You don’t need to be James Earl Jones. Today, the voiceover industry is looking for a new sound.
How to be that new sound is the topic of “Become a Professional Voiceover Artist,” a one-day course on Sunday, September 21, at Mercer County Community College in West Windsor. Cost: $40. For more information call 609-570-3311.
The instructor, Eric Hunt, is one of three instructors of Voices for All, a Clifton, New York-based company that offers classes at more than 200 colleges nationwide. Hunt travels 7 to 14 days at a time to teach up to seven intro classes a week. The rest of the time, Hunt is continuing his already-accomplished voiceover career.
He began his career as a globetrotting stage actor and even toured with Marie Osmond in the “Sound of Music.” He started as a professional voice actor in 1998 and since then his career has taken off. He’s worked in New York, San Francisco, Montreal and Chicago with agencies on both coasts, performing animated films and animated industrial films. He’s performed at every level with local, regional, and national commercials.
The class at Mercer County Community College will teach the fundamentals of the voiceover trade and students will make some recordings of their own. Afterwards Hunt will offer professional evaluation of their performance.
If someone wants to go on in the business, the next step would be to attend the Voices for All Master Class, a four-day boot camp taught in New York. Still, as with any job in the performing arts, voiceover success is tricky.
Don’t quit your day job. What is typical pay for the field? “We tell everyone we teach, do not quit your day job,” says Stan Dennis, managing partner at Voices for All. “A successful student might average $5,000 the first year. People might not think that sounds like a lot, but they’re have a good time making it.”
A local commercial might pay $150, a regional commercial $250 and a nation-wide commercial might pay $1,500. However, commercials are the smallest section of the market. The real market is in narration, audio books, video games, messages on hold, and voicemail, Dennis says. The important thing is to just be consistent. People need to get it right every time.
Nice work, if you can find it.Though it is a popular business to get into — thousands of actors line up for jobs —most who try are not professionally trained. More importantly, says Dennis, “Most people don’t know how to get work. It’s not that they don’t have the voice, they just don’t know how to market themselves.”
In addition to practicing your technique, you need to spend two to three hours per week building your clientele, he says. And though it is a competitive field, there is plenty of work. “There are millions of voiceover jobs each year, performed by thousands of actors.”
Get a marketing plan. Everyone needs a marketing plan to get their name out there. Voices for All tries to work with students and help them build a successful career. Because of this, says Dennis, “We can’t grow too fast. We can’t grow too big.”
There are several important steps to making it in the business, according to Dennis. Regardless of whether you take the classes, a good vocal coach is an absolute. Find a coach that you can trust — a vocal coach, not a marketing coach, Dennis says. Have that coach work with a studio for the best possible demo you can produce. Once you have the demo you need to get your name out there.
Get good equipment. To be a working voiceover artist you need information about how to create a good studio for yourself to continue recording. That equipment is the key to the modern market. “A home studio costs under a thousand, if you have a computer already,” Dennis says. With a computer and a high speed internet people are able to practice and record from their homes, no matter where they live.
“The big money jobs are in L.A.,” says Dennis. “But there are jobs anywhere in the country.” Around the world too. Voices for All graduated a student in California, doing work for a video game company in Japan. The downside to new equipment is that without the right support many people can’t use it. But a home studio is now integral to a successful career.
Modern technology and a changing market have made the job accessible to almost anyone. However, this was not always the case. It used to be that “You had to be a man. You had to have the total announcer voice.”
But now, companies just want an average voice. They don’t want the listeners to feel like they’re being manipulated.