Professional Legitimacy in Voice Acting: The Two Things Needed

by | May 13, 2015 | Ruminations, | 2 comments

approvedMuch is being discussed on the social media forums lately about our business.  

  • Pay-to-Plays
  • Union representation
  • Fair compensation
  • Agents
  • Marketplace forces
  • Predatory coaches

 From day one, no…even before…your WoVO founders and officers have been vociferously arguing these points and more.

I have a suggested solution to almost all of it (two actually), but it’s long-range, improbable, and even pie-in-the-sky.  But here goes.  Please hear me out.

  1. A higher-education (Div 1 or Div II reputable university) Bachelor’s degree program in Voice-Acting
  2. An objective accredited certification test or criteria.

If one of those suggestions came true, it would be better than nothing.  Having both would be ideal.  

Think about it.  Most well-known universities have degree programs for Drama.  You graduate with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Theatre.  Even journalism (which lacks ANY sort of accreditation) has college degree programs.  

Look at other freelance endeavours:  photography, writing, digital graphics, music…they all have college degree programs.  Getting a drama degree, though, DOES NOT mean you can be a successful voice-actor in today’s world.  It misses the entrepreneurial angle.  Technical expertise, Audio engineering, Marketing, and Advertising/promotion are all courses that should be offered in a comprehensive Voice-Acting college degree.

Just imagine the ills such a degree program would eradicate:  demo mills, unscrupulous coaches, questionable conferences, and doubtful webinars.  

No, a degree in Voice-Acting would not guarantee success in the real world, but it would build legitimacy and respect for our expertise and business.

Now, about my second point:  Let’s take a look at all the “trades” that demand some sort of journeyman and apprentice training leading up to an accrediting or certifying passage or qualification process:

  • welders
  • heating and cooling repair specialists
  • accountants
  • nurses & other health professions
  • teachers
  • car mechanics
  • meat-packers
  • electricians
  • brick-layers
  • carpenters

I could go on and on.  The accrediting process is a hugely problematic issue for artistic performances.  You might be able to quantify how many bricks can be properly laid in an hour, but how would you quantify something as subjective as proper inflection or interpretation in a 30-second commercial spot?  So, I’m not minimizing the issue here, but is it worth a try?

Here’s another argument for having both of my suggested solutions: Let’s look at Journalism again…something I’m pretty familiar with.  There is no qualifying exam for being accredited as a “journalist”.  Having a degree is not even enough these days.  Bloggers, anyone-with-a-camera, even social media mavens are calling themselves “journalists”.   See what I mean?…it needs the certification process too.  Even Harvard graduates with a Juris Doctorate are not attorneys until they pass the bar.

So how’s that for a dreamy wishful-thinking vision?  

World-Voices Organization has gone farther to pull back the veil on these concerns than anything or anyone else out there.  So far we’re cautiously skirting the issue of being an accrediting program.  We WILL be offering a technical (not performance) endorsement.  No one that I know of is even APPROACHING a higher-learning institution about a degree program.  Still, WoVO is working towards ethical, business, and performance “best practices”.  That’s closer to “setting a standard” than we’ve seen from the union, agents, managers, or producers.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this.




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  1. Taylor Stonely

    Dave, I love the idea that one could get a degree, or even a certification, in voice over. While I believe it will give legitimacy to the VO business, I think it is still a ways off, and here’s why. An artist doesn’t need an Art degree to sculpt or paint or draw. They just create. And as long as people will buy their art, they won’t feel compelled to get an Art degree. Will getting a degree help them to be a better artist? Probably, but most people who create art as a hobby — and this is similar to VO — will most likely not go to school to get a degree. Why would they, when they get personal satisfaction out of creating. They don’t seek legitimacy from the experts in the field, so they don’t feel compelled to formalize their training.

    What drives an industry to demand certification is when the quality of the work is suffering. Based on what I hear in radio, TV, e-learning, narration, explainer videos, etc. the quality is there.

    Should we strive to create such legitimacy? Sure! Will it happen in our lifetime? Maybe. But as long as people can buy a microphone and a pre-amp, and download audio software to put on their laptop, they will record and the producers will buy.

    • CourVO

      Thanks, Taylor!

      I can’t argue with anything you say. I’ve never had one journalism class in my life, but have had success in TV news for more than 30+ years, so I’m livin’ the dream! What I’m seeking in this vision is an end to all the shysters, hucksters, and fraud agents who continue to prey on people with stars in their eyes that VO is just THAT EASY…and sacks of money could be landing on your doorstep by NEXT WEEK!!! With no formal education being offered…with no professional standards or review, these people will continue to drag down the efficacy of our business.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      Dave Courvoisier


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