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What To Know Before Recording A Demo
January 1, 2019
I get asked a lot about the process of making a demo.
And understandably so! It can be a complex and often expensive thing!
I see a lot of people get started in VO by jumping right in and getting a demo made. However, that's often not the best approach.
Demos can be really helpful. You often need one to get into casting calls for higher up, professional projects. Some projects can even cast you just off a demo. But a poor demo can land you in some really hot water.
I tell you this next part, not because I agree with it, I VERY much dont. But as a cautionary warning.
There are lots of talent starting off every year who make a demo...and then blast it out to several professional companies. Some of these companies keep these demos... for a thing called a listening party. Where they all gather round and listen and mock the bad demos. Thus a bad demo can get you black listed right out of the gate. You may get known, but definitely not for a good reason.
There's also a saying common among the VO world about demos. That you "Shouldn't make one until you are ready" Mostly Because they are expensive to make. However, I've realized another reason.
When you're getting started in Voice Over, you will grow a LOT in your first 6 months - 1 year. If you get a demo made in the first month, you will outgrow it within that year. And if you've sunk $2,000 into a demo, then it can get pretty pricey to have one remade again.
"So why dont I make my own then?" I hear some of you asking.
Well this can be another issue. Many people starting out either dont have the familiarity with audio mixing and fxs to be able to create a believable professional demo, or they do not know what constitutes a good demo.
When you hire a demo reel producer, they SHOULD be someone working in their VO field still to this day. There are several demo producers who worked a lot in the 80s or 90s, but arent working anymore today. The reason this isnt a great thing is because this industry changes so much so fast.
I mean, home computers were just becoming a thing in the early 90s and VO talent had to live near LA or NYC to book work. Home studios were a laughable idea because of the costs.. Now we have easy access to tons of different mics and interfaces and programs. So if technology has changed that much, you can imagine the leaps ahead VO has made. Part of the reason you would hire a demo producer is because they have experience and are actively working in the VOice over Field. They know what is castable right now and the type of work hiring, and they know how to book those jobs. In some cases, they are even casting those jobs themselves.
So while you can make your own demo, part of what you pay for in hiring someone else is their knowledge on what is being cast right now, along with their knowledge of how to create good demo lines, and mix the reel properly.
When you decide to get a demo reel, which I recommend to people after theyve started booking some roles and auditioning consistently for 6 months to a year, look up the demo producers you are interested in.
Things you should ask yourself:
What kind of work have they done? Is it work youd like to do? (Example: if the demo producer works a lot in commercials but you want to book video games, maybe you should look for a producer who works in games instead)
Do you like their style? Each demo producer has a style of their own. Listen to last demis done by that person and see if that's the style youd like.
Ask former actors how they felt about working with the demo producer. Most demo produces should have some examples of demos they've produces. Example, you can see demos I've produced on this website. And often they have the actors name someone listed with the demo. You can always politely reach out to the actor and explain you're thinking of having so-and-so make you're demo reel, but your curious how they liked working with them. I say this because there are some demo producers who will just take the first clip of someone's and slap a reel together, other will ignore the actor for weeks and maybe months. Some take months to get the demo reel back to them, which on occasion, live happens. But if its consistantly, maybe you dont have that time to wait.
Price: Each demo producer sets their own price. I tend to offer my demos to people branching into the voice over world, so my demos run 350-400 and include a private coaching session, one on on coaching while recording, script writing, and professional mixing with a turn around time of normally 2 weeks. So people who are starting out, it can be reasonably affordable and if you know you may outgrow that reel in a little while, you didnt spend too much money to afford another next year. While other demo producers may charge $1,000-3,000 for a reel. But there are people who are certainly worth that price. Richard Horvitz demos cost about 2,000. But almost everyone who gets a demo made by him, goes on to have a successful career in VO. Though as it stands, hes only recording in LA last I checked. But also know price doesnt always mean the best. There are some demo producers I know who charge 1,500-3,000 for something that when sent to myself and other VO casting directors, we all agreed wasnt something we could cast or need, making that demo very limited to who it can apply to.
If you're interested in learning more about demo reels, you can learn more in my "Intro to Voice Acting class" Or If you're interested in having your demo reel produced by me, please check to see if I am currently offering demo production, as at times I am too busy with work. And also check out all the things I meantioned about what to look for in a demo producer and see if I fit those for you :)