– There are less painful ways (like voiceover!) to enjoy talking a lot –
First, a small list of things that are distinctly not voiceover. Toastmasters. City Council. Zoom Conferences. Folk Festival. These are all opportunities – pandemic aside for some – to get out there and speak or perform in front of an audience. All great things! For some folks, there is nothing like the rush and exhilaration of connecting with a crowd/audience/group by means of saying something relevant. Tell a joke, relate a story, teach a small room full of people how to use a sump pump, whatever it happens to be. These are all great opportunities to get the “talk in front of people” fix that so many crave.
Then there are the rest of us. Those of us who think the idea of public speaking, public performance, and any other means of grabbing attention in real time is horrifying. On a scale of one to utter terror, it’s way up there in the terror category. The heart starts to beat a bit faster, you hear your pulse in every word you speak, your palms start to condensate.
No joke: all three of those things just occurred at the THOUGHT of having to get up in front of a crowd and do something where I am the singular focus.
Enter: The Voiceover Continuum.
Isolation booth – pun intended
This is where Voiceover comes in. In the “olden days,” voice actors would enter a studio in a recording facility or agent’s office. They would receive the script of the day. They would then enter the sound treated confines of a small cell and begin to speak. The sheen of the Neumann U87 or the odd shape of the Sennheiser 416 were the only company. Instructions received via headphones. The liberal use of a talkback mic. An A B C take, a few touch-ups, all done. The end. Exit the booth, thank the producer, collect your nickel, and off you go.
More often than not now, the voiceovering is done in the comfort of a small facility in the home. The “Personal Professional Recording Studio,” if you will. There may be fewer mics, preamps, and racks of outboard gear, but the end result is still the same: high quality recordings sent to someone to use to advertise or instruct. Bonus: without all the extra stuff, less wasted electricity. Same job, smaller carbon footprint! Your ecological heart is swelling with pride.
The beauty of it all? The voice is then used to reach audiences of anywhere from twenty to twenty-million. You, as the voiceover artist, never saw a single face. Those faces all get to hear you, though! The introvert’s dream job: do stuff alone and revel in a job well done. Also alone.
(we’ll ignore the imposter syndrome symptoms for the moment and just live in this utopian dream for the time being)
All of the above is a very short answer to an even shorter question. Why voiceover? Because you like to talk but you don’t want to know anybody is listening in the moment. Bingo!
And now we pause for a word from our sponsor
Old time radio wove the commercial advertisements of paying sponsors into its programming with great creativity. Sponsors continue to benefit from airwave advertisements on radio and television, even if much of the advertising world is drifting to online platforms. Let’s stick with radio since that’s still my current obsession (see previous blog post for details, subject to availability, all rights reserved).
As this post is written, it is currently the Holiday Season. This means several contemporary hit radio stations have converted their entire playlist to tributes of December holidays. Whammageddon has begun. With the holiday music season also comes the holiday SHOPPING season. Black Friday is over and now it’s the mad dash to rush people to stores – online and off – to acquire this year’s Tickle-Me-Elmo before supplies run out. Or whatever the product happens to be.
The financial rationale
This single month frequently shapes the budgets and operating plans of a business for its entire next fiscal year. The premium is paid to terrestrial radio stations, and in exchange their commercial words are aired with great frequency. Greater frequency, it seems, this month than any other month. Commercial breaks are longer, and some advertisers are present once or even twice per break. If you’re in the Seattle area and listening to 106.9, all I have to say is “You’ll be sorry” and you know precisely what I’m talking about.
Someone – or several someones – is the representative voice of that advertising entity. Many of the are little 30-second skits or some form of attention-grabbing mechanism. The bottom line of all of them is to convince you, the listener, that your needs are not met and the advertiser is the only entity that can fulfill those needs. Your vehicle is neglected, you have too much stuff, you smell terrible, children are in need of your neglected vehicle, and so on. You are a shambles of a human being and your salvation is in the form of the lifeline your credit card’s tenuous link to an advertiser. Voiceovers! They help convince you to turn over your Earth Dollars in exchange for a more fulfilling life, as defined by products and services. It’s a dirty job, but everyone wants to do it.
In this next module, we will discuss where all these widgets fit
While commercial voiceover is lucrative beyond measure, there are other industries in need of those services. Video training, large function announcements, explanations, audio books, and many others have need of that service.
We’ll save animation and video games for another day because wow is that a mighty topic!
This is the category that I fit in for the most part. Outside of a few characters in some video games and a movie, my focus is on corporate and medical narration. My start came in high school radio and shifted to being the guy who records all the prompts for phone systems at a large company. Fast forward to later, having a background in large companies as well as working in medical equipment has made those types of narration extremely comfortable. Promoting products is also fun, but taking the path less traveled and creating engaging audio is where my center of joy is. Knowing that someone is going to learn all about a new LVAD technology and be able to get it the first time without having to rewind because the voice conveyed it effectively? Massive fulfillment!
Might not be the voiceover we want, but the voiceover we need nonetheless
Everyone wants Morgan Freeman and Sam Elliott to be the voice of their <insert thing here>. Shoot, -I- want them to be my voice for anything that I say and be able to sound like them because OI could listen to them talk all day. Given that high profile celebrities are generally really, really busy with …. celebrity things … it’s not always feasible for them to commit to being the consistent voice of a product or service. Sam Elliott and his run with Dodge Ram is an example of how it can sound and it sounds AMAZING. Since Sam Elliott can’t be in every commercial, that leaves folks like me.
Every single narration project is a passion project. The bottom line in any of this: voicing scripts and bring them to life brings me incalculable joy. I will keep doing this for so long as the unvierse lets me. For so long as I have a voice to utilize, that is!
It isn’t for everybody, but it comes out real good from the people for whom it IS that thing. Love what you do and you’ll never ‘work’ a day in your life.
Oh how I love it!