Archive for the ‘ Stories From The Biz ’ Category

I’m a contrarian.  I try to learn something OLD everyday.

Today I hit the jackpot with this story from the website about a mechanical talking device that pre-dates the telephone, recording machine and talking pictures.  It’s one of those things that looks like a hoax, but is evidently true…and cool!

talking machine

There’s no known recording of the device, but conspiracy theorists are already buzzing that “she” is still in use, saying things like “Your call is very important to us.  Please hold for the next available customer service representative.”

–over and out –

Sample Image of the  ZamPlayer, used elsewhere on this site.

Sample Image of the
ZamPlayer, used elsewhere on this site.

What if the voice style a producer is listening for is actually Segment Number Five in my sixty-second Demo? What if the producer stops listening after Segment Number Three? Is a problem. …for BOTH of us!

Not anymore.

Enter VoiceZam, a new type of audio player created by my friend, Bob Merkel, and now in use on It allows listeners to zero in on just the part of any demo they want, without having to play the demos in their original order. Like iTunes, it can start at Segment One and play through, or start anywhere else and skip around and/or repeat or go back, INSTANTLY. Short Segments or the whole demo can be downloaded just as easily.

The player is set at one default (changeable by you)…in my case: Commercial. But the drop-down menu reveals all the other demos on offer, from Narration to Character to Audiobooks and E-Learning. VoiceZam’s player lets me upload as many different categories as I want to show off, but lets the listener pick and choose ONLY what he/or/she is listening for.

Added bonus: I can label each Segment in each demo just the way I want, so as to better match the type of voice being searched for. And updating & swapping out segments is so easy, even I can do it.

Once you get the hang of the player, it’s tempting to click around and see what other “buried treasure” you might have missed listening the old fashioned way. That’s just what I’m hoping my potential clients will do.

Best of all, the player is built to play instantly on any device….well…any desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone, dumbphone, or Dick Tracy Wrist Radio. Bob still isn’t sure it’ll show up on your old-style digital watch, though. There’s more to say about the player, but it’s being said much better on the website. Don’t even get me started on the feature that lets you track who’s listening in, and for which segments, and for how long!!!

On a personal note: Bob is a delight to work with, taking hands-on ownership of any question, any potential problem. In my own case, he even went into his software “baby” and created a player skin color to match my website theme…and later created a catagory in the drop-down so I could also show off my Audio Production skills to potential clients. Not only that, but recently, he took note of numerous complaints about the cost of the service. Did he do a Steve Jobs and say “take it or leave it”? No. He did a “Bob Merkel”, and cut the cost in half.

I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of customer response a “warm & friendly voice” talent appreciates.

– over and out –

I understand.  People say you have a great voice.  They’re probably right.  You’ve practiced and practiced until you’re able to sound like all those great DJs you hear on the radio.  Or you’ve finally perfected your “Homer Simpson”.  Or maybe you’ve looked at all those quickie voiceover audition posts and can now sound like Morgan Freeman.  Time to make a demo and cash in, right?  Well…maybe.

Or – second scenario – you’ve been at this for years.  You know the ropes.  You’re a voiceover veteran and you know your own “cast of characters” inside out.  You’ll be able to wow ‘em with that classic demo of yours until your voice changes with age.  Uhm…possibly.



Finding and booking voice work is hard enough.  Even so, I marvel at my ability to make something hard…even harder.  Too often, I keep putting out what I know I’ve done well in the past…or a laboured imitation of what I think sells today…instead of focusing on something that’s actually in demand at the moment!  …and in a way that’s totally mine, something unavailable from anyone else (even Morgan Freeman, if it comes to that).

More often than not, I’m trying to sell refrigerators to Eskimos, or worse yet, trying to sell fake snow to someone who already has loads of the real thing available.

That embarassing point becomes even more ludicrous as I now notice I’ve had the benefit of plain advice practically handed to me, gift-wrapped!  More than once!  Just this week, a studio I’ve been happily associated with for years sent out a request for examples of specific types of voices, styles, and characters they’d been asked for by their clients.  I compared what they wanted to what I had on my on Commercial Demo.  By their list, I didn’t flunk out…but I was a lot further off than I want to be.  And I remember another studio asking for the same type of specific stuff a few years ago.  I didn’t follow up.  I guess I figured my “vintage ice cubes” would still sell well enough.

Maybe you’re smart enough to have figured this out on your own.  Good on ya.  If not, maybe it’s time to start thinking more about what the buyers are interested in buying…instead of what you’re interested in selling.

Guess what I’m going to be working on in the next few weeks.

– over and out –


People who know me are in general agreement that a Big Ego isn’t one of my worst problems.

Still, every so often I catch my overly-humble self missing a real treat because I think “Oh, I already know all about that.”  This turned out to be one of those treats. And if you think you already know all about “Old Radio”, or voice acting, or creating worlds with words and sounds and music, you need to re-think…and enjoy this book.

raisedonradio_bookcover2What I thought was just another book on Nostalgia turned out to have new insights and details on the era of network Radio which I had never encountered…and I’ve been collecting recordings and books on the subject for 40 years.  If you have any interest at all in knowing how people discovered and developed the art of entertaining (and selling) through sound alone…in effect, how the business you as a voice talent proport to be part of came about, “Raised on Radio” should be on your reading list.  This is the origin of your voiceover career, whether you acknowledge it or not!

Author Gerald Nachman goes far beyond the “gee whiz” nostalgic whitewash or dry academic catalogue of so many radio histories.  His is a “warts and all” description of this Theatre of the Mind which still lets all the “beauty marks” show.

Newscasts, Sponsorships, Production and Sound Effects, Soaps, Dramas, Kiddie Shows, Quiz Programs, the relation to Vaudeville and later to TV, tie-ins to movies, music, and the history of the moment, even the development of what’s now known as the situation comedy – it’s all laid out here, in a personal, conversational tone still laced with authority.  And while not a textbook on performance, I noted several sections that would serve as guidance on things like mic technique and character development.  You may even take a fiendish glee in the section about the big movie stars who were absolutely no good in front of a microphone!

It’s a big story, in a big book.  But if you enjoy it as much as I did, you’ll wonder at how fast it goes by.

I think I’ll have to keep it around for a re-run…just to remind myself every once in awhile how much fun it is not to “know it all”.

– over and out –

Knowing When (Not) To Say “No”.

If there’s anything better than being invited back for another creative animated tv spot by a great creative team:  it’s being asked to add a little something that wasn’t in the original script…and watching it take off!

In a spot recorded this summer and readied for air in the fall, the folks at Lawrence & Schiller    continued their Telly Award and Addy Award winning media campaign for Taco John’s.  My old coot farmer, who raises all the exotic-flavored chickens featured in those Baja Boneless Wings, has been coerced into being a retro DJ for his flock, who want to do…what else(?)…the Chicken Dance.

“I hate the Chicken Dance…” – used with permission

Originally, my character was just in the one TV spot, a treat in itself.  But after the demo tracks were done, I got the question:  “If we did some funny lyrics for the Chicken Dance, could the farmer sing them?”

I can’t read music, and can only carry a tune if the bucket’s big enough.  But rather than be all humble and shy and say “no”, I figured what the heck.

It actually worked out great.  My audition track had the creative team giggling (for all the right reasons).  On the day of recording the actual spots I was told they’d decided to go beyond the Radio :60 the lyrics were originally intended for…and use the character bit as a singing tag in all the spots in the campaign:  Radio and TV!  What a rush!  (…and what it did for the session fee wasn’t bad either!)

I haven’t heard the full sing radio version, but you can sample the fun of the tv spot in the video above.  Thanks to the Creative Coop at the agency, and for my Family Flock at Sunspots for putting us together in the first place.

…remember this the next time you’re tempted to tell a client you can’t do something.

– over and out –

I know, I know:  “Vacation???  What is this word ‘Vacation’ you keep using?  I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

For many working in Voiceovers, a vacation is just one more figment of the imagination.  Some take the work along with them via the internet.  Usually, it’s only the ”voice” that gets to travel.  And once in awhile, you connect with a really cool client who’s nice enough to send you pictures and video so you can actually see where you’ve “been”.


The video cannot be shown at the moment. Please try again later.


Many thanks to my new client, who promises I’ll be tagging along on more storytelling trips in the future!

– over and out –

Back on the Farm Team

If there is a downside to doing the voice for an animation project, it’s the seemingly interminable interval before you can actually see the final result. But more often than not…it’s worth the wait.
That’s been the experience with these terrific and funny TV spots for Taco John’s, created by Lawrence and Schiller (used by permission).
I’m the old coot who runs the farm where these very special flavors of chicken are raised (note the horns on the Buffalo Wings bird). This is the spot that ran during football playoffs…and it has one of my favorite lines ever.

– over and out –

New Dog…Old Trick

Animating a moving mouth over live-action animal footage is nothing new. There was a popular series of theatrical shorts in the 30s based on the concept. It’s still fun, though!
My thanks to Rod and Nancy Rich at MonkeyBravo for thinking of me when it came time to record the voices (and for including my friend Wendy Zier as the other pooch).
After the “dog-eat-dog” drama of recent weeks, I thought it might be good to lighten the mood!

– over and out –


      In the interest of disclosure (not to mention Closure) as to details over recent unpleasantness, I’m offering some final words.   Okay, I doubt they’ll be the final words, but they’ll be the last you’ll see here.  And most of them aren’t my own words, but those of the various parties involved on both sides.  Treat the links below as reference material.  Point to them and my previous posts if anyone asks what all the fuss was about.  That way, no one will have to go back over the same sorry ground again and again as attempts are made to move on.


     If I was worried about my reputation being hurt by my so-called presidency at the association of voiceover artists known as SaVoa, I guess I can rest a little easier.  My own concerns are nothing compared to what the founder/creator of the group ought to be feeling right about now, after calling out practically everyone who has tried to help make his original vision a reality as a traitor and a hijacker.  

     The backlash has not been pretty.  The embattled creator has pulled the wagons in a circle, taking total control over what was purported to be an open and co-operative entity, compiling an Enemies List while citing dubious legal mumbo-jumbo and threatening to sue anyone who speaks contrary to his authority.

     But as one person with a longer history in the group than mine has stated:   remaining silent about what’s happened runs the risk of it happening again to someone else.

     So in addition to what I’ve personally written before (and which I stand by), I’ve established links to:

     …the document of the founder claiming victory over his disloyal minions here -

     …the very detailed rebuttal from the ex-Board Members and the questions they feel you should be asking the creator here -

     …and a scathing public comment from one of SaVoa’s other founding members (there were others????) here -

     If this much time, pain, and effort had been put into creating membership benefits for SaVoa certificate holders instead of this endless play for power…the original aim of all the founders might have been accomplished by now.

     (However, I am told on very good authority that if you still care at all about the original concept of an association of accredited professional voice talent, there may yet be a happy ending in the works.  I won’t be the one writing it, but I’ll be interested in what happens!)

     So there it is:  what’s left of SaVoa and why.  I’m sorry to have been a part of it.  I’m especially sorry if I influenced anyone to join it. 

–over and out –


(For those who came in late, Part 2 and Part 1 are below)

What does it say when Seven Professional Voiceover Artists finally decide they no longer want their names associated with the executive board of an Association of Professional Voiceover Artists.  (That’s a rhetorical question.)

It’s one thing if you want to have your own private club with your own rules.  No problem.  Enjoy.  But before its implosion yesterday, SaVoa’s executive board was meant to be more than a single person’s domain.

Why does it still bug me?  That’s not rhetorical.  And here’s the rest of it:

Several weeks ago, a special conference call was requested by members of the executive board and convened by me, to discuss the validity of concerns (mentioned in Part 2). And while it was eventually agreed the most recent case in point was not worth a huge fight, it did expose some existing tensions, and resulted in motions to request that our founder relinquish his office of Secretary/Treasurer. After some awkward and testy exchanges, I did probably the only presidential thing of my whole blessed term and suggested a compromise of asking the founder to stay on as Treasurer but turn Secretary duties over to another member, an idea which had been offered by our then-Vice President and with which I agreed.

The protestation was made that we did not have enough North Carolina residents to satisfy our charter, unless I was willing to take over another office. Further discussion was avoided when our attorney advised us that there was actually no such restriction on a certain number of officers being residents of the state.

Further proposed shufflings were proposed. And our founder was, justifiably, ticked off…feeling he was being given the Captain Queeg role in our own version of “The Caine Mutiny”. Raw nerves were exposed, tempers grew thin. And when our still- Secretary/Treasurer moved we table the conversation until a later time, I lost my temper. Rightly or wrongly, I hotly stated we were already in a meeting with the authority to discuss the issue and I was tired of hearing complaints from board members yet having to stand by — powerless to do anything either way.  I lost all diplomacy and, as us old folks still say, I lost ”my cool”.  And it’s all there on the recording I was making for the group as meeting minutes and provided them with later…unedited with my blow-up intact.

A vote was taken, and the Secretary and Treasurer’s jobs were split, our founder promising to hand over the seal, membership database materials, and website passwords to another member who stepped forward to act as temporary Secretary.

I regained my composure somewhat for the remainder of the meeting, apologized for my outburst…and later that evening informed all concerned that I was resigning my position as so-called President. I had seen and heard for myself what had happened when I had tried to assert the authority I was supposed to have had. And it was a character I did not want to see ever again.

The board members, to a man (and one woman), assured me I was overstating my embarrassment…that they took no offense…and wanted me to stay on. One or two even complimented me for being one of the few to finally say something everyone else had been thinking.

I let my resignation stand, writing a lengthy explanation to the board as to why I felt they had a better chance of making great changes to SaVoa without me at the top of the roster.

I even stated for the record that I gave the group’s creator the benefit of the doubt…that I had not been recruited and put in place just so I would be the “reputation” and “friendly face” of SaVoa while the inner workings stayed with the status quo. But I told them that true or imagined, I sure felt that way.

The next week, as a courtesy, I was informed that new officers had been selected and voted upon in an emergency conference call. New members were being brought up into the executive board. Looked like things were finally ready to take off…progress to be made…benefits to members realized…faces saved . I was asked if I’d like to retain my shield and the designation, Friend of SaVoa…which I gratefully agreed to.

I told my friends I would withhold public comment about the recent dustup. No need to air the dirty laundry, now that it appeared the washing machine was working.

Now comes the “spin cycle”.

Now I learn that the creator/Treasurer has re-thought his relinquishment of power. I am informed that he’s consulted outside attorneys to fight his “ouster”. The control of the website will not be relinquished, nor its database of members. (While the claim of the founder that he paid for the establishment and upkeep of the site is absolutely valid, one of the last decisions I presided over was that he would be reimbursed for all his expenses to date with our thanks.)

With this, and all the talk of “lawyer-ing up”, I think I’ve changed my mind as well. No longer am I willing to give SaVoa’s creator the “benefit of the doubt” about anointing me as a mere  figurehead for my supposed reputation, so he could stay in control.

And I resent the hell out of it.

Mind you, this is all from my perspective. This is my experience and these are my opinions. You will doubtless hear or read other accounts, if you’re not too fatigued to follow them. I have deliberately gone out of my way not to name names. They’re easy enough to find for those who want to dig.

This is about MY name…and how I feel it has been misappropriated and misused.

All I can attest to is what I feel.

What I feel is “used”…used for my name – my reputation – to put a false front on something that could have really truly been a good thing for freelance voice talent.

Instead, it has imploded on itself, and given credence to some of its most vocal critics who originally dismissed SaVoa as just one good ol’ boy’s private clubhouse.

And that…makes…me…mad.

– over and out –