Thursday, July 30, 2009

5 Things in Voice Overs I Wish I Could Do All Over Again

5 Things in Voice Overs I Wish I Could Do All Over Again

Quality Assurance & Public Relations at Voice123 means listening to a great deal of voice talent. The level of talent ranges from 'newbie' to your most well-known, seasoned professional. I was working on Quality Assurance earlier this week, and while listening to some demos posted by a few new talents, I thought about what I did to get my first demo done... and what I wish I could do all over again. Even though it has been over 15 years now, I still remember all the mistakes I made, and... the money spent i.e. wasted.

To date, it still parallels what many go through, so I wanted to share with you my experience with getting my first voice over demo done, and what I wish I could do all over again, if not to illustrate the importance of doing things right with patience and care. You can automatically assume my first demo was awful, but I paid a bigger price, much higher than what I spent.

1. Selecting the guy to produce it.
My lesson learned here is that it is probably a good idea to spend the money on someone, who produces voice over demos... not rock music albums. Also, someone who actually knows how to produce voice over demos. The guy in charge of mixing levels was not keen on what worked in the voice over industry. He had a working knowledge of a soundboard, but in my anxious, youthful rush to 'just get it done', I had ended up selecting a person who neither knew what was needed on a voice over demo, nor did he know when to say, 'OK, you might not want to do that.', and I just went along for the ride...a very costly one at that, as I live in NYC. Things are not cheap here, and I paid way too much. Important to note, high cost does not always indicate you will get a great demo.

2. How many copies of my demo that I wanted for mass mailings.
Oh boy! I wish I could take this back especially when I think of how easy it is these days to promote yourself at a much cheaper cost on the Internet, if it costs anything at all:
  • I paid for 250 demo tapes at a cost of $1.00 a cassette. I paid for the box it was to be shipped in, and then after, had someone do graphics for the inside cassette jackets, which all ran me another $75.00. So, there I was with a mountain of bad demo tapes that looked good, and no postage stamps to mail them out! Now, mailing cassettes was not cheap. I believe back then it cost 53 cents a mailing.
Add to that cost: Padded envelopes and return address labels, which came out to about $1.00 an envelope. I also paid for those stick-on labels for cassettes and two printer cartridges (not cheap) when my printer ran out of ink. This killed my wallet, but it was about to get much worse! If only I could have said then, 'Check out my website.', but even with this demo, it still would have been a bad idea.

3. Script selected.
I am not sure if you have ever heard my voice. Let me be brief on this one, and just say, 'It was a mistake to choose a script, in which James Earl Jones did the original voice.' Unfortunately, 'the love' of a deep voice and Darth Vader is not sufficient reasoning to select a script. My voice is/was/will never be built for deep voices. I was not thinking of this as a 'business', or thinking about the balance between 'what I want to do' & 'what gets me hired'. I just wanted to do it so badly, and I paid for it.

4. Psychologically speaking... Giving people's opinions 'too much negative power'.
Opinions are important, seemingly as we base most of our success in this industry on whether or not others opinions of our work will get us hired. What I did is something I still see happen today in the voice over industry. I can sum it up this way:
  • If someone does not like what they hear, or shares an opinion about it, investigate the reasons why they stated their opinion. Take it with a grain of salt. Do not get upset, or worried. Not everyone will like everything you do. That is no reason to quit, give up, or change something good that you may have going for you. An opinion is only as powerful as you let it be.
My problem when I started out was that I took everything that everyone said so personally, it impeded the learning process. I did not like any form of criticism because I worked so hard on my demo. Yet, thinking back, did I really do my best? That was the reason I had to investigate, but was too young to know it.

5. The biggest mistake... mailing demos to everyone without thinking of the recipient.

If you like to say, 'Think big or go home.', you are like me. Except, when I started out in voice overs my idea of 'thinking big' always cost me more money than it earned me. I thought, 'I have this mountain of tapes, and the world cannot wait to hear me!'. I sent these demos off to the biggest names in the business, and the smallest names, too. The result was counter-productive to say the least:
  • A whole group of agents had new voice over coffee coasters called, 'Steven Lowell.'
  • I actually became a target for less than scrupulous people, who then sought me out to try to get me to pay them to make me a new demo, and charge me much, much more. Their reasoning, 'Your demo was awful. Do you know how much it costs to get a great one completed at the right price!' Sadly, they were right, but I had no money, so I had no funds to even try to research possibilities.
As well, there was a series of coffee coasters out there aka. 'Steven Lowell's first voice over tapes', that took all of about 3 seconds to display that I had no clue what I was doing. That can be a hard image to erase. The reality of life is that first impressions do matter, even if they are unforgiving and harsh. Luckily, when I was completely down and out that the mountain of demo tapes was gone and I was out a good amount of money, one of my last demo tapes I sent out made its way to a very nice coach, who told me, 'You went about this all wrong. I can hear what you were thinking, and why you thought that was a good idea, but it is not. Your voice is too real and conversational to try and sound like that.'

The most important thing he did was that he listened to my demo, knew my strong points, and told me what to stay away from. When it came time to making a new demo, he would not let me settle for anything better than what he saw could be my best... and did not charge me a fortune in the process. To this day, he still keeps in touch with me, and has been a mentor during tougher times when I felt I should give up.

This is perhaps is what makes the entire experience worth while for me. It showed me we all go through certain things for a reason, so that we may learn what to do next, and then we owe to it ourselves to do better.

Thank you for reading,

Voice123 - The Voice Marketplace
Steven Lowell
Public Relations Manager
My Blog
Twitter: @stevenNYC123

Thursday, July 23, 2009

5 Things That Never Change in Voice Overs

Working online in voice overs is definitely a new way of getting voice over work. However, there are basic principles to the voice over industry that have not changed during the transitions in technology over the years. Whether your first demo was on a reel, tape, CD or MP3, there has been no change in the following:

You always need a great demo that shows you at your best
It is easy to say such a thing to a voice talent just starting. It is usually followed by the question, 'Well, what makes a great demo?'. The best thing you can do for yourself, if you are in the initial stages your voice over career:

  • Pay attention to voice overs you hear on TV, radios, movies, websites etc.
  • Decide what you like, record it, save it, etc., and remember why liked it.
  • Hold yourself to that high standard of quality sound, and copy reading.

Why? These talented folks you enjoyed listening to, will be competing with you always. Do not worry. That is a good thing! Their demos are amazing, and that is the standard you want to hold yourself to always. If you commit to high standards, one day, you will then find yourself meeting the very people that inspired you to do a voice over demo in the first place. Just today, I learned this Voice123 talent, Ed Victor, did the voices on a product line of toys I bought for my nephew. Small world!

You have to know how to read copy
This comes with practice, and when you feel you have nailed it, you have to keep practicing to stay sharp, almost like a pro athlete who does not stop working out just because he signed with a pro team. You have to stay competitive!

'Reading voice over copy' goes beyond just 'reading it & sounding like a voice over talent.' Your voice is your product, so you have to shape your product into what 'they' need. You have to learn how to be flexible, open-minded, and original, and yes, at times know what they want, even when they do not say it. Remember, not everyone truly knows what they want, until they hear it. This comes with dedication, practice, and coaching. Lani Minella is one example of a voice over coach in the videogame industry whom I met through Voice123. She is extremely flexible at reading copy, and knows how to teach talents all about it what she does. Oddly, I have been listening to her for years, but only found out 'the name behind the voice' when I started working here.

Succeeding takes dedication, patience and a positive attitude
This is perhaps a 'rule of thumb'. I believed it when I started out in voice overs many years ago. When I came back into it again with online casting, it still applied. I understand it is easy to write it or say it, but how do you do it? Try this:

  • Surround yourself with great, hard working, positive voice talent, and positive environments.
  • Save voice over industry professionals' work that inspires you.
  • Stay away from conversations that lead you to negative feelings or actions. Negative thoughts are incredibly easy to focus on because being positive takes hard work & dedication. The fact that voice talent basically apply for jobs everyday, makes a positive focus a necessity! Even on those 'rainy days', focus on the positive conversations that remind you of the reasons why you want to do voice overs.
  • Most importantly, believe you can do it. After all, you are what you believe you are, and because of this, you can become anything you want.

The importance of being 'down to earth'
Be it online casting or walking into an agent's office where you first meet 'the watchdog', you must always put the feeling out there that you are a voice talent, who will be a pleasure to work with. Granted, online you actually have to display this by what you write and your demo.
As well, working online is all about having a 'brand'. If someone goes to your webpage to hear your voice over demo, they will see what you write, your headshot, and listen to how you sound. They will have these three things to know what makes you special.

In all my years, and in all my research into various businesses, I never once heard someone say, 'You should have an attitude. They will love that!'. There is simply nothing more enjoyable than working with someone who is down to earth because he/she is talented, they know it, and they do not have anything to prove. 'Attitude' may get you a reality TV show, but your '15-minutes of Fame' starts counting down from there, until there is focus on what works for longevity of a career.

Doing 'one thing' to get work is still not enough
Online casting has succeeded in giving thousands of great voice talent, amazing amounts of exposure, yet being on a website is not enough exposure, if people do not know to find you there. Social media has exploded in recent months, and now you can find voice talent all over the web, doing videos on YouTube, 'tweeting', or discussing topics in voice over forums and Linkedin. The more exposure you give yourself, the better, BUT do not forget the basic rules above!

It is cheaper and easier to promote yourself than ever before. With that power, comes great responsibility. Promote your voice over product of 'you at your best' when it is ready to 'hit the shelves', so you are always positive and proud of what you are doing!

I hope your summer is going well!

Voice123 - The Voice Marketplace
Steven Lowell
Public Relations Manager
My Blog
Twitter: @stevenNYC123

Friday, July 17, 2009

Places To Help Find Answers!

Voice123 receives thousands of emails a week, requesting information on everything from 'How to get started in the voice over industry?' to 'What is the best way to maximize my profile to get invited to projects?'.

Such topics are found all over Voice123!

This week, I would like to share with you some great places to find answers to your questions:

Resource Center - Type in a keyword about any questions you may have about the voice over industry. If you do not find an answer, leave a request and we will write an article for you. We have articles about getting paid as a voice talent, SmartCast, and other great information about online casting!

Voice123 Forums - Converse with Voice123 Premium Subscribers and Voice Seekers about your thoughts on the voice over industry in a positive environment. Try a search and see if your ideas have been written about previously. If there is something you would like to ask other Premium Subscribers, post a new topic here.

We look forward to seeing you around Voice123!

Voice123 - The Voice Marketplace
Steven Lowell
Public Relations Manager
My Blog
Twitter: @stevenNYC123

Monday, July 13, 2009

Voice123's Seeking Entrepreneurs & Partners

Voice123, the largest network of voice talent and production professionals in the world, is looking for entrepreneurs with a track record of diligence and success to partner with us.

These individuals will help create localized versions of our voice casting system, one for each of several languages. Each of these localized versions will be its own start-up Internet business, and partners may each receive up to a 50% ownership stake, depending on the resources they bring to the project.


Voice123 is expanding into new markets, and seeks partners, who will take an active hand in the setup and operations of new, localized versions of its service. There is a growing demand in currently under-served countries, and we believe that these new partnerships will lead to thriving businesses around the world.

Voice123's network currently includes over 100,000 (mostly English-speaking) voice industry professionals, and we have processed over 2 million auditions to date. In studying the activity of our service, we have realized that a large percentage of the projects that are accepting these auditions require voice talent in multiple languages. For this reason, we are launching a pilot plan that will expand our business into the following languages/markets:

  • Chinese
  • Spanish
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • German
  • French
  • Italian
  • Dutch
The Challenge

We need partners, who are native speakers in the languages listed above. If you are a driven Internet entrepreneur with the proper skills, the desire to succeed, and the ability to invest considerable time and effort in the potential for a thriving business many months down the line, then we want to hear from you.

We will support each new partner with Voice123's technology, expertise, and knowledge of the voice talent industry.

Please read the requirements below carefully.


Successful candidates must possess all of these skills and attributes, without exception:

  • Extensive background in and knowledge of high-level web technology.
  • Coding skills.
  • Native speaker of the local language, and bilingual in English.
  • Tremendous drive, entrepreneurial spirit, and dedication.
To further explain the last bullet-point: You should only apply for this partnership program, if you will have the ability to work at least 8 hours per day for a full year with no salary, which is the period before we estimated time frame for these businesses to achieve profitability.

Preferred Skills

While not required, these skills are considered highly valuable in selecting our partners:

  • Documented web programming experience, with references.
  • Previous knowledge of and involvement in the entertainment industry.
  • Previous experience in building and running web-based businesses.
  • Ability to bring additional resources, above & beyond the requirements listed above.
  • Location in New York, NY, or Bogota, Colombia.

  • Co-own and run your own startup business.
  • Potential for significant, on-going revenue based on the success of the business.
  • Learn from and share experiences with our team of professionals.
  • Attractive business and entrepreneurial environment.
How to apply?

Send an email message to bizdev [at] voice123 [dot] com including the following information:

  • Your name.
  • Phone number, including country code.
  • Explanation of why you wish to partner, and what makes you uniquely suited to our needs.
  • What resources, other than basic requirements, you will be able to bring to the project.
  • Send your resume, or a link to your complete profile on LinkedIn.

About Voice123

Voice123 is the world's largest online voice over talent database, with over 100,000 voice industry professionals registered. Voice123 is a marketplace that connects "voice seekers" (the job poster) with the voice over talents of Voice123, using a comprehensive (Patent-pending) voice casting service known as "SmartCast". Voice over projects on Voice123 include phone messages, website advertising & entertainment, as well as major media production for networks and film on an international scale. Learn more at

About Torrenegra Labs

Voice123 is a venture of Torrenegra Labs. We create and invest in driven, enthusiastic and people-oriented companies that develop ground-breaking online technologies and leading-edge business models. We are motivated by our expertise, imaginations and a hard work ethic to ensure dreams come true in a creative and sustainable way. Our business is to make others' lives easier through technology. Learn more at

Voice123, LLC
Business Development

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Voice Over Insight: 'Understanding the Voice Over Community'

This is the third week in a row in which we provide for you, voice over insight into understanding the two voice over businesses that work together on Voice123:

  • Voice over talents
  • Voice seekers
We were inspired this week by voice talent Mark Fletcher, for providing insight recently on the Voice123 Premium Forums. In this case, this voice talent posted a project as a voice seeker, and got an understanding as to what the voice seeker sees from his/her end, which has in turn, given him have a broader perspective for what works in online voice over casting.

On the same topic, today a voice seeker called Voice123, and asked to speak to me. The conversation was interesting, and showed me that even the most experienced job posting professionals are still very new to online casting. Two questions that stuck out to me were:

  • How will I get the final work, if I want to hire them?
  • I have seen so many rate cards out there. What is 'the right one' to use?
What struck me as very interesting is that these questions are similar to questions often heard by voice talents in Voice123 customer service, and in Voice123 Premium Forums:

In the past six years, online voice casting has connected talents and clients directly for voice over work, reinventing the way one must do business to adjust to working online. For many, 'it's just like starting over', whether you are a voice talent or a voice seeker. In all of this, the core of what makes someone successful in voice overs has really not changed. Read more on succeeding in voice overs, in a forum post from voice talent Scott Pollak.

Voice123 will tirelessly provide as much information as possible to assist all of you in understanding how Voice123 is as much a voice over community, as it is a 'marketplace'.

Thank you always!

Voice123 - The Voice Marketplace
Steven Lowell
Public Relations Manager
My Blog
Twitter: @stevenNYC123