Are you booking as much as you could be? Jerry Buckner encourages you to hone your acting skills, explore your voice and work on a natural delivery that has some feeling in it. Highlights include practical examples from his own voice-over demos and a trio of trending voice-over reads he’s been tracking of late. Lastly, you’ll hear Jerry’s perspective on how to reply to clients when writing your proposal and his thoughts on setting fair rates for a job. Ultimately you are competing with yourself. Learn what you do best and then get better at it. Experiment with your voices and delivery and charge a fair rate.
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In addition to being a premier voice talent, Jerry Buckner is a successful songwriter, producer and artist who has written, produced or performed on a wide variety of recording projects including the “Theme To WKRP In Cincinnati,” the top 10 hit “On And On” by Anne Murray and the million selling classic 80s hit “Pac Man Fever.”
As a keyboardist and arranger, Jerry has scored original music for television and motion picture soundtracks along with jingles for a variety of commercial clients including Coke, Papa John’s, Direct TV and Waffle House.
In 2012 he co-produced and performed the title track to the hit Disney movie “Wreck-It Ralph” which received numerous awards including Critic’s Choice for “Best Movie,” Annie awards for “Best Movie” and “Best Soundtrack” and was nominated for an Oscar.
Welcome to Voice Over Experts, brought to you by Voices.com the number one voice over marketplace. Voice Over Experts brings you tips, pearls of wisdom, and techniques from top instructors, authors and performers in the field of voice over. Join us each week to discover tricks of the trade that will help you to develop your craft and prosper as a career voice over talent. It’s never been easier to learn, perform and succeed from the privacy of your own home, and at your own pace. This is truly an education you won’t find anywhere else. Now for our special guest.
Jerry Buckner: Hi I’m Jerry Buckner, and I’m going to talk about demo and audition tips for getting jobs on Voices.com.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, getting a voice over job is tough. There’s a lot of competition so just being good is not enough. You have to stand out from the crowd and that’s not always easy but I’m going to share some tips with you that’s helped me increase my job success rate.
Any given job posting on voices.com can generate up to 100 plus responses, so you need a demo that catches the client’s ear. I spent years trying to get work with very little success even though I had a good voice, and it was very frustrating. I knew other voice talents who were also having the same problem, but this went on until I accidentally figured something out that helped me get work, that I’ll share with you.
There’s three points I want to make but first let me give you a little background on myself and how I got into doing voice work. I played in bands for years, keyboards, and wrote songs with my best friend [Gary Garcia]. Finally we had success with a hit record in the ’80s called Pac-Man Fever. We also produced the theme to the hit TV show WKRP in Cincinnati, and most recently the theme song to the hit Disney movie Wreck-It Ralph.
But originally I actually wanted to get into radio right out of high school because I wanted to be a DJ. I mean I loved radio, I loved music and, you know I thought it was cool – I wanted to be a DJ. I grew up in North-East Ohio and I tell you that’s where some of the best radio in the country was – probably still is – and I really had a passion to do it. But the music business urge was stronger and I was making money in high school, so all that together I decided to stick with music.
But because of my success in the music business, years later I met and became friends with a lot of radio guys and I just never lost that urge for radio. And I loved comedy and doing character voices, so when one of my radio buddies got a job in Charlotte North Carolina, offered me a job doing character voices on a morning show, well I jumped at it. I mean I got paid for having fun – it was great.
When that show ran its course, I decided to try doing voice overs – I thought it would be pretty easy because of my experience in radio but I found out quickly that wasn’t true. I knew I was doing good reads on my demos but I wasn’t getting any jobs.
So I tried changing the EQ settings, including a lot of personal info on my replies to the clients, adding music to the demos, even talking directly to the client on the demo, but nothing seemed to work until one day I saw a demo posting on voices.com for a Southern-style voice over. Well I’d done a Southern-type character on the morning show I worked on for years but I never considered using it for a voice over demo.
So I thought well what have I got to lose? So I used the voice for the demo and got the job, but I still didn’t make the connection – I just hadn’t considered using character voices because I thought to get work, you had to have the typical straight-ahead, deep moving radio voice. But then I decided to use a voice again on another demo and I got that job too. I finally began to see a pattern, so I started looking for Southern and cowboy type postings and I even used it on some regular postings. I didn’t get all the jobs I replied to but I was doing a lot better and getting more jobs than I had been getting.
Well it occurred to me that maybe I should try some other character voices that I had and I found out that there were two more voices I did that the clients seem to like. But I also understood and realised it wasn’t just the Southern voice they liked, I was putting emotion into the delivery – I was acting and that made my demo stand out.
So point number one, hone your acting skills, work on a delivery that sounds natural and has feeling in it. The worst thing you can do is sound like you’re reading the script. It’s the same thing with singers recording a song in the studio; no matter what style of music, their delivery has to sound natural. The listener has to believe a singer or a voice over talent means what he’s saying. You’ll see clients and agents asking for a natural sounding delivery and that’s what they want.
Go on YouTube and listen to how actors like Morgan Freeman or Sam Elliot deliver their lines. Here’s an example of one of my demos, using a Southern delivery. “Yeah, ever since I was a little boy, I always wanted to see Alaska. The majestic waterfalls, huge trees and really neat wildlife are truly remarkable. When I took the tour, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing; bears and humming birds eating right out of your hand – this was definitely something to tell my friends at home about.”
Here’s another example of one of my demos, using a storyteller delivery. “Way back in the lush woodlands of Northern Ontario, tucked away in an area heavily forested and drowning in natural beauty, sits a small, nondescript town, with little more than 5,000 residents. There aren’t too many things here that really grab your attention, unless of course the subject is hockey.”
If you’re a female voice talent, pick out your favourite actresses and do the same thing. Notice how they don’t overdo their lines and that’s important. I’m not suggesting you have to sound like them but study their delivery and incorporate it into your character’s delivery.
If you don’t have any natural acting skills or just want to improve on your delivery, I suggest taking some acting classes – it’s well worth your investment. Also make sure you include the right tags for your voices. Some of the more popular voices requested today on voices.com are Southern American, storyteller and movie trailer. But there’s plenty of other popular categories so check them all out and go after the ones you feel are the strongest for you. And make sure you have a strong master demo that includes samples of all your characters.
And it goes without saying that you want to do the best quality of recording you can too and that’s going to be up to your individual taste of what equipment you want to use but of course that’s also very important too.
The second part of an audition I want to cover is your reply when you send your demo back to the client. A lot of people believe this is a very important part of the audition and will suggest a variety of things to say. Personally I can’t recall ever getting a job because of what I wrote to the client. Some people say to include your background and education and how fast you’ll get the voice over completed and back to the client, etc, etc. I take the opposite approach; I think most clients are trying to weed through the demos as quickly as possible and don’t have or will not take the time to read a long message.
The bottom line is your demo is what they really care about and what’s going to get you the job. So I just say hi to the client and use their name or company name and say something like, my demo for “blank” voice over project is uploaded and ready for you to hear. Thank you for taking the time to listen. If relevant, sometimes I will add that I did a particular narration for the History channel or Fox News or a voice over for some other product or company that might directly relate to the script the client has posted. But I keep it short and simple.
Also sometimes I will include a link to my web page if I’m unsure of exactly what they want. So hopefully they’ll hear another demo on there that’s closer to what they’re looking for. If the client likes your demo and selects you, there’s plenty of time to discuss the particulars of the project and how quick you can do it.
The third thing I want to cover is your rate. Now this I believe is very important and has a lot to do with getting the job. Unfortunately I don’t have a precise tip on what to do for this as each client or agent has their own agenda. Some clients have a big budget and they’ll spend it to get a great voice over. Over clients are very concerned about the budget and want to get it as cheaply as possible. I try and charge what I think is fair for the job. If they like your demo, most times they’ll negotiate your rate if they feel it’s too high. So don’t sell yourself short.
Again, there’s no set way for success in the voice over business, there’s a lot of competition and great voice talents competing with you but ultimately you’re competing with yourself. So learn what you do best and then get better at it. Experiment with your voices and delivery and charge a fair rate. Don’t expect things to change overnight but don’t give up – stick with it.
Well I hope some of these tips helped you out. Let me know – email me at [firstname.lastname@example.org]. Good luck.
Thank you for joining us. To learn more about the special guest featured in this voices.com podcast, visit the Voice Over Experts Show Notes at podcasts.voices.com/voiceoverexperts. Remember to stay subscribed. If you’re a first time listener, you can subscribe for free to this podcast in the Apple iTunes podcast directory, or by visiting podcasts.voices.com. To start your voice over career online, go to voices.com and register for voice talent membership today.