Basic Voiceover Marketing

An aspiring voice actor writes:

James and Penny:

I'm an aspiring voice over artist who's in the process of redoing my commercial  demo, due to a not so great job on my first commercial demo (I'm sure I'm not the first who ever experienced that, but  here's my question): In the process of marketing and sending out my first demo to people here in Dallas, and getting no response from anyone after about 50 discs were sent, I sought out some un-objective ears from some of the more established pros in the area.

They all told me that my suspicions were true, in that it was not a well directed, well engineered demo. So, I went back to square one... got an established coach,  and months later, I'm taking a second shot at my demo.  In the process of my coaching, I received a call from an engineer with a company that I sent my first demo to, that's well known for providing on hold messaging, and he mentioned that they were auditioning new voices and If I would come in for an audition the next day.  Naturally, I was thrilled.  The only problem was, I was set to close on our new house the next day, and could not do it then.  I explained this, and he asked if he could call me later in the day to set up a time the following week, since he was currently in a session.  I  told him that would be fine. After not receiving his call, and placing three follow up calls to him the next two weeks, he never called me back.  Question: is this a simply a lesson, that teaches to get something confirmed while you have them on the phone, and that they have a very forgettable attention span?  I'm hoping that this is the case, and not due to my "forgettable" demo.

James answers:

Sounds like you've run into one of the realities of the voiceover world. The first problem is (and lesson learned) is that you asked HIM to call you back. If a follow-up is necessary (IE: your prospect is too busy to speak to you at the time), make sure YOU are the one who calls him back. You're absolutely right when you say producers have a short attention span. Many of the producers I've known and worked with even have a hard time just understanding the concept of the project. OK, maybe that's an exaggeration, but unless there is an absolute necessity to call a voice talent, most producers will put that off as a very low priority. After all, they probably already have an established talent pool and they figure listening to your demo, talking to you, or auditioning you, is actually doing you a favor. In your case, with your original call, you were in the right place at the right time, but you couldn't take the necessary action. From that point on, you simply became an afterthought. Since I haven't heard either ofyour demos, I can't make any judgment as to what the producer's response might have been.

As for marketing your demo, I do have a few questions: Did you call first BEFORE sending out the CD? Or did you just acquire a list of names and start mailing? And after mailing out the demos, did you do anything to follow-up on your mailing? If you called first, you probably inquired if the prospect was accepting demos, or was interested in hearing new VO talent. If they said "yes" you would have obtained their name, address, phone number, e-mail address, and made notes about your conversation. You would also have asked them when would be a good time to call to make sure they received your demo. One thing you would NOT have done would be to call them to ask what they thought of your demo. With your follow-up call, you might have also asked if they had any projects coming up where they might need VO talent. If your demo was unsolicited (ie: you mailed without calling first), chances are your intended prospects simply tossed the CD in the trash when it arrived. Also, if you sent the demo to talent agents (and often producers) the demo may still be sitting on their desk, unopened. Agents are notorious for letting demos pile up for months before setting aside time to listen to them. Unless there is an immediate need for a performance style that is not in the talent pool, most agents can take up to 6 months before replying to submissions. And lots of producers will not listen to demos right away - they'll simply put the CD on a shelf until a time when they need to research voices.

Marketing your VO talent is a never-ending process, with lots of little lessons along the way. There are 5 chapters in my book, The Art of Voice Acting, that cover demos, marketing and tips for reaching and connecting with prospects. You might also look into other books on marketing and sales. Voiceover is definitely Show Business, and the larger part of it is Business.

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