Best Practices for Demo Producers and Voice Actors
nava voiceover demo guide
Demo producers in the voiceover industry play a pivotal role in helping voice talent sparkle and shine in a very competitive industry. And, the collaboration between voice actors and demo producers is an important relationship.
At some point, every voice actor will need some kind of demo or reel that represents their voice and range in the genre(s) they desire to work in. Some demos are completed on spec, meaning the demo copy is written specifically for the actor and produced to sound like completed projects. Other times, demos are compiled as a “reel” of an actor’s booked work. And sometimes, a demo is a combination of both spec material and booked work.
There’s no one way to make or edit a solid voiceover demo, but there are major themes and best practices that emerge for both voice actors and demo producers.
A good voiceover demo can help a talent land representation with agents and managers, secure work directly with clients, and be heard on online casting sites. A bad demo, well, it can reach similar ears, but can have the opposite effect. It can turn off agents and managers, have clients take a “pass”, and result in fewer “likes” or “saves” or audition invitations on online casting sites.
NAVA has compiled best practices for both demo producers and voice actors that can be used as a guide to help voice actors “vet” demo producers and also to help demo producers norm on industry-standards that voice actors have come to expect in a safe and transparent marketplace.
Demo Producers should be upfront about their rates and included services.
Voice actors should know what they are paying for from the start.
Itemization can be helpful and when things cost extra, for example coaching sessions, that should be noted during the initial quotation period. Communicate structured and clear payment terms to voice actors. There should never be a question about payment after the demo process has started. Key questions that voice actors can ask when inquiring about a quote:
- What final deliverables will the demo producer provide to the actor?
- Is script writing included? Are scripts written new for the actor, or are they from a script library? Does the producer allow actors to write their own scripts if they are skilled copywriters?
- Does the fee include a demo recording session director?
- How many revisions during the mix/master phase does the fee include? How much does it cost for additional revisions, if needed?
- Is pre-recording session(s) coaching included and/or required? How much do coaching sessions cost if they aren’t included in the fee?
- What are the demo producer’s payment terms:
- 50% Deposit upfront, 50% payment at completion
- Full payment upfront
- 50% Deposit upfront, 50% payment due at time of recording session
- Something else?
- What is the producers refund and/or satisfaction policy?
Demo Producers should be clear about turnaround time.
A structured timeline should be established and made clear as to when the demo will be recorded, mixed & mastered, shared for feedback, and completed. Of course, timelines can be flexible on the length of time it takes to return a finished demo to a voice actor, but a maximum amount of time for demo production should be established by the demo producer. Communication along the way is key.
Demo Producers should be able to establish trust with voice actors.
This could include offering short free demo production consultations, providing outside references, going out for a cup of coffee, or having a short Zoom call to get to know each other, etc. This time can be used for demo producers to get to know voice actors, their talents, and their strengths, as well as the voice actor getting to know your coaching style and strengths as a demo producer.
Talent should have input on their demo(s).
Voice actors should be able to make decisions about what they want and don’t want to include in their demo. Establishing this upfront and ensuring talent feel empowered to have control in the demo production process is key. Demo production should be a collaborative endeavor.
Demo Producers should define their relationship with the talent.
Voice actors should be able to see a demo producer as a collaborator/coach, not as an all-knowing authority figure that’s untouchable, or god-like. Ensuring the voice actor feels like a part of the process and not just along for the ride is a key attribute of a successful producer/talent relationship.
Demo Producers should establish payment terms.
Communicate structured and clear payment terms to voice actors. There should never be a question about payment after the demo process has started.
Demo Producers should be clear about what services the demo will include.
Will there be a coaching process involved? Will the coach write the spots? Will they have the talent write the spots? What will be the process leading up to the actual record. What is the policy concerning re-records or pickups? Having a clear and structured demo production process helps keep expectations managed and provides a clear understanding for all parties involved.
Demo producers should act with honestY and integrity.
Demo producers should endeavor to vet the voice actors that reach out to them to assess if they are actually demo-ready.
Demo producers in general should not be in the business of accepting a fee and producing demos for voice actors that are not technically proficient or performing competitively in the genre(s) of the talents’ choice. Demo production should always be done with the talent’s best interests in mind. Creating demos for talent who not ready to compete does a disservice to the talent and reflects negatively on the demo producer.
Voice actors should approach demo producers when they are demo-ready.
A demo-ready voice actor is a performer who can easily recreate the reads and voices heard on their demo in-session without the aid of editing and post-production.
- Voice actors should actively listen to demos of other voice actors working in their genres of choice to be familiar with the industry-standard sound and production for that genre.
- Voice actors should be actively working with a teacher or coach in their genre(s) of choice, and that coach should be helping the voice actor determine when they are ready.
If a voice actor is ever working with a coach over a period of time and is starting to feel “stuck” or “held hostage” from completing a demo, it might be a good idea to get a second opinion from another coach if the actor feels they are truly demo-ready, but their current coach disagrees. There’s a big difference between a coach acting in a preparatory manner to help an actor be ready versus acting in a predatory manner, forcing the voice actor to continue to pay for education and coaching sessions without moving on to the next step.
Voice actors should be aware of scams and “promise packages”
Just like any creative industry, there are scammers who prey on actors’ desire to work, find representation, and find work in an extremely competitive field. If your gut is telling you that something is too good to be true: it probably is.
- A Demo Producer that promises they can get you an agent, manager, or a booking if you choose to produce a demo with them.
- An introductory class package that includes demo production at the end, for example a two-day weekend workshop at a community education location, with demo production included. (No voice actor is ready to make a demo after a 2 day class.)
- A social media advertisement that promises that you can make millions of dollars from home in your pajamas if you purchase a specific demo package, or course package that includes demo production.
- A demo producer that does not have any examples of the demos they produce on their website.
- A demo producer that refuses to provide references of recent talents that they have successfully produced demos for, or provides references that cannot be independently verified, for example they forward you testimonials without names/links to websites where you can hear the demo.
- A demo producer that changes the scope and/or fee for the demo after production has begun.
Voice actors should be communicative collaborators with their demo producer.
Talent should reply to e-mails and calls from their demo producer promptly to keep the process moving. Talent should treat their demo recording session as a booking and recognize that the demo producer is holding that time for them. Actors should only reschedule the recording session if absolutely necessary.
Voice actors should get feedback on their demo during the editing/revision phase.
Talent should ask for outside feedback from other members of the industry as a way of ensuring the demo is the best fit possible for the talent.
Other members of the industry to seek feedback from could include:
- The talent’s agent and/or manager
- Talents in the voice actor’s accountability group
- Friends from a voiceover community Facebook group (outside of Facebook)
- Friends from a voiceover class setting
- The voice actor’s coach or teacher
Voice actors should endeavor to get feedback from people who are current working professionals in the voiceover industry.
While it’s nice to share your demo with friends and family outside of the industry, their feedback and insights might be more congratulatory than instructive and helpful. Likewise, posting a demo to a Facebook group for general commentary will likely lead to more confusion than actual helpful, actionable feedback.
It’s important to note that if you send a demo in progress to three different people, all three may have different opinions and it’s possible to get stuck in a loop of analysis paralysis. Ultimately it is up to the demo producer and the voice actor to aggregate all of the feedback and make decisions in the best interest of the voice actor and their new demo.
Both the demo producer and voice actor should recognize there is not a one-size-fits-all mold for the producer/talent relationship.
Communication, honesty, and transparency are key from both sides for the demo production relationship to be productive and result in a great final demo product.
If during the course of the demo production, it’s clear that something isn’t working, the demo producer and the voice actor should communicate with each other to identify the source of the issue and then work together to resolve the issue.
If the issue is not able to be resolved, the demo producer and/or the voice actor may request to initiate a cancellation of the demo production process.
At that time, the demo producer and the voice actor should discuss what refund(s) will be provided, as per the payment terms and policies that were provided in advance.
Both the demo producer and the voice actor should endeavor to resolve the situation amicably.
If an amicable solution cannot be met, it may be necessary to involve a third party, like a lawyer or arbitrator, to assist with the dissolution of the relationship and demo transaction. NAVA may be able to provide resources to voice actors from its legal defense fund if a demo producer is found to be acting in bad faith and or “scamming” members of the community.