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Voice Over Technology with Bill DeWees

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Geoff Bremner
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Join Bill DeWees as he talks about advances in technology in the world of voice over. How does technology change the voice over business? How can we adapt as voice over artists to these changes to technology? One thing is for sure according to Bill DeWees – “technology always wins”. All that and more on this episode of Voice Over Experts. You won’t want to miss it!

Participant #1:
This is Bill DeWise, your Voices July featured coach. I'm a full time voice over talent and have been for the past 16 years, having recorded for clients like Disney and Walmart and CBS, United Airlines, the PGA Tour, Fox Sports, John Deere, and the list goes on and on. The type of projects that I've been involved in spans the gamut commercials, promos, industrials, a lot of Elearning ADR, character voices for video games, audiobooks, you name it. I have probably done it at some point in time. I've also been a voiceover coach for the past decade, a high performance voiceover coach that takes a holistic approach to coaching. I consider myself a career coach. So it's about performance, but it's also about the business aspects of voiceover that allow you to actually be profitable as a voiceover talent. In addition to that, I'm also a demo producer. Now, the topic of today is technology and the voiceover business. Interestingly enough, about 30 years ago, I was teaching a marketing course in an MBA program, and the primary focus of that course was the impact of technology and business. And here we are, decades later, having that same discussion, however, with a lot of changes, which have precipitated many changes within business in general, but certainly voiceover specifically. I remember at that time teaching about things like automation, computerization, the effect of email, and electronic communication. These technologies lead to decentralization, a flattened hierarchy within the organization, globalization, displaced workers, a need to learn new skills, increased competition, better products, lower prices. Does that ring a bell? Yes. The same kind of things that we're dealing with today in the voiceover industry. Before I go any further, I want to make a couple of statements, and I think it's important to engrave these on your mind, because I think if you understand these statements and the principles that they represent, it will make your life much easier. What is this? Technology always wins. You can fight it, you can cry about it, you can complain, you can organize against it, but technology always wins. The second is adapt or die. You either learn to work with it or it crushes you. The beautiful thing about technology as it relates to business is that it has democratized business, meaning it's given access to all. It's not just for a few. And it doesn't matter where you live or what your background is or even what your skill set is, as long as you're willing to learn. Technology has given us unprecedented access. Let me ask you a few questions. Have you ever taken an Uber or Lyft? Have you ever stayed at an Airbnb? Have you ever used WhatsApp instead of using a traditional phone to call or text? If you've answered yes to any of these questions, you have effectively participated in the destruction of the old economy, and you have hastened the rise of the Information age. You see, any time you take an Uber or you use DoorDash or you stay in an airbnb or a number of other activities which we simply take for granted. We are putting people out of business. We're forcing them out of jobs and forcing them to either learn new skills and get new jobs or simply be out of work. I'm not saying that to make you feel bad. You shouldn't feel bad. I'm just simply stating that that is the way the world works. So what we see now is not necessarily what we'll see five years from now or certainly ten years from now. So changing today does not mean that we don't have to change in the years to come. So develop the mindset that wherever technology takes you, you'll simply retool learn the skills that you need to and leverage the technology to help your growth as a voiceover talent. Now, let's take a moment to talk specifically what that means to us working in voiceover. A quick story. I remember a number of years back when I was working in radio, I attended a radio conference in Nashville and I saw on the agenda that there was a workshop where a couple of voiceover guys were going to be talking about being in the voiceover business, which I found absolutely fascinating. I mean, how cool would that be, right? So I attended and I will never forget and understand this is right around 1990, so this is a few years back, but one of the gentlemen said that to be able to set up a good quality home studio, you would need to put out $50,000. That was way more than I was making a year, so my dreams were immediately dashed. One of the greatest impacts of technology is the ability to create higher quality equipment, produce it cheaper and to sell it cheaper. We now have access to great equipment at an affordable rate which generations before us did not have. Secondly, we can more easily create a professional home studio environment. And let me just as an aside, quickly say that your studio environment will play a much bigger role in the quality of your audio than the equipment that you use. But there are great acoustic materials that are now available to us that are engineered specifically for producing high quality audio. It's affordable to buy a computer that's adequate for our needs as voice actors. And also technology has resulted in companies being able to produce software emulations of incredible hardware. So in other words, instead of spending tens of $1,000 on EQS and compressors and voice processing, we can affordably for a few dollars, I mean, just a literal fraction of what it used to cost to be able to produce the same sound through software. A huge one is access to work. The first time that I really got serious in terms of thinking about becoming a voice talent was in the mid ninety s. At the time. I had a successful career, I had a family to support a wife and three children. As I did my research, I was heartbroken to realize that the business model of Voiceover at that time was you get an agent, then you drive to your agent's office, or you drive to a studio to do auditions. Imagine every time you do an audition, you have to travel to a studio. Now, I was living in the Chicago area, but I lived an hour outside of downtown. I already had a career fulltime job I was responsible for. So can you imagine the hour drive there, being there for a couple of hours, and then the hour drive back? That's like a half day just for one audition. And then if you got the job, you would have to take another half day off just to drive in and do the job. It became apparent quickly that it was not realistic for me to support my family while pursuing a Voiceover career because simply the technology did not exist to allow me to bypass that system. Now, the good news is, today we can completely and utterly bypass that system because the gatekeepers and this is a huge effective technology, has minimized, if not eliminated, the need for gatekeepers. What does that mean? Well, we're talking things like unions or I guess in the case of Voiceover, specifically union, and also agents, casting directors. Now, I'm not saying there's not a place for agents and casting directors, but what I am saying is they are no longer the primary gatekeepers. As a matter of fact, I look at an agent as a marketing channel, but not as a business plan, because technology now allows us to work directly with clients or to access clients via platforms like Voices, for instance. Another example of how Voiceover has changed because of technology is globalization. It's easier access to clients outside of where we would typically work and people we would typically work with. The beautiful thing about having access to these platforms or to be able to direct market, is that we can now work with clients literally around the globe. I've got regular clients that I work with in Europe. Approximately 25% of all my business comes from Europe, brazil, China, Russia, Japan, certainly Canada, the Middle East. Can you imagine that 20 or 30 years ago? So the net result is the market is expanding. It's getting cheaper to create content. So the amount of content that's being created is growing exponentially. Much of that needing voice over work also as a result of having access to equipment that is affordable, we see a proliferation of Voiceover talent. So when somebody says, well, there's too many people now involved no, there's not, because the market continues to expand and grow, creating opportunities for everyone. Another net result of technology is that voiceover rates are going down, at least compared to what they were 15, 2030 years ago. And that's a simple equation of supply and demand. That's what drives prices what we see in the marketplace is an abundance of jobs, an abundance of people. It's extremely easy to create home studios, to create the content, and now we have a lot of people who are trained to do this. So what you're going to see is a continued reduction in rates. Now, how low will that go? Nobody knows for sure. But what I do know, and I know this from experience, not only for myself, but working with hundreds of other students, is that you can still make a very good, a lucrative living recording voiceovers if you're willing to adapt to the new rules of the game. So opportunities are growing. They're available like never before. The market is expanding exponentially. And the way things look on the horizon, there is no slowdown in the foreseeable future. So remember, this is all happening because of technology. It's democratize this business, allowing us all to participate and for us all to profit. The barriers to entry are low. If you're willing to work with the technology, leverage technology to your advantage, you can ride the wave and build a successful and thriving voiceover business. Remember, technology always wins. And the key to success is to adapt rather than die. If you're interested in learning more about my voice over coaching, I would love to hear from you. You can simply reach out to Voiceover [email protected] Thanks for joining us for this episode.

Geoff Bremner

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