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Opuzz Voice : Featured Article

You've got your demo done...now what?

by Connie Terwilliger

It isn’t enough to have a good demo. You have to get it into the hands of the people who actually do the hiring. You need to do some marketing. In fact, you need to do a LOT of marketing and promotion to get your demo heard…including agent representation, cold calls, snail mail, e-mail, web sites, networking, and volunteering.

Get an Agent?

While not a necessity, being represented by a voice over agent is good for the voice artist. However, in some parts of the country “getting an agent” is easier said than done.

In many larger markets, you’ll need to be “introduced” to the agent by a producer or director. This means the agent gets your demo along with a personal letter touting your abilities. Yes, in these cases it really is whom you know! Agents in smaller markets may be more open to unsolicited demos.

Do your research to find out how each agent takes submissions. They will either have this information posted on their web sites, or they will include the information in their opening phone message. Be sure to follow the directions as explained by each agent. Not doing so will result in your demo ending up in the trash. 

Of course, all of this is predicated on the presumption that you have a professionally recorded demo that will compete with the other voice over demos in your market. And a second presumption is that you can easily recreate the delivery of everything that is featured on your demo.

Market, Market, Market

A good agent will do some minimal marketing of their agency’s capabilities – not specifically your capabilities – by sending out a House Demo once a year or so to key potential clients. You will be asked to provide a short audio clip that will be compiled on a CD with the rest of agency’s voice artists.

The agent’s primary job is to respond to incoming calls for talent and negotiate compensation. They do not make calls on your behalf. You need to be actively involved in your own marketing efforts.

You can be the most talented voice over talent in your neck of the woods, but if no one actually listens to your demo, then you won’t be paying your bills off voice over work. On the other hand, you can be moderately talented and make a living doing voice-overs if the people who sign the checks have your demo in their hands.

Pick up the Phone!

One of the most effective methods of contacting people is on the telephone. “Ick! I hate to make cold calls.” Yes, don’t we all. But take a lesson from Marketing 101, pre-screen your contacts. This way the people you end up talking to will be the ones interested in your services. You don’t want to spend a lot of time or money with people who simply don’t need voice over talent.

Depending on the type of demo(s) you have, your cold call list will vary. For the sake of brevity (and we know that web site content should be brief), we’ll use a Commercial Demo as our example. Your cold call list would include Advertising Agencies, Radio and TV station production departments and Production Companies that make radio and TV spots.

Not all Ad Agencies or Production Companies produce radio and TV spots, so you need to find the groups that would most likely be in a position to actually use your services. A lot of radio and TV stations produce low-end spots that don’t pay well, but if you are just getting started and need to test your skills, this may be a good way to break in. Most large cities have local directories that include long lists of Ad Agencies and Audio/Video Production Companies. If you can’t find a specific directory of creative types, use the Yellow Pages.

Start Smiling and Dialing

The first words out of your mouth, other than a polite hello, should be to ask if the company produces radio or TV spots. If they say no, then thank them and get off the line. If they say yes, then ask for the name of the Creative Director, Producer, or Production Manager. Alternately you might ask for the name of the person who would most likely listen to voice over demos.

Verify the spelling of the person’s name and the correct mailing address. Get an e-mail address if possible for follow up. If you can, try to speak directly to the contact and let them know that you would like to send them a demo. They usually will say sure, go ahead. Think about it. This is a very subjective business, the more options they have -- the happier they are!

Your Demo is Your Business Card

Your CD demo should be at the ready for a wide variety of marketing and networking. Send them out to your pre-screened contacts. Bring them with you when you attend meetings. Have a couple stuffed under the seat of your car in case you run into someone who needs voice talent. That happens a lot more than you would think.

The demand for professional voices is actually increasing as technology advances. While this article is focusing on radio and TV spots, there are more and more non-traditional uses for voice talent. Bear in mind that you need to customize your demo for the different markets, but the general approach to marketing remains the same. Figure out who is in need of your voice style (or styles) and be sure to get the right demos into their hands!

Copyright 2003 by Connie Terwilliger

Connie is a working voice over talent based in San Diego CA and provides voice tracks to people around the world through her home studio or in one of the many great audio recording facilities in the area. She has a wide range of straight and character reads, and is known for her ability to knock out complex technical scripts. In addition to teaching a voice over acting class at San Diego City College, she is also a scriptwriter for corporate communications. Her voice demos can be heard at: www.opuzzvoice.com/Connie_Terwilliger.asp

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