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The Voice Over Industry’s Most Coveted Job Gets Broken Down

stevedivineOver my 20 year career in voice acting and radio/television station imaging, I’ve been constantly asked the same group of questions. Like many voice actors, my email box is inundated with requests from youngsters and a few old timers alike asking what it takes exactly to get the job that I am so thankful to perform everyday in over 130 cities in the US and on 3 continents.

Today, I want to share with you a collection of those questions and realistic answers as you move towards becoming a station imaging voice.  Lets start with the big part of the picture.  Station imaging as a percentage of the voice over you hear on a daily basis.

 “How do I get to become a radio or TV station imaging voice?”

In the United States, there are 15,587 broadcast radio stations and 3,548 television stations broadcasting 24 hours a day 7 days a week according to the FCC.  Each one of these stations has an “imaging voice,” and sometimes 2 or 3, that tell you what station you’re watching or listening to. These voices tell you about the next greatest prize you can win when you are caller number 4 or what the hottest story will be on the evening news.

Although each station decides how often you hear these interruptions, they all want to convey the “personality” of the station and the format in order to keep you engaged in the daily life of the artists and programming.  The average, per station, is 33 interruptions every hour.  Even though we may have become immune to hearing the station’s “voice” in our head, remember that “voice” belongs to one of us!  We are voice talents and audio producers.

With this many stations and this many interruptions every hour, you have to be thinking, “This is a good gig!” and you’d be right.  This is the most fun you can have in voice over. Okay, granted I’m a little partial to that belief as I live and breathe radio and television imaging 24/7/365.

With all these formats and all these stations, how do you break in and gain foothold on this market of VO that never goes away and has clients that never stop sending you work?  It’s more difficult than you think.  However, I’m going to give you some tips that may just help you break into the greatest job voice over has ever offered.

Breaking down the FAQ’s

Several weeks ago, Michael from Germany sent me a copy of his imaging demo and asked me the questions that most ask:

  • Is my voice good enough to become the next FM hit music radio imaging voice?
  • What are the requirements for equipment?
  • What training should I look into with a voice coach?
  • What classes are the best for those that want to be a radio imaging voice?
  • How do I attain THAT sound in my voice?
  • Where do I get all the effects?
  • How do I put together a demo?
  • Where do I send my newly created tracks?
  • How do I position myself on Voice123.com to get invites to these coveted jobs?

Here we go, let’s break down imaging as a career using Voice123.com.

Q.  Is my voice good enough for radio & TV imaging?

A.  It’s not a question of your voice being “good enough” per say.  It’s whether you understand cadence and timing.  It’s whether you understand the drive or motivation of the station and their listeners. The sound that you submit is, 9 times out of 10, manipulated by the production team of the station hiring you. So you never end up sounding like what you submitted in the end.  Concentrate on the timing and attitude of the end listener.  For a “Hit Music” station, it’s about energy and hip delivery.  For News/Talk, it is more about authority in your tone or a seriousness to your delivery.  Study your local stations and listen carefully to the tone and pacing of their imaging voices.

Q.  What are the requirements for equipment?

A.  Now, I never want to get into the arguments in the voice over community about microphones and preamps and compressors and so forth – as we all know what that can lead to.  No one microphone is best for all voices in all rooms.  What works for one is not what will work for another.  For me, I use the Neumann TLM103 or SE 2200 and a Focusrite Saffire Pro interface alongside the Aphex Channel Master Compressor/Aural Exciter/Big Bottom/Gate processor paired with Adobe Audition CS6 with Focusrite/ Eventide/Waves Plug-Ins, Source Connect Pro and Telos ISDN Zyphere Xtreme. Although these are my preferred toys, you may have other choices based upon your voice, your studio and your budget.

One thing is clear, you do have to have some sort of compressor with gate that allows you to process your voice. Whether you do this after the fact by means of Adobe Audition’s Multi Band Compressor or Pro Tools equivalent, or in real time using a tool like my Aphex, it is usually requested that I submit my audio files with compression to give that full, resonating sound.

audio editing

As a side note here, one of the selling points of your voice over is understanding how imaging is produced.  You should phrase your words and sentences in short quick quips so that the producer at the station can use your statements and apply effects to them, like stuttering your first syllable or echoing your last word.  For this reason, learning your way around production software becomes a plus and would allow you, as you master the tech side, to bill your client twice because you can provide both the VO and the production! Most small market stations will usually want you to fill both the role of the voice over talent AND production talent, that’s two times the money on every track! (Editors note: want to learn audio production with Adobe Audition for voice actors? Sign up for Voice123 Academy!)

Q.  What training should I look into with a voice coach & what classes are best fitting an imaging talent?

A.  This is the easiest question to answer.  The same improv classes that you should be taking as a voice over actor are the same improv classes that you should master as an imaging talent.  Being able to pull characters out of your hat at any moment can go a long way in imaging.

Theater masks voice acting

Being able to convince a listener or viewer of the importance of following your instruction to listen or watch what your telling them about is the most important skill.  This comes from breaking down your script.  If you’ve never learned what breaking down a script means from your coach, then you are with the wrong coach. The voice over artist can not effectively deliver imaging or commercial work without learning the fundamentals of breaking down a script to adequately convey the intended message to the actual demographic that is the target of the ad or imaging. (Another editor’s note: want to learn about breaking down scripts and interpretation? Check out Peter Rofé’s course at Voice123 Academy!)

Get classes and coaching always, always, always!

Q.  How do I attain THAT sound in my voice?

A.  This is a funny story.  At 19 years old, I became a DJ at a number one hit music station as a college intern straight out of high school.  While this was the greatest thing that ever happened to my wide-eyed self, I never was into talking to the masses and making any kind of connection to the teenie boppers that were the listeners from 7 to Midnight – even though I was one of those teenie boppers.  I didn’t have a connection to the DJ side of the station.  I spent every hour that I could in the production booth listening to Dave Kelly, who was the imaging voice of the station at that time.  I mimicked his voice, his phraseology, his tone and tried to replicate his stutter effect with out the tools he used, using only my voice and mouth to achieve the same result.

It became an addiction – LITERALLY! I did this voice everywhere I went and to everyone I met (just ask my mother about it – she’ll start crying). I became so obsessed with repeating Dave’s style that people actually started saying how much I sounded like the station voice.

Twenty years later, here I am doing the job that Dave once held.  So, you may sound stupid, you may look a little crazy to your friends, and your family may ask you what drugs you’re taking…but look who’s laughing now!  All that studying of a talented man and really driving to do the only voice over job I’ve ever wanted has lead to me being placed on the “Top 5 of Promotional Voices” List.

Don’t get lost in the imitation portion of what I’m saying.  You have to find your own style, be versatile, be different.  However, there is a lot to be learned from listening to and imitating the pros.  I don’t consider someone imitating me to be anything other than flattery.

 Q.  Where do I get all those effects if I’m asked to produce the tracks as well as voice them?

A.  For those of you that love the production side and have a handle on mixing and mastering of tracks, this is some cool information I’m going to share with you.  I have no vested interest in the companies that I’m going to tell you about, but they offer solid products at awesome pricing for independent talents.

The imaging sounds library business is a difficult fence to cross.  Most of the really awesome providers are market exclusive and require you to be a part of a radio station that subscribes to their library.  Others have price tags that could buy you a new car by the time you’re finished paying for all the parts and pieces you need. There are a few good guys out there that are offering their services to independent VO and production talents.

  • Misk Audio FX Music and Jingles – some of the best effects on the market today at a price that cannot be beat!  Whether you’re doing commercials or imaging, check out the packages available. They will amaze you.
  • Prod 1 Imaging Services – This is a complete library of radio imaging materials for six different formats of radio and television.  From Pop, Rock and Country to Sports and Talk.  One low fee gives you unlimited use royalty free and is non-market exclusive.

Q.  Where do I market myself for imaging once I have my skills and demos mastered?

A.  The holy grail of exposure outside of Voice123.com is All Access, the radio and television insider website can connect your with the next level of marketing that your voice over business needs to compete in the voice imaging world with VO databases and insight into every station in the US.

Q.  How do I put together an imaging demo?

A.  Demo tracks for radio and television stations are different than your commercial or narration demos that you would use on your personal website or your Voice123 profile.  While most coaches and agents tell you to use non-heavily produced versions of voice over in your demos so that clients can hear you and not the production, the opposite is the reality of imaging demos.

While it is still true that the station Program Director and Production Director would like to hear what you sound like, they really would like to hear what your imaging voices sound like, as if it were to appear on their station.

For that reason, you should always have professionally mastered demos that showcase the imaging according to format.  These should sound as if they are playing on the station today.  Make sure you follow the two golden rules of radio demos.  For imaging demos that play on your website, make sure the timing never goes over 2:30.  For demos that you submit to Program Directors, make sure each track of your disc is about 1:50 seconds or shorter.  Give them a sample of each format that the station produces.

You have to remember that even though you may listen to Z100 in Portland and it’s Hit Music, that station also owns and broadcasts an R&B station, a Talk/News station and several others.  Usually, but not always, your voice may be used for each station that the company owns. Never close the door on an opportunity to sell yourself as the branding voice for every station under their local umbrella.

For television imaging, submit DVD with your sound or even video of your voice over the local news opening or other such graphic.

Q. How do I position myself on Voice123 to get invited to these coveted positions?

A.  While I’m not going to tell you all the secrets of Voice123,  I will share a few things with you.  Positioning yourself to receive the jobs you actually are qualified for and that you best fit is really rather simple.

Look at your profile and ask yourself, “If I was a radio station, television show producer, or other such body seeking a voice to brand my station or show – what key words would I search for?”  Are those key words and phrases repeated over and over in your profile?  Are you giving Voice123 SmartCast and the search engine the needed fuel to find your profile?

If you want a specific job, why isn’t your profile talking up that job more than anything else? If you are, why isn’t your contact information available to the client seeking you out so that they can use the Voice123 interface to contact you with an invite to the job of your dreams?  And lastly, are you showcasing your talent in imaging more than all the other areas of VO that you have little or no skill in?

So next time your skimming the channels on the television or the radio and you decide to jump to the next station because some VOICE gets in the way of your music or show…..  remember that VOICE, is one of us!  Taking the time to be interested in the style, the cadence, the pacing and the tone, could be your free lesson to the next gig of your voice over life.  And, my oh my what a gig it is!

So for Voice123 and me, Steve Divine, “Stay tuned for your late local news on the this local broadcast station.”

About Steve Divine:

From radio and TV stations all across the globe to iconic brands like Mountain Dew, Reebok Crossfit, The Georgia Peach and BMW, Steve’s voice can be heard representing the world’s best stations, products, and brands. He is a trained broadcast and commercial voice pro with 20 years training and real experience.​ Find out more at http://www.voicesltd.com.

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