Podcast Length: 8:33

Probably one of the greatest misconception many budding voice talent have with regard to this industry is that creating a “makeshift” demo is acceptable to (supposedly) tide them over until they’re established in this field.

“I’ll produce a professional demo later after I’ve landed some work and I’ve made some money,” is the general rationale. Unfortunately, attempting to land work with poorly produced demos only gets you further from shore rather than closer to your career goals.  Opening with a career killer of a demo inadvertently has you in a race to the bottom, rather than aiming for bigger and better things. Without proper training and professional demo production only serves to make you appear unprofessional and inevitably results in frustration that could and should be avoid.

This business is tough enough. Why add to the degree of difficulty, especially when attempting to secure work?

By promoting a half-baked demo, potential clients, talent agents, casting sources and your primary target audience, producers, will be left assuming you consider a homemade, cobbled-together demo to be the best of your efforts. And while it may be “the best you can do… for now”, it will only undermine their confidence in you, and keep you from pursuing more elevated, better paying projects. In fact, it can ultimately drown you in the shallow end of the production pool.

The impression you make with poorly produced demos is how you define your level of commitment and expertise to those most likely to hire you.

The recipient of your demo can only deduce that you feel this is the very best representation of your abilities: a low-rent, demo-of-a-demo, as you may see it, translates to a low-rent talent that’s simply not worth your potential client’s precious promotional dollars.

Granted, you may justify to yourself, “Eh, my demo’s not that bad.” But just because you have a mic and editing software doesn’t mean you have the benefit of distance to effectively self-assess your best performance skills let alone what should and shouldn’t be included on your voiceover demos. To say nothing of the ability to discern industry standards that professionally define your well-produced audio tracks.

Voiceover demos are intended to define your aesthetic sensibilities. For instance, if you were pursuing film and wanted to be considered skilled and prepared to seamlessly to be considered to play even a small, but substantial role opposite, let’s say, Don Cheadle, or Margot Robbie. You’d want the production values on your reel to instill confidence that you’re more than appropriate because your stellar performance was framed by production that backed you up.

Demos, by design, are expected to promote you with elevated production values. It’s what sets them apart from auditions in the first place. They’re intended to literally demonstrate the work you’re best suited to book in mass media.

Today every professional creative, not just voiceovers, from directors, editors, producers, as well as on-camera actors are all required to offer professional demos to exhibit who they are, what they do best, and that they understand what’s needed and wanted to even be considered for future work.

Talent agents, casting directors, and producers use your demo to submit you for projects, especially when time is tight, which occurs often enough anymore. Even if the producer or agent knows you well and truly believes in you, and hopes to use you on their project, they still need to get approvals from multiple sources in order to move forward with production. Therefore presenting you, with your sub-standard demo, is a direct reflection on them and only makes their job harder if your demos are less than reputable.

Every strata of the production food chain requires the creative in question to offer current and competitive demos. Directors, editors, CGI artists, producers, and actors both on- and off-camera (voiceovers) are all expected to define themselves with these valuable tools of the trade.

It’s nothing new. This has been the case since the Mad Men Era and stems from a bulk of producers cutting their professional teeth in advertising. Their consistent objective has always been to instill confidence in who you are and what you have to offer as a reliable professional. Simply put, a demo gives the impression that this is what you do best and defines the caliber of work you intend to land more of. So your demo better consist of precisely that while fulfilling your potential clients professional needs and standards. If they like what they hear, they’ll likely audition you from there to ensure you are able to deliver what you suggest from your tracks.

Even if you’re just starting out in this field, you’re still held to the same professional standards as everyone else. There’s no beginner, intermediate, and advanced job out there. Every job expects and deserves to be afforded the same professional standards. And every client expects the top of your game, regardless of whether the job is union or not, you’re expected to consistently offer the very best of your abilities and this standard begins with the quality committed to your demo tracks. It defines your aesthetic, or lack thereof.

Therefore, if you deliver a demo that doesn’t sound like realistic, well-produced national television spots, you won’t be doing yourself any favors, and thereby miss the opportunity to “land work first”. The fact is you can’t land profitable voice-over work with a poor example of what it is you do best.

Keep in mind the goal here is to establish yourself professionally. You want to become memorable in a good way! Produce your demo properly the first time and alleviate a considerable amount of frustration for yourself. And you won’t have to double-back to clean up your reputation, which will cost you more time and money than you had ever even bargained for in the first place.

We’ve all heard (or possibly muttered to ourselves) the common novice question, “Why doesn’t someone give me a chance?” I can answer that: Because there’s typically a creative team who are held responsible whether this production flies or dies. And while you may have an “in” who would like to back you by submitting you, your ally wouldn’t likely be able to float getting the whole team to take the same leap of faith if you don’t have any training and your demos only serve to leave your ally embarrassed or worse.

Suffice it to say, whoever might back you as an untested, inexperienced talent when you don’t yet know your job and can’t professionally demonstrate why you’d be an asset to the production without you first having invested in both training and the primary tool every credible creative is expected to present, isn’t realistic. Expecting professionals, who have worked hard to achieve their positions, risk professional suicide should you fail, is asking a bit much, don’t you think?

Having a cheap attack from the start when it comes to your training and most important professional tools (your demos) only delays the inevitable. But wherever you begin or begin again, you can’t do it alone. Voiceover is a team sport, no matter what you may read from various online sources.

Invest in yourself from the start and get on with your career already.


Copyright © 2024 by Kate McClanaghan. All Rights Reserved.



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