And the winners are…

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Gear, Promotion 11 Comments

VoiceZam voice-over audio playerLast week I blogged about VoiceZam, the interactive voice-over audio player designed by Bob Merkel. Click here if you missed this story.

As of today, this blog post has reached almost 900 people. Those who left a comment were eligible to win a one-year subscription to the Premium Service and Zamtistics™. 

Apart from the Grand Prize, five runner-ups will receive two months free. The good news doesn’t stop there. After I’ve announced the winners, I’ll tell you about a special offer Bob Merkel wants to extend to the readers of this blog. 


Debby Barnes, voice-overOur first runner-up is Debby Barnes. She popped into the world singing, did a fair bit of acting for quite a while, spent twelve years interpreting American Sign Language to spoken English, transitioned into a Contemporary Christian Music Singer/Songwriter, then jumped into the voiceover talent pool. 

Debby says she’s very diligent about staying current and marketable, and she’s always investing and reinvesting in top-quality voice-over education, voice-over coaching, and better studio gear. 

Stephen Lyons, voice-overThe next winner is from the UK and his name is Stephen Lyons. If you put all the words he has voiced in his career end to end, they would stretch around the world several times.

In 32 years Stephen voiced well in excess of 75,000 Radio Commercial voice-overs and many thousands of TV Commercials and Corporate Narrations. Stephen did a lot of the voice-overs for “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” at the Universal Orlando Resort in Florida.

Natalie Cooper, voice-overNatalie Cooper is the third winner of a 2-month subscription to VoiceZam. Like Stephen, Natalie is British and unlike Stephen, she’s one of the Voxy Ladies, a boutique of professional female voice actors.

Natalie has been voicing for more than a decade, working from her studio in the heart of the rolling English countryside. When not juggling her 3 small children (her eldest is a working voice-over too) and playing with new dog, Ludo, Natalie entertains herself by baking cakes, drinking tea, and studying for a Radio Production MA. 

Scott Pollak, voice-overScott Pollak is the fourth winner. Scott is a professional voice-over talent based in Atlanta, Georgia. Scott had many years of live theater and radio experience behind his belt, before he became a full-time voice talent in 2004. 

He provided voice-overs for the World Boxing hall of Fame; you can hear him in movie theater advertisements and he has done voice work for the Mt. Rushmore Memorial.

Adam Verner, voice-overThe last person to win a 2-month subscription to VoiceZam is Adam Verner. He also came to voice-overs from a stage background. Adam holds a Bachelor’s in Theatre from Bradley University and a Master of Fine Arts from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. 

He recently gave a reading for Blackstone/AudioGo at the American Library Association annual conference in Chicago.


All winners were randomly chosen from 82 entries. Thank you so much for letting me (and Bob Merkel) know what you think of the VoiceZam audio player. Bob is already incorporating your feedback. 

The person receiving a one-year subscription is another Voxy Lady: Rebecca Davis!

Rebecca Davis, voice actorRebecca began acting professionally at the age of 6 in New York. She spent much of her childhood and school years on stages throughout the Tri-State area. Chances are if you ever saw Annie during that time, she was probably in it.

When she’s not voicing projects, at auditions or on the stage, Rebecca is volunteering. She currently works as a mentor with The Young Storytellers Foundation, developing literacy, self-expression and self-esteem in elementary school students through the art of storytelling.

Debby, Stephen, Natalie, Scott, Adam and Rebecca, please get in touch with Bob Merkel. Send him a quick email to claim your prize at bob.merkel@voicezam.com.


Congratulations to all the winners and many thanks to Bob Merkel!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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Win a One-Year VoiceZam VO Demo Player Subscription

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Promotion 83 Comments


We live in an impatient world, filled with distractions.

Our plates are getting fuller. Attention spans are getting shorter. Decisions are made faster.

The other day, I was using my “old” computer on a slow internet connection, and I was ready to throw a brick at it because it took forever to load a simple web page. Only a few years ago, I felt lucky to have such an amazing connection.

Technology has turned us into spoiled brats. We demand immediate access and real-time interactivity. We want direct control and hate to waste any time waiting. The voice-over world is affected by it, too.

If you don’t respond to that audition right away, you might as well forget it because every Tom, Dick or Harry is rushing to that online cattle call. Wait two minutes and there are 30 people ahead of you. How did that happen?


Like most people on the planet, our clients live by the law of least effort. They want to get a quick sense of our sound and say Yea or Nay. They don’t want to beg you to send them a demo or spend hours listening to an endless mix of sweetened soundbites.

Software Engineer Bob Merkel used to be a producer at an advertising agency. Part of his job was to find voice talent to match their scripts. He spent hours weeding through talent. Listening to their demos was like having to read an entire magazine. All Bob really wanted, was to flip through all the articles to see which one he was interested in.

That’s when he started dreaming of an audio player that would allow him to fast forward within a demo. At that time, it didn’t exist.

In early 2002 he started writing the first system application for his idea. In September of ’08 he was granted a patent, and the VoiceZam Voice-Over Demo Player was born. It’s a player that offers more than a way to put audio on a website. Here’s colleague Chris Mezzolesta:

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that this is not an independent review. It’s a promo and Chris is trying to sell a service, just like most of us VO’s do each and every day. So I decided to check in with a few industry experts and find out what they think of Merkel’s brainchild.

Cliff Zellman is the mastermind behind Done By Six Productions. You can read about him in my story “Factory Demos: Fatal First Impressions.” Zellman:

As a casting director for RadioVision in Dallas Texas I am always open to hearing new voices and fresh deliveries. On a potential hire’s website, I appreciate the speed and ease of use the VoiceZam player provides. When I see a VoiceZam player, I know I am dealing with a professional, as I believe Bob Merkel (great guy) vets each user before issuing them a player. The quality of the player is excellent and the load time is non-existent. It’s that fast.

One of the benefits of using a VoiceZam player is the availability to hear many selections from a voice talent within one application with an easy to navigate menu system. Sometime I will hire someone not for what I am currently seeking, but rather a voice or character I can use in the future.


Voice Talent Tom Test started using the player in early 2013.

I am very versatile, which is a “problem” with a traditional linear-playing demo.  The talent seeker might find exactly the read they need on my 7th clip out of a dozen, but might not stick around long enough to get to it out of impatience. VoiceZam (VZ) makes it so easy to skip from track to track, it is MUCH more time-efficient for the listener AND as a result gives me a better shot at showing off the entire range of my reads.

I demonstrated it to one of my top agents here in Chicago, and he was very impressed. He’d love to have VZ on the agency’s website.

Voice-Over Anthony Gettig has been using VZ for almost a year:

My clients really dig it. Being a data driven guy, I am tickled with VoiceZam! The analytics (Zamtistics™) let me see who listened to my demo and from what Internet connection. I can usually deduce from that where they are from. VoiceZam lets you create a “ZamLink,” which is a specially crafted URL that you can copy and paste into an email or image link. When the person receiving the message clicks on that link, it shows up the Zamtistics. I see this and can then follow up with the prospect.

Early adopter Dave Courvoisier has a link to the VZ player in his email signature and has embedded it in his blog. Courvoisier:

As you know, I have a ready interest in new trends, techniques, gizmos, apps, and software development. I found Merkel’s product to have a high degree of sophistication, innovative design features, and a no-frills web site that supported the product.  I eventually had the opportunity to talk to Bob a lot about the genesis of VoiceZam, and realized it grew out of his considerable experience with voice talent, agencies, advertising, and the corporate business world.  I became convinced that he had developed a truly new “take” on the linear model of playing demos. My experience is that the product is genuine, robust, configurable, and meets its PR promises.


Not everyone is as enthusiastic. Recently, Courvoisier blogged about VoiceZam, and one of his readers commented:

If only you buy this one more product, your voice business will be a success. No. VoiceZam is a solution without a problem.

Cliff Zellman brings up another point:

The only drawback I see as an end-user is the absence of a pause button. Very often during audition playbacks, I like to pause the audio and discuss, then continuing from there, only to pause and discuss again. Once the VoiceZam player has this feature, a simple pause button, it will be the player of choice for VO talent seekers. I really hope to see it added soon.

Joe J. Thomas commented:

I’m really hoping that whoever listens to my demo the first time listens all the way through. After all, it’s only :60-:90 – If I can’t hold their attention that long, I’m in the wrong biz!

Joe also mentioned pricing. Many audio players are free. Even though VoiceZam just slashed its fees in half, premium service is $8.95 a month. If you want statistics, add $4.95. That’s more than most people pay for hosting an entire site. Tom Test also made a really good point:

VoiceZam is not magic. It won’t do much good if the talent doesn’t do any sort of marketing to drive people to their site.

So, is the VoiceZam player a luxury or a necessity to keep up with the times? Has the voice-over world been waiting for this solution? Bob Merkel:

The question, “Is this really something they’ve been waiting for?” is interesting. My answer is “Absolutely!” because I see the value it brings to all parties. The closest analogy I can use is when the iPod was introduced in the early 2000s. It would be have been difficult for a music enthusiast to answer the question “Is the iPod something you’ve been waiting for?” After the normal music playback method of stereos and CD driven boom boxes, it took a lot of time for people to understand the new paradigm of digital songs you could hold in your hand. But once they got it, the way music was presented, changed forever.

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS The blue text in this blog indicates a hyperlink. For more info, go to www.voicezam.com

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