VORG #30 Jan-Feb-Mar 2000

The First Step: The Voice Over Demo

First – know your craft. In a major venue such as Los Angeles, one cannot afford to put themselves or their demo in the marketplace until they are competitive. The competition is fierce. Unfortunately no one is looking to “develop” new talent. Talent agents, casting directors and producers expect you to be able to give them what they’re looking for in one or two takes, sometimes without even a playback of your last take. This means being able to self-direct. It’s great to have a coach or instructor help you find your best performances, but they won’t be at the audition with you. The point to all this is: do not make a demo tape and attempt to market yourself or find a talent agent to represent you unless you are ready. If you don’t feel you’re ready, continue listening, taking workshops and classes, private instruction, join a workout group or form one with other actors.
Let us assume that you’re great and ready to go. First you need a demo tape. This is a compilation of imitation commercials produced and edited together (usually two minutes or less) representing your strongest styles or performances of commercial advertising copy. The goal of this tape should be to showcase where you fit into today’s advertising market. There is no shortage of actors in town. If they want “Gen X” sound, they’ll hire an actor who is 17-23 years old. In a nutshell, don’t waste time on your tape doing anything at which you are mediocre or just okay. Show only your strengths. It is best to work with an accomplished voice-over demo tape producer. There are a lot of people producing tapes these days.

In deciding who to hire, consider several things:
1. Do they have a current understanding of the advertising market?

2. Do they have broadcast quality in their recording sound? (Remember, these are supposed to sound like real commercials.)

3. Do they use new copy and music on each tape or recycle the same copy and music over and over again? (It’s a small town; casting & talent agents hear hundreds of tapes.)

4. Do you feel comfortable with their personality and directing style?

5. Will they allow you to hear a sample of some of the tapes they’ve produced?

Most producers can’t afford to give you a free consultation. However, allowing you to listen to a few tapes when their studio isn’t busy should not be a problem. It will give you an idea of their approach as well as their production quality.

There are other questions to be asked, but here are certainly some of the essentials. The cost of a demo tape can vary There are producers that charge as little as $400 and some upwards to $3000. Price does not necessarily reflect the quality. In general, the going rate for a quality tape is somewhere between $800 & $1500.

- Cindy Akers, producer / director, Voicetrax West Recording Services and Jan Rabson