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Voiceover Demos

When you become a voice artist one of the most important ‘equipment’ investments will be your Voiceover Demos.

It’s your definitive marketing tool and calling card rolled up in one. Strong demos are the best way to sell your voice.

Lots of questions can crop up with Voiceover Demos - like where is the best place to get one, what kind are best, how many will I need and how much will it cost?

Where to Start?

Can it be a DIY Demo? Most advice says don’t go there as there are too many risk factors. If you are a bit of an audio techie, it could be a consideration. You’ll need to edit and process audio, select appropriate music, and mix it all together. All at the same time being up on current demo trends, as well as self-directing and scriptwriting skills. If you do decide to go down this road, vet your demo with a coach or a VO colleague that it cuts the proverbial mustard.

No demo is probably better than a bad one. As they say, you only get one chance to make a first impression and it’s your demo that will be acting on your behalf in the agent's office or the producer's studio making that first impression. I’d say that even if you do use the DIY route, once you have booked some work and you think you can make a go of things, invest properly in a professionally made demo.

Professional Demos

As your career evolves and you start competing at higher levels it will become important to maintain your demo library, updating it as time goes on as spots that were relevant 5 years ago become obsolete. These can cost thousands of dollars so you will want to bring your “A” game to these when recording. You will have to decide with your demo coach on scripts and genres. There might be a rehearsal that takes place. You might have to adjust the order of the demo or replace a few spots that aren’t working. Sometimes you can get a deal if you cut several demos and there are even some demo makers that will put you on their exclusive casting sites at the end of the process.

Demo producers in different countries may have different expectations around cost so this could be one way of saving some money but be aware of cultural differences too. A demo producer in the UK may make a great reel for you (I have made demos in both the UK & US) and maybe even at a lower price than in the US but if it has a Tesco spot on it a US producer listening to it might be distracted by the unfamiliarity. Also, in Europe, it is more common than in the US to hire directly from your demo, so make sure you can recreate anything you have on there for more than 10 seconds.

How many demos?

The voiceover demo standard used to be a Commercial Reel and a Narration reel (and, maybe, a character reel) but these days 1 or 2 demos aren’t really going to cut it. Most professional voice actors have at least 6 or more. So be prepared to invest continually in building your demo library and updating it. The most common demos are corporate, commercial, narration, videogame, and animation. There are also subcategories of these types of demos such as E-Learning and Explainer (Corporate) or Automotive and Luxury Goods (Commercial). Also, be aware of the current trend to have your demo available as individual spots so you can send a sample to a client of something similar to the project they are casting for. When considering where to start, bear in mind that pretty much every agent will want to hear a commercial demo when considering you for their roster. A narration demo can serve you well in a range of genres from corporate to e-learning to audiobooks, if you include at least one sample that showcases that type of work.

Other Demos

Real work demos: As you build your portfolio and book projects, it can be fruitful to collate similar work into a video (or audio) showcase. It's best to ask permission before using work you have been hired for but it is rare to be refused. These are a great way to not only showcase your performance range but also to demonstrate that you are competitive in the marketplace.

Niche demos: To stand out in the great game of voice acting, maybe consider some less common demo genres like spoken-word (poetry), comedy, ADR, singing, and video game emote demos. Or something that focuses on a specific industry like financial, political, or even something like food/restaurant-themed demos.

A demo is such a huge investment on so many levels. If it’s well made It should eventually pay for itself many times over. Really take your time and do your research. Do some due diligence, ask for referrals, and listen to lots of different demos and advice to decide what will work best for you and your voice.

Want to know more? Check out these Upcoming Voiceover Demo events

NAVA Free Demo Webinar August 15, 2023 730pm EST

Mastering the Demo Voiceover -The Voiceover Network Live Webinar August 16, 2023 12:00 noon EST

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Ian Russell

Ian Russell is a British Voiceover Artist specializing in commercial voice over, narration, video game, character voices, animation and more. He is a frequent guest speaker on conference panels and podcasts, sharing knowledge about voice over. Read More >>


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