go for V/O. The rest is history!
What do you enjoy in your free time?
I enjoy my family,
building my own multi-media company,
playing, writing and singing music,
all forms of artistic expression
being involved with Church
the beautiful State where I live and all that goes with it!
Something about you that not many people know
I changed the pronunciation of my last name, Thon, to its ethnically correct pronunciation (TONE) right after college, in 1986.
What is your least favorite word or sound and why
My least favorite sound is the cry of pain from one of my children. Why? Because, for one, they're in pain; secondly, the sound is emotionally wrenching - it's so visceral and unrestrained in all aspects that it's caustic to the ear.
In the context of V/O my least favorite sound is a bad Arnold Schwarzenegger impression. Because it's just....bad.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Depending on your market, the audition process is a regular part of getting new jobs and clients. There are a lot of factors that go into choosing who gets the job. What you don’t know is if that choice will be YOU! Some VO artists take this all in stride without even an eye blink or a raise in blood pressure. These artists don’t let a rejection ruin their day.
You on the other hand, might not have such a thick skin when it comes to rejection. How do you get over this rejection hurdle? First off, not getting the gig isn’t a personal issue. You didn’t get the job because you didn’t “fit the ideal” of what the producer or client was looking for…this time.
That’s right. You didn’t fit the “type of voice” they were looking for. Your performance can be flawless and you simply will not be the voice they choose for this job. The powers that be decided another voice had the sound quality and personality they were looking for.
While not getting this job is a disappointment, you can use this audition experience to your advantage. You are getting the chance to become your own “spin doctor” in how you handle the situation. Take this audition time to cruise, schmooze and learn!
The next time you go into an audition focus your attention on building your marketing advantage. Arrive early, have extra demos with you and always keep those business cards handy! If possible, check out the other artists who are there to audition as well. Are they a different group with every cattle call or are these guys the same ones you usually have to compete with?
Many producers like to call in VO artists that they have worked with before and add a few new voices to the mix. Take notes of who the client/producer is and if possible who got the job. The more you know about your potential clients and your competition, the better your chances for winning that next audition.
Once you are in the booth, you get your chance to shine! Here are a few ways you can get noticed and remembered even if you don’t get this job!
Stay upbeat and positive, even if you mess up your lines. Staying cool under pressure is a sign of professionalism that every client appreciates. You can stumble over your lines in the booth and still shine with your winning attitude!
Along with attitude is what you say when you mess up. Profanity is a poor choice for venting your frustration and is never a delight to listen to. This can hurt you as some producers and clients don’t want to here expletives. Keep your comments G rated only! You won’t have to worry that your potty mouth just flushed your chances for that dream job.
Remember, you won’t get every job you try out for. Don’t sweat it! Use your positive attitude and studio time to build your business. You will walk out a winner and make a great impression every time!
Thursday, June 25, 2009
One of the biggest hurdles many new voice over artists face is getting their demo heard by people who need their services. Read on to find how effectively listening to your radio can accelerate your voice over career!
Radio is one of the most popular ways to promote a product or service. The dynamics between the advertisers, producers and station managers is what keeps the stations on the air. When the advertiser is happy, everyone at the station is happy!
So, how can you fit yourself into this advertiser/ station manager/ producer dynamic? What can you do to showcase your talent if the station isn’t using freelance talent? Don’t give up and write the station off your list of possibilities! You still have a great chance of getting your demo heard, even if the station turns you down.
There is someone that wants to hear your demo! They not only want to hear it, they would be flattered to hear from you! Just who is this person and how can you find them?
That’s easy! You find them on the radio!
Advertisers are very receptive to hearing a new voice to promote their product or service. Listening to your radio is an excellent way to hear what companies are buying ad spots.
Here is how using your radio as a lead source works: Make a point to listen to several different radio stations. Record the commercials that get a lot of air time. Make sure you list which stations aired each commercial, how often it played and pay particular attention to primetime spots. Collect contact information for each of the advertisers. Try to find at least a dozen companies of different products that are within your local area.
Transcribe the commercials to written copy. Try to choose ad spots that are short (around 15 seconds) that you really enjoy hearing and are naturally easy for you to perform.
Once you have your selection of scripts you can use your ProTools software to record each of these scripts into a separate MP3 file. Don’t have ProTools yet? No problem! A good recording software program and a quality microphone will work for now.
Make sure you are comfortable with the copy you choose before you record it. Practice reading each script until you sound relaxed and natural performing it. Remember, you are a new voice promoting their product. It is important they hear your great voice, not one that sounds like their current ad spot.
Now that you have recorded your MP3 files, you have several ways of sending them to the advertisers. The least expensive method is to send the MP3 as an email attached file along with a personalized cover letter. All you need is a brief statement to the advertiser on why you chose them and how you would love the opportunity to promote their product or service. Be sure you include all your contact information. Make sure you keep your statement down to a few sentences in a short paragraph. Gushing over how great a product is considered only a testimonial not a query for work so, keep it sweet and simple.
Your next option is to create a CD to send to each advertiser. Each advertiser will have a dry read of your voice performing their latest commercial, followed by your original studio recorded demo spots. Make sure the dry read is first so, the last spot they hear is your professional recordings. This creates the “before and after” effect of how great you will sound promoting their product in the studio.
Once each individual CD is completed, label the CD with their name and radio ad demo, followed by your name and contact information. Make sure you use a jewel case to protect the CD. You can even create a custom label for the case if you like!
The next step is to get your CD to the advertisers. You can either mail the CD in a padded mailer (with a cover letter) to the attention of the Advertising Department or, you can personally deliver the CD.
If you decide to hand deliver the CD, call ahead and make an appointment. Try to speak with someone who is a decision maker in the process. You might want to take your Walkman with you…you may get to play your demo during the introduction!
Taking the initiative and introducing yourself to the advertiser opens another door in your voice over career. It creates the opportunity for the advertiser to have their own professional voice for their next advertising campaign. Your initial effort gives you the credibility and confidence of the advertiser behind you when you walk into the studio.
The airwaves are full of potential voice over clients and you found them all just by LISTENING to the radio!
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Volunteering your professional pipes is one way you can build your voice over business. Read on to find out how donating your golden voice can lead to rewarding opportunities for your voice over business.
Building a successful voice over business should not be “all work and no play.” You possess a much needed talent. No matter where you live, there are groups and organizations who would love to work with you! Your next big gig could be stepping up the microphone as a voice over volunteer for charity!
Donating quality time to a local charity or nonprofit is an excellent way to advertise your talent by promoting a worthy cause. There are organizations that desperately need your professional services. They would love to have your professional voice promote their message!
There are several ways you can volunteer your voice over services. You can offer your voice for public announcement spots on radio or television. You can also find organizations nationwide that need great voices to read local news and events for the blind or reading impaired. Nearly every city and town has a reading program to assist the reading impaired.
One such organization is Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic ( www.rfbd.org ). RFB & D have trained volunteers that read textbooks and other printed materials to produce audio books and learning tools for people of all ages. Be aware that organizations such as this require a good deal of commitment and are looking for long-term volunteers to work with.
There are also networks of privately funded radio stations that perform reading services. You can easily find these organizations by looking up Nonprofit and Charitable Organizations online or in your local phone book.
Not all volunteer work involves time in a recording studio. Do you have acting talent? Enjoy speaking in public? You can offer your vocal expertise to MC charity and nonprofit events throughout the year. You may be the next Master of Ceremonies for a show, beauty contest, auction or other live fund raising event.
Many local businesses also make a point of volunteering their time, products or services to charitable causes. You never know who may be listening! The product or service you are auctioning off today could bring you a new client or two tomorrow!
Volunteering your time and talent provides a much needed and welcomed service within your community. Your time is both well spent and well invested. Every donated experience adds to your career portfolio, builds your professional character and opens the door for new business relationships. People like doing business with those that work to improve the lives of others. Investing time in your community is always an excellent investment for your business.
So, grab your phonebook and let your fingers find an organization you’d love to work for! You can make a substantial difference in the quality of someone’s life by simply doing the work you love! Your charitable heart and vocal talent will both shine!
Monday, June 22, 2009
Here are a few examples of how your home recording studio greatly benefits you and your clients:
* You: Short commute around the corner to a spare bedroom or down the hall.
* Client: No commute! You’re just a phone call and email away!
* You: Scheduling studio time…anytime you like!
* Client: Pure heaven! Great time flexibility in scheduling! I’m getting a professional quality recording without studio fees!
* You: Working in a relaxed home environment…even in your pajamas!
* Client: This is great! I can do this project on the phone and not leave the office or disrupt my daily schedule!
* You: Location is not a problem. Work with anyone…worldwide!
* Client: What a relief! I can access my favorite V/O artist for my overseas projects!
As you can see, offering home studio recording has quite a few advantages for you and your client. One of the best reasons to offer home recording is the marketing edge it gives you over your competition. Let’s face it; there are a lot of great voices in this industry. When it comes down to picking between you (V/O with home studio) and someone else (V/O only), who do you think your potential client will choose?
Now that you are aware of the benefits in having a home recording studio, you need to know what professional equipment is necessary to do a quality job:
* Computer with a modem (Mac preferably) and at least 512 MB of Ram.
* Pro Tools Recording Software. Pro Tools is the industry standard used by the majority of professional studios worldwide.
* M-box to use with Pro Tools.
* Microphone designed for professional speaking with a pop screen.
* Quality microphone cable.
You now have the basics on how home recording will increase your business and benefit your clients. The next thing you need to learn is how to set up your studio and use it!
Such A Voice is offering Pro Tools Recording Software Instruction in Burlington, VT, Boston, MA, and Long Island, NY this Fall. Course dates in the Spring are being set for Washington, DC and Chicago, IL areas. Give Ben Weir a call at 802-264-604. He can answer all your questions and let you know of special equipment discounts offered to Such A Voice students or, send Ben an email to email@example.com
Classes are filled on a first come first served basis and will be limited in size. Call soon and schedule your Pro Tools personal instruction today.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Taking proper care of your voice is something you learn early on in the music and entertainment industry. Professional entertainers have known for years the importance of taking proper care of your “instrument.” These professionals religiously take measures to protect their ‘golden throats.”
Many of the vocal techniques or “tricks of the trade” used by entertainers can also be applied to the voice over artist profession. After all, you are performing in front of the microphone too!
Always breathe using your diaphragm muscles. This not only enables you to take a deeper breath but, it also helps you to stay relaxed in your neck, shoulder and chest area. Tension around your vocal cords can change the tone of your voice so, breath deep, relax your throat and keep your upper body relaxed.
If you have to eat before a recording session, make sure you only eat a light meal. A stomach that is too full can temporarily reduce your ability to breathe deeply. Keep your meals light and both your stomach and your producer will be happy!
Keep in mind that the foods and beverages you eat and drink can affect your vocal cords. Foods that have a creamy texture can alter how your voice sounds. Good food choices might be a light soup and sandwich or salad with fruit. Try to choose liquids you can easily see through that aren’t overly cold or hot. Actually, room temperature is best, especially when taking a sip to wet your throat during recording.
Protecting the sound quality of your voice isn’t limited to what you eat and drink. You have to actively take physical care of your head and throat as well. Do your best to avoid smoky rooms, chemical or exhaust smells. Bundle up and protect your neck and face in cold, blustery weather. Keep a scarf around your neck and over your mouth if necessary, to keep cold winter air out of your mouth. Breathing through your nose is how your body naturally warms and moistens the air you breathe. Your vocal cords work best when warm and relaxed. You may enter the studio looking like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer but, at least you won’t sound like him!
Another cold weather problem is electric heat. If there is a lot of static in your home or clothes the humidity in the air is not nearly high enough to protect your throat and vocal cords. A small room humidifier will greatly assist in eliminating the dry air problem. The ideal location would be the bedroom. You will wake up with a warm moist throat instead of a dry, scratchy one.
No matter how diligently you take care of yourself, it’s only a matter of time until you get a cold or sore throat. Drink plenty of fluids and get proper rest. If you have to take an over the counter medication to tame the symptoms, be aware that drying up post nasal drip and congestion will also dry out your voice. Ask your doctor to recommend some natural treatment alternatives to help you deal with your symptoms until the cold has run its course.
You alone are responsible for the quality of your voice. It is almost impossible to edit out the dry, raspy sound of your voice in a recording. When in doubt, don’t do the job. It’s better to pass on this job now, then to perform at a reduced capacity. Remember, you are being recorded and you don’t know who may get the pleasure (or pain) of listening to you.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Opportunity #1 starts by arriving at least 10 minutes before your scheduled session. This one professional courtesy gives the producer time to work with you a bit or update you on any copy changes. Use this free time to get acquainted with a new producer or client. Keep in mind that every minute behind the microphone is being paid by your client so, limit the socializing to before the recording or immediately after.
You need to have a professional business card. Presenting someone with a business card is one way of demonstrating you are serious about your voice over business. Hand out your business cards either before or after the recording session. Make sure you have all your contact information on the card. List your website address (if you have one) and any affiliations with a union or other performing organizations. Your business card could lead to your next job so; make sure to keep your card information up to date.
Opportunity #2 happens in the studio. Wear casual and comfortable clothes and shoes. Wear clothing that you are completely comfortable in. Jewelry that jingles or nylon fabrics that rustle should be removed before recording. Don’t make the producer’s job harder by wearing apparel that creates more noise for them to edit out.
Focus your complete attention on the producer. Be attentive and listen carefully to their instructions. Ask any questions before you record and keep your focus on the copy. Remember to read ahead and if you mess up, keep talking! Even seasoned professionals stumble over the copy at times, so don’t get nervous about it. The producer will stop you when needed and will direct you as to where to start over on the copy.
Also, related to reading the copy is do not point out typos or grammatical mistakes on your copy! Chances are, the producer will hear the mistake and have it corrected. There are times when the client is actually present listening to the recording and they won’t be happy hearing you finding fault with their copy. Focus your attention on your talent…creating the best professional recording their money can buy!
Opportunity #3 includes all the above: Project a confident and winning attitude. This is vitally important when meeting a new producer and possibly the client who hired you. Your smile and relaxed, confident manner will reinforce their decision that they hired the right voice over artist for the job. Remember, you aren’t just performing a voice over, you are creating a working relationship. Next to your sparkling talent, your positive attitude and professional behavior are the biggest contributing factors you can utilize to advance your voice over career.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Your website has a big job to do. Trying to stand out in the Voice Over crowd is a tough job! Here are 8 ways you can improve your website to showcase your voice over talents.
Put all your contact information on every page. One of the best places for this information is within your header graphic or in the left column of your pages. Many people choose to put personal information inside a graphic to prevent this information from being collected and used for spamming purposes. Encourage clients to call by making contact information obvious no matter what page they are on.
List your physical address in relation to where you are located. For example Shenandoah Valley, middle Tennessee, Rockingham County, etc. This might not seem important however, if you live in a rural area, it helps anyone looking for local talent in a web search to find you.
List all your affiliations with VO and related organizations. If you are a member of AFTRA, SAG or a regional association say so. List those theater groups, play houses, radio and television stations that you have worked with. Many potential clients are willing to try a new voice so, use your acting connections!
Post testimonials! Let your past clients and peers tell the world how great your voice is! Better yet, do some testimonial back scratching with those you admire in the VO industry. Participate in link sharing with other voice over artists and media organizations.
Limit your demo load time. Try to limit audio to 3 minutes per demo. 30 and 60 second spots are optimum. If possible, it’s best to have several shorter demos as to having one or two longer ones.
Use your Contact page as a marketing tool. Studies show that websites using an interactive contact page stimulate readers to focus on your product or service. For example: Have a rate sheet or personal bio page available for download, offer a free 15 or 30 second dry read or, offer free extended play versions of your demo on CD.
Evaluate your website on its content value alone. No graphics. No flash. Try to include 200 to 250 words of focused content about you on your website. Separate your content from any flash or graphic areas. Remember, content is the driving force behind web traffic. Visitors and Search Engines like to have something to read!
You have roughly 5 to 10 seconds to make an impression on your reader. Your website might be all about you but, it should be designed for the easy navigation of your site visitors. By applying these 8 simple strategies, your website becomes a dream to navigate and encourages producers to contact you!
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Practice, Practice, Practice!
By far, the best way to improve your voice technique is to practice reading copy. You’ll find that not only will your technique improve dramatically, but you'll actually have a lot of fun doing it!
How do you find the copy? Finding copy is a lot easier than you may think. In fact, advertising agencies work hard to make sure we’re exposed to thousands of written and spoken advertisements daily. I don’t even need to leave my chair to see a piece of copy with which I can be practicing with: the to-go cup I grabbed with lunch. You need look no further than the cereal box in your cupboard, the newspaper on your porch or the television in your living room to take your voice technique to the next level.
Take those advertisements and bring them to life! Your goal is to make whatever you’re talking about sound interesting, so make sure that you’re interested in what you have to say. If you hear a spot on television or on the radio that you aren't particularly fond of, try bringing your own interpretation to the copy. The more you practice, the more prepared you will be when the time comes to audition for a job or to complete a voice-over project.
Another great way to make sure you’re always working to improve your technique is to take acting classes as often as your budget allows. These not only keep your technique fresh and polished, but they also expose you to the ideas and creativity of others. Exposure to different styles and interpretations can only help your own technique grow and develop. Who knows? That new interpretation could be exactly what you need to nail the script and land that job you’ve been wanting.Don’t forget: Working on technique shouldn't feel like work. It should be fun! If you’re tense, worried focused on what you’re doing wrong, you will only be negatively affecting the quality of your reads. So pick up that box of cereal and start reading! You may be surprised at how much fun you can have with a cereal box!
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
"I love a challenge and will do whatever it takes to meet the complete satisfaction of my clients as well as their clients." - Tom Chalker
After working for 15 years as an announcer for countless sporting and fundraising events, including gigs at the Ford Field in Detroit and at the Pontiac Silverdome, Tom Chalker decided it was time to heed the advice of those around him and make his voice-over career "hit the big time." Tom signed up for Such A Voice's Premier MasterClass—and the rest, as they say, is history!
Since training with Such A Voice in 2006, Tom has taken his career to the next level. We asked him how many jobs he’s gotten since. "There are too many to list here,” he answered. “I’ve done numerous commercials for both radio and TV. I’ve even been both on camera and behind the camera as a spokesperson for a local lumber company." Tom's success demonstrates not only his drive to succeed but also the amount of time and effort he invests into every project he completes. In his words, "I love a challenge and will do whatever it takes to meet the complete satisfaction of my clients as well as their clients.”
His dedication has paid off, opening doors to many voice-over opportunities. He’s proud to have landed a job narrating two seasons (2007-2008) of the TV show Americana Outdoors, airing on the Versus channel. Although he lost this account for the 2009 season when the company took the show in a different direction, the disappointment has not stopped him from continuing to pursue his dream. "Like any other business you win some, you lose some, so I keep pressing on," he says.
And he is pressing on—impressively. While already associated with talent agencies Productions Plus and The I Group, Tom plans to get noticed by other talent agencies and expand his acting career through classes. He’s increasingly involved in films as well. After working on the set of "Whip It," directed by Drew Barrymore, and "Betty Ann Waters," directed by Tony Goldwyn, he discovered that working on film sets is not only a lot of fun but also a great way to network.
How does Tom succeed over and over again? Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up! Tom works diligently to market himself throughout the United States and has even sent his demo to a company in Poland. According to Tom, the key to a successful marketing plan is "being consistent with what you're doing" and "following up within two weeks. . . especially when you send your demo as a MP3 file." In this case, Tom usually follows up in 72 hours or less because the client receives it immediately via e-mail. Tom also checks in with clients and prospects once a month, so he generally makes sales calls every day. He makes sure to keep his demos fresh and consistent with the work he is trying to get.
“If what you’re doing to market yourself as a voice artist isn’t getting results then it’s time to review what you’re doing and [find] what changes need to be made to make the results pour in,” Tom says. “You know what you’re doing works when you get a response from the prospects and clients, a response that is either positive or negative. Either way, you want a response from your efforts!”
Such advice demonstrates just how positive Tom is about what he does. And why shouldn't he be? He’s doing what he loves! Not only does Tom love the freedom and flexibility that comes with working for himself as a voice-over artist, he loves the feeling of being able to create his own success. "When you work for yourself, you control your destiny," he says.
Tom has done just that. Meanwhile, he’s also turning the other thing he loves about being a voice-over artist, the income potential, into a reality. Tom recently provided a voice-over for a new client. He invested a very short amount of time for the $900 he got in return. "Most people would have to work over 40 hours to make that kind of income. I did it in less than 5 hours."
“Don’t give up,” Tom advises. “If you truly believe that you have a good voice and the desire to succeed as a voice artist then never ever give up! There are times when your e-mail inbox is flowing with steady streams of projects … and then there are weeks … maybe months where the flow is down to a trickle … It’s at this time that you need to really increase your consistency and keep your attitude in check. Business is like a wheelbarrow: It only works when you push it!”
Can he sound like the late, great Don LaFontaine? "Heavens no,” Tom says. “But then again, Don LaFontaine couldn’t sound like me, either."
To listen to Tom's demo or to learn more about his voice-over career, visit his Voice Fact page at http://www.myvodemo.com/such/index.cfm?world=2115 or his Web site at http://www.tomchalker.com/38201.html.