Author Bettye Zoller at the Communications Center and Museum in Vienna, where she introduced her new CD, "The Voice of Experience." Below, Zoller meets people in the dining car on a high-speed train in Germany.
Bettye Zoller's 10-City European Tour
Finds Voice-Over Market Expanding
By Bettye Zoller
Voice Talent & Coach
Jan. 2, 2008
Just back from visiting 10 European cities in three weeks, large cities to tiny towns, throughout Germany and Austria, stopping first in Paris (no time to explore … I’ll go back!).
I ended the journey with seven magical days in Vienna. Gorgeous hotel - Emperor Franz Joseph’s Riding Academy. Absolute rock star digs.
Flying to Nurnberg Germany (population about 500,000 - Americans prefer to spell it Nuremburg), first stop Paris, was fantastic fun, except for the tiny plane from Paris to Nurnberg. Felt as if I was in the old film Casablanca, out on the tarmac in the rain and cold, battling the winds to climb up a rickety ladder (with a sign saying, "one person only on ladder. Careful!” to get inside the anciently old plane.
Expected to see Humphry Bogart and Ingrid Bergman out there with me!
Once in Nurnberg, I discovered that voice-overs are alive and well and that many have in-home recording studios. They are voicing projects for clients all over the world.
I was supposed to meet with one voice-over talent there and see his in-home studio, but he was called out of town suddenly. A friend there, however, met me for lunch.
She said that more and more actors and singers are making money in the voice-over field all over Europe nowadays, cities of all sizes large to small, and that many work from home.
Voice-overs are particularly attractive (as they are worldwide!) to starving artists as extra income - filmmakers, actors, models, and of course, musicians.
Many Europeans have the advantage of speaking three or more languages fluently, since most European schools teach languages to children in the early grades, not waiting, as do American schools, until the pre-teen or teen years (a mistake).
And of course, multiple languages are spoken by many European parents.This means that European voice talents easily voice jobs in many languages.
What Europe lacks, she told me, is U.S. English - people who speak American English without a European accent.
PARADES THE PAST
While in Nurnberg, touring the famous parade grounds, site of so many Hitler gatherings and government rallies, three young men rode up on bicycles.
Obviously, I looked like a tourist with my camera dangling from my neck.
"Did you come to my city just to tour these horrible parade grounds and other old WW II sites?" they asked. "Why? Are you American?
"Do you not want to see today’s modern Nurnberg instead? This is a past we’d like to forget!"
I replied: "I’m seeing many things, touring 10 cities, and not only viewing wartime sites. I am on an extensive European tour.
"While here, I also will be working, performing voice-overs for clients, and I will tour recording studios. I own a recording studio in America and am an audio engineer and producer too."
Their attitudes toward me changed visibly. Their tone of voice became friendly. They began smiling.
"We are modern and moving forward. This is 'bad history.' We are now 'doing good history.'
I understood their feelings. While we talked, tour buses were pulling into the parade grounds, unloading tourists by the dozens.
I explained that Americans often feel much the same about slavery times in our country and other events in the world with which we might not be proud. However, no one can erase the past. One only can try to somehow understand it.
This seemed to please the young people, who began to discuss their lives. One young man was a musician. One was an actor. The third was studying computer programming.
I invited them to visit my web site. I made three new friends. This is the best kind of travel experience anyone can have.
VO IN AUSTRIA
A few days later, I discovered that even in quaint little Passau, Austria - a charming medieval town with cobblestone streets and a gorgeous cathedral (the organ recital I heard there was breathtaking) - people are interested in voice-overs.
I met a voice talent when he chanced to hear my conversation in a coffee house. He is an audio producer and has an in-home studio.
His problem, he said, is the cathedral bells ring at the start of each hour.
"Gorgeous but LOUD," he complained. "I have to do everything in my audio studio with an eye on the clock to avoid the 'top of the hour bells.'"
ANCIENT HOUSE, NEW STUDIO
I was in Passau to voice corporate work for a local producer. I had voiced a job for this same producer from my home studio in Dallas some months before, so we took this opportunity to meet and work together.
The session was held in his studio in a house dating back to the sixteenth century. It was a strange dichotomy, the modern recording studio set up in such an old house.
The producer originally used me in the U.S. when he needed a voice talent who spoke American English without an accent. He found me on one of the "pay-to-play" voice-over job sites on the web.
Today's job consisted of reading a long list of German corporate company names. In Germany, a corporate name ends with GMBH (equivalent to our INC suffix). It's pronounced as "Gay-Em-Bay-Ha."
At first, I pronounced the alphabet letters in the American English manner. We then had to redo part of the list. Live and learn!
Also in Passau, eating lunch at a common table in a small restaurant, I chatted with two university students. Both were quite intrigued by my activities as a voice-over performer. I gave them my business cards. We exchanged emails. I hope we keep in touch. I will write them.
In Regensberg, Germany, my touring was severely hampered by sleet and snow. I ventured out of my hotel to make the acquaintances of actors recommended by a friend who lives in Switzerland, but the sleet was troublesome, prickly and sharp.
Walking became hazardous on ice and the bitter wind was howling. I was forced to retreat back indoors. I’m told there are good studios here and voice talents, too.
SEXY, AUTHORITATIVE VOs
Throughout Germany and Austria, while viewing TV, I was struck by female voice talents who sounded more deep-voiced and sexy, yet authoritative, than is usually heard in America.
The on-camera commercials often contain partial or full nudity, male-female touching or embraces, suggestive situations.
Of course, explicit magazines of a sexual nature are kept in the open in stores where children of all ages may examine them. Most are on the lowest shelf, making them accessible to the youngest readers!
The male voice-overs I heard while in Europe seemed to be more "authoritative" in tone than most on American TV - not exactly "hard sell," but serious, not light.
Of course, the German language is sharp, guttural which may add to this impression.
I did not hear any "warm fuzzy" reads on TV except for female "sexy" reads, which predominated.
WILD DOG EXPERIENCE
In Vienna, the recording studio getting the buzz is Wild Dog Music, with minimalist décor and a comfortable studio, hip cutting-edge environment.
At Wild Dog, the engineers have recorded every style of music from avant garde (such as the singer Lorelei Lee) to classical music (such as albums featuring Three Young Tenors.)
There are many commercial recording studios in Vienna. I wish I had had time to visit more of them.
In my hotel in Vienna, I met a gentleman who is a studio singer in Germany. He recently sang jingles for Budweiser of Europe and for Coca Cola Light (in America, called Diet Coke.) He also has sung jingles for Seven-Up Bitter Lemon Drink (not found, to my knowledge, in America).
He was intrigued with my many years of work as a studio singer, and inquired (for a female friend) about how America’s music producers regard classical singing voices. He said that his friend is rather operatic in tone.
I told him that classical and operatic singing styles seldom are heard on TV commercials in the U.S. However, I added that Disney and others use Broadway and classical singing styles. I explained that jingles tend to follow popular (commercial) music trends.
SIT WITH STRANGERS
In my travels, the community tables where one sits and dines with strangers were most conducive to meeting new people.
Conversations began with talking about people’s occupational fields. My career seemed to draw interest.
One need not ask permission to join a group table in a restaurant. It is expected that you’ll sit with strangers and it is a wonderful way to share a meal.
On several occasions, I was seated at tables with students at universities on holiday at Christmastime. The students expressed great interest in voice-overs and in studio singing.
BODALGO IN MUNICH
Munich, Germany, is well known as a hotbed of voice-over recording and TV commercial production.
Bodalgo is a Munich company with an Internet voice-over talent booking service that many American and European talents find useful. They represent me in Europe.
Several American film stars were in town doing the TV talk show circuit, and billboards tout American stars endorsing various products.
Richard Gere (also huge in Japan), Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Madonna, country western singing stars, and many others are working as voice-over and on-camera commercial talents.
The face and voice I saw and heard most often in Germany and Austria was that of George Clooney. It’s almost embarrassing in a way - his face is everywhere. It’s wrapped around countless telephone poles on posters in nearly every city I visited. His voice is heard on dozens of TV commercials. Airports are plastered with his photos, some so large they cover entire walls!
Yes, voice-overs indeed are a worldwide industry. Our marketplace is expanding rapidly. Just as the Internet has changed all businesses, so has it changed ours.
Croatia and even Slovenia beckon me in the New Year, details to be solidified, conferences I hope to attend, voice-overs I hope to do there.
My most popular voice-over seminar, The Business of Voiceovers, is being expanded to include information on working today worldwide.
Bettye Zoller is a top international voice talent, coach and author, an owner of the VoicesVoices educational and recording firm, based in Dallas. She is a winner of ADDY, Clio, Golden Radio and Audie awards, holds advanced degrees from three universities, has served on university faculties for 30 years, and currently is the Feagin Artist Guest Professor at Tulsa University, presenting workshops in Houston sponsored by Women in Film and Television.
Her upcoming workshops include:
Jan. 24 / Dallas: The Business of Voiceovers Worldwide - Today’s Business Model
Jan. 25 / Dallas: Narration Techniques for Film, Video, TV, Corporate Projects, Audiobooks
Feb. 28 / Dallas: Characters and Cartoon Voices Workout!
Feb. 5-8 / Lansing, MI: Private career consultations and private coaching.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 214-638-TALK (8255)