Seven tips for hiring a voice actor.
Someone's voice. You hear it and you instantly either like it or dislike it. Casting for a voice over is extremely subjective and daunting. There are over 60,000 people or more in the United States who claim to be voice actors. But perhaps only a few thousand or less are full-time professionals. If this is your first time searching for that perfect voice for your project, you will come across many people of varying skill and experience offering their voice over services. Here are some tips to help you in your search.
1. Union or Non-Union? This depends on your project and where you plan to advertise. The voice over industry is just like the movie industry. We have union voice actors, and we also have non-union voice actors. You can choose to hire either, and the difference between the two titles is mostly cost. The majority of voice talent today are non-union, as the industry has shifted to home based voice actors which has allowed anyone with a microphone to hang a shingle. Union talent are represented by agents and follow rate guidelines established by SAG-AFTRA, the union that represents movie actors and voice actors.You should know that a non-union or union voice actor has nothing to do with experience or quality. Some of the best voice actors available are non-union. However, the majority of the voices you hear on major broadcast advertising campaigns, in video games, and animation, are union voice actors.
2. Voice Over Casting Service. There are websites on the Internet that provide a directory of voice talent to choose from. These are known as the "Walmarts of Voice Over." You will find that the majority of the voice over talent on these websites are amateurs or hobbyists. You can submit your project as an open audition, or "casting call," and you may receive upwards of 300 voice over auditions. Out of those, you may find that only a handful are worth your consideration. In addition, you may like their voice and "read," but the real issues appear after you hire them; from not knowing how to edit audio correctly, to distracting ambient noise in the background of their recording. Ensure your project is not delayed by hiring a professional with at least five years of experience, who can provide clean audio, and solid references. And speaking of references, anyone can list companies they have done voice over work for on their websites or in their profiles. That doesn't mean they did a good job. Make sure they can show you contact names, and even better, provide you with contact information so you can get a true reference. If you are a business owner, you probably check references before hiring a new employee. The same exercise should be applied here. If you would like Superior Sound and Voice to assist you in your voice search, please contact us today.
3. Hire Someone Because of Experience and Not Price. We all want something for nothing, but we get what we pay for. You may have a tight budget but keep in mind that the right voice over and interpretation can improve the odds of your message making an impact by over 70 percent! In addition, there are hobby voice actors out there who will record your voice over for $5.00! Think about that. A professional, full-time voice talent on the other hand, cannot afford to stay in business by charging such low rates. Could you? Professionals invest in equipment, training, their recording space, and so on, to be able to deliver the quality you deserve. And if price IS your main concern, think about the money you'll waste if you are forced to re-cast the voice over because you didn't hire a professional. Also, hiring a professional full-time voice talent will ensure that when you need them again to revise a voice over 6 or 10 months down the road, they will likely still be in business.
4. "Voice Actor" or a "Voice Talent?" The terms "Voice Actor" and "Voice Talent" or even "Voice Artist" are used interchangeably in the industry. Casting agents will tell you that a "Voice Actor" is usually someone working in Animation, and has a stage or screen acting background. A "Voice Talent" or a "Narrator" is someone who works with anything outside of animation. A professional who uses either term typically specializes in one or the other, although they can be quite capable of working in both areas. A good example is audio books, where the narrator must act out different voices and storylines, depending on the genre. Keep in mind that the title someone chooses should not be your determining factor. Listen to their demos to get a feel for what they can do.
5. Free Auditions and Payment Upfront. Voice over talent "should" provide a free audition of a small piece of your script in order for you to determine if their voice and "read" are a good fit for your project. But don't ask for an audition of the full script! If a voice talent asks you to pay for an audition, you should find someone else. Also, for the first production, it is customary for voice talent to require a deposit upfront before they deliver the audio files. Once you establish a payment relationship with the voice talent, invoice terms should be no problem. If a voice talent asks for full payment upfront without a valid business reason, look for someone else.
6. Limited Use & Buyout. Some voice talent have stipulations on the length of time their voice may be used on your project. This is the case for commercial or promo projects that have a large audience or geographical exposure. "Limited Use" is usually granted in cycles, such as every 13 weeks, or every quarter, or even annually, at which time you must renew the license to use the voice for another cycle by paying a fee. A "Buyout" means the voice talent is allowing the unlimited use of his or her voice for that project forever for the price you have agreed to, with no residual payments. This is also known as "In Perpetuity" and is widely used in corporate or eLearning projects and some audio books. And if you are required to abide by limited use stipulations, there will most likely be an agreement involved. Read it carefully.
7. Audio Production. Great! You found the perfect voice talent for your project. But now you want music and sound effects, and maybe a snippet of a recorded interview included. Some voice talent are well versed in audio production. The majority do not have this experience. If you are searching for someone who can mix, edit and master audio for your project, make sure they can do the work professionally and correctly. When you request an audition from a voice talent, be sure to demand that the audition audio is clean and edited so you can hear how well they produce the audio. In addition, it is customary for audio editing and mastering to be included in the cost of the voice over. Adding custom music, sound effects, multiple voices, or editing blocks of audio into separate files (eLearning) will have their own separate fees. If your project is very large like an audio book, and involves multiple voices, or requires sound design, you should seek out a professional audio engineer or producer.
Bottom Line: Casting for a voice over doesn't have to be hard work or scary. With a little patience and research, you will find the perfect voice that fits well with your project and vision, at an affordable price. If you still have questions or would like me to help you in your search, get in touch today.