Your Existing Clients Are Important, Too!

One ongoing project we love working on here at Creative Media Recording is with an ad agency who regularly records audio interviews of successful business consultants and subject matter experts from a variety of fields. Then that interview audio is turned into audio CD’s and/or Podcasts for their client to share.

I always come away from an interview session with 1 or 2 great little business nuggets that I can put to use in my OWN business. Last week one expert shared this piece of advice:

“If you constantly focus on getting NEW clients and ignore OLD ones you’ll end up on the downside.”

That hit home for me! The past three years have been very busy for our little studio. Plus I was making time to hit some conferences and trade shows. I started working on some other important audio related projects that are taking me in a different direction. I may have let some deadlines slide here and there but we were busy, right?! — Wrong.

The downside for me was losing one good client last year – out of the blue – who was unhappy with the service they were getting (or weren’t getting in our case). That harsh reminder hit home for me as I sat there listening to this business consultant. Losing that other client had been a resonant reminder to make sure we were all focused on our existing client base – some of whom have been working with us for over 30 years.

We’re lucky to have some long, successful existing relationships with many of our clients. But it doesn’t take much to get off the track.

Yes, farming for new clients is important; doing lots of new auditions is good; working your social media (looking for business) can be good; going to conferences and learning new stuff is key. But be aware of the valuable time all of that might take away from doing work for your existing client roster.

Bottom line: Don’t forget to touch base with your existing clients once in a while, too. Try something you haven’t done before – make a phone call. Send a card or postcard instead of an email. Buy some small gift cards and start sending them out when you get a nice gig or a referral from someone. All of those little surprises do have an impact on clients/producers.

Photo montage by VO pro Mike Laponis @mikeraphone on Twitter

Making GREAT Connections is Key for Business Success!

I was recently asked by Canadian based Voice Actor & Coach Marc Scott “If you could give a voice actor ONE piece of advice, what would it be?”  Here’s my response:

CONNECTIONS are the key to your success. As I look back on a lifetime of working in this business as an audio producer and voice artist I can see where my greatest business drivers came from. Building personal one on one contacts and connections are what led to a strong, loyal client base. We’ve been blessed to have worked with more than a few clients for over 3 decades. Much of that was because we kept up with changing times, technology and trends – but I like to think it was also because we built bonds based on trust and professionalism.

Start locally and branch out. Social media is good, but work to build true “connections” and don’t let it suck your time.

Find a good mentor – or two – or three.

“Live” network with businesses and producer/directors in your region. That one–on-one and face-to-face connection is a powerful one that may lead to a good connection, especially in this social media driven world.

Build relationships with local audio studios that work in the media field. Find out what services they can provide to YOU like ISDN/Source Connect sessions, talent rates for studio rental where clients may want to come to direct you live. You would be amazed how that could then lead to referrals back to you because the engineers will get a chance to hear your voice and find out what it’s like to work with you.

Keep in contact with your contacts – without being a pest. When clients leave one company, follow them to their new job but keep your connection to their previous employer/company if you can. We can trace clients back 3, 4 or 5 levels of change that have stayed loyal to us over the years.

Marketing to all levels of clients works – but we have found the best clients are ones that come from other producers or within your own base of clients. Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals or leads – but don’t overstep your bounds. If you get hired by a producer, don’t reach out to their client.

Think outside the box – write a letter, send Holiday cards on unusual (non-card) Holidays, or send small tokens of appreciation when appropriate

Bottom line, don’t be a jerk. No one wants to work with jerks – and it is so easy to move on to the next voice. Be willing to go above and beyond (without being taken advantage of). Do good work and be detail oriented. But be pleasant, upbeat and responsive and it’ll pay dividends for years to come.

You can download Marc’s FREE E-Book “One Piece of VO Advice” with responses from 35 voiceover veterans — who all share their insight on how you can be a better voiceover professional.

CMR Produces The Silent Garden Audiobook

The team at Creative Media Recording completed production on two unique audiobooks at the end of 2016 that became available on in late Spring 2017. The Silent Garden / El Jardin Silencioso (in English & Spanish) by Paul W. Ogden and David H. Smith were developed for parents, educators and families to provide thorough guidance on the ins and outs of raising a deaf child. The authors are both noted university professors of Deaf Education who are deaf themselves.

In this edition of each book the two of them share their unique understanding of growing up and thriving in a hearing world. The Silent Garden help parents understand that all deaf children have the potential to lead rich, productive, and exciting lives.

The audio for the books was recorded in the CMR studios in Cypress over a several month period and they were narrated by professional Orange County voice talents Dave Sampson (English) and Paty Corcoran (Spanish).

With this launch, Creative Media is proud to have produced the very first audiobooks for the Gallaudet University Press, a publisher that specializes in providing an extensive knowledge base for and about deaf and hard of hearing people. It is affiliated with Gallaudet University. Here are links to the audiobooks with audio samples from each language:

ENGLISH version:

SPANISH version:

A look at the new Marantz Pro TURRET

One of the best things about attending the annual NAB Convention in Las Vegas each April is that I get to check out, first hand, some cool new gear like microphones and outboard audio gear. NAB is also a great place to get introduced to the trends in video production so I can stay in step with my clients.

This year one piece from Marantz Professional really caught my eye. It is the TURRET – an all in one, freestanding HD webcam camera & microphone package that is perfect for wide range of users – including voiceover professionals, podcasters, online presenters, streaming video pros and more.

For VO pros this is a tool that will allow you to communicate during live directed sessions with your clients during a voiceover session via SKYPE, Zoom, etc. – allowing you to keep your focus on recording audio on your main system & microphone.

The new Marantz Turret

Presenters will love having a professional rig for their live streaming projects, video tutorials and online sharing segments, etc. – all while communicating from their presenting space with a professional look AND sound.

Marantz is known in the broadcast and production world for their professional hand-held portable audio recorders. This is a great compliment to that line-up. I loved the “all-in-one” aspect of having a professional HD camera and LED adjustable Light Wheel system plus semi-professional Marantz quality condenser microphone with pop filter all in one unit with one USB cable is pretty slick. Buttons on the main pedestal allow you to control the camera, microphone, headphone volume and lighting from one location.

The TURRET is not on the market quite yet so look for it to be released later this year.

A Producer’s TIPS on Effective Social Media for Voice Talent

The talent perspective of Producer, Engineer & audio pro Tim Keenan

The talent perspective of Producer, Engineer & audio pro Tim Keenan

I’m continually amazed at the “missed opportunities” by voice actors when they set up their professional social media pages. Sometimes their bios are more “fun” than they are “business-like” – with no active links to showcase the person’s many talents. Social media is a way to be more than just social. It can be a major business tool and you should treat it as such. Over time you can build some great connections. I have.

You might be surprised at the casting or lurking or “talent evaluation” that gets done on Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, etc. You always want to make sure that you are poised to get your share of any potential work opportunities!

Here are some simple tips.

Tip #1) Make sure your work samples are just ONE click away. This doesn’t apply to only voice talent. If you’re a video shooter, an editor or a writer you always want producers to have fast access to your main selling tool – your real work samples. Make that the primary, consistent link you use for social media and make it accessible with just one click. Producers are busy people so quick access may get your samples in front of the right set of eyes & ears fast!

Tip #2) Be sure your VO demo files are downloadable as MP3s. Producers want easy access to your AUDIO files (see rule #1) but they also want to be able to control what they do with them once they are downloaded. They may compile a set of 5 of their top voice choices for a particular project and want to send them in an email to a client. They won’t be sending a client to your website (or 4 other voice talent websites). They want to make it easy for their clients to select their top 1 or 2 voice choices and then move on.

Flash sites are not great for providing downloadable audio files. VoiceZam is a handy tool because it allows full audio file downloads of each demo. SoundCloud works great, too but beware “share” is not the same as “download. SoundCloud was created for music folks to “protect” their audio from downloaders so the actual ability to set up a “download” for each file is hidden in the preferences settings.

Tip #3) Read every social BIO of the folks who take the time to follow you. Really. Take the time to see if any of your followers actually are producers of some type or are involved in casting. They likely followed you because are in the media biz and that time of connection is the perfect time to reach out and ask to share your demos with them.

If you know me, you may know I’ve been involved in helping cast voices for clients for decades. I even mention that on my two Twitter bios. Would you believe only 1 out of every 40 or 50 new followers even comments on casting or asks to submit a demo?

Tip #4) Don’t use the word “aspiring” or “newcomer” in your bio. It is an instant shutdown to casting folks & producers. Would you hire an “aspiring” brain surgeon if you needed a doctor? You don’t have to fib about your abilities but don’t throw up roadblocks. I’ve met some amazing beginners over the years who sounded just like seasoned pros right out of the gate. And some people have years of VO experience but just aren’t right for some types of voiceover. Let your work and your demos open doors for you that you may not have known existed.

Tip #5) Participate. It is one thing to set up effective social media sites but another to set aside time to actually participate. Once a month doesn’t cut it. Once a week still isn’t enough. Think of it as part of your business marketing. Sure it’s hard to find the time sometimes but if you commit to bits of time throughout the day the same way you monitor your email, you can still be effective with your social presence.

Keeping Clients Coming Back for More

We recently had the opportunity to record an audio interview with a business consultant for an ongoing business training series. The consultant was not discussing the “media” business, but his words really resonated with me. Among the many insights he reminded me of was that “people buy from people they like and trust.” This is so true. You will probably only take your car to an auto mechanic you trust and get to know. You tend to eat at the places that treat you right time after time, and so forth.

This is true for OUR businesses as well.

Here at Creative Media, if any of our vendors or freelancers are rude to the team or to a client, we just don’t bother to bring them back again. We love what we do. That’s why we do it! But to continue loving our work, the experience has to be upbeat and enjoyable. I’m planning to put these ideas to work.

If our goal is to grow our businesses we need to BE that “trusted source” and “trusted advisor.” We need to create a “spirit of hospitality” in our day-to-day work habits even if we only deal with clients on-line or on the phone and/or provide a service from a home studio or off site facility.

How do we do that? The visiting consultant suggested that we “fall in love with our customers.” He was speaking figuratively, of course. And working hard to find out what we can do for our clients includes goes above and beyond. It helps to just create a positive atmosphere and not push too hard. Sometimes this is difficult, as I well know.

Blog after blog suggests that our best sources of new work are actually our existing clients. My business has thrived because of the relationships we’ve built over the years and the repeat business that continues to bring. Despite the tremendous changes in technology and they way we do business, some producer clients have been working with us for over 30 years. But building and maintaining those relationships takes work. And the end work product needs to be good, too.

We record professional voice talent a lot here. The best voice talents we’ve worked with at our studio over the years were the ones who came to a session with a smile on and were upbeat throughout despite the challenges of the script or the session. They also need the talent and skills in order to be hired again, but having a positive attitude really helps. Everyone wants to work with upbeat, positive people – and with voiceover especially – that attitude will show through in your voice.

We recently watched the documentary “The Wrecking Crew” about the freelance backing musicians who recorded the music on numerous hits of the 60’s & 70’s for groups like the Mamas & the Papas, the Beach Boys, the Righteous Brothers, Frank Sinatra and the list goes on. Some went on to achieve musical success on their own like 60’s session guitarist Glen Campbell.

This small group of about 30 L.A. based musicians kept working on hit after hit, year after year for over a decade because they were good. But it was more than that. The freelance music folks who got hired had to have a positive attitude to be a continuous part of the team. Wrecking Crew member and noted drummer Hal Blaine summed it up in the documentary when he said, “if you smile, you stay around for awhile: if you pout, you’re out.”

For some this is a culture shift, for others it is just a reminder. But at the very least it is food for thought.

Small Space Syndrome by Tim Keenan

A passing comment in an email from a client the other day got my wheels spinning. I’ve noticed this phenomenon, but was never able to put my finger on the issue so well. The client shared that a batch of recent e-Learning auditions we sent him sounded “soft” – as if the narrators we’re reading a book aloud in a very quiet room. In other words, there was no energy, no engagement with the potential listener.

Now, I know VO pros are always encouraged to think of the microphone as a person’s “ear” and be aware of the power of the intimacy of their voice when speaking softly. But this client was hoping to hear more energy and enthusiasm, yet still have the read be conversational.

It came to me that I had noticed this same phenomenon myself when working with voices from their home studios. I have have had to push the talent to get a little more zest.

The one thing that just may be holding them back in their delivery could be the SIZE of the person’s recording space. I’m going to call it “small space syndrome.

Human’s, by nature, will tend to speak softly when they enter a closet sized room because they know they don’t have to speak-up to be heard. A small VO booth may be having that same subliminal effect on narrators. Even a space carved off a larger room using acoustic curtains can have a dampening effect on a performance.

I know I’m spoiled. I own a professional studio with a nice, roomy VO booth that we designed from the ground up. It is, on average, 9’ x 16’ with enough room for three voice talent at a time comfortably. It’s big enough to feel like a room. When you perform in our VO booth you can speak in normal, bold tones with no hesitation.

So how do you overcome small space syndrome? Well, just being aware and conscious of it is a good step one. Listen to your auditions back in another room or on a different computer and see if you gave it enough energy. Part of your prep might be to imagine yourself in a larger room. Forget that it is just you and the microphone. Down the road you might consider an expansion of your space. Adding a window might give you a different perspective, too. Something to think about.

Who knows, knowing this just might give you that little edge in your next voiceover audition.

My Backlash Against the “Backslash”

A mistake I’ve heard recently on a number of radio AND TV spots is voiceover talents verbalize a web address using the word “back-slash.” That is incorrect! I wanted to pass along this tip so you can sound like a pro at some future VO session.

In English we read from left to right. So any kinds of symbols that lean from the top “towards” the direction we are reading would be considered to be moving “forward.” So why then, when people see this symbol “/” as part of a web address in their voiceover script, would they say the word “backslash??”

I did a little research before launching into this blog and I found many serious rants by a LOT of folks who really know the names of their keyboard symbols. They just cringe when they hear a forward slash spoken aloud as a “backslash.”

This symbol is a backslash “\” and it is used for Windows programming and in other technical applications. But the back-slash is one of several keyboard symbols that cannot ever be used in a web based URL address.

It is actually kind of hard to even find the “backslash” on a standard keyboard, hiding way off the right under the delete key. Whereas the more commonly used forward-slash is on the same key as the question mark, over to the right next to the shift-key. It is also found on the 10 key panel.

So when you’re in a VO session where you need to verbalize a web address you can be hero if there is any question on how to verbalize the forward-slash symbol. It is best to stick to the word “slash” because the listener will know that you mean the common forward-slash. Also, don’t let a director try to talk you into saying the word “back-slash.” Just gently explain the difference and how a “back-slash” can’t even be recognized in a web address. We don’t want to confuse the listener, which could result in costing his client a potential customer!!

This piece originally ran on the website

What am I Saying??

Have you ever picked up a voiceover script and said to yourself, “What the heck am I reading aloud here??”

Over the years we’ve been asked “what’s the difference between a ‘good’ VO talent and a ‘great’ one. I had lots of responses that come to me that are more related to the business side of being a voice over talent. Things like showing up on time, prereading the script, being open to direction, etc. are all important aspects of being a professional. If you got selected for the VO job you must be good – or good enough, right?

But on further reflection, we’ve concluded that the one true benchmark between good enough and really good is the ability of the voice talent to express, with their voice, the feeling that they know what they are talking about.

So often, as a seasoned professional, you fall into a routine of getting a script, going over it for pronunciations and grammar and then just launching into a read. But did you really understand what you were reading? Did you know where you were going with that read and what all those terms you said aloud actually meant?

This is particularly important with corporate narration projects but even applies just as well to commercials. The true pros, the people who build a loyal following are the narrators who genuinely SOUND like they know what they are talking about – like they live this subject matter every day and are sharing their wealth of knowledge. In fact it is really the WRITER’s wealth of knowledge.

How do you get to “great?”

Stop a minute. Ask yourself: What am I talking about here? Where is this script going? How does this thing I’m talking about work?

Don’t be afraid to ask the client questions. How does this widget get made? What’s really going on when I talk about X? What did you mean about with Y? Look up words that are unfamiliar to you – not just for pronunciation but for meaning as well. Take the time to educate yourself about the client’s product or service.

The payoff? The client will know you truly care about the voiceover job you are doing which builds client loyalty. Also, your read will sound genuine and that “truth” of the copy will totally come though in your voice – in much the same way as when you plant a big smile on your face the listener can HEAR that smile come through.

This post originally ran on the website.

5 Tips for a Better VO Session

1) Make sure your client thoroughly reviews and signs off on the final script in advance of your VO session. If you think your client needs the extra effort, record a “scratch track” with a temp voice for your client to review. Revisions to the narration after the initial VO session may not always match the energy and sound quality of the original performance and can be avoided with pre-production efforts.

2) Prepare the script in a format that is easy to read and understand. 12 pt fonts or larger and lots of spacing for the narration copy will make the session go smoother. The extra space allows for the talent to write in last minute changes that come up during the narration session.

3) Work out ahead of time how you would like the program paced and which places are good for music and narration transitions. What kind of music (if any) will be used throughout. This will help the talent get a feel for the segments that need more emphasis.

4) Direct the voiceover session. This seems like the obvious one but with the changes in the VO business this step is often overlooked. It is important to give guidance and direction as the VO is being recorded, either by phone or in-person, to avoid costly re-do’s. It also helps assure correct pronunciations and emphasis as well as a good performance.

5) Don’t over-direct and avoid the use of “line reads” if possible. Respect the fact that every voice talent has his or her own pacing, tempo and speech patterns. It is best to use positive words and encouragement to guide the talent to where you would like them to go with their read and which words require more emphasis.

This piece originally ran on the website.