Here’s a rather novel idea for this or any business: at Actors’ SOUND ADVICE we advise you to avoid asking for feedback on your demo tracks, whether we produced them or not.
Here’s why: would you trust a professional you were looking to hire or work with if they opened the conversation with, “What do you think of my demos? Do they seem okay to you? Can you give me feedback?” These are the people you’re intending to solicit work from. It reads as if you’re unsure of yourself, and only serves to undermine your professional authority, so I’d advise against it.
If you’re a pro, and you are if you’re presenting yourself as such with your demos to talent agents and producers, then you’re expected to stand behind your promotional materials and proceed with confidence. This is the case regardless of your experience or skill level. Only in the talent business is it possible for you to secure a principal role with little or no experience, provided you carry yourself with poise and confidence, while those with the most experience might play the smallest cameo. If you’re right for the role, you’re right for the role. The longest resume is not what scores you the job—YOU do. Therefore, asking for feedback unintentionally reads as if you are unsure of yourself, and you must be a novice who needs handholding.
Besides if you are given feedback—what are you prepared to do with it? Scrap everything and start over?
You may have asked for feedback simply for a lack of anything else to say, and you hadn’t thought it through beyond this point. Or maybe you wanted praise for your remarkable vocal prowess. (It’s only human to require some form of acknowledgement that you’re on the right track.) Rest assured most agents and producers will offer feedback if they honestly feel the situation warrants it, but for the most part they’ll simply listen and discern whether they can use you or not.
In most instances they’ll only offer feedback because you asked for it and they’re trying to be accommodating. However, this is an extremely critical business, the entertainment fields. Random criticism is rarely constructive, regardless of who’s doling it out. If it’s a talent agent, it very likely they’ll forget what input they gave you after a day or two or change their minds entirely after hearing your tracks again at a later date. This happens more often than not, and it honestly doesn’t help you much.
Granted, an agent might very well come back with, “Put the middle spot second and the second from last spot first.” Agents will, in most cases… provided they already know you and you have an established relationship with them. It’s specific input, at least. However, even if you’re willing to pay the studio/producer to accommodate these changes, you may not end up with a demo that’s an improvement over what you’ve already presented. Keep in mind, the individuals who are offering you feedback aren’t in the studio while these changes are being made. Even very seasoned ears typically need to hear the edit in the studio to discern whether the change is effective or not. And the plot thickens even further when yet another “reliable authority” offers you conflicting feedback that dramatically contradicts what was initially recommended.
Of course, if you ask a competing demo producer for feedback, they’re likely to criticize your tracks and tell you what they would do with your demos. The point is, far too often, what results is even more subjectivity that only serves in stopping your career from moving forward. Unfortunately, in lieu of you having any tangible experience or objectivity, asking for feedback will often only serve to confuse you, whether the advice is astute or not.
The fact is what matters above all else is what YOU think! Commerce is confidence. A good deal of your job as a professional is to instill confidence in those you hope will either rep or hire you. Therefore, when you walk into an audition, if you read as if you’re unsure of yourself then it’s far less likely you’ll land the job. Since your demos are auditioning for you, the very same theory applies.
Granted you may want an objective assessment of whether your demos are effective or not. For this we recommend you rely on no more than 3 professionals you can honestly trust. (Not a family member, even if they are in the industry, especially if they are in the industry, because they see you as a son/daughter, Mom/Dad, sister/brother, or some other relation. In other words, the objectivity might not be what you bargained for. Nepotism sounds great from a distance, until it’s up close and personal. Then it’s just plain uncomfortable for all involved.
Best advice: listen to a few demos featured on our site, and judge for yourself.
Then ask yourself, do your demos even compete? Does it sound like you from the very start? Not you trying to be something you’re not, by forcing yourself into a genre that doesn’t suit you? Suffice it to say, there are a myriad of elements to consider when determining whether your demos are road-worthy or not. The primary take away is: do your demos offer a professional illustration of your very best work and what you’re best suited to land, jobwise?
If you listen to a handful of demos online from a few assorted talent agency web sites and such, you may quickly discover that, like headshots, there are more poorly done demos than good ones any more than their headshots honestly depicts who walked in the door. Like having a proper headshot, your demos define the sort of professional you are.
Your demos are held to the very same professional criteria Advertising Creatives demand of their own demo reels, and everyone in the entertainment industry, regardless of the specific craft, are expected to maintain professional demos of their very best work. And creative producers are the very individuals your demos were created to service as a voiceover in the first place. They understand you may be creating spots for your demos in order to define who you are and what you bring to the industry as a talent. All the more reason each spot, and the demo as a whole, must seamlessly sound like national broadcast quality.
Again, if an agent or some other industry professional has a recommendation for you they’ll offer it without being asked. Certainly, everyone has an opinion, however few are objective enough to offer you insight that will effectively elevate an otherwise haphazard attempt at promoting yourself as a professional.
In a nutshell, avoid asking for it. Instead, present your tracks with confidence and without excuses. Stand up and behind what it is you’re promoting—YOU as voice talent.
What you honestly want to determine is whether they can use you. That’s the goal of forwarding anyone your demos. Naturally, you may doubt yourself when you’re just starting out. All the more reason you must continue to train and prepare, so you can deliver your best when your mettle is tested. And it will be tested, regardless of how prepared you may be. You must take a great leap of faith to present yourself with confidence from the start and every opportunity will present itself from there.
Copyright © 2023 by Kate McClanaghan All Rights Reserved.