Behind the Scenes of the UK Voice Acting Industry
Even in a digital economy that allows careers to transcend borders, how we conduct business is still influenced by our regional nuances.
For instance, imagine that you’re completing a job for a company based in New York City. It’s not hard to imagine that in the ‘city that never sleeps,’ individuals have higher expectations when it comes to working around the clock. As such, an NYC client may see tight deadlines as being more reasonable than others.
Alternatively, the United Kingdom is a country steeped in tradition. If you’ve ever wondered about (or had personal experience with) what it’s like to work in the voice acting industry across the pond, this article is for you.
London, England is a Hub for Voice Over Jobs in the UK
When it comes to where voice over work is conducted, London, and specifically the SOHO neighborhood, near Leicester Square and Piccadilly, is a central hub. Rich with record shops, vintage clothing shops, costume designer stores and artsy production companies, SOHO is a dynamic, tight-knit community where neighbors not only know one another, they band together.
Considering the pressure to pay sky-high rental costs, many companies with complementary skill sets often pool resources, and referrals. For instance, you might find a 3D animation company on the floor above a video production company, with illustrators working in the basement. They may all chip in on coffee and snacks, as well as refer clients back and forth.
Casting Voice Actors in London is Done Through Agents, Not Casting Directors
The North American market may recall that the traditional model of casting voice actors involved booking studio time, scheduling rounds of auditions, shortlisting actors using a casting director and final hiring decisions made by the production’s director.
In contrast, in London, the role of casting director is frequently owned by the agent, who selects voice actors based off of their demos and reputation for previous work. Clients trust the agents and agencies to provide them with voice actors that are suitable, from their roster of talent.
Essentially, the client will call up the agent, describe the project and the voice they’re looking for. The agent then advises the client if they have a suitable voice. With no audition required, the client trusts the agent to make the best selection, and the chosen voice actor is subsequently sent straight to a traditional recording studio to perform the script.
The Equity Actors’ Union is Not as Frequently Leveraged by Voice Talent as it is by Stage Actors
Equity is the UK trade union for professional performers and creative practitioners. That said, voice actors don’t seem to be quite as active in the union space as others, such as actors who perform on stage.
However, when it comes to rates for payment for voice over work, the rates set by the union are used as guidance.
Additionally, according to several UK agents, the union is structured in a way that supports talent first and foremost, meaning agencies often must advocate for themselves.
UK Voice Acting Talent Agencies are Simple to Start-up and Are Going Digital
If an individual is interested in starting a voice acting agency, there is no formal contract that they have to enter through the actor’s union, meaning the barrier to entry to work in entertainment is low. In London alone, there are around 100 talent agencies, although only about 10 of those are considered to be major players.
In general, the cost of having an agent is considered to be an acceptable cost of business for many actors. Voice talent don’t mind paying 10 – 20% of their earnings to an agent, so long as that agent is connecting the actor to ample work opportunities.
Talent are also exclusive to their talent agent, and work with the same individual or agency. Conversely, in North America, many actors are accustomed to having different agents within different regions. However, when you consider that most of the recording work occurs in London, it makes sense that sourcing representation in other geographies wouldn’t be an issue.
And on the subject of geography… In consideration of the global market for voice over, and in particular, the high demand for UK voices, many agents are bringing their roster of voice talent onto online platforms where talent, especially those who have invested in home studios, stand to benefit.
Many UK Voice Actors Don’t Have Their Own Home Studio
This is another notable difference, as, in contrast with North American voice actors who find it liberating to work from home in their own studio, many voice actors in London leverage recording studio space instead.
However, in the instances where speed of production is required (or a bonus), those who have invested in home studio equipment are benefiting from their ability to beat out the competition.
In terms of the tech requirements for recording, many UK voice actors who work from home use ISDN to record, and Skype for visual direction.
As a standard of business, voice actors in the UK have scratch tracks paid for, and typically operate within three divisions:
- commercial work
- celebrity voices
- promotions and youth
Have You Worked in the UK or for a UK Company?
What differences or nuances did you notice in the way that business is conducted?
What did you like and what did you find challenging?
Do you think speed of production is going to continue to become an important factor behind who UK clients hire to voice their work?