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The Red And Blue States Of Voice
Over: Schism Of Haves & Have-Nots
July 23, 2015

By Dave Courvoisier
Voice Actor & TV News Anchor

First off : This is not a blog about typical Washington politics.

But ...

I don't remember a time when opposing views became hijacked so completely by radicals. Polarization on any number of issues is moving further away from the center, and finding purchase on the extremes.

I don't see it as a Democrat vs. Republican division, nor as a conservative vs. liberal controversy.  I'm seeing it more and more clearly as an urban v. rural divide.

This is particularly evident in voice over attitudes, opportunities, and cultures. The manifestations are most distinct in the following areas:
  • Union vs. Non-union membership and support
  • ISDN penetration and cost feasibility
  • Commercial studio auditions vs. private (home) studios
  • The Internet's disruptive AND enabling nature
  • Agent penetration in the marketplace
  • Perceived "professionalism"
  • Availability of certain regional industry-related jobs
  • Allowable rate structures

There are more points of difference, but the above summarize nicely a schism of haves and have-nots in our business, based on proximity (or lack of it) to the big markets: NYC, LA, Chicago, San Fran, Atlanta, Dallas, Miami, etc.

Particularly galling to those voice actors in "flyover" states is SAG-AFTRA's comprehensive failure to see them as worthy converts to their membership rolls. I'm not even sure they know voice-actors actually live and work in Oklahoma/Missouri/Utah, etc.!

Further complicating the issue is the ever-changing media marketplace (read: decline of traditional media powerhouses TV and radio) ...the advent of digital media - which is particularly hard to measure - and the insistence of East/West coast metro areas to cling to legacy technology, and the marketplace supporting that.


It would be easy to dismiss the whiners by saying these are commonplace advantages that fall to those willing to live in high-concentration urban areas - for many fields of endeavour.

I get that. But it's a head-in-the sand response to global changes which are already disrupting other industries (music, photography, publishing, etc). 

Wake up decision-makers! Just admit that the freelancer in Fayetteville, AR stands just as good a chance of fulfilling voice over needs as the hack in Hackensack - and let the rising tide lift all ships!

The equalizing force of the internet is democratizing our business. It's not red or blue: it's purple, and it's high-time for media decision-makers to move off the NYC/LA-centric merry-go-round and discover the capable, willing, and eager talent that lie outside their myopic POV.

Wow ... I should run for Congress! NAH! (Too many skeletons in the closet!)
Dave Courvoisier is an Emmy Award-winning broadcaster, writer, producer, voice actor, and the main weeknight news anchor on KLAS-TV, Channel 8, the Las Vegas CBS affiliate. He also writes Voice-Acting in Vegas, a daily blog of voice over adventures, observations and technology, and is author and publisher of the book, More Than Just A Voice: The Real Secret To VoiceOver Success.

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Comments (4)
Kurt Feldner
7/24/2015 at 10:08 AM
Dave, I appreciate your open & honest - and very accurate too - viewpoint. You're dead-on right. The industry has & is changing. Most things are never static for too long." Can and will we adapt?" is the question.
Kent Ingram
7/23/2015 at 9:19 PM
Dave, you've echoed what I discovered, nearly five years ago, when I got back into the business, after a lengthy sabbatical. Although some disputed it, I've claimed that those talents who live in those giant media locales, especially LA/Hollywood, have a decided advantage over talents like me, who live in a smaller market, Denver, CO, specifically.

The agency who took me on, originally, was based in SoCal. I received numbers of auditions from my agent, until he got seriously ill. Then, only when I badgered them, did someone have the decency to e-mail me back and tell me all out-of-town talents will take a backseat to local talent, which I took to mean I was getting thrown on the scrap-heap.

Does it piss me off, when I put forth the effort to produce high-quality work? You bet! And, what gets me even more frustrated is hearing from VO professionals who tell me that home studios are going to replace big studios, eventually. Then, I hear from other pros who say if you have a home studio and you don't live in the big market towns, you'll always get scraps of work and be satisfied that you get 'em.

Okay, that's my vent for the day. Thanks for the platform to do that!
Jay Lloyd
7/23/2015 at 5:42 PM
Being a boy who grew up in rural NE Minnesota (46 mi from the King of VO, Don Lafontaine) and then moved to Wichita, Los Angeles, New Mexico, AZ and finally San Francisco, I see the bigger challenge as one of "socialization." If you live in Carrizozo, NM, I don't care how expensive your studio or how great you sound, the "big boys" are still going to view you as a "hick" who might sound good, but you're never going to be part of "the gang." Not in any big numbers anyway. But you can still make a fine living! You just won't hit the "big time" because you're not available for "beers with the boys" three times a week. IMHO. =)
BP Smyth
7/23/2015 at 4:36 PM
Hello Dave,

Great article!! You bring things up that all of us "out of the loop" voice talent deal with on a daily basis. There is plenty of work out there aside from the "elitist" markets of New York, LA, and Chicago. I don't know if this situation will change anytime soon, but it would be nice if it did. I reside in East Tennessee. I'm not "from" Tennessee, and my "voice" clarifies this fact. But I'm out of the loop when it comes to booking projects in the elitist markets. I don't worry about not landing projects in those particular areas of the country. Fortunately, I get plenty of work in other parts of the country to keep me busy. I'm also non-union and will always remain that way.

So, I say to all who are concerned about not booking with the elitists, don't be concerned about it. There is plenty of work elsewhere. You have the entire world as your marketplace, thanks to the Internet.

BP Smyth, Narrator
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