What was I saying just last week about the proliferation of online “community sites” for voice-actors? (See: Can VO be TOO Social?)
Among the plethora of current choices is a relatively new online site called Voice and Studio – The fastest growing media professional’s network in the world.
Voice and Studio has a welcoming and friendly feel. Many of the voice-actors you’ll find already signed-up may be your friends. I’m there and happy to be so…but I admit I have not found much time to linger and play around much.
There’s plenty of tools that let you join in, fill-out your profile, connect with friends, interact, post pics and videos, and find information. In that sense, though, it’s not a whole lot different than some other sites that came along earlier.
I approached the self-admitted “chief cook and bottle washer” in the kitchen at V&S — Tom Moog — and he graciously agreed to supply me with a few answers to my questions. I especially like his answer to question #9 about Can VO be Too Social?
You’ll find that interview below.
Many thanks, Tom, and best of luck with your “baby”!
1) Tom, give us a quick idea about your background. What’s your experience in Voice Overs, and how it brought you to where you are today.
I started in broadcast radio back on August 1, 1990 (The day before Desert Storm erupted). I have since worked on the air in markets all over the USA. Back in 1993, I built my first multi-track studio. Back in those days, there weren’t any computer editors. Everything was done on tape. It would take hours of time and a lot creativity to manipulate the equipment to produce something back then that can be done in 10 to 15 minutes with today’s technology.
Since then, I have been the image voice of many radio and television stations around the world. In recent years, I have started voicing network TV and other national projects as well. I have become known in some circles as the “go-to guy” for studio construction and voice over advice. Some of my clients won’t use new voice talent until they talk to me (because “I know what they want”).
2) Why did you launch Voice and Studio? What was the perceived need, or how did it fulfill YOU?
The short answer is that “I saw a need for it”.
One of the areas where I had difficulty in the beginning was in marketing. It seemed that there just weren’t any good places to go about “hanging my shingle” without spending a fortune. Everywhere I promoted my voice over services, I generated more interest from people who were interested in a career in voice overs, rather than the inflow of new voice work I had hoped for.
It got to be so overwhelming to respond to all of those people that I added a simple forum to my website where questions could be asked and I could answer them once. It was much easier to direct those people to my forum than it was to compose an answer to the same questions several times over.
The forum became rather busy with activity in a relatively short time. It became apparent that this forum was taking on a life of its own and needed to become its own entity. I moved the forum to its own domain and operated it as a completely different site. My interest in niche sites was born. Over time, other sites came along that had more offerings than my simple forum-based site.
Now, the web is covered over in social networking with sites like facebook and LinkedIn. I noticed that there are many “groups” that are targeted to voice talent, radio people and producers within those sites. At the end of the day, however, those sites are a mainstream “one size fits all” sort of venue that will work in the absence of something better. That’s where Voice and Studio comes in.
I get fulfillment from the site from many different angles. First, it is extremely gratifying when you have come up with something that others find value in. Second, when I got started doing voice overs, there was nowhere to turn for any type of “peer support”. I had questions that nobody was willing to give the answers to. I navigated the first several years of my voice over career totally in the dark. I have always felt that it is better to help each other than it is to try to keep the others down, so it has kind of been my quest to help anyone I can.
3) What is the website based on?…a .ning site? Did you depend on someone else to help you design it and launch it…or is this YOUR baby from top to bottom?
When I had the idea to create Voice and Studio, a friend of mine suggested that I use ning. I looked at it and studied it from the inside out. Over the years, I have seen hosted solutions come and go. The last thing I wanted to do is to wake up one morning and find out that all of my efforts, as well as those of the members had vanished overnight.
Voice and Studio spent over a year in the “drawing board” stages before the first piece of code was ever written. I talked to voice talent and producers almost daily for months asking for input on what would make such a site great. A list of “Must haves”, “Would be nice” and “Don’t needs” was compiled and edited over and over again until there was a first concept. A “facebook-ish” front end was selected because the interface would be familiar for newcomers. People who see it for the first time are greeted with a sense of “Oh, I know how this works!”
A search for the perfect server script was completed, a script was selected, a server was leased and the site was installed. Months were spent making changes, both large and small. Features were added and the site was released to a 10 people who would then “push all of the buttons” and make sure that everything worked. Problems were reported and corrected. By this time, it was already time to renew the domain since it was set to expire just days after the site was “ready”.
In late February, I went to the “CRS” (Country Radio Seminar) in Nashville, TN and officially launched the site. All Access Music Group (A broadcast website run by Joel Denver – A legendary syndicated radio show host) ran a story on the new site in their news section. Immediately, voice talent and studio producers began to populate the site. 2 days later when returning home, there were over 100 new profiles that had been created.
To date, I am the Chief, Cook and Bottle-washer. I run the site updates. I work security. I am the Moderator and the Administrator. It takes a tremendous amount of time to make the site work each day, but it is worth it in the end. I got a call from a friend and fellow voice talent on a Sunday morning at 6am. He frantically told me that the site was gone. I was able to restore the site from a backup that had been taken just 4 hours prior to the crash. I spent the rest of the day tracking down the issue that caused the problem in the first place. It would be great to have someone I could call and say “fix it” to, but at this time, it’s just me.
4) What goals, hopes, and dreams do you have for Voice and Studio?
I am looking forward to the day when the site grows to the point where it can no longer be hosted on a single server. It is my intention and desire to create a venue that every voice talent knows about and finds to be a valuable resource. The goal is that the site comes to the point where the members of Voice and Studio feel compelled to come to the site as often as they check in on facebook.
5) What has been the response so far?
The response has been better than I expected. All of the comments I have received have been positive. There have been vendors who have given away really nice prizes on the site, and many who are eager to participate in future contesting on the site.
6) How do you propose to continue to generate interest in the site?…contests? Jobs?
Contesting has been a great way to generate not only interest, but also participation on the site. Just as on any other social site, it is the members who create the content of the site. The members are the band as well as the dancers here. All I am doing at this point is providing a dance hall, security to keep out the riff-raff, a stage and a prize for the best dancers.
The site is still small. It is only 6 months out of the gate. With that in mind, the site still has a small following. This increases everyone’s odds of winning a prize on the site – and the prizes are all relevant to the members. It’s all related. As time goes by and there are more members, the prizes will increase in value and there will be more of them “up for grabs”. All of the contests are participation based. None of the winners are selected in a random drawing.
“Participation” can be anything as simple as updating your status, to uploading demos, images or videos and even altering your profile. The back end of the site keeps track of member activity and generates a list of the most active members. The numbers are reset prior to each new contest, so everyone has a chance. Those who have been members since the beginning don’t have an unfair advantage over new-comers.
Additionally, future plans are to bring on a couple of freelance staffers to handle things like writing industry news and generating other content of interest to the members. In addition, I am hoping to bring in people to handle webmaster duties and other technical tasks once the site grows to a point where I cannot handle it alone.
Finally, the content provided by the members will generate interest as well. Friendships are being forged every day between members.
7) What is your administration style?…i.e. is there a stated “Terms of Agreement” or stated rules governing conduct on the site?
There are “Terms Of Service” which can be viewed at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of every page on the site. If and when those terms are ever modified, a site-wide announcement is made with an invitation to view the new terms. The short of it is that everyone should treat each other respectfully. There are already enough sites out there where the members get into flaming contests with each other.
I understand that everyone on the site has interests other than voice overs. It is encouraged for members to share all of their interests on their wall. Voice and Studio is by no means limited to only pertinent topics. There are places on the site that are “on topic” areas, but member profiles are theirs and can be used in any way they choose.
As the site’s Administrator, I prefer to be looked upon as just another member, as opposed to trying to look like the Police Department. I am not here to interfere with the members; rather, I like just being one of the members. My primary roles are to keep the site up and running, to help members who have questions and to keep the spammers away.
That said, I do realize that there is a common thread that draws people to the site, and that the members of niche sites like Voice and Studio come from all walks of life. In the real world, some people just won’t get along, so it is unreasonable to expect otherwise on the Internet. In fact, it has been my experience that people tend to be a bit more bold and abrasive online than they would be on the street. In cases where a problem may arise where intervention is required, I would rather act as a mediator and not to take sides than to take on the role of “Judge and Jury”. I do not want to be the “disciplinarian”.
8) You have a “Marketplace” category. Was it your hope that this would become a place to post and find jobs?
The Marketplace on Voice and Studio is a place that has several functions. Think of it like a sort of a targeted “Craigslist”. Members can post free classified ads. It doesn’t necessarily need to be studio or VO related. I suppose that if a member has a cow to sell, that would be okay too, although I don’t know how much success one would have advertising livestock on a voiceover website.
Sales have already been made from the classifieds on the site. I have a few things listed myself… no takers on my used gear yet, though. I know that we have a couple of members that like to buy new stuff, try it out and then sell it off. As the site population increases, their chances to selling their gear, as well as someone getting some lightly used gear at a good price increases. No, I don’t take a commission from the sales.
There is also a casting section in the marketplace. There is actually a shortcut button in the top menu bar to get to it. I have posted a casting call up to find a voice in one of my projects. In the future, I will market the casting feature to agencies who use different voice talent as a venue to search for the right voice.
9) Personally, I think that there’s room for as much social interaction on the web within niche professions as there are people interested in being there, but some point out that there IS a point of diminishing returns, and that it spreads everyone too thin. How would you answer that charge?
I totally agree with that, Dave. I think that the big variable here is the quality of the sites people choose to join versus the time they have to spend on them collectively. I have seen sites that looked like they were a great idea, but appeared to have never been finished. I have seen others that are very polished and professional with incomplete member profiles.
Signing up for every single niche site we can find is neither productive nor is it a good use of time. How much time each day do we want to dedicate to social networking? It is important that we market ourselves and socialize not only on as many sites as we are willing to be active on and spend time on, but also that we take the time to complete our profiles and make the best use of as many of the resources offered by each site. Look at each site before joining and mentally figure out what kind of benefit and mileage you can get from it.
A large percentage of the population will sign up on a site, poke around a bit and then move on to the next site before finishing with the one they already started, never to return. An unfinished profile and a lack of participation leave the impression of a person who doesn’t finish what they start. Each person has to decide how much time they are willing to spend on social sites and only join as many as they can handle in that amount of time. If they are on 6 sites with 3 completed profiles, then they are on 3 too many.
10) What are your immediate and long-range plans for Voice and Studio? Has it become a time-suck?…a pet-project?…or career vector for you? (or other?).
In the short term, there are a lot of upgrades and new features in the hopper. For example, we are working on becoming more current with a timeline for each user. There are also more stability upgrades and a new theatre-style image gallery in the works. We are also working on giving the members a choice to make things in their profile “private”
“Has it become a time-suck?” Absolutely! I spend anywhere between 4 and 5 hours a day on average on the site. There are many nights that I leave to go have dinner, put the kids to bed and come right back and work on the site until late at night. Most of that time is spent looking for ways to attract new members, negotiating with vendors for giveaway prizes and working on development of new features while trying to figure out how to get rid of the spammers.
It sort of started out as a pet project, but with the goal of growing it into something really big and useful. I don’t necessarily see this site in and of itself to become a career for me, although it has been suggested that I could monetize the site without diminishing the quality of the site for the members. While my wife would be grateful for some compensation for sitting at home watching TV by herself, I suppose that the first step is to get the site to a point where it can pay its own rent on the server.