It’s a common misconception that if you’re in radio then you must be an established voice-over, when in fact, they are two separate and very different worlds. The truth is if you are in radio—it’s very likely you wish you were in voice-over. Precious few successfully transition from radio to voice-over because, much like theater, people in radio will starve for their art.
Most of the yearly graduates from various universities and trade schools for broadcasting and production often find themselves becoming one of the great nomadic populace that dedicate themselves to radio: in part because they love the medium and also due to their initial aspirations to become a voice-over. Radio seems a logical enough route at the onset should you want to get into voice-over.
However, after dedicating years to small and medium market radio, requiring these committed individuals do five to eight shows a week (typically six to eight hours long a piece), as well as write, voice, and produce no less than 150 station promos a week (to keep the station afloat with endorsement and advertising money), and all for a meager paycheck that is typically $5,000 to $8,500 below poverty level. The main thing driving these people is their love for the medium and the fact that radio has become the devil they know. There’s comfort in what’s familiar.
To add to this, people in radio find themselves out of work every six to eighteen months and not for any fault of their own. These are extremely dedicated people by and large, but due to the fact that the small- or medium-market station they found employment with in Baton Rouge, for instance, changed formats from adult contemporary to all talk, or the station was bought by Cirrus, or perhaps they simply hit the pay limit at that station and they are now being replaced with people who are $2 less an hour. (Can I get a Grapes of Wrath reference here, please?)
As pitiful a picture as I may be painting here, the plot thickens when you discover many bad performance habits are generated with all those years in the radio trenches. Hard-sell deliveries don’t translate well to commercial or narrative voice-over. Unfortunately, radio talent tend to develop a very sell-y sounding delivery that becomes ingrained in every read and is very hard to break. Even though you might think all that experience in front of a mic would add to their value as a voice-over, these talent typically address the mic the same way for everything they do, regardless of what the script requires of them and various demands from one project to the next. So their deliveries typically aren’t all that natural or versatile, which can be a real deal killer in voice-over.
To make matters worse (yes, there’s more) these talent are used to delivering one take and one take ONLY. Now, as a novice, you might think being One Take Jake to be some sort of selling point. Instead, it’s the polar opposite: To be a successful voice-over you’re expected to offer options with each take. You’re trying to satisfy the production demands of a number of people, and to take direction (when it’s given) and apply it immediately. This isn’t done in a single take and serves only to make a radio talent feel as if they failed in some way, simply because they aren’t used to this process.
There are literally masses of radio talent roaming the country, attempting to suss out a living in the industry they know and love: radio. So, it stands to reason, these are the folks who populate and in some cases drive sites such as voice123.com and voices.com. These sites are popular voice-over job sites among radio talent since they offer nonunion talent voice-over opportunities from all over the country and Canada.
The downside is many small market clients who utilize these Pay-to-Play sites (often for the first time production) will ask whether you are a studio and able to record, edit and mix the voice tracks you are being hired for as a voice-over. If you aren’t—just say so. There’s such a thing as over-promising what you honestly can (and should) deliver for the price. These sites offer voice-over projects. If they honestly require full production, refer them to us, or a reliable, local studio you’ve worked with in the past. Otherwise, you are offering services that may far exceed what you’re hired to deliver: voice-over.
At SOUND ADVICE, we’ve worked with scores of radio talent in overcoming the various obstacles of transitioning from relying solely on radio to becoming a full-time, professional voice talent. If you could use some assistance yourself, don’t hesitate to call or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 323.464.0990
Copyright © 2014 by Kate McClanaghan, All Rights Reserved.