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Stop It Now. Get These Top 5 Things
OFF Your Voice Over Demos ...
April 6, 2016

By Roger King
Voice Over Talent Agent
Performance Network (PN) Agency

I receive and listen to a lot of demos. I think the quality of demos and the voices behind them seem to improve every year.

That said, there are still some things I'm hearing on demos that really shouldn't be there. Allow me to present the top five things you should LEAVE OFF your voice over demos ...

 1. Anything you CAN'T replicate quickly in a real recording session.

If it takes you an hour and a half to work up to doing a Barry White -type read, leave it off of the demo.

If that super-fast read about the department store took many takes and many edits and in real life, you would stumble through such a script every five seconds, perhaps it isn't your strength and it should be on the demo cutting room floor.

2. The bad accents.

Having run the Ethnic Voice Talent casting service for over a decade now, I can credibly tell you that virtually no client is looking for someone to put on an accent anymore. There are plenty of foreign language talents who also record in English and who can deliver an authentic accent for whatever project requires it.

So to the white guys who think their Indian accent is alternately hilarious and bang on, stop it now. Get it off the demo.

3. Anything that mentions a specific year.

That spot on your demo advertising "the new 2005 Nissan" is a surefire way to make a client question whether you have voiced anything in the last 10 years, or whether your voice still sounds the same.

Plus, for those of us too lazy to update our demos every year, if you get rid of anything with a date, it gives your demo many more years of shelf life!

4. Any commercial that has another talent's voice on it for longer than yours.

Dialogue spots are great, but only if your voice is the main one in the dialogue.

Clients have short attention spans and busy schedules. They don't want to hear someone else's voice dominating your demo.

Also watch out for spots where it isn't obvious which voice is yours. I have gotten a number of demos over the years that have a dialogue between, say, two women who sound sort of the same and are about the same age. Don't make it a guessing game as to which voice is yours.

5. Your radio air check.

Naturally, thousands of people on-air in radio also do freelance voice work, but we want to hear commercials and narration, not two minutes from your morning show. If you are the voice of the radio station, by all means include a clip of an imaging promo -  but otherwise, what happens in the voice over world is different than an on-air DJ shift or newscast.
Roger King is the president of Peformance Network (PN) Agency, which provides voice over talent to the radio, television, film, multi-media and animation industries. In 2004, he launched a sister agency, Ethnic Voice Talent (EVT), and now represents over 100 voice over talents and translators in more than 15 different languages. He also writes a lively and informative blog, Voice Over Canada.

PN Agency:
Ethnic Voice Talent: 
Twitter: @voiceovercanada


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Comments (12)
Roger King
6/10/2017 at 1:29 PM
Dan, I am unclear in the second part of your comment if you are differentiating between putting on an accent and actually having an authentic one. Very few actors can do accents really well and my comment still stands: most clients want an authentic accent anyway.

As for your first comment, we've had our British roster for over 12 years and rarely has a specific British accent been requested. Our Spanish voices are all good for the US & Latin American market. That aside, not sure what any of this has to do with the point I'm making about not doing accents unless you are really, really good or of course the real deal.
Dan Bolivar
4/17/2017 at 11:56 PM
Here's a person running Ethnic Voice Talent, who places all Spanish speakers under just two categories, and all British under just one category. So excuse me if I take his advice on point number 2 with a grain of salt.

Not that I'd try to sell an Indian accent, but if specific particular British or Spanish regional accents are an actor's strength, I see no reason whatsoever to leave those out of a demo IF said actor is after that type of work.
Joe Loesch
4/14/2017 at 9:23 AM
Agreed, Roger, and well said. Accents...absolutely. Why would I hire someone to put on a fake accent, if I could hire the real thing?
Jill Tarnoff
4/10/2017 at 5:30 PM
Thanks for mentioning the accents. I've noticed that we now have access to authentic accents and the need to hire a non-native is less and less relevant.
4/10/2017 at 1:07 PM
Yes, Mr. King, you are perfectly right. Thanks for those important reminders.
Lee Klinghoffer
4/9/2017 at 8:18 PM
Great article, Roger! Spot on and blunt. No mincing words in your article our on the mic. Thanks for posting it.
Brian Cummings
4/9/2017 at 7:56 PM
Good advice! Only 2 shades of gray in my opinion...I usually recommend that you choose dialogue spots with exaggerated or stylized if they're for your animation demo or serve a comedic purpose.

And finally, I bow to advise from Oscar winning actor Richard Dreyfus, who told an interviewer about the risk & reason for breaking rules. He noted that acclaim & awards come from breaking accepted rules & doing it well. We'll all be amazed by the next Robin Williams or Don Rickles...not as carbon copies but those who redefine & evolve the craft to new levels. But he also pointed out the risk of serious failure that comes with accepting the risk. So I accept the good advice & list of rules.

But remember that creative rules are meant to be both followed...& broken..."& thus evolveth our craft!"

Debbie Irwin
4/7/2017 at 8:18 AM
Great post, Roger! I have a hot-off-the-press demo, produced by the amazing Cliff Zellman,
which includes a short clip in a NYC accent. I'd be curious if you felt the same about that?
With your permission, I'll send it to you and we can discuss it in this forum or privately.

Dan Lenard
4/6/2017 at 1:40 PM
david compton
4/6/2017 at 1:07 PM
Much wisdom here, Roger. Sends me off to check my demos...and reminds me of an embarrassing audition attempt recently to provide an Irish accent. "Not bad," I thought, before sending if off. Listening to it a few hours later, I could only say to myself, "What the h... were you thinking!" I can only hope the potential client has a good sense of humor.
Jim Conlan
4/6/2017 at 9:30 AM
Spot on, Roger. One more suggestion: if you have dialogue samples, don't include one that features two voices of the same gender. You don't want the listener to have to guess which one is yours - and it isn't always obvious.
Rebecca Haugh
4/6/2017 at 4:20 AM
Roger - tell it like it is! Pleasure to see this good list from you. Hope you doing great!
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