Taji's Industry Thoughts

July 5, 2009  |  Articles

It’s been a few months since I started this blog and one of the things that I’ve been doing is monitoring the industry. The trends… the culture… the traditions.

In much of my life I am very inquisitive. Like children when they are 3 or 4 they become a headache to their parents. Why is the sky blue. Why can’t I drive a car . Why do I have to sleep by 8 pm. etc.

The only difference is I am the one asking my self these questions and I give myself a headache sometimes when I can’t find a logical answer to them.

Like any dysfunctional family we have allot of problems, we the members of the voice over family of performers. We wish we were more successful but we don’t do anything about it. We want to be decent human beings and good siblings to our fellow voice over talent. But we have no problems undercutting their price or being envious of their success.

And there is one more thing that bothers me.

Many of us are negative. We try to dissuade anyone thinking of joining our ranks from doing so. We claim that it is because they bring down the prices or that they give us a bad name because they don’t provide good quality work. Or their performances are lacking… how can they even sell their work and get paid… The client should be getting paid to even feature their work.

Fear

You’re a mean person Mr. & Mrs. VO. I won’t generalize. But I have seen it with the directory I put together… and trust me I’m not trying to be holier than thou and tell you that I’m better in anyway because I compiled the directory. A few people helped me. But that’s what’s bothering me so much… I can count the amount of people that helped me on 1 hand.

Why is that?

I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it now. You’re afraid.

You’re afraid that if other people are given the online resources that you have that they will somehow steal the jobs that you could have gotten. You are afraid that your business will sink in this economy and you won’t be able to take care of yourself or your family. You’re afraid that you’re dispensable, disposable or replaceable.

Trust me … you arent. We are on a planet that consists of 6.6 Billion people. At least 1/4 of these people work.

so around 2 billion people work… at least 1/4 of these people have businesses … so 500 million businesses.

and that’s enough to keep all of us working and happy. I mean even in projects that I am involved in … the job is usually a localization project that requires more than one voice over artist to record and get paid for the job. 1 project… multiple voice overs.

So you speak one language. If you are professional, have an excellent product and easy to deal with… then you are already way ahead of many of the competitors you are worried about. Plus there has to be someone to record that english track in the localization project.. right?

…Those Who Can’t Teach

In our industry raw talent is exactly what it sounds like… Raw.

For you to go from a diamond in the rough to a proper cut diamond (which is more valuable after the cut) you need coaching and teaching you need to learn and to apply. You need to learn how to use your voice, how to use your microphone, how to use your software, how to read, how to emote, how to conserve your voice.

This list is long and necissary.

I do not agree with the adage ” Those who can do, and those who can’t teach.” My mother was a teacher and she was an excellent teacher. To this day when I am shopping with my mother, women in their mid thirties or early forties remember my mother and come and hug her and show their respect. Now to give you an idea of how amazing that is. My mother taught these girls back in Kuwait… not in Egypt. These are women who recognized my mother 20 years after she taught them in a different country walking around with her son whom they remember as a 10 year old.

Pretty wicked huh!

But I have noticed that allot of the more established talent are trying to sell me something. Whether its a workshop on how to take care of my voice or how to do social networking or how to reach further with my internet based business.

And honestly I’m sick of it. I’m sick of these workshops that, In my opinion, only mean that these people have allot of time on their hands. I gotta tell you in the past month God has blessed me with a number of jobs all at the same time. And I thank him and praise his generosity. But I noticed that while I was doing that work… I had no time to myself… it was constant and grueling and tough.

The Cult of VO

So where are these people getting the time? If you are a voice over coach… and this is what you advertise… then power to you. I like honesty … if this is what you do for a living then by all means share your knowledge and I will pay you to do so.

But don’t tell me that you’re getting so much voice over work that you can’t breathe.  After observing the American voice over industry specifically I’ve noticed that it reads almost like an infomercial. The voice over artist tries to diversify and get their fingers into as many pies as they possibly can.

Power to you. That’s fine with me. But the truth is… your workshop won’t make or break my talent so please stop trying to make it sound like that’s the case. If you are trying to give me tips on marketing my voice over business … write a book about it and go on a lecture circuit to a few of the places where many of the voice over artists can congregate to.

Sometimes I feel like Its an Evangelical Voice Over Sect. Send in your money And your career will be saved and maybe even your soul!… Glory be… Hallelujah.

Conferences to Confer

I like the idea of conferences specifically because I like meeting the people that I communicate with online. I like seeing their reactions to me. Oh I thought you were taller, Shorter, fatter, your voice doesn’t sound so deep, your voice is so deep I can’t make it out. You’re so funny, you’re so serious…

That to me is intriguing the person behind the voice… in my case its also the person behind the writing since I write about the industry. So here we have voice over centric conferences where people get together to confer on the state of our industry. They get involved in lectures, meet vo coaches and network. It’s all about the networking right?!

Hand out your card, advertise your website, keep me in mind for your next job. Again that’s all acceptable and I highly recommend it. In fact, I’m a little jealous that I can’t attend these conferences because of my location, because of my job, my responsibilities.

But I think they’re a good idea (conferences that is). As long as we don’t abuse them…

In Conclusion

There is no conclusion… these are just my observations…

I’m sure allot of you disagree with me… so if you have something to say… go ahead… I’d appreciate it.

Taji


4 Comments


  1. Taji

    Thank you very much for your, not so gentle, reminder to our voiceover community that there really is nothing to fear from our so-called “competitors.” I also want to thank you for your support of those of us in the VO world who do teach this craft in an ethical and above-board manner (and there are many who do not). And finally, I want to thank you for your support of conferences, like our VoiceOver International Creative Experience (www.VOICE2010.com).

    To counter this rampant fear that is so prevalent among voice talent, my partner, Penny Abshire, created her “Positive Thinkers Unite” group on http://www.voiceoveruniverse.com. Her group is currently the largest group on that site with more than 450 members! Some of the stories and positive encouragement from members is truly amazing.

    Penny and I are primarily VO coaches. Some of the best teachers in the world have never worked a day using the skills they teach – but they are experts at instructing others how to do it. I believe those who subscribe to the “those who can, do – those who can’t, teach” philosophy are either out of touch with the realities of today’s world, or are insecure in their own teaching abilities.

    Although we also work as voice talent we see ourselves as performance coaches and producers. Our greatest pleasure is in seeing our students “get it” after discovering that they really do have some talent to do something they love. We don’t coddle our students, but we’re not harsh and uncaring either. We tell the truth about the voiceover industry, especially in terms of the subjective nature of the business and the challenges of “breaking in.” There really is NO competition, except with yourself. We subscribe to the “Bigger Pie” philosophy promoted by the National Speakers Association (www.nsaspeaker.org) that there is literally more work available than any of us can handle by ourselves. So, rather than try to get our “little piece of the pie,” we believe in simply making the pie bigger! We also believe it is important to discover what we do best and focus on that, rather than attempt to be a “Jack (or Jill) of all trades.” Of course, you are absolutely correct in saying that a competent VO talent absolutely MUST have an arsenal of performing and business skill on hand if they are to be successful – and this, indeed, does require training either from books, workshops, or conferences.

    Penny and I also believe very strongly in “giving forward” to the voiceover community – especially to those who are just getting started in this crazy business. “Giving back” means that you are doing something after the fact. “Giving forward” means that we are doing something now that will have an impact on the future.

    As you stated, I’m also quite certain that there will be those who disagree with some or all of what I’ve written, but – as with you – we also believe that an open forum and lively discussion is important to helping raise the standards of the voiceover industry.

    By the way, there are almost two hundred VO coach resources in the Resources section of http://www.voiceacting.com. You are more than welcome to include any (or all) of them in your directory, if they aren’t already there.

    Thanks again.

    James R. Alburger

  2. Hi Taji
    Since I’ve come across your blog I’ve become an avid reader of your opinions. I agree there is a lot of competition with our industry, some of it quite bitchy. People that operate from a basis of fear tend to be the first to say “hands off, that’s mine !”
    I’ve always been extremely inclusive and consequently have had many interesting and productive experiences in the voiceover world. I started my business 10 years ago and have kept it going despite the pitfalls along the way. Over that time the business has matured and I’ve learned to specialise.
    Rather than offering all types of voiceovers I now mainly get jobs for e-learning applications which pay better, the artists get more work and the client gets a better job. We hardly ever get asked for radio or tv commercials which is a blessing considering they pay very little and take a lot of time.
    I’d much rather be involved in a project that is aiding learning outcomes.
    By the way, I’ve yet to meet a voice coach. I’ve had to learn everything I know by observation and practice. Maybe that’s what I get for living in Tasmania.
    Keep up the good work.
    Regards
    Dan

  3. Thanks for reading the blog Dan! Like you I learnt much of my working knowledge from practical application. I did attend a broadcasting school in toronto… it was half sham half decent experience. They used to advertise in the local Job newsletters… tell you to call them for free and get an assessment of your voice. When you called you’d find an automated response system that told you to speak after the tone and they’d tell you that if you qualified they’d call you back.

    Needless to say if you could speak English they called you back and tried to sell you the idea that they’ll get you trained and working through them. That was all BS and that was my first exposure to immigrant sharks. People who took advantage of desperate immigrants who wanted to make a living. They swindled them out of the savings they had to survive the first few months where no one will hire an immigrant (unless they had Canadian work experience a catch 22 if any ever existed). To this day I feel bad about the money I spent at that institute. I did learn some useful info… but I had already known that my voice could earn me money… I had been doing it for years prior to moving to Canada.

    I hope that place closed down … and that immigrants are safe from those ruthless, disgusting people.

  4. On the other hand, Taj, fear is a great motivator. It’s an innate instinct that propels us forward. Fear can make us think in different and more creative ways to find a solution to the discomfort and potential damage of the fear. Think “Caveman protecting himself and his family from a den of lions…”

    I believe the worst and most malicious fear is the fear of “not being good enough” or not believing in your true potential and your TRUE SELF, with all your fears, doubts, creative abilities and willingness to try and sometimes win and sometimes “learn”, NEVER lose. Feeling “less than” is the trait that seems to create meanness and smallness in otherwise nice people. So how do we deal with this one?

    The best voice coaches in the world can’t fix this fear. In my opinion, many voice talent (and people in general) benefit by seriously looking at and dissecting their fear-based thinking in order to move through it and create a successful life and career based on who they really are…amazing, wonderfully eccentric (for the most part!), talented people who are willing to go out on a limb and do what makes their heart sing…be damned what the “experts” say. Know Thyself.

    Please, Beautiful VO Folks, be very mindful of whom you choose as a mentor. It’s hard to unlearn bad habits learned at the expense of unqualified or small-thinking people in any industry. Tune in to who you really are and what turns you on or off. Use your instincts and your VO network to find your mentors.

    Personally, I will share the best lesson I ever learned from my premiere acting coaches/mentors. Take a bow, Sandra Dorsey of Atlanta, GA, Marice Tobias of CA, and Bob Bergan of NY. That is to take my real-life experiences and incorporate the emotional charges related to each specific incident. Use it when that particular emotion or feeling is needed in a script. Simple! Mostly Strausberg Method and Inner Child Psychoanalysis rolled into one! The challenging part was to KNOW MYSELF and how each personal incident affected me and why. Loooonnnngggg process and ongoing. It has paid off in a very rewarding personal life and a wonderful career in my beloved VO industry. I wish the same for you!

    On another note, I, too, am truly amazed at the number of “experts” that have surfaced in the past year or two. As a 30+ year veteran of the voice-over and talent agency business, I am constantly amused at the folks who claim to be experts with a mere 10 years or God Help Us…Less…under their belts, most of whom have likely never met a real agent or been inside a legit agency! Of course there are exceptions to that thought. An elite few are born to the call of being a successful, happy and secure VO talent. Mostly, in my opinion, it’s a creative process that takes time, talent, experience, good mentors, and the planets aligning in the right order! Or is it holding your mouth a certain way?!!

    Whatever it is for you, and however you choose to learn, just keep learning! Grow or Die. That is the Simple Answer to being a successful Anything!