Secrets of an Agent Man – Volume 1

I remember watching Barbara Walters interview Jerry Seinfeld one time and she asked him what he looked for in a woman. 

“I like good things”, Seinfeld said.  “Attractive.  That’s good.  Intelligent.  Good.  Easygoing.  Also good.  I generally don’t go for ugly, dumb, bitchy women.”

I would say Seinfeld’s answer is similar to how I would reply if asked what I look for in a voice talent.  Pleasant, interesting voice.  That’s good.  Sounds like he/she can actually read.  That’s also good.  Some training and a little bit of experience.  Good!  I generally don’t like to represent illiterate, inexperienced people with annoying voices!

Ok…beyond the obvious – how does it work in terms of getting representation?   It’s really quite simple.  You will not get an agent without a voice demo!  It is your calling card.  A resume?  That’s fine.   Headshots/photos -a nice addition and even occasionally intriguing.  A witty voicemail message with achingly sincere compliments about my voice agency – always welcome.  But I’m telling you it begins and ends with a voice demo.

Beyond the obvious fact that it showcases the very instrument for which you are seeking representation, it also shows that you’re serious about your craft.  You’ve actually sought out some coaching and (presumably) spent some of your own money.


I know discussions about voice over demo specifics will be a re-occurring topic on this blog but here are some quick bullet points from a talent agent’s perspective:

1. Ideally the demo is ONE MP3 file, between 1:00-1:30 in length.  Those of us in the voice-over industry have short attention spans.  I usually listen all the way through, no matter what length, but I know many in the industry who only listen to the first 30 seconds.  And I’ve found that once we get beyond 1:00-1:30, we pretty much get the idea.

2. Demos should be a mix of clips, edited together, with music & production behind it.  If they are not real commercials, it should sound like they are as much as possible.  But just give us excerpts.  We don’t need the whole spot.

3. It’s important to show range but only include the kinds of reads that are your strength.  If your Portuguese grandmother accent is weak, it’s best to leave it off the demo.

4. Lead with your best read but try to vary the tempo between clips.  Make it interesting for the listener by doing whatever you can to avoid it sounding repetitive.

5. Only include types of reads you can replicate easily in a real recording session.  If it takes you 3 hours of warming up before you can finally nail the Sean Connery impersonation, it shouldn’t be on your demo.

6. I rarely get requests for Sean Connery impersonations. 

7. Brevity is attractive.  That’s our motto here at Voice Over Canada. 

Seems like a good place for me to end…for now.


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One Response to “Secrets of an Agent Man – Volume 1”

  1. Elaine Says:
    March 30th, 2009 at 9:50 am

    Hey Roger, I really enjoyed reading your post on voice demos. I would completely agree. And if I can add one thing, I would advise against replicating commercials that are on air in heavy rotation. Doing ‘your’ version of a spot that the agency has spent $25,000. in production & music etc, just isn’t going to sound as good and may work to your disadvantage. If you really like the copy, change it up a bit so it doesn’t sound like the same ad.

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