VO-Star® head-honcho and voiceover expert
Out with the old and in with the new
I’m writing this today as updating my voicereels is something I know I need to do. Although I work with voiceover artists in many capacities including recorded projects, as students in training or clients in coaching and demo production, I am very aware that I also need to take my own advice from time to time.
How old are your voice over demos?
I’ve always maintained that the shelf-life of a voiceover demo or voicereel is probably about 3 years. There are many reasons for this, which I’ll go into, but do have a think about it right now. How old is your demo reel? Are you proudly (but naively) hanging on to a few golden demos that you love and still use to market your voice today? Are they truly representative of your voice at this time?
You’ve likely improved at voice acting since recording them and know you own voice better too.
I’ve known voice over actors who hang on to their first demo recorded way back! If that’s you, be brave and scrap it.
Professional demos or actual paid work
Whether it’s a voice over demo or two, recorded in a professional session or recordings from actual paid work, just because they are fantastic, this does not mean that keeping them on your website or using them as a tool to tout for work is a good idea. In fact this decision could be harming you.
Review and cull your voicereels
Sometime this year, I am going to ruthlessly overhaul my entire collection of demos that I currently use. I will cull the old, review what’s missing and embark on a full project to create fresh, relevant and representative demos that I know will help keep my voiceover career on track in the long-term. I do this every few years (or at least aim to). My advice to you as a professional voice actor, is to do the same.
At Voiceover Kickstart, we’ve a gigantic collection of voiceover scripts. You can use these as ideas to create a new demo reel.
The Times They Are a-Changin’ (and so is your voice)
Voice actors need to keep voicereels up to date and relevant. Overhauling them periodically can improve chances of landing new work and showcase your current skills and abilities. By incorporating new material and removing outdated content, you can make sure your demos accurately reflect your current range and style. This can give you an edge when submitting for new work and keep you competitive in an ever-changing industry.
This overhaul can also represent a perfect opportunity to get back in touch with old clients and let them know what you’ve been up to. Even in an age of potential clients asking for custom audition reads of their material, your voicereels are still a great way to quickly showcase your voice talent.
Reasons to update your voicereels
Your voice has changed
I know my voice has changed in the last few years. In fact COVID and getting older have dropped my starting note by a couple of tones. I’m a bit deeper, more resonant, slightly more gravelly and I guess I just have a different energy, attitude and approach to voicing.
It’s not just the physical aspects of your voice, the weathering of time, but you are more experienced now than when you last recorded a set of professional demos. You are simply better at the job. You also likely understand far better, your casting and what type of work your are booked for.
So if like me, you embark on an overhaul, aim to create voiceover demos that are reflective of your skills and casting opportunities. Reflect the truth of your voice.
The market has changed
Not just changed but expanded and multiplied. There are new voiceover markets today that didn’t exist a decade ago and if you are still holding onto a demo from way back, it’s time to make a change. Two things to note here are:
1) Demos are generally a lot shorter than a decade ago
I’ve been a voice over demo producer since 2006. I remember working with an actor who wanted to keep adding to his drama demo and it ended up around 4 mins. A terrible idea. I’ve always pushed demo clients to keep their demos as short and snappy as possible but he was insistent!
Today we’re talking 60 – 90 seconds for compilations (voicereels) and I’d recommend keeping everything else (the individual tracks) shorter than that. For example, if you wanted to create demos to showcase your skills for a couple of contrasting explainer videos, I would probably aim for around 30 seconds each.
Let’s be honest, the potential voice over client is rarely going to listen to more than that. This is especially true as you could argue there is far more value in custom demos for each and every single job. An impressive demo may act as a way in but it might not be enough to secure the job.
On that note, I’d always (ALWAYS) recommend offering a potential client a custom demo of their script. Although I still have and use traditional voice over demos, this custom offering is part of my daily process.
2) We need to specialise and target.
There’s little point in making a potential client wade their way through a compilation of unrelated markets or types of voiceover work…they’re not gonna do it! Make it easy by creating a professional demo specifically for the target and for the type of client you want to work for.
Your technical voiceover recording skill has improved
If you have been recording your own ‘do it yourself’ voicereels and a significant amount of time has passed, your understanding of pro audio has improved or you have made studio upgrades, then your demos need to reflect this.
If you’ve the technical skill and a decent set up for recording then you can record your own voice over demo. Yes of course, there’s great value in working with a professional for direction and the sound engineering aspects but recording your own voice over demo can be a really useful exercise.
Hopefully you have tackled the background noise by now, become adept at using your editing software and improved every aspect of your home studio. You might have even learnt how to incorporate music and sound effects, and give your DIY demos the sheen of professional production.
Read my thoughts on recording your own voiceover demos
Avoid time-stamping a voiceover demo
Be careful to not give too much weight to current trends. Creating a demo reel that bows to current trends could date very quickly. Aim to create a demo that will last for a few years. Be careful also to avoid material that dates your demo.
I remember working with someone on an iPhone 4 piece for their commercial demo. Within less than a year, the demo had dated itself. The same goes for current events, launches, political campaigns and more.
Types of voiceover demo and working in new markets
Although it might not be possible, financially viable or even entirely relevant to you and your style, a voice actor should consider recording the following types of voiceover demo:
- Commercial demo
- Animation demo
- Video game demo
- Character demo
- Audiobook demo
- E-learning demo
- Corporate narration demo
Don’t forget our library of potential demo scripts: Voiceover Script Library
Members save 20% on my pro demo production services.
Researching your voice over demo
Before embarking on this overhaul project, definitely spend some time doing these two things:
1) Listen to what’s out there. Check out other voice over artists on agent’s sites and directories.
2) Take note of the kind of voice over jobs that are being cast today. Use P2P systems and take a wide view of the types of voiceover jobs being cast on these platforms.
Allow this research to inform your decisions on what kind of material to collate for your own voice over demo. If for example, you are working towards recording a commercial voicereel, dedicate some time to watching commercial breaks on TV, look up ad campaigns on YouTube and check this out for inspiration Ads of the World
Spend some time reviewing the types of jobs you get booked for and also don’t forget your aspirations too. What areas of voiceover work would you like to land jobs in that you haven’t before?
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of voiceover jobs. Can you think of any others?
- TV and radio commercials
- Promos and trailers
- Corporate and industrial videos
- Explainer videos
- E-learning courses
- Video games
- Animation and cartoons
- IVR and phone systems
- GPS and navigation systems
- Voiceover for toys and games
- Automated announcements at train stations and airports
- Live event announcing
- Dubbing and voice replacement for films and TV shows
- ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement) for films and TV shows
- Character voices for apps and games
- Voice acting for virtual and augmented reality experiences