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Can You Ride The Next VO Business
Tsunami? Prepare For Waves Of Change

October 30, 2014

Note: Well known in the voice over biz, the author often advises us to prepare to welcome - rather than dread - an avalanche of business. Now, he cautions on something else to prepare for ...

By Bob Souer
Voice Actor

What if what’s coming for your voice over business isn’t an avalanche? What if it’s a tsunami?

I started thinking about that after reading my friend Jeffrey Tobin’s blog called Your Tsunami is Coming. As I read, I thought back to what I see as a vivid example of a tsunami hitting the voice over business as a whole.

The strike of 2000. Until that year, while there had been some significant shifts of one kind or another (one example would be how auditions were being done at agency offices rather than in recording studios), most voice over work (especially work that paid well) was booked the way it had been for a very long time, through an agent. And much of the time, after submitting an audition.

Then the strike. Suddenly, the amount of good-paying non-union voice over work exploded.

There were a number of factors involved, most of them related to the explosive growth of the Internet.

Anyone remember the dot com bubble bursting in 2000? Yes, the bubble burst, but it was a bubble in the first place because of how rapidly the Internet had grown. It was now possible for someone looking for a professional voice to search and find good, quality voice talent who had their own web sites. With demos.


My friend Connie Terwilliger started her site in 1996. I posted my first site in 1998. Back in the late 90s there were not huge numbers of voice over people with their own websites, and the majority of us who did have sites were working pro voices.

So, someone searching for a voice was likely to find a professional. No need for an agent. Or an union. Or even a contract.

Just connect via email or telephone. Work out the details. Email a script. Record at home. (I built my first studio in 1986.) And deliver the audio. Send an invoice. Deposit the checks when they arrived in the mail.


So, back to the tsunami.

What does a tsunami do? It creates massive devastation and destruction. Which is, at least at some level, what happened to the careers of many voice over people in the aftermath of the strike in 2000.

No, it wasn’t as swift as a tsunami, but the aftermath was just as complete. Loads of very talented people were booking less and less work - a decline that has continued for many.

And for all of us, the levels of pay have never returned to what they once were. Oh, individual jobs can still pay very well. But the playing field today is very different than it was 25 years ago when I was still in my first decade of doing voice overs.


Here is reality: some kind of destructive storm - or maybe tsunami - is ahead for each of us. How are we going to deal with the aftermath of whatever that turns out to be?

What we can’t know is exactly what will happen. Or if the trouble turns out to come in multiples.

But what we can know is how well prepared we will be to deal with it.

Many of the people who have thrived in voice over in the past 15 years have learned to ride the waves of change that have swept through the business.

They have a professional website. They don’t sit back and assume that everything is going to stay the same. They know it won’t.

So, learn to be flexible. Pay attention to the shifting landscape. Adapt as things change. And as you do, you’ll see that everything works out.
Bob Souer has been a voice actor for over 25 years, helping an array of faithful clients tell their "stories” through commercials, narrations, podcasts, e-learning, promos, imaging - you name it. He also posts an informative blog about voice acting, The VoiceOver Boblog.
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Comments (9)
William Peck
11/3/2014 at 2:46 PM
Great article! A warning that us newcomers need to heed! A word to the wise should be sufficient!!!
Maxine Dunn
10/31/2014 at 10:39 AM
GREAT article Bob! Thank you so much for writing this and giving us a valuable reminder to prepare and adapt. Increasing our skills, adapting to changing technology, casting our net far and wide and finding practical ways to increase our client base are so important.

Something I think is helpful to prepare for coming change is to have multiple streams of income. Using myself as an example, I also do on-camera work, modeling, writing, etc. Everyone here is an expert at something. Finding our strengths and then thinking of all the ways we can use them is a creative and worthwhile endeavor.

A great example is Connie’s amazing artwork and her skilled (wonderful!) drawings of vintage microphones. (Go Connie!) And more and more voice actors are writing helpful, insightful books about the industry from lots of different perspectives.

They’re helping us ALL cope and adapt and grow in our own careers by coupling their experience with their writing skills.

Loved your article Bob, thank you again!
Dan Hurst
10/30/2014 at 10:48 PM
Thanks Bob! Great reminder to refocus!!!

One of the hardest things for most voice talents is to also be good business people. Creatives often fail in that area. Your thoughts are a great clarion to watch the horizon!

I appreciate you, brother!

Greg Downey
10/30/2014 at 9:25 PM
Thanks for sharing your experience and insight, Bob. Always appreciate your perspective.
Debbie Grattan
10/30/2014 at 4:51 PM
Wow, so true. Preparing for lean times and a change in climate is necessary. One never knows what the future will bring. But I was hoping for some great words of wisdom at the end. I do believe that we all need to adapt in everything. Change is constant. But I think it may be sunny, even for little me, to think that as long as we adapt, everything will be just fine. I think that for some, and maybe many, the Tsunami may be enough to drive the weak (and not so weak) right out of business.
J. Michael Collins
10/30/2014 at 4:11 PM
Sage advice, Bob. As I've always said, the choice is yours: Be the asteroid, or be the dinosaur.
j. valentino
10/30/2014 at 4:04 PM
"My friend Connie Terwilliger started her site in 1996. I posted my first site in 1998."

And both sites look like they haven't been updated since then. Clip art images, broken layout, looks bad in a mobile device, too. And yet, every day more and more people are using mobile devices and tablets to search the internet. sloppy site = sloppy talent IMHO.

I'd say yes, it's probably a good idea to prepare for that next wave new tsunami.
DC Goode
10/30/2014 at 3:24 PM
VERY timely advice Bob.
For example:
Bobbin Beam
10/30/2014 at 10:55 AM
As always, wise words to live by from our friend, Bob Souer. One must see the tsunami for what it is (and is not), and zig while others are zagging, relentlessly moving forward, with considerable speed and urgency to higher ground.

Bobbin Beam
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