Gray Garbage Can
You know those words, phrases or terms that kind of make you go “hmm hmm” and wonder why they’re still around?
3 specific terms are among my pet peeves. Maybe they’re yours, too?


Why should “Demo Tape” be removed?
The term “Demo Tape” needs to hit the road because demos are no longer produced on cassette tapes and barely anyone uses cassette players in 2008. Similarly, “Demo Reel”, although it sounds cool and has agency elitism written all over it, is also passe. Same goes with “Agency Reels” or “House Reel”.

The term “Demo Reels” comes from a time when tape was wound around a “reel” which is not the case anymore thanks to digital audio recording technology. If you are using any of those words anywhere on your website or in your marketing materials, replace them with “Demo CD” or “Voice over demo”. Not only are those words out of fashion, they date you and may give the wrong impression as to your present capabilities and knowledge of the industry.


Why should “Voice Seeker(s)” be removed?
It infers that the person is simply looking or browsing rather than conveying a description of someone who has a mission to complete that includes hiring a voice over talent.
Secondly, apart from seeking a voice, it has nothing to do with voice over or voice acting. It could be someone who talks, sings, is a public speaker, has a voice, and so forth.

Thirdly, picture a relationship ad in the local paper, many go something like this:
“Man seeking woman”, or “Woman seeking man”
Not exactly the imagery you want coming to mind when describing your most valued client, whether perspective or otherwise.
Finally, “Voice Seeker(s)” is vague, noncommittal and is offensive to buyers of voice over services.


Why should “Pay to Play Sites” be removed?
This is probably the most annoying term that I’ve ever encountered let alone an inaccurate description of what it intends to communicate.
Pay to Play sites is a term associated with voice over marketplaces or any website that requires you to invest in a membership fee to access jobs to apply for. It’s a very negative connotation that our industry and the world would be a better place without.

Let’s get this straight.
When someone signs up for a membership and pays a fee to access job opportunities, they are paying a fee in order to receive upgraded customer service and gain access to job leads that have been qualified, laid before them and are ripe for the picking. No pavement to pound, no cold calling, no having to ask permission to send a demo. Talk about amazing opportunities to market your voice without having to lift a finger!

Marketplaces give you the ability to promote yourself like no other venue and calling them pay to play sites is a disservice to the companies that do provide remarkable value for little investment. If you’re really looking to replace it with something, try “Software as a Service”. Software as a Service (SaaS) is defined by Wikipedia as:

A model of software deployment where an application is hosted as a service provided to customers across the Internet. By eliminating the need to install and run the application on the customer’s own computer, SaaS alleviates the customer’s burden of software maintenance, ongoing operation, and support. Using SaaS also can reduce the up-front expense of software purchases, through less costly, on-demand pricing. From the sofware vendor’s standpoint, SaaS has the attraction of providing stronger protection of its intellectual property and establishing an ongoing revenue stream. The SaaS software vendor may host the application on its own web server, or this function may be handled by a third-party application service provider (ASP).

On behalf of all the services out there who have been mislabeled as such:

Aspiring Talent, Take Note:

Make sure that you are aware of the proper terminology being used today. While you need to know terms from previous decades (there are still people in certain parts of the industry who use them), you’ll find that the voice over industry is changing at a rapid pace and it will benefit you greatly to get in with the digital crowd.

By using voice over industry jargon (words used by those who work in voice overs), and by avoiding obsolete or inappropriate words or terms, you’ll find that your career-building efforts in the new reality of voice over will come easier as will communicating with the new school of industry leaders.

That Being Said, Professionals, I Turn To You:

Does what I shared make sense to you? Are there any terms that you’d like to see removed from voice over jargon?

Leave a comment!

Best wishes,
© ODonnell

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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. I don’t think there’s anything inherently negative about “Pay to play”. Let’s be honest, that’s an accurate description of sites such as To have any real success, you have to pay a membership fee to get access to auditions. This differentiates from traditional talent agencies who don’t charge an upfront fee, but take a commission when you land work.

  2. Thanks for your comment Jeffrey.
    Much of what you say does ring true, however, every time that I’ve read that specific term in forums it has been generally used in a negative context and grates on my nerves which is why it made my personal list.
    Using a marketplace to audition through should be perceived as a business expense to market your talent, not paying to play… it’s a cost of doing business and a means to get work.
    Anyone else have thoughts on words that should get the old heave ho?

  3. Good thoughts.
    I totally agree with your annoyance regarding the use of terms “tape” and “reel” in reference to demos.
    However, I don’t see a problem with the use of voice seeker, or pay to play. I don’t see how they are offensive.
    RE: pay to play… it is what it is. We pay to play… to have access to freelance auditions. We get to play in the sandbox, so to speak. And, if the seekers had to pay, well then, we might not call it pay to play. While the online marketplaces ARE absolutely fabulous and I do so appreciate them, it’s not like I don’t have to work for the jobs I land here.
    So, Stephanie et al, please don’t take that term so personally!!! I don’t think it’s meant to be offensive. I for one completely appreciate and all they do. THANKS!!!

  4. Yeah, I’m not sure why you’d be annoyed with “pay to play”, since it’s not free. It doesn’t imply a lack of opportunity, just that you have to pay to get it, which is accurate.

  5. Hi Caryn and Lou,
    Thank you for your comments. I appreciate hearing your thoughts.
    It sounds like so far the consensus is that the terms demo reels / demo tapes are out of style and those terms deserve a bon voyage.
    The concern with Pay to Play is the notion that playing is involved. There’s no denying that paid service is available as well as additional opportunities for those who want to pursue them.
    From a business point of view though, this isn’t a game to be played, but a means of executing on a strategy to further promote your voice. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like it’s more work than play for those of you auditioning as was pointed out in a previous comment.
    Perhaps I’m not being as clear as I could be.
    For instance, if you were to advertise with Google AdWords to promote your voice and get in front of prospective buyers, would that be considered playing? In my books, that’s advertising. You pay Google in order to create ads that can generate business leads for you. Similarly, if subscribed to a paid service that yields job application opportunities, you are paying for lead generation and the ability to communicate with the person who has posted the job.
    Does anyone want to suggest any words that they think are no longer useful to the voice over industry?
    Let’s take this conversation in a different direction.
    Thank you,

  6. Stephanie,
    There’s a fundamental difference, though, and that’s that “demo reel” refers to a specific object (as does “demo tape”) whereas “pay-to-play” is more of a nickname or catchphrase, and one that has been in our lexicon for many, many years and hasn’t lost its meaning due to advances in technology.
    Do a quick search on Google for the phrase “pay-to-play” and you’ll get over a million and a half results. People know what it means.
    And, as a long-time web developer, I can assure you that many people do in fact refer to systems like Google’s AdWords as a “pay-to-play” system.
    Again, type the following into Google itself…
    google adwords “pay-to-play”
    …and you’ll see thousands of references to adwords as a pay to play system.

  7. Stephanie,
    The fees I pay each year for my Professional Membership here and on other sites that require a membership fee comes from my advertising budget; because that’s what I’m doing: paying for access to potential clients.
    I can certainly understand why each of these terms is annoying to you, Stephanie; but none of them bother me all that much.
    Be well,

  8. Stephanie,
    I appreciate the importance you give to the use of language in this business… and I don’t mean just while one is recording. Accurate expression is critical… especially when so much is done across the miles.

  9. Stephanie,
    I agree with most of what you say. But I also agree with Jeff. Your site and others like are pay-to-play and the model should be examined. Those who hire us should be paying most if not all of your fees. The term pay-to-play is very descriptive, if it makes you un comfortable, then you should rethink your model.
    Another term I would like to see stop being used is describing more than one VO person collectively as “talents”. Webster defines the term talent, in reference to a person vs. an ability, as ” a person of talent or a group of persons of talent in a field or activity.” It is plural as well as singular.

  10. Hey Stephanie,
    I agree about “House Reels, etc. How about keeping it short & sweet: DEMOS or voice demos- fine. In this little part of the universe, we all know DEMO!
    I think the P2P, pay to play, voice over mall, or similar jargon refers to sites such as this one and others which seem to be popping up everywhere you look, and is recent descriptive jargon widely used and understood and communicated throughout the vo community. This may be a tough one to eradicate, but what do I know.
    As far as the term “Voice seeker”- We all know which site uses this term. It’s cumbersome to me and I personally don’t use it, except in a descriptive sense when referring to or quoting said site. The term, “Voice Seeker” was probably hatched as a keyword or adword in association with the industry for that site. I like CLIENT or “prospect”, or how ’bout “suspect”. Sorry I am getting silly. But what do I know?
    Thanks for listening.

  11. Hi all,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for sparking new areas of discussion.
    To acknowledge Lou, Pay to Play is probably a term we can’t get away from. I know that I can’t change everyone’s perception through this post. While that may be the case, please note that our team is sensitive to that word because we know as do many of our customers that we go above and beyond the call of duty where service and added-value is concerned and work hard to differentiate our offerings.
    Clients who use SurePay do pay a modest transaction fee to use the escrow service at A growing percentage of clients who post jobs are paying customers too and that number will grow exponentially as time goes by.
    Thank you also for bringing up new words. I look forward to reading more comments that highlight other terms that you deem obsolete or otherwise!
    Best wishes,

  12. Bravo Stephanie!
    I agree whole-heartedly. Especially all the references to “tape” I hear and read about. Great piece, well done!
    Chet Kelley

  13. Hi Stephanie,
    I grudgingly have to agree with you about the use of the words “tape” and “reel.”
    I’m one of those dinosaurs that has many fond memories of the days when Ampex and 3M were kings. It was one of life’s simple pleasures to remove a fresh reel from the box, throw it on the AG440, wind up the flywheel and record on it for the very first time.
    Granted, it is obsolete technology now, and these words now seem a bit archaic. But: how many other archaic words do we still use? For example; How many people actually ‘turn on’ a light or TV?
    However, I have to reluctantly move with the times and cease using those words.
    In public, anyway.
    In the privacy of my own home, away from prying and techno-savvy ears I shall still refer to tapes, valves and even 33rpm while I gaze longingly at the AG440 parked in the corner.
    Additionally, I think the following words should be removed from the VO-cabulary:
    2-Gratis/pro bono
    3-Any number with an insufficient amount of zeros at the end of it.

  14. Hi! I agree with the terms voice over demo, or demo CD.
    But I think the term pay to play is here to stay, because that’s what we’re doing.
    I think the money I’m paying to play with is money well invested, because you’re giving good value for money with the amount of leads and the podcasts, etc.
    Thanks again! Stefania 😀

  15. First off, 2 quick questions:
    1. How many of you still “dial” a phone number when making a call?
    2. How many of you still have a phone with a rotating disc on it?
    Point being: Language can be dynamic, and it can also remain static. In many European languages the “n” word is still used to describe people of African descent – without being offensive in any way!
    Saying reel or tape may seem silly because we still have such a clear idea of what reels and tapes are – unlike dials – think about it, when did you last use a “sun-dial”. Whereas having the feeling that the term “pay to play” is derogatory only comes from the negative context in which you, Stephanie, have heard it time and again. Most of us out here are like Europeans and the “N” word – we just haven’t been exposed to that negative context.
    I will probably never say demo tape or reel – I say files – my kids will probably say links – my grand kids will be dealing with artificial voice profiles.
    I will probably continue to say “pay to play”. It rhymes, it alliterates, and it fits. People who want everything on the Internet for free… well, I call them “moochers”.

  16. I’m totally late to this party, but I completely agree with Bobbin.
    Let’s just say “demo”.
    I think demo cd is already out of date. When I was working at the agency I would listen to every mp3 emailed in with 48 hours of receiving it. The cd’s mailed in would take WEEKS for me to chew through. Somehow the idea of taking time out of my day to open an envelope became to taxing LOL.


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