Do I have to write this blog?
I’ve talked to several people lately who are producing their own demos. I understand. Cash flow ain’t flowin’ and hiring a producer costs plenty. You’ve got this hard drive full of all these great auditions you’ve done, and you’re pretty good a mixing elements together…with music! How hard can this be?
Let me be clear…there are a select few experienced and professional audio engineer/voice-talent types who can produce their own demo. Maybe Dan Friedman, Dave DeAndrea, Cliff Zellman, Jordan Reynolds, or Roy Yokelson…but not many others. Come to think of it…any one of those guys would be excellent candidates to do your demo! Maybe you ARE good at conceptualizing, writing, delivering, editing, mastering, mixing AND producing. But do you really want to take the chance on a voice-actor’s most essential calling card? Are you THAT sure it’s got all the elements? Even the best are dubious about doing their own. Here’s why:
YOU’RE TOO CLOSE TO IT
No one can be 100% objective. Your ears are your ears, and you need someone else’s ears. Yes, you could produce your own demo, and then have respected friends listen to it, but that calls in a lot of favors, and you’ll get five different opinions from five different people. If you’re a perfectionist like most of us voice-actors, then you’re gonna be locked in an endless loop of compulsion to tweak it One…more…time. Over and over.
SELF-DIRECTION DOESN’T COMPARE
Today’s voice-actor is pretty good at self-direction…we do it all the time. But who wouldn’t rather have someone right there, as we’re auditioning to give us feedback? That used to be the way it was, and the business is lacking because it’s largely gone away. Again, another pair of ears, listening in DURING the session, cajoling, drawing it out of you, and pointing out new or different perceptions is worth a million bucks. A professional demo gives you that.
COPY & CONTENT
You can’t always steal the scripts you’ve been sent for audition. You can’t use the stuff from online sites. You gotta be careful of brand names, and the listener recognizing that you’re NOT Jeff Bridges reading for Hyundai. Here’s where a great demo producer is worth his/her salt. Great copy. A good demo director knows what’s hot, what the trends are. They sit in a different seat than you do. They know what’s hitting…they know the market…AND they know you and your best sound. Let THEM put all those factors together to fit the copy to your talent.
PACING, SELECTION, MIXING
Your demo is a living, breathing, personification of your best abilities…or it should be. If you don’t put your best foot forward in the first 10 seconds…forget it. You’ve already lost ’em. Are you absolutely sure you know what segment that is? And will THAT segment segue to the next one SO CONVINCINGLY that you keep ’em for the rest of the demo? These decisions — again — are left to professionals who do this for a living. The have the ears and the experience to order the demo for maximum exposure. You’ll just end up second-guessing yourself to death. Let them choose the best music, massage the best mix, and keep it flowing.
The 21st-century voice-actor prides him/herself on knowing the ins and outs of good audio production. That’s fine as far as it goes…but a demo needs to go farther. It has to sparkle and shine. Do you really understand compression, normalization, de-essing, and dynamic processing that well? I don’t. I mean, I could take a stab at it, but in the final production, wouldn’t you rather have someone producing your demo who understands how to make it pop?
Honorable mention: DELEGATE. This basic concept works in other areas of your voice over business. Chances are you’ve hired someone to do your website, your bookkeeping, your graphics, your editing or maybe your marketing. Why would you shortchange yourself on THIS?! It’s more important!
Having said all of the above. Please do your homework. Ask around. Get referrals from trusted friends. Call prospects and ask them pointed questions. Make sure you ask about their pricing. Where will they get copy? Who will do the direction? Will they do remote demos, or do you have to travel to their studio?
Remember, there is NO perfect demo…but guaranteed it’ll be father down the IMperfection scale if you do it, rather than a professional demo producer.