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What’s the difference between how voice overs are auditioned for and cast on the east coast versus the west coast of the US?

Which coast is it easier to get representation on?
What challenges face talent, casting directors and agencies alike?
Find out the answer to these questions and more today at VOX Daily.

The New World of Voice Over Casting

Billy Serow, head of the voice over department at Abrams Artists Agency, knows a great deal about how business is done in The Big Apple as compared to Los Angeles.
In his world, which is the union world, the voice over business is structured very, very differently between the west coast and the east coast. The east coast is still for the most part a casting director driven business.

Having been a casting director before he was an agent, Billy witnessed the proliferation of the Internet and how it in turn provided a new space for talent casting sites and enabled talent agencies to build their own in house studios to compete.

How Did Things Go Before the Internet?
In the past, casting directors would require talent to come to their studio to audition for them with the benefit of their direction. In this way, the casting director would get some kind of credit from the advertising agency for doing a good job and choosing the right talent.

The Result:
Casting directors are fighting for their livelihoods because it is easy for talent to get an audition through their own efforts and some clients are casting gigs without the assistance of a casting director.

How a Casting Session Works

As was noted, New York is still a casting director driven business, but that being said, casting session budgets for voice overs are small. They are smaller than budgets for on-camera commercials. On the average for an on-camera audition, a casting director might audition 50 people or a hundred people for a role because they have the budget and the time and the day to do those auditions.

For voice over auditions, casting directors are usually given a half a day or a quarter of a day to do an audition, even if it is for a major, national campaign.
The number of actors who are auditioning for those sessions are maybe 8 to 20 to maybe 25 if it’s a very long half day.
What’s good then in the New York market is that your odds are then 1 in 20 of scoring the job.

West Side VS East Side

In LA, partially due to geographical reasons, there are very few casting directors who actually concentrate on voice overs because they can’t make a livelihood on it any more so most of the auditioning is done in an agent’s office at an agent’s studio.

If the job goes out in New York with a casting director, if a job goes out to 6 agents, and each agents sends in 3 or 4 people per job. In LA if the job goes out to 20 agents and they’re submitting 10 to 20 people, well, you can do the math. You’re competing against 200 to maybe even 400 voices. The structure of the business between Los Angeles and New York is very, very different and certainly easier to break into in the New York market as well as book jobs.

What Can Talent, Particularly in LA, Do To Get More Work?

Los Angeles-based A1 Voice Over Talent and author, Rodney Saulsberry, recommends that voice talent in LA should develop relationships with casting agencies. The competition you are up against in an audition at your agent’s office (combined with the other competing agencies) is a lot steeper than the competition you’d face on a boutique casting roster. A boutique casting agency may only list 8 to 15 people of each gender, which of course is more advantageous for talent, especially when you consider the competitiveness of talent agencies potentially vying for the same work.

Any Comments or Questions?

This insight was shared on an expert panel discussion I took part in. If you’re interested in reading more from that panel, click here: Voice Coaches Expo Expert Panel 2009.
Have you experienced a change in how casting is done in your neck of the woods? How have you adapted?
I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
Best wishes,
©iStockphoto.com/Kateryna Govorushchenko


  1. Hey, Stephanie,
    The union talent world is a world far removed from most of us. I have gone through the process of weighing union membership benefits with disadvantages since I do not live in or near a major market and every union member I’ve asked about it has told me it isn’t worth it IF you don’t live near a major market. So with a few carefully selected online subscription services such as Voices.com, my regular local and regional work and an agent, I can still make a pretty good living. As you always say, marketing is the key. And I’ll say it again: Marketing is the key. Spend the time, spend the money to get your voice out there. Remember, every time you audition for a job on Voices.com, you are putting your voice in front of someone who is in charge of HIRING VOICE TALENT. That, to me, is the most important part of my marketing plan. Put yourself out there enough, and the “deciders” will start to remember you…hopefully in a good way!


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