In June 2013, Voice123 will turn 10 years old. It is no longer the fresh face on the voice over scene, with a sarcastic mojo that offers an escape from those disillusioned with offline casting, or those first discovering how to record from home because they have children, and hate commuting to auditions. In 2012, several signs were shown to me that displayed a burden for change in 2013. Voice123 is now an established, competitive market of voice talent, and these voice talent have more power over the voice over industry than ever before. Some of these signs are positive, while others negative. Allow me to describe the signs presented to me, and the burden it will create:
Sign #1…Your everyday voice talent with a small role in a videogame or cult classic is more popular than a celebrity due to the Internet. I saw this sign when I visited Mark Dodson, Voice123 talent and voice of Jabba the Hut’s pet in Return of the Jedi, at a comic book convention. I first talked to him in an interview. I realized those who attended such events were more interested in him, more so than celebrities, because when the Internet fan base shows plenty of love you become “wanted”. Why? Mark appreciates the industry he is in, and the work he gets. He is down to earth. When a virtual unknown becomes more newsworthy than a celebrity, it usually happens as a reaction to the behavior of the celebrity, who is too busy for his fans, compared to the unknown who appreciates the acknowledgement. This year also showed how a kid with a love for voice overs can completely disrupt a process by which a person gets an agent. Two words… Jake Foushee.
Burden #1 created…Pardon my way of phrasing this, but the burden in 2013 for online voice over talent is to drop the A-word behavior in public content. Your burden is to remember where you started, who your colleagues are, why you love what you do, where you came from, and always keep the drama behind the microphone and out of public content. Criticize in private. Praise in public. The typical “actor ego” has no place on the Internet. Maybe it belongs offline when sitting in a casting office when trying to intimidate others, but not online. Although offline, I still remember learning about Don LaFontaine in the ’90s, long before he was so widely celebrated. If tomorrow’s voice talent online wants to celebrate Jake Foushee, as the song says, “let it be”. Egotistical, explosive behavior is amplified online, and after 2012, it is time for it to stop because just like it did offline…it may start costing you voice over jobs in ways you will never see. The last thing you want your content on Google to display is that you are talented, but maybe a little bit difficult, and all you did was express some heated thoughts on a bad day….and Google search engines loved it. Yay!
Sign #2…The amount of false Internet information and social media hoaxes of 2012 has gone so far to prove that the Internet can make us less intelligent, and more of a representation of how others want us to think for their own personal gain.
Burden #2 created…It is your burden to read more than just the scripts in front of you. You have to read between the lines, and then read the sub-text between the lines, and why it is there. You need to look at every job posting, website, and email…and challenge what you observed. Do not take the stance of, “Well, they said it, so it must be true.” It is time to read into “why people do things”, “will it work for you”, and “am I wasting my time”. Simply put…your burden now is to work “SMARTER”, not harder. Just last night, I joined a Google+ community and sighed to myself, “I am working two extra hours past 10pm to join another community with people I already know. Why?”. It is time to get back to creating for yourself, not creating through channels that someone else created that absolutely never serve you.
Sign #3…Going back to my old college, and teaching students about voice overs showed me that tomorrow’s generation thinks the voice over industry online should be as simple as downloading a toolbar. One thing that shocked many of them, EXCEPT for the die-hard fans of voice overs, was that “how you sound matters”. I was stunned to find out that many think all you need to do is get great audio equipment, pay attention to numbers, and you will know if that is enough to get work. This is probably why most of the students left the room when I started discussing what is required, except for the die-hard fans who really wanted to know everything.
Burden #3 created…It is the burden of voice talent to educate yourself on the truth behind online casting, and then penetrate the education levels of those wanting to be the voice talent of tomorrow. It is incredibly easy to click a mouse, but the education of “what it takes to be a voice talent online” STILL requires the wisdom of those who work online now. Why? If you want to protect yourself, and prepare for the bigger picture of “your career”, you must give back knowledge to those who admire you in order to protect the industry of tomorrow. It is my opinion that in the last decade, the refusal of major markets to adapt to technology has harmed the future of the industry. In 2012, I heard of stories where agents refused to represent people on Voice123 because “we are there competition”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Voice123 talent compete with studio production houses, not agents, and any agent believing we are competition is unaware of what really happens in online casting. Refusal to adapt, or listen to the people of the eco-system, are similar reasons why websites fail and agents are no different. Refusing to educate those who need it places all the burden of industry failure on those who took no action. I have seen things like World-Voices, and other generous efforts such as EWABS. I have put my info out there too. Sadly, I have also seen that too many still believe, “the budget of a job determines if it is professional”, or “audio quality is everything”. The burden is on voice talent to educate each other and get work for each other.
Burden #4… Voice talent have got to realize, and accept, that for the first time in the history of an industry…You are in control of what casting process stays and goes! DO NOT FORGET THIS! Did you ever wonder why there are so many casting websites, yet you mainly hear most about just a few of them? There is a reason… Every casting website’s success rests on the mission, integrity, dignity, passion, wisdom of market, and momentum, behind the creators and staff. The longevity of the website’s existence is determined by the community. If a large collective of voice talent suddenly decide, “I have no need for this website”, the job posters will go somewhere else, and the website will slowly cease to exist. Your burden is to make educated decisions on which one, or how many, you want to use. Those you ignore take the same route as the 350 social media websites out there that never went anywhere in the past 3 years. Think about this again…Your decisions to use a website determine who posts jobs, and whether or not it stays in business. I hope you can see the power behind your individual choices.
Above all…the ultimate burdens of the voice talent in 2013 are to stay informed, creative, learn how to say no, challenge your own beliefs, and respect yourself as a business. If you knew how much control you really had over what happens online, you would feel very positive as a voice talent.
Best to you in 2013!