Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Audio Guy Mail Bag: How "Bad" Can a Voice Be...

I have to say, this is probably one of the most ... uh ... interesting questions I've gotten in a while.
I kinda HAD to post it up.

Hi Audio Guy,

I'm a recent subscriber to your blog, and I've really been enjoying it, and I thought I'd kick you a question after reading the JS Gilbert article you posted. He said that the most successful voiceovers are the people who have the best grasp of business, but that got me thinking... a modicum of talent and a head for business will get you far, but how bad does a voice have to be before you shouldn't even try? In podcaster land (and I'm sure podcasters are the bane of many professionals' existence now) the answer to the question "is my voice ok?" is always "If Ira Glass can do it, anyone can!" and I'm not sure I buy that. What do you think?

Thanks for your time,
Wow Mer, where to begin?
I'm very positive on podcasting. I think it's been a huge boon to content. It's been getting people off the bench like crazy, and not only participating, but contributing to the creative process. I probably wouldn't even be writing this blog if it weren't for guys like Leo Laporte, Dvorak, and all the people over at Revision3. I think the user generated content movement has opened up a whole world of commentary we wouldn't have had otherwise. It's showing people that they don't have to "settle" when it comes to entertainment. It's helping develop really interesting community discussion, and lastly it's helping the audience develop a respect for the work that goes into producing quality content.

I think podcasting is going to provide a whole new talent pool for hosted content.

How bad can a voice be before it's not marketable?
Geez, I don't know.
I think as long as a talent is being honest with his or her capabilities ,expectations, and how much time they can personally invest, then any voice can be marketable. Will every voice be capable of the same marketability? No.
Case in point, I had to record a deaf gentleman once. By definition, he didn't have a "good" voice, but that's what we needed. Will he do a lot of voiceover work? No, but he got paid the same for this gig as any other voice actor would.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think this is the same as when we tell little kids that anyone can grow up to be the president, but the cool thing about VO is it covers friggen EVERYTHING. Commercials, games, TV, film, radio, audiobooks, imaging, narration, industrial, phone systems, hosting, scripted, almost every facet of performance has a VO equivalent. If you can't find a niche to work in, it's because you didn't want to.

Now if I had said that "anyone could be Don LaFontaine successful" then I'd be full of it, LOL...

LOL! What do you have against Ira Glass. I think he's actually pretty good. He's engaging, savvy, and extremely authentic, and that's what sells right now.

Thanks for reading! Thanks for subscribing! Thanks for the question!
-Audio Guy


  1. My word verification for writing this comment is "cudypi", I shit you not. That pretty much sums up my feelings.


    Dude! I'm on a blogroll with Brian Cox! Awesome!

  2. LOL!
    Smooches right back at you!(I live in Hollywood it's what the chic people do).

    You're hitting the front page in just a sec...

  3. Juan,

    I so appreciate what you've written here. It's counterintuitive to say the least, but the quality or sound of someone's voice is no guarantee of voiceover success and there are plenty of examples of successful voice talent with voices that could even be called irritating under other circumstances.

    Be well,

  4. Hey Bob,
    Yeah it can really rankle people when they start comparing voices and careers.

    It's kinda cheesy, but I really like this motivational poster hanging up in one of the studios I frequent.

    Press on.
    Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.
    Talent will not; Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
    Genius will not; Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
    Education will not; The world is full of educated derelicts.
    Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

  5. Hey S.A.G.,

    Great article, mate. As with all business, it's all about "horses for courses". We've just got to find our course and start running.

    Thanks for sharing this


  6. Hey James!
    Truer words my friend...
    For the majority of people who won't make a huge splash in this biz, that's probably what does them in. Some expectation of success, or believing that there's some trick around "building" your career.
    It's not just the N00Bs either. I've worked with a few really well respected actors who've decided to "get into vo just to make a little extra cash".