Voice-over Vs. Radio Work, Part 1

Radio

It’s a common misconception that if you’re in radio then you must be in 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. The truth is precious few successfully transition from radio to voice-over, because much like theatre, 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 – $8500 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 simply 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 often develop a very sell-y sounding delivery that becomes ingrained in every read which is very hard to break. It becomes set in muscle-memory stone. 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.  So, their deliveries aren’t exactly 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’ might 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 number of people, and to take direction (when it’s given) and apply it immediately.  This isn’t done in a single take, and only serves 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 tend to populate and drive demand and content found on sites such as voice123.com, a popular voice-over job site among especially among radio talent. Sites like this offer non-union talent paying voice-over opportunities from all over the country, often driving the “value”—or perhaps in many cases, de-valuing the standard rate on non-union voice-over work by sidestepping the all-important talent agent and, in many cases, producers on various productions requiring voice-over.  

The information offered in this and other assorted blogs from SOUND ADVICE are often excerpts from our recently updated THE SOUND ADVICE Encyclopedia of Voice-over & the Business of Being a Working Talentby founder and casting director, Kate McClanaghan.  Click here to purchase a digital or ‘analog’ copy for yourself through our website: http://voiceoverinfo.com/services/encyclopedia

 

 Kate McClanaghan, Inc. © 2012 All rights reserved.