Probably the greatest misconception so many talent have with regard to this industry is to create a “makeshift” demo to (supposedly) tide them over until they are “making money”.

“I’ll get a good demo later.” Or, “I’ll produce a better demo after I’ve landed some work and made some money” is the basic notion of a novice. Unfortunately, that day may never come due to the fact you’ve offered such a poor example of yourself from the start.

If you promote a half-baked demo, potential clients will assume this is what you consider to be the best you can do. The impression you make with poorly produced demos is you define yourself and your level of commitment. Even though you may justify with yourself, “It’s not that bad.” The recipient of your demo can only deduce that you feel this is the very best representation of your abilities. A low-rent demo, as your potential client views it, translates into a low-rent talent and that’s simply not worth the investment of your precious promotional dollars.

Talent agents, casting directors, and producers use your demo to submit you for projects, especially when time is tight, which is more than not.  Even if the producer or agent 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 a sub-standard demo ultimately is a direct reflection on them and only makes their job harder if what they have to submit of you is less than reputable.

Every strata of the production food chain is required to have “demos”. Directors, producers, and various creatives are all expected to define themselves with these very valuable tools of the trade.  It’s nothing new. This has been the case since the Mad Men Era. The objective is to instill confidence in who you are and what it is you bring to the table. Simply put, a demo gives the impression that this is what you do best and what you want more of. So your demo better consist of precisely that while fulfilling your potential clients professional needs and standards.

While there are no absolutes, the standards for a voice over demo are generally dictated by the Advertising industry, considering this is their origin. When surveyed, Ad Creatives offer the most definitive definition of what makes a demo great and how impactful they actually can be on a career. (Which is why we continually survey, and what we follow when producing voice over demos here at SOUND ADVICE and have for nearly 20 years.) 

Certainly in recent years, demos for specific genres have evolved beyond Commercial, such as for Narration, Animation, and Promo. Yet variations creep up that don’t necessarily service the client (producer), but rather service Pay-to-Play (P2P) sites by “feeding the algorithm”, so to speak. We’ve determined, from survey, that mixing narration with commercial selections on the same demo track only serves to cancel each other out. It doesn’t serve those attempting to hire you solely for commercial work, nor the producer attempting to cast you for a documentary, or corporate narration, who wants to be reassured you won’t sound “selly” or “announcey” in any way. To mix these two varying genres of demos ultimately reads you don’t know the business you’re attempting to work in, and it’s raises concern you might not be all that reliable because of it.

Even if you’re just starting out in this field, you’re still held to the very same professional standards as everyone else. There really is no beginner, intermediate, and advanced job out there. Every job deserves to be considered to be as professional as the last. Every client expects the top of your game, the top of your profession. Regardless of whether the job is union or not, you’re expected to consistently offer the very best of your abilities – this standard begins with your demo tracks.

So, if you deliver a demo that doesn’t sound like actual, well-produced national television spots, you won’t be doing yourself any favors, and thereby miss the opportunity to “land work first” in advance of investing in a proper demo as you had originally intended. 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 your self professionally. You want to become memorable in a good way!  Produce your demo properly the first time and you won’t have to make excuses for yourself at a later date, or desperately try to play catch-up with your career by doubling back. And you’ll alleviate your overall frustration considerably if you do.

Ironically, many novice talent often pose the question, “Why doesn’t someone give me a chance?”  The answer is, if you present an unprofessional, substandard demo to an agent, they can only assume you don’t know what you’re doing, which would be the truth. Do it right the first time and get on with your career already.

If you’re planning to produce your voice over demos, be sure to invest in yourself. That’s the only way to afford your self the opportunity to see a proper return. It will be exceedingly more cost and time effective if you do.

For strong examples of what truly professional, entertaining demos should sound like, check out our site,


Copyright © 2017 by Kate McClanaghan. All Rights Reserved.