Archive for the ‘ Stories From The Biz ’ Category

“Clients From Hell” are well documented. There’s even a website devoted to them. I am compelled to declare equal time for one from the Other Camp.

I met him last week through a friend’s recommendation and yes, he is an agency guy.

It was a quick turnaround VO, statewide use. I quoted what I thought was a decent rate and was gratified to be given the nod.

Even with the tight deadline, the guy warned me his end-client was known for changing things a couple of times and this would be covered in fees. He was also honest enough to tell me the piece would be used online and told me to figure that in as well.

True to form, the script went through two more last-second re-writes, each (of course) was an “emergency.” I delivered to my new patron’s complete satisfaction and … in effect … made him look good to his client.

Then he sent me a link to the finished spot. It’s a TV spot – and I had quoted him a Radio rate!

After a few choice words to myself, I communicated my mistake (ONLY to avoid having him think any future work would be priced so low, and that I WANTED to work with him again).

A quick check of emails showed it was completely my own goof, and I said I would honor the quoted price now that the work was done.

To my surprise, there was an immediate response – asking me to submit a new invoice. I replied I didn’t think it would be ethical for me to do that, especially after the spot was done and sent out to stations for air.

This new client of mine … who had assured me the voice work I did was just what everyone wanted (and that I didn’t get the gig just because my price was so low) … replied that while he appreciated my attitude, he himself did not feel it was ethical to let things stay at the original price.

Being completely flummoxed at this point, I used a friend’s fall-back line:

“Well, what would you think I could charge and still have you feel you got a good deal?”

He came back with an itemization that totaled a whole lot more than I would have asked, saying it was in line with what his agency is accustomed to paying for this type of project.

Oh, and he assures me that we WILL be working together again in the future. You can believe next time I’ll be paying more attention.

Even without a “Client From Hell”, the Devil truly is in the details!

— over and out —

…no, I don’t mean “Hire Me” or “Pay Me”.

They’re simple words, easy to use, often neglected or thrown about as an afterthought.  But I’ve come to think they’re two words that don’t get used enough:

“Thank You.”

I’m not sure when I started including a “thank you” in nearly all my emails, but during the past year it’s been one of my more commendable habits.

No matter what I’m writing about, there’s almost always a way to work in a “thank you”.  And really, who doesn’t want to be thanked?

Of course it’s easy to use those two magic words when you’re sending out a request for information, or acknowledgement of winning a job…or sending an invoice.

I think I started noticing it had crept into my “stylebook” as I shot out more mundane things, like auditions.  Granted, you never know whether a person or a piece of software is handling your latest vocal gem, but what’s the harm of saying “thank you” for even the chance to participate?  …of being invited to the call, cattle or otherwise?

A “thank you” always looks good when acknowledging receipt of a script, or even requests for advice from someone who’s been told he/she “has a great voice”.

And while it’s merely my own choice, I opt for the full two words, rather than a quick “thanks”, which is a little less personal but probably just as effective.

If nothing else, you can use it to reward someone for taking time to read your whole message and not just deleting it after the first few words.

Kind of like this blog post.

So…”Thank You!”




— over and out —

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”.



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 —