It’s Not Enough To Have A Nice Voice

Here’s an extended Globe and Mail piece about the voice industry. It’s a good overview of the business which is always nice to see in a major Canadian newspaper. Clearly, the one thing missing though is some quotes from a non-union agent!

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/marketing/susan-bennett-the-voice-of-siri-is-the-voice-of-a-generation/article23546393/

To keep up with the furious pace of the Voice Over industry and get a side order of radio tidbits as well, Follow Voice Over Canada on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/voiceovercanada

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Goodnight Mr. Berns

As a voice agent, it’s one thing for a talent to leave the agency, it’s another for a talent to leave the world entirely. Fortunately, I haven’t experienced this too often but on Sunday, we lost a great one with the sudden death of Don Berns.

Don was already part of the talent roster when I bought PN Agency in 2002. He was, in one way, a certain type of voice you hear all the time in the industry: the deep voiced, seasoned radio pro, or as I like to call them, an ORG (old radio guy). I have written before about how much I like representing ORG’s here but Don had something extra: he was at heart, an actor. Not just a strong voice but a true performer. Just the perfect combination of artist and actor and broadcaster, all served with a healthy side order of ham. He landed a large percentage of voice gigs that were anywhere near his wheelhouse: years of national commercials for True Value hardware, the imaging voice of The Sports Network (TSN) and the Bell Express Vu movie channel, hundreds of radio spots and corporate narrations. But for every more traditional voice job he did, like the narrator of the true crime series Cold Blood, he would be cast in a more nuanced role like the James, Brother of Jesus documentary. And of course, the gig that brought him and the agency the most acclaim was the voice of the Global Television network, which had him recording at the Global studios on a daily basis for several years.

As you can imagine, being a talent agent means dealing with a wide spectrum of personalities and egos. Don was all personality and no ego. Gracious, humble but larger than life – a pleasure to represent. In over a decade of working together, I can’t recall an argument about anything or a harsh word between us, perhaps with the exception of the time Don left an expletive-filled 3 minute rant on my voice mail about a parking ticket he’d received at the end of voice session that had run way overtime. And even there, the anger was directed at the client, not me.

It’s impossible to develop a friendship with every talent who passes through the agency door but there was always a true bond with Don. We shared an approach of not taking life too seriously, a love of radio/broadcasting, a sympatico view on most political issues (most notably American politics, given we were both American citizens) and I like to think a similar approach to our work and dealing with people in our profession: that you could be professional but playful, firm but kind and most of all, self-promote without arrogance!

Don invited me to lunch a couple of years ago and broke the news that he was leaving the agency. It wasn’t me, it was him. Or something like that. He had carved out a nice later-in-life acting career, both on-camera and in the theater, and he felt it was time to rejoin ACTRA and purse more acting roles. His new agent would represent him in all areas, including voice. He expressed some sadness at leaving the agency which was clearly a reflection of the friendship more than just the professional relationship. As you often do, we said we’d stay in touch and in his case, it wasn’t that hard. Don had several email mail lists for his various interests and pursuits: political, comedic and industry. He was a constant presence on Facebook and with his wide spectrum of friends and colleagues tagging him in various photos and performances, his name was in my in box and his face on my computer screen on a fairly consistent basis. This is in addition to in-person reunions: a mutual friend’s birthday party in March, a Toronto film fest party event in September etc.

I have been touched by the tremendous outpouring of affection for Don on Facebook and various corners of the web this week. It’s really no wonder. He was a radio legend in the U.S. (see here) and Canada (here), a pioneer of the electronic music and rave scene here in Toronto (here), and as mentioned, his career touched almost every area of the industry, from theater to improv to television and film.

For years, we had a running joke about how he could never attend the PN Agency Xmas party because I always seemed to schedule it on the same night as a family event he always attended. In fact, of the 10 or 11 agency parties held during Don’s time on the roster, I can only recall him attending 1 time. This past December, though, I extended an invite to him. This time, he was actually able to make it and he had a blast re-connecting with former voice over and radio colleagues. This was the only time I can remember inviting a former roster member. At the end of the night, he gave me a warm hug and expressed a genuine gratitude for still being considered “a part of the family”. If it had to be the last time I saw him, I’m glad that was the moment.

RIP Mr. Berns. You were truly an original creation.

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Voice Over Canada on Sirius XM

I had some fun last week on Sirius XM Canada as a guest on the Todd Shapiro show. Lots of talk about the voice over business and what it’s like being a talent agent. The interview starts around the 44:00 mark.

http://thetoddshapiroshow.com/2015/01/the-todd-shapiro-show-episode-211-2.html

To keep up with the furious pace of the Voice Over industry and get a side order of radio tidbits as well, Follow Voice Over Canada on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/voiceovercanada

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Secrets of An Agent Man: Don’t Call Us, We Won’t Call You

Happy 2015! It’s a new year and I have been away for the blog for a bit. In between the last post and this one, I manage to secure a U.S. Distribution deal for my documentary about rock radio disc jockeys, I Am What I Play. Click here for the trailer:

http://youtu.be/n8BZBT9EGLk

But I must get back to communicating to the legions of followers of Voice Over Canada.

It’s a new year and one thing agents can look forward to is a flood of calls, emails and demos from talents who have put getting or changing an agent at the top of their New Years Resolutions. We are probably second only to fitness clubs in the amount of inquiries in January from the resolutions crowd.

So, how are you going to cut through the crowds and sustain an agent’s attention? Well, having been an agent for almost a decade and a half, I have to be honest – I have no idea. But I do know the things that won’t get your email or call returned.

-First off, sending an email with no subject is a big red flag that this person isn’t worth representing because they couldn’t even be bothered to title their email. And an untitled email looks like spam.

-Don’t send a blast email to several different agencies at once. It is like you are saying “I don’t really care who represents me and I can’t be bothered to research the different agencies to see whether there is a fit.”

-Along those lines, you have to have an understanding of who you are emailing. I get emails sometimes where the person doesn’t even know it’s a voice talent agency. Like the guy from Chicago last week who asks if I will rep his band.

-Your demo needs to be a demo. We get audio files from people recording 30 seconds of audio on their iPhone, reading from the newspaper or doing wacky voices from their bathroom. Professionally produced voice demos only please.

-You need to have some experience or at least training. The agent is not the first call you make when trying to start out in the business. We get involved much later on in the process.

Simply put, with all the information available on the web that only requires a quick google search, there is no excuse for someone to not have at least some general idea of how the industry works. You might debate this to some degree but no agent is interested in a person who doesn’t take the business serious enough to at least do some research.

Other reasons I haven’t returned your call:

-Multiple calls/messages within a short period of time. As I’ve said on this blog before, sometimes it’s a fine line between persistence and completely annoying. When you call, leave a voicemail the first time. Feel free to follow up with an email. And then be patient. It’s perfectly acceptable to call or email a week or two later to see if the message was received; repeated calls though will usually not be returned.

-To the guy who called 3 times on Saturday: your call will not be returned at all. Putting aside the fact you called 3 times, that it was on a Saturday shows some kind of laziness and/or no desire to actually talk to someone. The same goes for those who call at 7:00 am or 11:00 pm, or on a long weekend.

-Multiple attachments: Ideally, we need one demo and that’s it. A resume and picture aren’t necessary but if you want to send, that’s fine. But don’t send your “demo” in 9 different audio files. Again, show that you’re serious by taking the time to produce one good demo.

I used to pride myself in responding to every demo. When I was starting out as a voice talent myself, I always appreciated someone who took the time to respond, even if it was a rejection. Particularly if they offered some constructive criticism, rather than just a form letter. I kept this streak alive for years but I also boxed myself into a corner, falling hopelessly behind in listening to demos as I deftly crafted my rejection letters. But the voice over biz has just exploded – and many newcomers have found this blog – so with the sheer volume of demos we receive, I can only afford the time to respond to the people who show roster potential and anyone who is clearly taking the business seriously.

I still am hopelessly behind in listening and responding to demos but I will get to you eventually, don’t worry.

Some of the ideas in this post have been explored previous in this space. Have a look at past Secrets Of An Agent Man postings:
http://www.voiceovercanada.ca/?cat=30

To keep up with the furious pace of the Voice Over industry and get a side order of radio tidbits as well, Follow Voice Over Canada on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/voiceovercanada

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I Work for Talents, not Clients encore

As talent agents, one of our dirty jobs is following up on overdue invoices. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it’s up to the agent (and the talent if you run your own VO business) to decide on a case by case basis, who is legitimately having issues and who is kind of jerking you around. We have a number of agency clients who are always predictably late in payment and on top of that, aren’t always the best at communicating why they are late or when we can expect payment. In some cases, you have to contact them 3 or 4 times before getting a response.

Here is an exchange hot off the press this morning with one of these types of clients. Always be prepared to fire a client (or annoy them into firing you!). This reminded me yet again of my agency motto: I work for talents, not clients!

Date: Fri, 19 Sep 2014 18:06:28 -0400
To:
Subject: OVERDUE Invoice 13818 from PN AGENCY

Hi Paul:

This one going back to April was never paid. Please advise.

Thanks.

Roger King

(No response all week)

Sep 25, 2014, at 6:37 PM, Roger King wrote:

Paul – why do I have to spend so much time hounding you guys for these
payments? Every invoice there are like 20 follow-ups. It gets tiresome.

Would someone please give me an answer about this invoice from April???!

C’mon!!!!!

P.S. Leslie – this is probably why I didn’t jump to send you auditions today.
Why bother when it takes so long and so much effort to get paid?

On Sep 26, 2014, at 2:00 AM, Melanie Wright wrote:

Roger I apologize for the delay but there is no need to be nasty. I’m forwarding your email to our owner to let him know your concerns. I personally found you online years ago and have continually referred you to other staff members and clients. I’d like to continue to do so.

On Fri, Sep 26, 2014 at 7:01 AM, Roger King wrote:
Hi Melanie:

I appreciate your referrals.

I don’t see where I am being nasty. Your company is often very late with their payments and I have to go through this routine several times with overdue invoices before I get a response and more importantly a payment. This is business, nothing personal.

I think we make a great effort to respond to your casting requests in a timely manner. My request is the same consideration be given to us when it comes to payment.

Roger King

On Sep 26, 2014, at 8:17 AM, Melanie Wright wrote:

Roger as someone in the customer service industry, your tone came off nasty to me. I would never ever speak that way to a client or anyone for that matter- even if they were behind in billing. If you disagree and don’t see that it has come off very rude, I understand- it is a matter of opinion. As I said I will pass this on to our owner to be resolved and moving forward we can look at other avenues for voiceover needs that share the same ideals in customer service as we do. Thanks for your help over the years. I do appreciate it.

On Sep 26, 2014, at 8:42 AM, Roger King wrote:

Well Melanie, I am trying to make the point that this has been going on for years with your company. Payments are always late and I often have to follow up several times before I get anyone’s attention. So yes, if you are detecting that my tone isn’t all honey sweet and butterflies, that’s the reason. You say you would never talk to a client this way. Well I would never treat a supplier this way. So touché.

My job is to represent talents and to get them paid promptly. I am not trying to win a congeniality contest.

You have always been very pleasant to deal with and my beef of course is not with you. But just politely following up and asking when we will receive payment does not seem to do the job so yes, I am going to come on a little stronger until I see a change in the way your company does business.

Respectfully,

Roger King

And then I re-read her last email and realized she was telling us goodbye so I couldn’t resist this:

From: Roger King
Date: September 26, 2014 at 8:56:54 AM EDT

You wrote: “moving forward we can look at other avenues for voiceover needs that share the same ideals in customer service as we do. ”

You mean the ideals of paying your suppliers months and months late and then passively aggressively criticizing them when they complain? Good luck with that!

Roger King

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Podcasts of a Voice Agent

Over the last couple of years I have done a few podcasts for the fine folks at voices.com as part of their Voice Over Expert series. Such a title – voice over “expert”. But I’ll take it!

They are all listed at the link below and I thought I’d post here because the topics covered seem to be among the most popular in voice over discussions on the web: What Your Agent Should Be Doing For You, Collecting Money from Clients Who Haven’t Paid and Tips on Getting An Agent.

Pour yourself a beverage and have a listen and of course feel free to share and tweet widely:

http://podcasts.voices.com/voiceoverexperts/roger_king/

To keep up with the furious pace of the Voice Over industry and get a side order of radio tidbits as well, Follow Voice Over Canada on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/voiceovercanada

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