Are you ready for online casting? Some tips for spending your audition time wisely
Jan 15 2015
One of the great things about the voice over world is that it constantly evolves. If you’re a working VO pro with a flourishing business, that might not seem like the happiest reminder of the day, because it means that your business must also evolve. But ultimately the continual emergence of new genres, easier (and less expensive) technology, and more efficient communication mean additional opportunities for everyone. Everyone who works smart, that is.
Today’s online-casting venues have resulted from all three of those types of change. The two major online casting sites, Voice123.com and Voices.com, were founded in 2003 and 2004 respectively. They came to be known as “pay to play” (P2P) sites, reflecting a focus where even novice talent can submit auditions. We now call them “online casting,” because that term is much more representative of today’s perspective: these services have garnered respect at all levels of our industry.
That’s not to say that everyone is glad to have such an open and competitive marketplace, but producers using the venue nevertheless range from Fortune 500 marketers to sole proprietors, and the talent ranges from wannabes to highly experienced voice actors. A lot of audition submissions are from relatively inexperienced talent. But more than a handful of knowledgeable talent apply their efforts efficiently, and a few even pull in six-figure incomes from online casting alone.
To help more talent work smarter, Edge Studio offers a four-part webinar on the Secrets of Online Casting. It begins this Tuesday.
Where do you stand amid this swirl? Is online casting right for you?
Before proceeding, we should disclose that Edge Studio has good relationships with both Voices.com and Voice123.com, and we recommend both.
There are also other online casting sites. For example, Bodalgo.com, founded in 2008 and headquartered in Germany, serving international markets. There’s also RealtimeCasting.com, which serves only union talent. And Voicebank.net/VoiceRegistry.net, although not an audition site as such, is another way that clients and agents connect with talent online. But Voices.com and Voice123.com are currently the biggest players of their kind (reportedly sharing 95% of the market), attracting even union signers. (About 5% of the jobs posted on these two sites are union jobs.)
With rapidly increasing popularity among producers and talent, and a lot of people being new to these services – with maybe even some envy or frustration among new and veteran talent – a lot of myths circulate. Edge Studio Managing Director Graeme Spicer addressed a number of these misapprehensions in 2013. Here’s his article, “Debunking the Myths about Online Casting Sites.” Give it a read … we’ll wait.
Another source of helpful, if anecdotal, insights is Edge Studio’s archive of its Talktime! phone-in on the subject, August 31, 2014. Here are some of the points exchanged, with added thoughts:
It’s good practice – scripts come from producers with a wide variety of needs. However, the key to success is in choosing the scripts that closely match your capabilities. It may seem like an electronic cattle call where a shotgun approach gives you better odds of hitting something (sorry about the unfortunately mixed metaphor), but don’t reply to everything.
There are many reasons to be choosy in what you submit for. For one, there’s the usual reason – don’t become known for doing mediocre work. Some of the prospective clients are major players in the industry, and some are repeat users posting a variety of job types. If they’ve heard you submit one or two so-so recordings, they may pass up listening to a third.
Another reason: Clients will rate your submissions suitability for the job they posted. Keep your quality rating up. (Voice123.com used to send you fewer auditions if you submitted more. That’s no longer the case, but their rating system is still in place and can affect the invitations you get.)
Yet another reason for focusing is the need to respond quickly. There may be many dozen contenders, some responding to the posted job literally within minutes. For some jobs, there will be more like a hundred responses. Some producers have reported that more than half the submissions aren’t even close to what they’re seeking. As a trained pro, that’s good news for you, except that the producer will often listen only until they hear what they’re looking for. The faster you submit a win-worthy read, the better.
So work efficiently, to help enable a quick response. Use whatever digital audio workstation (DAW) software you are most facile with. Whether Audacity, Pro Tools or whatever, set up a system that lets you record, process the audio as desired (if desired), produce the mp3 audition file and submit it. Same for the cover message, etc. Many of the prospective clients are not experienced casting people, so the more your submission sounds like a finished production, sometimes the better.
Be technically professional. If you win an online audition, odds (by far) are that you’ll need to record the actual job from your home studio. So, whether your new client will ultimately want your track to be dry or processed, your audio needs to be clean and professional. If you occasionally need to audition while you’re traveling, it might be helpful to have a stock recording of your studio’s sound among your demos, so you can say, “I recorded this while on the road today, but will be back in the studio tomorrow – here’s a link to my professional studio’s sound quality.”
When you post your demos on the audition site, include as many focused “microdemos” as you dare (e.g., 30 seconds each). This, again, is because many of the client prospects are not used to judging talent’s ability to adapt – the closer your demo is to the subject and sound that they need, the better.
If you slate, some participants say to do it at the end of your recording. The services’ software displays your identity, so slating could be considered a distracting waste of the client’s time. If you do slate in advance, and it’s a character voice, some recommend that you slate in character, presumably because of this audience’s limited attention span and (in some cases) unsophisticated imagination. Graeme Spicer adds, “If you slate in character, it’s important to do it really well. If it’s tentative at all, it will take away from your audition rather than help it.” In fact, that’s true of any audition, in-character or not.
Which service should you subscribe to? That’s a personal choice. Each site has its relative strengths. Both services review the postings before they appear. Voices.com is popular with some actors because it is very user-friendly to talent and handles billing and prompt payment for you (using an escrow system). On the other hand, some talent prefer to handle their own billing and client relations, which is one of the reasons Voice123.com might be more attractive. Voice123.com has added chat, which may help clear up any usability mysteries among talent.
Or you might join both and see what works best for you.
Just be sure that, first, you’re ready to promptly submit professional work. Because it’s the dedicated professionals using these sites that will be your real competition.