Why custom demos are more attractive – for different reasons than you may think!

In an audition situation, talent who submit custom demos are usually rewarded with extra attention and regard from the client receiving the auditions. While this may seem obvious, the psychology behind the submission and reception of custom demos is highly overlooked.

On the voice talent side of the equation, the goal is to present the client with something that best reflects the project requirements while demonstrating his or her vocal abilities in a practical manner. Recording the custom demo also gives a talent the option to include that significant tidbit of information in their written proposal, catching the eye of the client and raising interest levels in their submission.
That being said, when clients receive custom demos, they usually give them more weight than a stock demo submission, especially if they are presenting the demos to their own clientele.

From the clients point of view, a talent who submits a custom demo is more keen to work for their company. Considering their interest level and the time they invested to record a custom demo, the client may also perceive the talent as more qualified to work for them. Though custom demos are regarded as more relevant, did you know that sometimes clients truly NEED custom demos?

paint-sample.jpgTrying to conceptualize what a final product will sound or look like without a custom sample to reference from is extremely difficult. I can relate to that. For example, recently I helped pick out paint colors for our home. Being better with words than visuals, my ability to select a complementary color palette without seeing the paint on the wall was next to impossible. Abstract thinking is not my specialty.

This method could also be called the “I’ll know it when I see it / hear it” method. Many of us are like that. You need to see the real thing, not merely a projection or thumbnail of the real thing. The same goes for those among us who cannot ‘picture’ what their voice-over will sound like from a generic demo. While people have an understanding of the kind of music they like to listen to, they may not be as sensitive to the nuances of a spoken word demo that is not familiar to them or does not relate to their identity as an organization.
Have any of you experienced that?

Custom demos take time, but if recorded with the right motivations and precautions, they more than serve their purpose. You are giving the client something greater than just a sample of your voice reading copy… you are giving them a taste of precisely what their voice-over will be like, and with that very important ingredient comes peace of mind.

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Stephanie Ciccarelli is the Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Classically trained in voice, piano, violin and musical theatre, as well as a respected mentor and industry speaker, Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario. Possessing a great love for imparting knowledge and empowering others, her podcast Sound Stories serves an audience that wants to achieve excellence in storytelling. Stephanie is found on the PROFIT Magazine W100 list three times (2013, 2015 and 2016), a ranking of Canada's top female entrepreneurs, and is the author of Voice Acting for Dummies®.


  1. The hiring agent is given a big clue as to the professionalism of the Talent if they can’t even offer a “quick” custom demo…
    The self-employed Voiceover Talent should have ready access to a professional-grade studio (even one that is their own). So a custom demo that takes 5 minutes to create isn’t that big a deal for someone who wants to take this industry seriously.

  2. Perhaps the major bonus of IV, is that almost always, we are presented with some sort of script, it may need work, 280 words may not fit the 30 sec the client would like (!!!!) but there is something to get on with.
    Generics are always a compromise and as Steph rightly states, with a custom work, “you are giving them a taste of precisely what their voice-over will be like”.
    I also feel that I already have enough to do in getting that bit right, without having to research the company and perhaps even create a mock demo….. after all, the client is best placed to know their style, market and intentions, anything I might do without discussion will surely fall short of their actual need.
    I would go so far as to suggest that even if there is not a script, clients ought to consider providing a standard read for comparison….even if it is only a nursery rhyme !!
    In conclusion, as to safeguarding work from the few unscrupulous traders out there??
    I have a subtle little bell watermark that can easily be removed from the final version…2 copies, one with, the other without !!

  3. Well put and good analogy! I try to provide the potential client with a custom demo every time. I think it’s important and it shows a genuine interest in the project to the client. I will also give the client more than one or two different reads over the beds I include. When I perform a custom demo from my home studio, I make sure I protect my work with water marks as well – hoping not to offend the client, but at the same time protecting the investment of time that goes into each custom demo.

  4. Stephanie,
    You’ve hit the nail on the head with this post. Unless the person or company seeking talent specifically requests a stock demo of some kind, I don’t reply if I can’t do a custom demo.

  5. I’m with Bob Souer…if we put ourselves in the shoes of the producer, we would want a custom demo too. I would want to hear what you have to offer my production…I don’t want to hear you promoting/selling etc. others products, I want to hear what you would do to make my copy come alive!
    99% of my auditions are Custom.

  6. New to the biz (just signed on to IV last weekend) and having a great time. I have been doing custom demos also from home studio.
    Does a water mark really prevent misuse of work or would I put it in a second track under a bit of verbage?
    Before or after verbage seems rather easy to edit out. I have just been doing partial reads to get a taste of the flava!

  7. Stephanie:
    As a complete newcomer, I scan your blogs with interest, hoping to glean a few kernels of the things I must know and do to be part of the team. I had been mulling over the best approach to the “demo on website” challenge.
    Is it considered in bad taste to ask for the chance to hear some samples of demos? I just don’t want to put together some lame attempt and get laughed off the planet!
    Also, how are we protected from having our work stolen and being told it was rejected, if we make the demo sound like exactly what the buyer wants? If the market is not local, we would never know it was in use. Sorry… just new, and a little paranoid.

  8. A custom demo is absolutely the best way to increase your chances of landing a job. A client or agent looking for a voice talent will be listening to dozens of responses from potential talents. Sampling a radio imaging demo or monster truck promo doesn’t provide a clear enough picture by which to judge a talent for a corporate narration or a telephone messaging system.
    If you were interested in buying a Corvette you wouldn’t want to have to make your decision by test driving a mini van. A custom demo gives the client a precise example of what their finished product will sound like. It also assures them that you can fulfill their requirements exactly as they have requested.
    Having said that, a watermarked custom demo is essential for those short reads where the entire demo could potentially be the finished product. However, if the custom demo is a short paragraph for an entire audio book I’ll skip the watermark knowing that my demo will be of no use to the client in and of itself. I use a low frequency beep on a separate track that can easily be removed if I book the job. It’s unobtrusive enough that it doesn’t interfere with the clients ability to judge my work but prominent enough that it renders the demo unusable as a final product.

  9. Hi Jay,
    Thank you for your comment. My advice, as many others on the site would encourage, is to listen to the voice demos of your colleagues at our website on their web pages. There’s no shame in learning from the best!
    You’ll get a general idea of what is considered acceptable and also learn from their performances too.
    With regard to protecting your work, you can include sound logos or water marks in your recordings. In the post about royalty-free music and sound effects, there are links to sources where you can find great sound bites to protect your work with.
    Thank you to everyone who comments on the blog – it really shows just how much you care about the voice industry and provides an exceptional road map for those starting out in the business.

  10. Stephanie,
    Thanks for another great topic. As I mentioned in another post somewhere on this site, another way to protect your work is to provide a partial read of the script. I’ll generally fade out part way through the read. They get an idea of the overall sound, but they don’t get the total sound.
    On another note, I hope will start offering some type of instruction to those ASKING for custom demos. I saw a job posting recently that asked for all sorts of things in the demo including music and sound effects. It’s one thing to do a custom read. It’s quite another to do an entire production to get the gig.
    I generally explain in my written communication that I can provide only the voice in the audition, but I’ve never been awarded a job from one of these companies so perhaps that turns them away. More recently, I’ve simply decided not to respond. Sometimes the jobs look decent, but I can’t afford the time to be doing free production for people.
    How do others respond to these types of postings?
    Rich Roszel


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