What’s so wrong with these demos, you may ask? They have been produced by people who know what they’re doing, and most of them don’t come cheap.
According to Euro-casting directors, the problem is that a lot of voice actors cannot live up to the quality demonstrated in the doctored demos, as soon as they are back in their home studio. The demos give an inaccurate impression of what they are capable of.
In other words, it’s false advertising.
HOW DO YOU GET HIRED
So, what are casting directors actually listening to, if it’s not your demo? Well, they’ll listen to your custom auditions. If they like your audition, you’ll be invited to read for a casting director to see how easy you can take direction.
This means the emphasis is going to be more and more on your ACTING skills. They’re looking for people who can feel the script, and embody the character. People who can be real instead of pretend. Why is this so important?
Because it’s one of the only ways you will be able to distinguish yourself from the AI-generated voices. Your PERFORMANCE is going to be key in booking jobs, and in having a sustainable future in voice over.
AFRAID OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
Before you’re getting too afraid of AI, remember:
Synthetic voices have no CHARISMA. They produce consistent quality without ever needing a break or a pay raise, but (and it’s a BIG but), they are unable to SURPRISE and make people LAUGH. AI-voices cannot improvise, they can’t act. They simply reproduce sounds in a way that’s getting more and more convincing.
From what I’ve heard, the casting people don’t care so much about pristine audio quality. If you record your audition in a rainy field on a mobile phone but you manage to move the listener, that’s more important than your sound quality being studio-perfect.
But once you are hired, you are expected to deliver a quality product, so, don’t think you can get away with an iPhone only. To get in the door, you want those who are responsible for hiring talent to drop their sandwich as they’re eating lunch, and say:
“We might as well stop looking for new talent. We’ve found exactly what we need!”
I call this “The Wow factor.”
If you can bring that to the table, you have a bright future in this beautiful business.
MAKE IT LOCAL
Another key concept in getting hired in Europe is the idea of localization.
I’m a big fan of localization, which means sending or making something which is appropriate for a particular region. It’s like speaking the language of the people you want to impress.
So, how do you appeal to the casting directors in Europe? A few colleagues chime in:
Ted Mcaleer, Spain
“None of my providers want a produced demo. They want 2 to 3 examples of jobs done and 4 to 5 links to jobs you’ve done that are online.”
Joe Lewis (Spain) agrees with Ted:
“In Europe you usually send clips of real work or mashups of it. Those are the Euro-demos, at least on the old continent.”
Pavi Lustig from Germany adds:
“In my previous life as a voice booker at audio post studios in the UK, Germany and Austria, I would much prefer receiving reels of actual paid work that went on-air. This didn’t show me how well or how fast a talent takes direction or performs in the studio, but at least I knew some clients paid for the work and found it suitable for broadcast (especially in the case of commercials).
I recommend having a short compilation of these in various genres to send out (ideally getting these professionally produced for volume levels, nice sequence of productions and good flow to the reel), as well as having each production as a separate file to use too, for targeted mailing and for some voice databases/archives that may want to tag the demos for searchability, which gets complicated with compilations featuring separate styles.”
Joe Lewis responds:
“Absolutely. You can’t get too creative or thorough with your samples and how to combine them for clients. At the end of the day, both types of demos have their great pros and should be understood the same way across ponds… But then there are the ponds.”
Susie Valerio (Brazil/UK):
“100%! I work a lot casting multilingual projects in the UK and clients always prefer samples of real work. Demos are certainly very important if you are starting out or looking for a change in the direction you are generally cast as, and are specially useful for niche work you can’t get hold of from clients, like medical, internal corporate and e-learning, but for Europe and most countries apart from the US, samples of real work are always preferred.”
Kim Handysides (Canada):
“Agreed! It’s also a preference in Canada – “reel” (real) work over produced (made up-pretend) work – unless you’re new to the business or want to venture into a new area.”
Jolanda Bayens (Netherlands):
“When I heard what some of my US colleagues were willing to pay for a demo, I was blown away. And when I listened to those demos I was very surprised at what I heard.
Because in the Netherlands and other European countries we do things very differently. Exactly as Paul described it, a voice demo in Europe should show what the voiceover artist can: here and now.”
“And yet certain demo producers will tell you that you need a commercial demo, a corporate, an automotive, a hairdressers, a pet shop, a Turkish restaurant demo!! Why? Because it makes them money. And so many VO artists fall for it.”
Kevan Brighting (UK) says to Darren:
“That reminds me – I must update my Turkish pet hairdresser demo.”
Thanks to all my colleagues for adding their two cents or pennies.
THROW AWAY YOUR DEMOS?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that all demos produced in the USA are overpriced, too much in your face pieces of garbage. They reflect what the market wants… in the United States of America. But don’t expect these same demos to work their charm in Europe.
If you’ve ever traveled to Europe and listened to local radio stations, you’ve probably noticed that things sound a little different over there. For starters, very few hosts and presenters use compression. The pace is more relaxed and the voices sound a bit more sophisticated (I’m generalizing, of course). There’s more telling, and less yelling.
So… final word of advice. If you’re in the US and you want to break into Europe, you have to become a student of how things are done in the Old World. And if you’re not sure, ask a colleague from that world to give you some feedback. You don’t want to be that loud, over enthusiastic naive American wearing a bright college sweatshirt and sneakers who stands out like a sore thumb, do you?
Meet people where they are. Respect their language, culture, and traditions. And know that within Europe there are important differences too. What works in Finland may not go over well in Portugal.
As Stephen Covey famously said:
“Understand first, before being understood.”
Listen carefully before you start talking.