Monday, October 2, 2017

Voice acting demos and how to market them - interview with Tamara Ryan

Voice actors have a tendency to spend so much time and stress working on their demos that they don't always consider what in the blazes they're going to do with them once they're created. To help demystify this effective marketing tool, I had an interview with LA-based voice actress Tamara Ryan (Android 18 from the Bang Zoom dub of Dragon Ball Super, Falan from Magi: Adventures of Sinbad, plus many more roles). I told her the interview would probably be between 10-20 minutes. The following video is almost 50 minutes long. My sense of timing sucks.

However, that's 50 minutes of useful information to voice actors wondering how to start using their new demos, including what attitude to use when emailing clients, what information to give up front, techniques and websites to use, whether or not to create physical demo CDs, and much more. Since it is a truckload of information and I don't blame you for being hesitant, I've created timestamps allowing you to jump around to the topics you find most interesting for the video below. I've also summarized the points made during the interview so you can read them at your leisure. There are many things I must learn about conducting interviews, such as not saying "a little bit" so much, so bear with me as I grow in this.

                                           

Timestamps
- 2:43: Icebreaker questions
- 6:54: Does it help to have physical copies of your demos these days?
- 10:03: When contacting potential clients, should you give them your demo up front or wait for them to ask for it?
- 13:37: By the same token, should you give potential clients your rates up front or wait for them to ask?
- 19:45: After emailing someone, how long should you wait before emailing them again if you get no response?
- 23:12: How should you address a potential client or agent - very dry and professional, or is it okay to crack a joke and be more informal?
- 27:23: What's different between marketing to an indie game developer and marketing to a bigger, more popular studio or company?
- 30:12: What's different between marketing to a studio/developer and marketing to an agency?
- 31:52: tamarasrecordingsoftware.exe has stopped working. This is where we jump back in and Tamara makes a funny NNGAAARRGH sound.
- 32:11: Do you get more use out of a demo if you live in a larger city versus a smaller town?
- 34:15: On the subject of emailing clients and devs, should you wait for a good moment to contact them or simply contact them when you find them?
- 36:34: What should you absolutely never do when marketing your demo?
- 38:33: What should you definitely do when marketing your demo?
- 40:52: Closing remarks...

A summary of the points made

Do demo CDs help much?
- 99% of the time, not really. It's a very digital era now.
- However, some companies and agencies that dabble in voice over as well as things like film acting and modeling might still ask for a physical demo. Always go over their instructions and requirements first. 

Should you provide your demo up front in an email?
- When contacting an agency, probably best to call ahead and ask if they're accepting submissions first.
- Otherwise, if you're contacting indie game developers and the like, Tamara believes you should provide your demo up front so they have the important bits early.
- As Tamara says, "Give them a lot, but not too much." Tell them everything and they may either not read it all or believe they know everything they need to about you and not follow up with you. Give them things like a demo and resume, let them know why you would like working with them, but don't give them absolutely everything like rates or every job you've done.
Should you provide your rates up front in an email?

- It's not impossible to, and it has been done before, but err on the side of leaving your rates out. Telling them your rates up front, especially when marketing to indie game developers and the like, could probably create a greater chance to scare them off or shut them down early.
- We reiterate during this segment that marketing is not just about giving people info and then disappearing like a genie until they need you - it's about building relationships, making friends even, and overall being someone people remember and who they want to work with.
- A couple of interesting points Tamara makes during this segment - "Don't just be a voice machine," and "have more than just a working relationship with your connections."
- A site called Active Campaign can help you keep on top of relationships and connections, ensuring you don't accidentally ignore someone you should get back to. Other similar networking sites exist.
How soon should you email someone again?
- Ideally: not longer than three weeks or they'll just plain forget who you are, no sooner than one week or you'll get annoying.
- Statistically (though a solid number eludes us), it takes maybe anywhere from 7-12 interactions with someone before any kind of sale is made.
- An "interaction" in this case could be classified as sending an email, adding them on a social network, replying to a post, having them read a blog or newsletter, etc.
- A method Tamara has found that seems to work for her: send an email, wait a week, send another email, wait another week, send one more email, wait two weeks before sending anything further.
- Agencies typically don't review talent submission emails more than once a month, so submitting something to them more than once per month probably isn't taking you any further and might make you a little bit annoying.
- If you do send another email to an agency, you can check in with them, but don't simply resubmit your info, and don't try and update your demo/resume/etc. earlier than six months to a year unless you really booked something killer you have to show off.
How should you address potential clients and agencies?
- Regarding agencies, having a referral by a name they recognize, trust and respect goes a long way.
- On top of that (or in lieu of that), being able to mention an impressive client or brand you've worked with (i.e. "Voice of McDonald's") is putting a good foot forward.
- Another thing that helps is mentioning something that shows you know them and you've done your research (such as "Congratulations on your recent award" or "Congrats on the acquisition").
- Make sure you address the company/studio/team directly and by name so it doesn't seem like a basic copy-and-paste template. Finding the actual names of the people you want to be addressing (like the lead director or website owner) is helpful. These sorts of companies will often have a "meet the team" page that can help introduce you to them.
- The more "creative crowd" (like game developers and animation studios) may be more receptive to a funny, informal email, but ad agencies and production companies and the like may view that as unprofessional, so think carefully what style you want to use before sending the email.
What's different between marketing to a studio/developer and marketing to an agency?
- Always read the submission guidelines. Thoroughly. If you can't follow simple directions there, they won't think you can follow more complicated directions elsewhere.
- Keep your points short, concise and professional - demos, notable clients you've worked for, experience and background, etc.
Do demos help more if you live in a larger city versus a smaller town?
- Yes; there's simply more work (and better-paying work) in entertainment hubs like Los Angeles and New York City.
On the subject of emailing clients and devs, should you wait for a good moment to contact them or simply contact them when you find them?
- Tamara says go ahead and contact them when you find them. There's rarely an "opportune moment" unless they already have a casting call, so it couldn't hurt to introduce yourself and plant a seed in their minds.
What should you absolutely never do when marketing your demo?
- Don't be arrogant, impatient, or generally rude. Nobody likes a prima donna. Be someone people want to work with.
- Don't be needy. Following up with an email every one to three weeks is one thing; emailing them every other day demanding a response is making yourself a nuisance.
- Don't be creepy - don't track them down through their personal Facebook accounts or attempt to go through a back door to get their attention.
- In general, don't be a nuisance and don't be rude. Be someone people want to work with.
What should you definitely do when marketing your demo?
- Make it personal. Don't just show up to do the work once and disappear; be someone people want to work with and try to make friends in the industry.
- Be responsive. Getting back to people quickly shows a good work ethic and tells them you can do fast turnarounds if necessary.

Read Tamara's VoiceOverXtra article on how to market oneself to indie game developers here.

Read Tamara's article on how to find voice actors for your indie game here.

Learn more about the awesome Tamara Ryan at her own website here.

Do you find anything in this interview helpful? I personally learned a lot from speaking with Tamara, so my hope is the readers/listeners here will learn from it too. There's an email subscription form down below, so sign up for it and you can be one of the first to know when another interview or video goes live. I enjoyed conversing with Tamara and would love to have her back again to discuss another part of the industry.

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