Thursday, May 27, 2010

Talent of the Month: Ben Marney

"It's a relatively easy way to build a personal business and earn good money. And again, I love that I can do it in my home... in my PJs!" -- Ben Marney, Talent of the Month

Ben Marney came to voiceovers for the same reason as a lot of folks: he has received compliments on his voice for years, and he wondered what it would take to make a living out of using it. His 30 years of experience as a singer, musician, and Pro Tools aficionado didn't hurt either!

Ben participated in the Master Program in September, 2009, with coach & producer Brian Thon and Such A Voice founder and president Dan Levine. For years, Ben has been a full-time professional singer and entertainer, and his deep baritone voice even got him several voice over jobs over the years. Despite this experience, Ben had no clue how to get into the voice-over industry as a full-time professional.

Ben says, "I
saw the light in my Master Class, and Dan Levine and Brian Thon showed me the way. The following Bi-Weekly Teleconferences and Guru Sessions with Heather Costa have really showed me the how and where to make this a real business! -- And I'm aggressively following their advice now with very positive progress."

A good ole boy from Texas, Ben quickly found his niche in southern states because of his "down home, real guy/worker a la Sam Elliot style". The list of spots he's done for members running for US Congress or State Senate is really impressive! Not only has he done spots for members in Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama, but Ben has also done work with Mississippi Farm Bureau, Wrangler Jeans, and Knife River Construction (an Oregon-based company). I should also mention that was all work he did in the the last 2 weeks!

One client was so pleased with his voice-over work that the production company told him: “You have the voice weʼve been searching for to seal this deal, and it could be a gold mine for all of us!”

One could argue that some of Ben's "luck" is from sheer persistence. His wife says he's just obsessed with this business, and it surely pays off. His day starts early around 7:00am, and there are nights that he doesn't call it quits until after midnight. A self-proclaimed "registered night owl," getting up early is the hard part for Ben, but he knows it's worth it. First thing in the morning, Ben checks for auditions on voice casting directories, and only auditions for parts that clearly fit his niche and voice.

Ben follows up with clients after that, and stays on top of new postings throughout the day and even on weekends. He says, "I think it's important to be in the first 5 auditions the client listens to." He also knows that being a voice-over artist means sometimes working later to get the client what they want. He says, "I got the e-mail last week from Knife River at 9 P.M my time (6 P.M. their time), and they wanted a few re-reads by the next morning. I e-mailed them the re- read files at 1 A.M. that night. Because I jumped on it and turned it around so quickly, I impressed them and they gave me the entire account!"

His advice to new voice talents is this: "I think itʼs important for a beginner to do a lot of auditions. Not so much to land the jobs, but for the practice. Itʼs a great way to learn how to quickly do a good read, and then send it out recorded at the highest quality ... This is a very competitive business and there are a lot of very good voice over actors out there that know how to turn around a first class audition quickly. If you canʼt do that, then you canʼt compete, and you wonʼt be successful."

Thanks for the tips, Ben, and congratulations on your successes!

Marketing Tip of the Month: Sleazy Sneeze Guy!

This month's Marketing Tip is a reminder for those new to voice-over work to be wary of strange voice-over gigs. If it's too good to be true, it might not be real. If it's too weird to be true, do a background check. Inspired by one creepy client and multiple voice-over artists...

It all started when Sharon Young got a call from a blocked number. The person, "Tom/Tim Walsh" reportedly got her phone number from her website, and contacted her because he thought her background would make her the perfect person for a "Zyrtec" commercial that required a good sneezer. Sharon says:

"He said he was a casting agent from New York. He said, "Don't laugh at me." He said he was doing auditions for sneezes. I thought to myself, "I wonder how he saw my website. Maybe it was from a Voice 123 audition I did, or maybe through, since I haven't paid extra to have it available easily on the web. I thought maybe because I have done a little acting...

He wanted to hear how I sneezed on the phone, then he would send me a few auditions to try. How would I describe my sneeze? I said it was about medium. He asked if I would sneeze for him on the phone. I asked him if he wanted a phony sneeze or a real one. He said a real one.

He instructed me to get pepper, take a pinch and insert it into my nose. He wanted me to tell him how I was feeling each step of the way, as it was building up, etc. He seemed excited that I was willing to do this for him. He always said, "We," when referring to the audition. As he continued to direct me throughout the call, his voice became more low and intimate. I was feeling a bit creepy by then, but thought, maybe he has experience directing talent and was trying to put me at my ease.

I put the pepper in my nose, but only coughed since it got into my lungs. He said to get a bobby pin and stick it up my nose. I thought that was pretty cruel and stupid. I got a q-tip and was giving him a play by play of what I was going through with regard to my feelings and methods. He excitedly said something like, "Now tell me everything you are feeling and doing."

After no sneezes developed, he said he would call the following week.
I asked if I could send him a recording of myself sneezing and he said no.

However, I googled Tom Walsh and got Datron Management in New York and sent a file of me sneezing, about 1 minute in length, after I learned I could sneeze by sniffing the pepper instead of inserting it into my nose. The email failed. In the beginning, I had been excited that a casting agent from New York had called me. I thought it was a big break, which is probably what he was hoping I would think as a new, inexperienced
voice over talent.

The second call was a couple days later. He said "Hi. Remember me? This is Tim." I said yes, I remembered him and thanked him for the opportunity. Now I was suspicious. Why would he give me a second chance when he had all the talent in the world to choose from? I told him I found out how to sneeze and he was very excited. He wanted me to do it right away and wanted a play by play.

There was heavy breathing involved as my sneeze was coming, and I was telling him that I could feel it coming. It started to feel very unprofessional because if you didn't know I was just sneezing, it would sound like something very different... He was very excited, and then got a little colder in his tone and told me I needed to learn to control my sneeze and that he would call me in a few days. I thought that was pretty weird and rude.

Thankfully, I had my Guru Session with Heather Costa later that day and through all of this experience, I have learned to trust my instincts more plus learned a dialogue that I could share on the phone when in doubt. I am sure this article will help with that, as well. Plus, we discussed it on Such A Voice's page on Facebook.

I received another call from him because I cannot block calls on my cell. I can only block texts. He said something like, "Hi, is this a good time?" I said no, it wasn't and that I was feeling a little uncomfortable. He asked me what I was feeling uncomfortable about. I said I didn't know anything about him or his company and would he please email me information about himself and his company. He said, "Sure, what is your email?" I told him it was on my web site. I told him I have to go. He said he would email. I haven't heard from him. I hope I never do.

When I called the Atlas Talent Agency in New York, after investigating the cell phone number and paying to find out who he was (even though it was "restricted" on my cell phone, when I went on line, I found out the number), I spoke to David Copley. He said they had heard about someone impersonating Tim Walsh, but they did not know who he was. I told him I had his name and phone number. He was thrilled. I asked if I could email it to him and he gave me Tim's email address. He said Tim was waiting for the email.

I told my boyfriend and he was frightened for me in case this man comes after me, but I told him there was a report that Heather forwarded to me on John Florian's site about a woman who had it happen to her in 2008, plus another woman in 1/2010. I don't know how he could find out it was me who found out he was calling from Phoenix. [We aren't publishing the name here just in case we incriminate an innocent "Joe".] I told John Florian the sneeze guy was found, and he emailed me back and referred to him as the sleazy sneeze guy! I thought that was good."

Thank you so much for sharing your story, Sharon. If anyone else has had a similar experience, please let us know by posting a brief comment here. Have other sketchy voice over jobs? Email me at or post comments on our Facebook page.

Monday, May 24, 2010

When Your Mouth Says More Than You Do

Mouth noises are an annoyance for many voice-over artists, but the only thing more annoying than the amount of smacks! and pops! that ruin a good take is the fact that they often aren't detected until you go to edit. (It always happens that way, right?)

Most of you know by now to avoid dairy, extremely hot and cold beverages, caffeine, and even glutinous foods many hours before a recording voiceover work, but have you ever wondered if there is a studio set-up that could minimize some of these unwanted sounds that are tedious or impossible to edit out?

The inconvenient answer is, "Yes and no."
Yes, there is a set-up that works best for you, but no, it's not necessarily the best set up for the next person -- or even for you if you work with different equipment. There are so many factors to take into consideration: the type of mic, the angle of the mic, the quality of your voice, and the distance of the mic from the sound source (i.e., your voice).

One universal rule to remember when arranging your sound booth is that the diaphragm of the mic must be on axis with the sound source. That means that the mic might actually be a little bit higher than your mouth. Resist the urge to speak up
into the mic. If you find that you generally pick up a lot of breath noises in your recordings, check if your mic should be raised up a scootch.

pop filter is perfect for preventing plosives from ruining a recording. If that's not enough for you, try a mic that has proximity effect controls, such as the RE20. Another trick is to tape a pencil to the diaphragm of the mic so that the air that is projected when you sound a plosive gets deflected, which is admittedly a difficult trick. Regardless of your set-up, a general rule of thumb is to leave a good 3-6 inches between your mouth and the mic.

The best strategy of all is to just try something else if you don't like the recording! The sounds that you don't want come from the same place as the sounds that you
do want. If you can spend more time now capturing a clean recording, the less time you will spend editing a voice over job. And not everything can be fixed in the edit.

Final pearls of wisdom from Oliver Gebhardt, one of our best audio engineer guys: "It's not about righting a wrong, it's about getting it right before it's wrong ... The pencil tool in Pro Tools is your friend ... And if you know you're going to record, just lay off the cheese!"

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

You Know You're a Voiceover Artist Because...

Today's blog post is intended for comic relief as we wind down this week and gear up for the weekend! Inspired by voiceover work colleagues, co-workers, Facebook friends, and Twitter followers... You may or may not know who you are!

1. Your professional wardrobe consists half of what you wake up in and half of what you can find on the floor.

2. You yell at the TV because you've had it up to here with amateurs landing the big gigs.

3. You insist on reading aloud to your kids ... even though they're in college.

4. You're not schizophrenic -- you just can't control your other well-developed personalities.

5. Your friends prefer your play-by-play commentaries over the other guys' on Sports Center.

6. Your idea of "cozy" is a 4 x 4 padded room.

7. You don't recommend books, you recommend
audio books.

8. You switch radio stations when the music comes on.

9. You're not ADD -- you just get distracted from what people are saying by
how they are saying it.

10. Why, yes, that
is a microphone in your pocket!

Can you add to the list? Let's get a longer list going here!

Friday, May 14, 2010

How to Record When You're On the Road

The lifestyle of a voice-over artist is fabulous. You get to be your own boss, you can grow into a niche of your choosing, and you never have to deal with office politics. Working from home also affords you the flexibility work at your leisure -- and in your pajamas!

But what do you do when you get a great voice-over job when you're traveling? Do you take your home studio with you? Do you pass on the job and hope for the next one? Do you buy one of those portable boxes and put it together on the go?

Our coaches and producers had some surprising -- and affordable -- tips for how they nail a professional recording when they're on the road.

Rather than spending money on extra equipment, all of our voice-over actors said they get a great sound by building their own sound booth in their hotel room. Lisa Foster routinely asks for extra pillows in her hotel room so that she can build a "pillow fort" to read in. She gets the same effect of having a sound booth because sound is dampened on all sides.

Rob Sciglimpaglia uses the same technique as Lisa, adding a comforter over his head to cancel out extra noise. Another great alternative is to take a large pizza box, fill it with acoustic foam from a mic case, and create a pyramid around the mic. It is easier to read the copy this way, and it stops a lot of the reflective sound.

Heather Costa uses a porta booth on the road, but only for short recordings. For longer voice over jobs, she comes prepared with a sheet of 2" Auralex foam. To make a professional recording studio out of her hotel room, she covers the desk with a towel, puts couch cushions and foam on the desk surrounding the mic, and sometimes uses a blanket on top if she's in a room with a vaulted ceiling. Heather has also used a porta booth in her car in a parking lot, with tractor trailers driving by, and she got a superb recording!

As you can see, there are great ways to create a sound booth in a pinch without dropping a dime. There is no substitute for professional voice-over technique training, and a bad recording will sound bad -- no matter what you're using for your sound booth!

If you have never recorded voice-over work while traveling, experiment at home with bedding and towels so you feel comfortable putting something together on the spot. Be prepared before you hit the road, and don't forget your pajamas!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Voiceover Index

If you’re a voiceover artist who keeps one eye on the horizon for new ventures, you may have noticed that a few voiceover casting directories have sprung up recently. Voiceover Index is one such website that recently caught my attention. Sharon Brogden, one of its founders, chatted with me about the work they do and opportunities they offer for both voice-over actors and clients looking for talent.

CM: What is Voiceover Index, and how is it unique?

SB: Voiceover Index is a new voice over directory run by volunteers from several areas of the voice over and audio production industries. As a non-profit making venture, all forms of revenue, including listing fees and income from advertisements are put directly back in to the company to further promote the services of its members, and also to source and provide other resources which are of value to voice talents worldwide.

CM: Where did the idea for Voiceover Index come from?

SB: The initial idea for Voiceover Index was formed about twelve months ago, after having worked as a voice artist for a few years. Like many others, I had been subscribing to several voice over marketplaces and submitting details to directories. It seemed an unnecessarily time consuming and expensive way to market any service, especially voice over services.

The leads that were coming from the casting sites seemed quite low budget and were very often not of a great quality. The best thing about the casting sites is the ability to upload demos and having a link back to a personal website. After a little research, it became apparent that many voice artists put more value on the link back to their site than on the actual job leads. Inbound links help to boost your page ranking with the search engines.

CM: How did you want Voiceover Index to differ from other voiceover casting directories?

SB: With standard directory listings, you are listed with a link back to your website, but very little else. It is also very time consuming not to mention costly, to source bed music and sound effects.

The main drawback for those seeking voice over services from casting sites or marketplaces was that, in order to contact the voice artist they are very often required to create an account which also results in their inbox being bombarded with all sorts of information, which they don’t necessarily want, the process needed to be simplified to provide voice seekers with a way of contacting voice artists without the need to create an account.

The drawback with using directories and search engines to source voice-overs is that the client has to go to the artist’s website from the link given before they even get a chance to hear the demos, making the whole process very time consuming and frustrating.

CM: And then Voiceover Index came together…

SB: I discussed the idea with some contacts from different areas of the industry including a couple of voice artists and some from other areas of audio production, who were all in agreement; therefore, we decided collectively to try and provide this unique service.

CM: How did you succeed in making Voiceover Index unique?

SB: With Voiceover Index, the voice seeker can narrow down their search using keywords, language requirements, location, voice style etc. We also specified at the outset that the site should allow any potential client a fast and simple method to identify their precise requirements by using a number of search criteria including keywords, so any talent offering particular specialized services such as translation, copy writing etc. would be filtered and displayed in the results quickly. The client is then presented with a list of artists that match their search criteria, they can listen to demos, read about the voice artist’s experience and services and contact the artist direct through the site without having to sign up for an account, if they want more information, they can also visit the artist’s personal website using the link provided on the artist’s portfolio page. The benefits for the voice artist is increased online visibility, links back to their personal website (helping to increase their page rank), free resources including royalty free music and sound effects and a quicker and easier way for potential clients to get in touch.

CM: So, how long did it take to get the project off the ground? From conception to what it is today?

SB: We have been developing the idea for approximately twelve months. During this time we have spent many weeks looking at what we would like to achieve with the directory, several months gathering information and researching what voice artists and voice seekers were looking for, sourcing high quality music and sound effects and researching the best places to advertise.

Since the site went live we have had a lot of interest from voice seekers, one artist even booked his first job from a client using Voiceover Index, within two hours of registering!

CM: Sounds great! What else are you all up to?

SB: We are utilizing several marketing techniques in order to promote the site, including Pay Per Click, Search engine optimization, Adverts in relevant publications around the world, both online and in print, social networking, article submissions and regular press releases targeting potential clients.

We are very excited about the potential of Voiceover Index and are confident that it will quickly become one of the best places on the internet to source international voice talent. We are also very proud that we are able to give something back to the voiceover industry.

Thanks for the information, Sharon. This looks like a great opportunity for new voice-over talents, as well as the seasoned pros!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Marketing Tip of the Month: A Fine Balance

Marketing yourself as a new (or seasoned) voice-over artist takes time, trials & errors to find a balance that works for you. I say, "that works for you," because different strategies just work naturally for different personalities. Regardless of your personality, working freelance in any industry requires you to be more confident about your services, rates, and qualifications than working in Corporate America. This is obviously because you have no one (i.e., company) to vouch for you! You are your own manager, CEO, employee, and spokesperson -- all rolled into one!

In the beginning, marketing yourself to get voice-over jobs tends to make people feel uncomfortable because you feel like you're asking people for money. This is a common feeling when you are just starting out as a voice-over actor, so learn to be confident in your product! Remember that you have taken your voice-over courses, you have listened to our Marketing TIps CDs, and you have put in the hours of practice to become a professional voice actor. Not to mention, you have professionally recorded and mastered demos.

Hopefully you prepared your social media sites, website, and business cards in anticipation of hitting the ground running once you get your demos back from us. Tell your family and friends that you are looking for voice-over work. Most likely, you already know someone who could benefit from your voice-over work. Make sure you always carry your voice-over business cards on you. You probably don't like someone else "selling" you something, so be mindful of how you come off to people.

The trick is to be able to tell people what you do, how they can benefit from your services, and where they can go to listen to your demos and get in touch with you. Keep it short, and remember that certain qualities just don't sell, no matter what your style is: desperation, insecurity, and the over-sell.

Find a balance that works for
you, and be patient with yourself!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Talent of the Month: Kim Rowe

Congratulations to Kim Rowe, a Master Program graduate from November, 2009, who has already gotten out-of-state voice-over jobs, as well as an international one! Kim demonstrates a consistent, disciplined work ethic, which pays dividends in the voice-over industry!

Before getting into voice-overs, Kim worked in radio for 30 years, but says the industry, "has now gotten to the point where it is no longer any fun -- there is no room for creativity or individuality." Although she was unhappy with the direction that radio has gone in recent years, she still enjoys doing production and considers herself a "voice". Kim says, "I thought being a voice-over artist was a natural transition for me. It's something I've wanted to do for a long time but didn't know how to get into it until I found Such A Voice."

Such A Voice Coach & Producer Brian Thon worked with her in the Master Program, and Kim says the best part of the program was cutting the demo in the recording studio. She says, "My coach, Brian Thon, was such a good instructor -- very knowledgeable and patient!"

Kim loves the freedom that comes with being a voice-over actor. So far, she has already nailed three national voice-over jobs, and one in Canada. She considers all of her gigs her best success stories, since all of her clients want to work with her again! Although she does voice-over work part-time, her goal is to build up enough clients to make it full-time within the next year. In five years? She says, "Hopefully I'll be making the big bucks!"

Kim works diligently, and her day starts early. She wakes up every day at 6am to check her emails for voice-over job alerts. She pokes around the internet throughout the day for new job postings, as she knows it's the early bird who catches the worm! She does all of her recording and editing from her home recording studio, and even if she doesn't get the job she's satisfied with the practice.

Kim's advice for those new to voice-overs? "Be patient and don't get frustrated if nothing happens right away. Have a mentor, and take the Master Class at Such A Voice!"

Keep up the good work, Kim!

Insights from the Guru Sessions

This month I want to highlight a student from one of our other programs, the Guru Sessions. The Guru Sessions is a follow-up, group mentoring program for Master Program graduates that runs every other week for 26 weeks. The group is limited to ten students, and two students are the focus of discussion for each session that meets every other week for 26 weeks.

"The Guru Sessions gave me a complete personal approach to outlining my business plan, acting on my marketing approach, and promoting my own business." -- Michael Nevarez, Guru Sessions student

Michael Nevarez found out about the Guru Sessions from an email from Such A Voice, and decided to join so that he could get some constructive criticism on his voice-over technique. What he got out of the program was so much more! Immediately, Michael was impressed by Heather Costa's ability to deliver information and perspective needed for his group to succeed in the voice-over industry. He says, "Heather has treated each of us with the highest level of respect through her consistent and prompt helpful responses and her ability to really make us reach."

Michael was also pleased that he was well-placed in a group of students who were at the same level. He found that they all had pretty good voice-over training, but that most of them were struggling with the business and marketing sides of their businesses.

At the time that Michael signed up for the Guru Sessions, he was already recording in his home recording studio. During the sessions, he got some final tips on his website (, as well as learned about setting up his DBA license, getting business cards, tracking invoices, handling contact cards, and producing additional demo CDs with nice jackets and sleeves. "Without the Guru Sessions," he says, "I wouldn't have had the clear direction on what my priorities were or how to get things done."

In addition, Michael learned that he was wasting time on practicing voice-over jobs by practicing the wrong way. Instead of practicing the same script over and over again, he learned to get feedback from another member of his group sooner. That kept his voice-over work fresh, and he now has more time and energy to put into other areas of his business.

Michael also recommends the Guru Sessions to anyone who hasn't "captured the entire voice-over market," as he feels everyone could learn a thing or two from this program. He adds, "Heather might not have the answer, but she will find out and promptly contact you. There are very few people I know personally or professionally who are as diligent and sincere!"

Thanks, Michael, and we wish you more success in the weeks to come!