Today I’m going to talk about something that comes up over and over, and something that Voice Actors have to deal with all the time: Voice Acting Demos.
Demos are a hotly debated topic. I’m sure you’ve studied and heard and read all kinds of thoughts and opinions on demos. I’m going to weigh in from my 25 years of experience as a Voice Actor.
There are two kinds of Voice Acting Demos: Homemade demos (I call them Home Brews) and Professional Demos.
Professional Voice Acting Demos (what I call Agency Demos) are when you hire a company to produce your voice over demo. They:
- Write scripts
- Put the music and/or sound effects in the background and mix it
- EQ your voice
In short, professional VO demo producers make you sound like a million bucks!
Great VO demo producers will pair your strengths with trends in the marketplace so that your demos are hot. People get really excited about professional demos. They want to get them as quickly as possible so they can get that agent and get the high profile work.
I totally get the excitement. I’ve been there! BUT, here’s the key thing I want you to know: Home Brews demos can bring in a lot of money, and a lot of work, and a lot of regular work. So there’s actually no rush to get a professional demo until you’re ready.
Focus on Home Brews
These are the demos you start with. They can be auditions or gigs you’ve recorded. They’re things that you’re recording yourself, at home. Maybe you’re putting music in the background, or some sound effects, or you’re sending them to someone that can do that for you.
Home Brews are amazing. And they’re important. They’re a skill. You should continue making Home Brews through your whole career. And as you get better at performing, your Home Brews will become better and better.
I worked for years with Home Brews without any coaching and I was getting hired. Many of the students I coach are in that situation. They’re already working, and their Home Brews are getting them work.
When I’m working with a student, we’ll listen to auditions and gigs they’ve recorded and sometimes rework them, sometimes put music in the background (something you can do yourself or send to a producer to do), and voilà! An amazing Home Brew that can get work. Work that’ll eventually allow you to hire a coach who can help you improve your performance, and then, maybe a year or two down the line, you make that Professional Demo.
The Thing About Professional Demos…
Professional Demos represent what’s trending in the marketplace, and what buyers want from their Voice Actors. The reason you do a demo like this is usually because you want an agent (or multiple agents), and you’re looking to get high profile work. The type of work that generally comes through an agent. (Professional Demos are also very expensive, and you would only do them every few years.)
But beware: If you’re not producing quality auditions (and I’m not talking about audio quality here, I’m talking about performance), and if you’re not able to be authentic and original in your reads, you run the very high risk that the agency you’re getting into will drop you.
The last thing you want is to get an agent excited, go through the whole onboarding process with the agency, and then a few weeks later, for them to realize that your auditions are not up to snuff.
And once that happens, it is a major, major confidence buster.
It is so important to be able to reproduce the types of reads that are in your demos with other scripts. Why? Because your demos become a reference for your clients and yourself.
I’ll Have the Same, Please
Imagine a client comes to you with their own script, and they like one of your demos. They ask if you can make their script sound like that demo? And in theory, this sounds easy, but it’s anything but!
Sometimes I work with students for a long time before they’re able to apply the same skills to different scripts. It’s not easy. We do all kinds of things subconsciously, and breaking down the habits we have, and creating new ones, doesn’t happen overnight. In the end it’s muscle memory, so it takes determination and loads of patience. You have to be vulnerable and give yourself the space to learn. You have to fail and get back up again. It’s very rewarding in the end when you’re finally able to apply the same skills over multiple scripts, but it takes some time.
Rinse, and Repeat
Your demos also serve as a reference for you. Let’s say you have a type of voice that would do really well in cosmetics. While there are all kinds of cosmetics companies, a lot of times they want the same type of read. If you have a good reference on your demo (and it’s a good demo), you’re able to inspire yourself from your demo, and recreate that same type of read for all the other cosmetics commercials that come your way. Which, in turn, gives you a higher chance of booking.
You can see how your demo is incredibly useful for both the client and for yourself. But if you go out and make an agency demo, and you aren’t able to reproduce the reads you have in there with other types of copy, you’re really letting everyone down. Your agents who are getting excited about you, the clients who are going through the trouble of hiring you and selling you to the rest of their team, and most importantly, yourself.
The way to avoid all of that is to go into your Professional Demo production really ready to produce consistent quality reads that also answer market trends. And the path to your Professional Demo production is Home Brews.
I Just Want to Sound Cool, Man
Let’s face it, your clients and agent want to sound cool. They want to sound like what is currently trending. They don’t want to sound like 1980 (unless, of course, it’s a purposeful throwback to the 80s!).
This is something you learn in coaching over a long period.
The Time is Now
Unlike Professional Demos, you can create Home Brews anytime. And if a demo is hot, you can create more of them in that same vein, and you can get very targeted with your market. And any coaching that you do towards a Professional Demo will apply to your Home Brews.
Let’s Be Real
My favorite thing about Home Brews is that they’re an accurate reflection of your skills, of what you can do day in and day out, right now. And that means your clients will be satisfied because they’ll be coming to you for what you can do. And that is the best type of relationship you can hope for.
Since Home Brews can take you such a long way, there really is no rush to create a costly Professional Demo. Want to work on your Home Brews? Reach out to me for a Home Brew bundle. Why wait to shine your light?
My name is Lili Wexu. I’m an actress, a voice talent and an author. To learn about recording voice-overs for a living, read my e-books about Voice Acting & Announcing.