You are being deceived!
People pretending to be professionals have infiltrated your talent pool. People who can barely swim. It’s happening on your watch and you probably have no idea what the heck is going on.
Because you don’t know or you don’t care.
You’re too busy trying to make a buck in this competitive market, and you have no time or money for decent quality control. Or you are aware that you’re accepting and advertising third-rate “talent,” but that is simply a reflection of your standards.
AVERAGE HAS BECOME ACCEPTABLE
Let’s talk about those standards for a moment. We live in a world full of crap where things aren’t made to last. Intentionally. Mediocrity has become the norm. Our shelves are filled with knock-offs made in far away places by poor, powerless people who get paid dirt to work long hours in unsafe conditions.
We buy it. We try it. We trash it.
After all, the price is right, so who cares about sustainability? It’s a free market, folks! What would you want instead? Fair pay? Worker’s rights? Socialism?
As long as a product meets some basic regulations and doesn’t poison babies or explode in your face (unless it’s a gun), good enough is good enough.
Things are expendable. People can be replaced.
This mentality has not only permeated the manufacturing of consumer products, it also runs rampant in the service industry where cutting corners has become a commendable quality.
Ironically, the worst offenders are the so-called customer service centers. How many valuable hours of your life have you wasted so far, trying to get through to someone named James whose only job it is to read an unintelligible script back to you with a thick accent?
Need I say more?
BUT WHAT ABOUT VOICE-OVERS?
That same corner-cutting mentality can be found in the happily unregulated voice-over industry where there’s no official standard or professional code of conduct. Anything goes and it certainly shows! That’s why uneducated and inexperienced talent can pose as pros and profit from the ignorance or carelessness of casting sites.
Thankfully, there are still people who care and think that quality is critical. People like Delphine. The other day she sent me the following message:
I wonder if you can help me. I’m a collaborator of a French agency and they have a Dutch voice talent in their database. A Dutch colleague that isn’t in the team told me that this girl has a not native accent. Someone else listened to her and told me that she’s okay. Can you help?
Thanks so much.”
Here’s my response:
“Delphine, I just listened to the Dutch girl and I’ll tell you what I think of her. You should know that I’m a voice-over talent and coach with over 25 years of experience. On top of that, I have worked for Dutch radio for many years, where I was part of the team that set the standard for generally accepted, neutral Dutch pronunciation.
The girl I just listened to seems to be from the Netherlands, but she’s not a professional voice talent. The first clue is the quality of her recording. Her voice-only demo is in stereo. Since we only have one voice, it makes no sense to record in stereo. Mono is the norm, unless you’re sending out a studio-produced demo, embedded in music.
Secondly, I can clearly hear flutter echo in the room, which means her recording space is poorly treated. Again, that’s the sign of an amateur. Lastly, I can hear a lot of mouth noises such as clicks and lip smacks. Pros deliver clean sound without pops, loud breaths or clicks. If they do stumble upon the occasional click, they edit it out.
Then there’s the issue of the read itself. The talent puts too much stress on too many syllables, making her sound unnatural. She allows the English words in the script to influence her Dutch pronunciation, making her Dutch sound a bit English at certain points. Voice-over pros know how to keep the languages separate.
Listening to her accent, I can tell you that she does not have a neutral, standard Dutch accent, known as “Algemeen Beschaafd Nederlands” or ABN (it’s the Dutch equivalent of RP in the UK). My guess is that she comes from the north of Holland. She pronounces her “V’s” as an “F” which is common in that area. The way she pronounces her vowels also reveals a northern twang.
If what she’s going to record is only meant for that specific, regional market, this might be appropriate. If it’s meant for the Dutch market as a whole, her accent is a distraction and it will not appeal to a wider audience.
There are many amateur voice talents that have opened up shop aiming at the low-end of the market. They’re hoping that those who do not speak their native language won’t be able to detect a lack of experience or a less than neutral accent. That’s how they slip through the cracks.
You are doing your homework, Delphine, and I applaud you for it. Only high professional standards will lead to a high-quality end-product. I’ll be more than happy to recommend a top-notch, accent-free female Dutch talent for your next project.”
In my experience, people like Delphine are an exception. She just avoided the embarrassment of connecting a client with a subpar talent by asking an expert for a second opinion. To me, that’s a sign of professionalism. Because she cared, she wanted to know.
Doing things the right way is usually not the cheapest or the fastest way. With thousands of voices in an online database, some companies believe they can’t afford to carefully scrutinize every talent that signs up, especially foreign talent. Some feel it’s the client’s responsibility to screen voice-overs, and not the job of the middleman.
If I’m totally honest, neither the voice caster nor the client bears all the blame. It’s also too easy to point at sliding standards in the world around us. Ultimately, quality control starts with each individual talent. It begins with you and me.
THE ESSENCE OF EXCELLENCE
So, let’s take a moment or two to talk about quality. It’s one of those illusive buzz words that means different things to different people.
I believe that quality is more than a combination of talent, skills and experience. Yes, you have to be qualified to produce quality work, but above all it’s an attitude based on the three C’s:
Craftsmanship, Consistency and Care.
Quality is relentless.
Quality knows no compromise.
Good enough, is never good enough.
Ultimately, it should have nothing to do with the standards of the people you work for or work with. It should come from inside. From you. You and you alone should decide how high you set the bar. The quality of your work is your most important unique selling point.
Quality has to do with paying attention to details that no one notices. It requires being able to step outside of yourself and look and listen with the eyes and ears of your most critical customers. It’s more than delivering a stellar product on time. Quality is about being a class act.
Quality is a matter of personal integrity and truth. It means: aspiring to be the best. Not the cheapest.
Here’s the most amazing thing about it.
Quality work is instantly recognizable. It needs no accolades.
It speaks for itself.
The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.
If you wish to build a business that lasts, you have to offer a quality product or service that lasts, and you should not be ashamed to charge a good and fair price for it.
It’s the most reliable strategy for sustainable success.
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
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