Erin Davis

Erin Davis is a Toronto radio legend. She has been #1 in the market for a long time now and I was excited to meet with her and her husband/manager a few weeks ago about joining PN Agency. She came on board the voice roster shortly after that and we were just getting going with auditions and sessions when tragedy struck their family earlier this week. Erin’s daughter Lauren – herself a radio star, in Ottawa – did not wake up on Monday morning. She leaves behind her husband and a 7-month old son.

I have no words to comfort them and just can’t imagine what they’re going through right now. Everyone in the Toronto radio and voice over community is saddened by the news. I leave it to Erin to speak for herself:


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I Am What I Play Canadian Premiere

My documentary about rock radio disc jockeys premieres Friday, May 8th as the opening film of the Canadian Music Week film festival. The screening takes place at 7:00 pm at The Royal Cinema on College Street.

Radio fans will get a chance to see the great David Marsden on-screen. Marsden is a Toronto radio legend who, among other great achievements in an illustrious radio career, was the architect of one of the first modern rock stations in North America, CFNY, now known as The Edge 102.1. The film also profiles radio greats Charles Laquidara (Boston), Meg Griffin (New York) and Pat O’Day (Seattle).

This is my first feature-length film. Tickets on sale here:

More information about the film on our website:

And on our Facebook page:


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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!

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:


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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.

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:


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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:

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:

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:


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