Woman announcer at radio station
In this final chapter of the series “Vital Signs”, I have two fabulously talented educators with me here on VOX Daily sharing their thoughts on how those of you who come from radio can free yourself from broadcast radio bondage. What I’m saying may come as a surprise to many people but just because you come from radio doesn’t mean that you’re by virtue of that fact already a voice actor or that voice acting will come easily to you.

This article will explain how voice acting and radio differ and will help those who come from radio lose their “radioness”, ditching the sing-songy sound that some women carry over from broadcast and also the announcery baggage that men bring to the table when they enter the business of voice over.

Radio is Not Voice Over… Weird But True!

This idea has been floating around in my head for a number of years and now seems to be the appropriate time to explore it. When deciding how to present this, I wanted to give you the perspectives of two voice over teachers, their thoughts, and also share how people from radio who enter voice over (this is a very large number of people) can make it in the voice acting business without sounding like they’re still behind the mic at the radio station which is a very different style of speaking than that of what is expected of a voice over actor.

Elaine Clark

Elaine Clark

Voice One
Author of “There’s Money Where Your Mouth Is”
Voice actors and Radio personalities have one thing in common: a microphone.
Other than that, the businesses are completely different.

Here are the differences:
1. For DJs, personality and vocal quality are the stars of the show. With voice actors, the client information is the star and the actor’s voice and acting skills support that key information.

2. DJs spend a lot of air time ad libbing. Voice actors ad lib a little, but primarily read from a script and have to learn how to make those words sound natural and real.

3. When a voice actor records a commercial, the spot is read many times and often cut together to mine the most impact out of the copy. Radio personalities rarely read a commercial more than once; they either read it live or record it down and dirty at the end of the day to satisfy an obligation.

For a radio personality to break into the freelance voice-over world, they have to leave their DJ job at the door and learn how to step back from the starring position, relax the “pipes,” let the words motivate the listener to take action, and sound REAL. It takes practice, but it can be done.

Elaine Clark
Voice One
San Francisco, CA

Marc Cashman

Marc Cashman

The Cashman Cache of Voice-Acting Techniques
Ask The Voice Cat
As a voice acting instructor and coach, I encounter a lot of people, mostly men, occasionally women, who’ve been in Radio for some time and want to transition into full-time voice acting. And they seem to have one thing in common–the dreaded “Radio Voice,” which, when agents hear their V-O demos, run screaming out of their office.

The Dreaded “Radio Voice”

What accounts for this aural phenomenon? Well, a few things.
Many radio DJs, announcers or personalities wear headphones while they’re on the air, and have basically fallen in love with the purring, resonant sounds of their own voice.
Most have been inculcated by their program director to deliver station-written and produced copy in the same style that they talk on the air, because that’s what the advertiser wants and is paying for. And many Radio people have listened to their predecessors for years, and have consciously or unconsciously emulated them.

Radio people do have, however, a lot of skill-sets that many people in the voice-over world don’t appreciate.
They have excellent eye-brain-mouth coordination, i.e., they’re able to lift words off a page effortlessly, without stumbling over any words, rarely omitting or adding any, and giving them a ton of energy. They’re also able to speak very fast, with outstanding articulation, and an amazing ability to “shoe-horn” seventy seconds of copy into a sixty-second spot.

They have wonderful cold-reading ability, since most of them come from the “rip and read” school of “this just in” on-air announcing.
On-air personalities are able to ad-lib extremely well, particularly in testimonials, giving advertisers a lot of bang for their buck. But most incredibly of all, they’re able to do all these things live, with thousands, hundreds of thousands or possibly millions of people listening to them. That’s a hell of a lot of pressure on a person, something that most professional voice actors rarely, if ever, encounter. We’ve got an audience of maybe a dozen people maximum hanging on our every word.

I explain to my students that the aforementioned skills are vital to a professional voice actor, and, truth be told, many of the Radio people I work with trying to transition into voice acting are able to find their niche.
I also remind my students that not everyone is cut out to be an actor. I know a lot of voiceover people doing a ton of non-acting work: announcing, corporate narration, e-Learning and instructional modules, phone-on-hold systems, pre-recorded announcements, etc., and are making quite a nice living. Heck, someone who comes into the studio for fifteen minutes to record a legal tag for a campaign can make more money than the actors, because the legal tag is tacked onto all the radio and TV spots!

But what can a Radio person do to not sound like a Radio person?

The main reason some Radio people have a challenging time transitioning into voice acting is because they haven’t been trained or taught how to act. So first, take voice acting classes. Learn how to speak conversationally, talking to just one person, not the multitudes. You can even take acting classes, to learn how to set a mood or attitude and find the emotional hook.

Second, don’t audition with your headphones on. Unless you’re doing a phone-patch and need to hear the director from a remote location, or you’re in a three-way trialogue with other performers who are in a separate room, don’t listen to yourself in your phones–you’ll just perpetuate that Radio mind-set of style over substance.

And third, concentrate on delivering copy in the same way you talk to people (or pets) you love–your siblings, your kids, your spouse or girlfriend/boyfriend, your parents–just not the way you talk to your audience. Because believability comes in talking to just one person, preferably someone you know who fits the target audience you’re talking to.
As long as you’re truly sincere and invested in what you’re talking about, chances are you’ll eventually lose the dreaded “Radio Voice.”
Marc Cashman
The Cashman Cache of Voice-Acting Techniques
Los Angeles, CA

Transitioning From Radio To Voice Over

Moving from radio to voice over isn’t easy as you’ve read but it is achievable! Many of our great teachers today help talent to make the transition and encounter it quite often in their voice over studios. If you’d like to make the leap and need some help doing so, feel free to contact either Elaine, Marc or reach out to any of the voice over experts that we refer at Voices.com through the Voice Over Experts podcast.

Have You Made The Switch From Radio To Voice Acting? How Was It For You?

Best wishes,
©iStockphoto.com/Andrey Tsidvintsev


  1. I have been a radio host in Belgium for more than 17 years between 1981 and 1999. In 2005 I started doing voice-acting. I was very fortunate to have taken some acting classes and to have done some theater back in the 1980’s. Now depending on the voice-over job, a radio voice can be a blessing or a curse.
    It really helps to record your voice without wearing a head-set. The problem is that when you’re in the voice-booth you really need to hear the directions given to you. So you work with the headphones on your head. Also, when you’re revoicing movies that had been voiced in another language before, you need to hear the other sounds on the track to get the timing right.
    But there’s no substitute for training. At home, take a text and record your voice without the head-set. And when you voice a movie, try to get yourself into the scene. Play it. Talk to the microphone as if it is a person. It might even help to put a figure of some sort on the microphone and talk to that character.
    And remember that on the radio, you may say “I love you” with the same tone of voice you say “I’m gonna kill you.” In voice-acting you can’t. If you say “Arnold Schwarzenegger is the Terminator” you’d better not say in with the same tone in your voice you would use to say “Mercedes gets you there with class.”
    The worst thing to do is to take your text and read it directly into the microphone. Think about the words, wait untill the words make sense to you, then you will find the right tone. As long as the words don’t make sense to you, you won’t say them the right way. Remember acting is 90% thinking about the words/action/scene and 10% preforming them/it. That goes for voice-acting too.
    If you know how to fly an airplane and the actor who plays the part of a pilot in the movie you’re watching doesn’t, he will never convince you he is flying the plane. So in order to convince you he is flying a plane, the actor would do well to take flying lessons or to have a real pilot assist him whilst acting. The same applies to voice-actors. They too have to convince people.

  2. As a broadcast veteran of almost 40 years, you might be interested to learn that today’s smart radio announcers have actually taken a page from the voice actors’ handbook — we’re sounding more conversational on the air. I changed my announcing style a good 8 to 10 years ago when it was pointed out to me by a radio consultant that our audience wasn’t listening for a “big-voiced announcer” but a friendly, conversational voice on the air. So my patter changed immediately from, “There’s the Beatles from 1964!” to “Remember that Beatle tune from your 8th grade dance?” While the change seems minor, it speaks volumes about catching the listener’s ear when she’s got her iPod sitting next to her ringing cellphone on her desk while she’s watching a viral video on-line with the radio on in the background! All these devices competing for the same ears? It’s frightening.
    So the distance between a good radio announcer and a successful voice actor may not be as far apart as we think. “The times they are a-changin’.”

  3. I have done VO from the beginning of my radio career so many years ago that I don’t want to “date” myself! 🙂 It was easier back then because a more “announcery” read was in for VO talent as well. But, as in any industry, you’ve got to adapt with the changes in the industry.
    The biggest difference, as I see it, is that an air personality typically speaks his/her own words. A VO talent has to take a script, written by someone else, and make the words his/her own.
    Excellent comments by Elaine and Marc. In fact, some of the things Marc touched on are part of what I’ll be talking about in the October issue of the FREE VoiceOver Insider Magazine. (If you’re not a subscriber, you can sign up at http://www.voice-overs.com)
    Radio and VO are totally different animals, but as Beau Weaver said at VOICE 2008 (He came from radio, too) if you are willing to have “beginners mind” as you transition to VO from radio, you’ll do fine.
    Really, it’s been my experience that when my VO students with radio backgrounds put what I say through the “filter” of what they “know” to be true (what they learned through radio experience) they’ll piddle around making $50 bucks now and then in VO. However, if they’re willing to learn, as Beau said, and trust what they’re learning (not dismiss it based on their experience) … they rise very quickly in VO, because they do have some extremely valuable skills already.
    Have A Blessed Day!
    Julie Williams “VoiceOver Chocolate”

  4. Hi,
    Having a career in radio that spanned 23 years, I can honestly say I can relate to having that “radio voice”. I started my career as an on air personality and eventually moved into production. Luckily, for me I was the only female “non-air personality” that could cut spots when air talent didn’t want to be associated with that particular advertiser/subject or we needed a two voiced spot. This gave me opportunities to work on losing my “radio voice” and having fun acting parts for commercials.
    I was also fortunate to have a production director that was very honest, patient and giving in his criticisms, skills and experience. I still have a ways to go but with 2 children (15 & 8 months), I do not have the time nor money to afford lessons at this time. Instead, I look for great blogs like this one… print them, and read them daily!
    Thanks for hitting on this subject!
    Robin Wolf

  5. Thanks to Marc and Elaine for those helpful reminders! I especially agree with the “take your headphones off” comment. It works for me EVERY time!

  6. Hello Marc Cashman and Elaine Clark:
    Great article. I am one of those people who is and has been making that transition from Radio to Voice acting. It’s like re-inventing the wheel. What I found comfort in is the assets you listed. I started full time on the air in Radio in 1974 when red hot rock jocks were at their height. My voice already sounded like that and I had a delivery that suited Radio. Shoot I got hired because I was singing with my band and the PD from the Radio station heard me ad libbing between songs and said he thought I had the gift. I was on the air with my own show the next week and learned to rip and read and be cool, scream and still relax in front of 100’s of thousands of people. I spent a few years composing my own music and recording music in the studio and have released 14 of my own albums which probably added to my sing song approach as was mentioned in your article. I’ve had a few Agents who probably were not honest with me about why they were not getting me voice over work. I got frustrated with the last one because it was a few years with no work. Here I was thinking, shoot I have tons of experience, why am I not being let back in. It’s not easy to look at oneself and recreate but that’s what has to be done. I did take some acting classes. I see the total difference. I understand the natural way of speaking. Working without headphones does work.
    I started doing band interviews and producing packages of their music with recorded talk (talk) to try to break my Radio voice. I still want the enthusiasm in this type of show and I get the chance from time to time to celebrate that old radio voice, on purpose. At least now I now what I’m doing and why.
    I was seriously injured in 1998 and have become disabled and have no choice but to make a living in a business where I got my beginnings. I cannot hold a regular job and have nothing coming in other than what I create myself. God has gifted me with talent though. I’m a celebrated visual artist, musician and composer and have my own in home studio with decent equipment and I know how to produce music and production. I started editing tape. It’s changed so very much. I use Power tracks 12 because I had started with that program 10 years ago and all the other programs have copies it. It’s compatible with cakewalk.
    I would love to do some copy and have you rip it apart for me. My voice is so very programmed to radio that people hear me talking and come up and ask if I work on the Radio. That’s terrible. Or people will say, you have a good radio voice. I have to make this work or I’ll be dead. I have no other way to survive. The Government sure doesn’t help disabled people. I’ve found that out. I was working for the Government when I got injured and they destroyed my life to keep me quiet. It’s up to me.
    I’ve been lucky and started to sell my publishing to young performers. It’s good when they pay.
    I do so want to be making my living in the voice over world. I fired my last agent and tried to leave on good terms but what I was most concerned about is his lack of honesty. I asked time and time again what is the problem. I’m willing to change, I’ll stay awake all night like the old days working in the studio to make a change and get it right. I’ll break my soul to make it work. I’ll do anything. I’m not a quitter and I don’t care if my feelings get hurt and I cry cuz that’s easy to happen if one is shown their true self. But then it’s time to get over it and learn to shine.
    I need some help and that’s embarrassing. How could a 50 year old guy, who has good looks and decent voice need help. It’s only good that I realize that. Your article is a real eye opener. I must admit my first reaction was, so is this some 20 year old kid just out of school who is trying to make his mark with an article, then I saw who you were and woke up! You’re trying to help.
    My show Hart of the Music I’ve created for Podcast and Internet and Broadcast Radio is the best thing I could have done to break my Radio voice bonds because I’m having conversations. My best verse is when I drop the question sheet and just enter the conversation ad lib. Everything becomes so natural. Oh I wish I could have the best of both worlds.
    There is a great deal missing from Radio and the music business. It’s changed and people are hurting badly. Radio has become boring. Even talk radio is slipping a little.
    I’m not making any money with my voice right now doing voice over and I do so want to get in on the game. I have tons of energy, totally positive attitude, and I’ll work round the clock if need be. I’m a work horse with unstoppable energy. Maybe that’s my downfall I don’t know.
    Anyway I’d love to do some sides and have you tell me where I’m at. I’m broke right now. Maybe you’d like a nice granite statue or painting but I sure don’t have money for classes. I just need to pointed in the right direction and I’ll fly. I’ll be honest I’ve been an Actra member since 2000 and have a resume I can send you for reference but it put me out of work. I sue to hustle around and get a few car dealerships and do their spots and make an OK living. I joined Actra and it gave me a good online resume that I use every day for my show with the bands but other than that it put me out of work because no one wants to pay residuals. I’m working the other side of the fence for a while to see if it’s where it’s at. Oh shame on me. I need to break the Radio Voice and get into Voice Over for real.
    Kindest Regards,
    John David Hart

  7. Well this article really hit home with me. I have been in radio for a decade now and I must agree… Radio and Voice Acting really are two different animals. I was trained in radio by radio people and picked up many of the same skills as well as bad habits when applied to voice acting. I initially thought my radio background would be an advantage but quickly realized many clients are not looking for the Radio Guy voice.
    I trained with the Creative Voice Development Group (Voice Coaches) out of Albany NY and it helped me tremendously. Sure I still have the tendency to want to go into Radio Guy Mode but, I know now what to do to stop it. I’m not sure I could have made the transition without some training. My coaches helped me to do the things talked about in this article which is primarily to stop speaking to the masses and start speaking more conversationally to a person.
    Thanks to my training with Voice Coaches and exposure on Voices dot com I have landed several jobs in a fairly short amount of time.
    I continue to work on my craft and try to learn from other pros. As a Radio Guy I believe you can make the transition, but with some training and lots of practice.
    Paul Hernandez

  8. You don’t! I have been in radio for 30 years and have found 1 thing, be yourself the same voice you talk to people over coffee should be that same voice you talk TO your listeners with. The people that have the “radio” sound are the people that talk AT their listeners. Pulling your voice is the WORST thing an announcer can do. Break That Habit NOW! Sorry but if there is one thing I stress when I give seminars and clinics is NEVER PULL YOUR VOICE it makes you a phoney and fake announcer.

  9. Great advice Nick! Do you find it’s hard for some people to drop the “announcer” voice? ^AH

  10. Yes because of BAD Teaching! I went to Humber college under the guidance of the Late Stan Lark. I also learn all my wonderfully bad habits from the likes of CFTR’s Jim Brady, Q107’s Scruff Connors and the late Jungle Jay Nelson. Working with wonderful people like Jim McLeod, now with BBM and currently working with the Legendary Dick Smyth I have been able to understand the difference of being in radio and being a Radio Person. Be real be yourself and most of all use 1 on 1 communication like you would at your kitchen table.

  11. I still remember that ridiculous commercial from the 70s for some “broadcasting school,’ where the jock cups his hand behind his ear, a la Gary Owens and pukes out, “You never know what you can do until you try.” I found it rather embarrassing even then and I’d not yet been in front of the mic. Fortunately, I got into voiceovers at 13–BEFORE I became a radio DJ and have been doing pretty well for 31 years and counting. I found out years ago from some ad agency folks that by mentioning my jock experience in my promotional package, it was tantamount to sending them a 6 day old dead chicken. They’d see that alphabet soup of call letters on my paperwork and drop the whole megillah in the nearest trash can. Although I’ve not been a jock since ’94, I wouldn’t think of even mentioning my DJ years in any of my VO promotional material, to avoid being instantly categorized.

  12. I agree with Nick completely. You have to be yourself otherwise someone will bust you out on it, and they’ll think your dishonest. I’ve been taught to never sugar coat anything. My boss has taught me how to make anything funny. He told me to bring a pic of my best friend and to talk to him rather than “The World”. We’re so not allowed to have “slop” voice 🙂


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here