VO Demos and Getting an Agent

Individuals have asked me about listening to demos and passing them along to agents. The following is a breakdown of the logistics involved for recording your demos to sign with an agency.

Your first VO demos, particularly if they were recorded and edited by you, will not be good. They will not reflect your strengths, they will not show off your technical editing abilities (even if you are a seasoned audio professional). The reason for this is because voice over demos aren’t meant to appeal to you, they’re meant to appeal to agents and potential clients. You are incapable of stepping outside your own body, outside your opinion of yourself, to be able to hear and distinguish what is viable in the marketplace. You are not an accurate judge of your own abilities early on because you are still (and always will be) learning. Artistic self-objectivity is nearly impossible.

Additionally, voice over producers and agents will know what is sought after by clients. Whereas you’ll stitch together whatever kinds of scripts and characters you think show you off, in reality you may not be picking roles and sounds that are wanted. Trust professionals to help you figure out what it is you have to sell that clients might buy.

Having said that, in today’s market there are a variety of websites that, for a fee, will invite you to post your demos of whatever quality to audition for posted jobs. Personally I recommend doing this only because if you agree to do low paying non-union jobs, you’ll be earning experience and the clients will be getting exactly the quality of VO that they’re paying for. At some point you must acknowledge that you are competent enough to move on from the amateur scene to signing with an agency so that you’ll be eligible for the union rate market.

The key is to have accumulated enough experience, confidence, and education prior to your reaching out to agencies with demos. If you present your first round of self-produced demos to an agency, do not be surprised if you are met with rejection. Even talent and experience are not enough to guarantee an invitation to sign with an agency.

You owe it to yourself to work hard and take the time necessary to build yourself up with performance experience and education, so that when agents first hear your name you can prove that you are more than ready for the job. You can do better than to shoot yourself in the foot by sending amateur homemade demos to an agency who will then write you and your name off as novice and naive of what it takes to be a voice actor.

When you are ready to become a voice actor (Which may be determined by you or by an instructor, depending on how much reassurance you need. Teachers will be thrilled to take your money for as long as you’re willing to pay it.), hire a known and vetted individual to produce your voice over demos. The monetary investment is akin to hiring a plumber. You can watch a video on the internet and learn how to fix your toilet, but in the end you’ll probably pay a professional to fix your mistakes anyway.

To address personal requests directly: I will not listen to your demos, I will not pass them along to my agency. Here’s why:

  1. If I have never witnessed you working in the booth, I am unable to vouch for your ability as an actor under pressure to please a client.
  2. If I have never met you, I’m even less able to confirm what kind of person you are and whether you are reliable as a human. On time, polite, etc.
  3. The agency that’s right for me may not be the agency that’s right for you. Signing with an agency is like getting married, you both hope it’s going to work out and last a long time. But if one of you isn’t living up to the other’s expectations, you’ll eventually be headed for divorce.

Work hard, pay for someone who’s experienced and known for producing demos to do yours, and reach out to agencies when you can present your best self, not your premature amateur self.

If you’re looking for contact information for agencies, I’ve posted several resources on my How to Become a Voice Actor page. Though I can promise you, if you are unwilling to click and seek the information, you lack the tenacity required for show business. No one can do your homework for you. When you’re ready to apply yourself, success will follow.

Once you have your professionally produced demos, display them on the landing page of your website. Do not post them to free service sites full of distractions and advertisements like YouTube or SoundCloud. Use a simple template that puts your demos front and center, they should be the first thing eyes will land on after having typed your URL. If you bury your demos and information, do not expect visitors to your site to hang around for long, much less contact you.

Heather Dame (Fryda’s agent) on VO Buzz Weekly, part 1

Heather Dame (Fryda’s agent) on VO Buzz Weekly, part 2