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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Talent Profiles: Kabir Singh

If you haven't heard of Kabir Singh, it's a name you should get to know. With a sound that pivots effortlessly from regular guy to authentically urban, Kabir is spearheading demographic change in the voiceover industry, paving the way with his success for future generations of talent.

I recently had the pleasure of working with Kabir on a collection of new demos, which can be heard at the following links, (goo.gl/dFNmgY, goo.gl/fyRCji, goo.gl/GaRosu.) Today, I interview Kabir about his rise to voiceover success, and his tips for talent just starting out.



JMC

Tell us how you got interested in being a voice actor.

KABIR

I never wanted or desired to do anything in entertainment. I was always a poet at heart. After college, I got a corporate job with lawyers. 2 years into it, I started to realize and feel my unhappiness. After some research I quickly learned that there was zero dollars to be made in poetry (at least in the beginning).

So- I researched “how to make money using your voice” – I came across “The Art of Voice Acting” from James Alburgur.

The story starts here. 2 years of “post awareness” I planned my exit out of corporate America by taking my first class with Marc Cashman and then going deep into study with Bill Holmes. 2008 I got fired and was forced to purse VO. No money. No savings. All hunger. The grind involved daily work, beyond 9-5 in the beginning.

JMC

Is there one job or client you are especially proud of?

KABIR

I am not a fan of the word proud. I know its strange, but sometimes I don’t see my accomplishments as anything to be proud of. However, with all that said, it may be surprising, but my “proudest” client was my first VO job for $100 through Voices.com. Why? Because it gave me hope. It confirmed that a kid who came from a trailer park with 0 connections to the industry – can make this “VO thing” happen. HOPE is very powerful. That 1 job started this journey and gave me belief in my ability to accomplish anything. I felt fearless and I felt even more hungry.

This job will never be forgotten. It still fuels me today.

        
JMC

What advice do you have for new talent?

KABIR

Stay hungry- dam near- starving. Every single day. Hungry for knowledge, hungry for guidance, hungry for self-improvement and hungry to compete with TOP talent. Hunger dies in the land of comfort. 6 years into my journey, successful and very accomplished now, I am hungrier than I have ever been. Fearless to fail and learn from my mistakes. I cannot make this clear enough- I suck. I am not talented. There are 1000’s that are more talented than me. But- I will work harder than anyone (at least in my mind). If my competition is next to me and we are both trying to accomplish a goal, you will have to kill me in order to out-work me. So in summary – stay hungry and be ready to die before you let anyone outwork you (assuming you want to be successful)

JMC

You post motivational videos and have started speaking at conferences.....how does your life story inspire other talent?

KABIR

I don’t even know if my story inspires anyone. I hope it does. I would not be here today if it wasn’t for the inspiration of others. Men and Women that have guided me in my life. Without beating up the story of Kabir too much I can share some snippets:

I am a son of a single mom. I met my father for the first time when I was 10. He died in front of me when I was 13. Up until my 2nd year of College, I was the lonely Indian kid in an all-Black/Hispanic school. My stories of being bullied would bring tears to even the toughest of men. But- I learned a lot through these experiences. One of the best lessons I learned- empathy. Empathy is so powerful and can be very contagious.

What inspires me now? What fuels this hunger? My mom and my sister. My sister has polio. My mom is 66 years old. I see her every day. She is my angel. Each breath I take is for them. I want the responsibility that my father never did. To take care of my mom and my sisters. To provide them with comfort. I am 30 years old, and sometimes I feel 60. What I used to consider a burden in my 20’s, I know see as a beautiful responsibility.

I have this one life. One life to be positive, make something of my-self and help others. I am no body without the help of everybody.

JMC

Your sound can best be described as modern and urban. What advantages and disadvantages come along with that?

KABIR

Urban and modern is in. It won’t be forever and I am highly in tune with that now. It’s the “flavor of the week”, the swag and the personality. I have been able to master this swag and personality and allowed it to become a part of my daily get down. The opportunities are endless and lots of producers are searching for great urban talent. With all that said- the disadvantages are you can become limited in your endeavors and auditions. If you can’t tweak that urban read and really go from urban to just a cool millennial- your opportunities become less. So, you have to develop your “knob of balance.” To be able to tweak your flavor to the right taste. It’s possible, but if you don’t, its extremely disadvantageous.

JMC

If you had to start over again today, what would you do differently?

KABIR

With no ego I must say- Nothing. Trust me when I say- I have failed. Failed demos, failed classes, failed meetings and failed auditions. BUT, each failed memory revealed a valuable lesson. Till this day I can recall each LESSON from my FAILURES. I wouldn’t do anything different because I love my failures.

Thank you for interviewing me and allowing me to share part of myself with whomever reads this. JMC has helped me grow my business unlike any other resource out there. I owe a lot of my successful business strategy to you and I appreciate you very much sir.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Talent Profiles: Jas Patrick






Jas Patrick, (jaspatrick.net,) is one of the hottest young talents in the voiceover marketplace today, with over a hundred jobs booked in the past year alone. It would be easy to call him a rising star, but the 'rising' bit seems unnecessary at this point. With a voice that defines credibility, it's not hard to see why Jas is in demand.

I recently had the pleasure of coaching Jas and completing his new suite of demos, which you can hear at the following links: goo.gl/EAwj5N, goo.gl/jZrcSs, goo.gl/UspL3p. Additionally, I've already hired Jas for a radio spot, and hope to have the chance to do so again.

Today, I chat with Jas about his ascendance in the industry, and his perspective on how to get traction in voiceover.


JMC
 
How did your interest in becoming a voice actor develop?
 
JAS

 
I've always done voices and accents and characters ever since I was a wee little kid.  I loved and still love cartoons and video games.  It's just always something I've done and people would laugh when I did characters or accents so I got a lot of gratification from making people laugh or get excited to hear a funny or cool voice I could do.
 
JMC
 
 Do you remember your first job?
 
 JAS
 
 Absolutely!  There are really two "first jobs" that I will never forget.  I had done some acting and things for videos in music career throughout the years and what not, but my first job as a titled "legit" voice actor was for the Lane Motor Museum.  I did eight radio spots for them--two were a French accented character for their French exhibit and the other six were an Italian character for their Italian exhibit.  I was super nervous and tried really hard to get the spots as "perfect" as I was able!  
The other "first job" was for Snickers and they wanted an Irish accent for an internal video over in Europe.  I'm particularly proud of that one, because I got it in my first week--I believe it was day 5--of going full time, full-on voice acting and I got it off one of the big p2p sites!  The other really cool thing was the Snickers gig was on the 4th of July, and so my wife and I call that our own personal independence day! 
 
Previous to that week, I just studied the industry; listening to podcasts, reading blogs and learning about the industry and how to audition, set up profiles, etc.  There was this sort of unanimous theme in the interviews with the big voice actors that if you got a job in your first week, you were super lucky and definitely doing something right, so getting that gig in my first week really made me feel amazing and I'll never forget it!

JMC
 
You've achieved a great deal of success very early in your career. Why do you think that is?
 
JAS
 
I think some of it is the fact that before I did even a single audition, I studied every podcast, blog, vlog, video and so on of anyone I could find that purported to know the tools, skills and steps to "making it" in the voice over industry.  I would walk my dog Seamus for a couple of hours every morning and just listen to the learning resources online that are free to anyone willing to listen.  I highly recommend checking out the resources sections of numerous online repositories of "how-to" videos and blogs and things about the voice over and voice acting industry!  Don't neglect searching on YouTube as well!  Some of those are all really great!  If you follow the logical steps for you from all those resources and make sure you have great gear and a quiet soundproofed place to record, you will do well also!  
 
The other thing I  think helps me is that I really work hard.  Every day.  If I get an audition, I knock it out immediately.  I will come home from class late at night and always do any auditions I missed.  I'm really relentless with it.  Be a machine.  Great work ethic WILL help you, believe me.
I also train my tail off.  I'm in three classes I physically go to for various acting and techniques and things like that and I also do a skype session for accent training online--so, the more serious you are, the better you will become.  Of course, I also trained with a highly respected coach; BUT only after I had done a great deal of work and training on my own.  
 
I most assuredly recommend getting yourself a great coach--but be disciplined and bring your A-game to said coach!  Get yourself in good shape before you try to run the marathon, in other words! 

JMC 
 
What has been your biggest or most high-profile job to date?
 
JAS
 
I did several commercial spots for GORE-TEX which turned out really cool!  I did a video for the Jordan National tourism board that is a gorgeous video, and I really am proud of how it turned out!  A couple of my super favorites are for video games, including Clash Royale, and I did a really insane character for Heroes Of Newerth that I actually play from time to time--when I'm not slammed in the studio! 
 
But if you just want some big names, I've done Coca-Cola, Ford, Deloitte, Sony, Marriott, Samsung and so on and so forth.  I'm still on the hunt for Blizzard and Nintendo and Sega, though! I'd love to do work for them!
 
JMC
 
What's your dream VO job?
 
JAS
 
A Blizzard game for video games and pretty much any character for any of my beloved TV-MA cartoons like Archer or Bojack Horseman or South Park or something along those lines! That would be a bucket list sort of thing for me.
 
But as far as a more on-going deal..?  I'd honestly love to do more TV Narration stuff.  I've done a bit so far--small things, nothing major; but I really enjoy doing it, so I'd have to say TV Narration would be the dream career.
 
JMC
 
Did you make any mistakes when you first started out?
 
JAS
 
Sure! False contrasts, left breaths in, put inflection where none was needed, gave just plain old bad reads and so on and so forth!  But if you mean did I go down a "wrong road" before winding up on the "correct path"..?  I honestly don't think I did--or at least not so much as it seems to have done any real harm or what not, you know?  
 
I've worked hard to be friendly and pleasant to work with, turn around my jobs super fast and always over deliver--I don't quibble over adding a line or something, you see what I mean?  So, I suppose I work hard every day to correct any mistakes before they can become blunders.  But, we're all human and we make mistakes, just how it goes! 
 
JMC
 
What is the one most critical piece of advice you would give to new talent?
 
JAS
 
Pretty much what I said above, really!  Work hard, be super nice, go out of your way to do a great job and don't have a bad attitude!  Study hard, practice hard and learn whatever you can whenever you can!  This business is organic and you always need to learn and stay on your feet.  But also, enjoy it!  Have fun with it!  Let YOU come out in your auditions and your projects!  Make the words come to life and put your energy and character into what you read!  Even if you don't get THIS job, you might get called for another one!  I guess I'd end with saying, don't be too hard on yourself, though.  Work hard, yes!  But don't beat yourself up or obsess over an audition.  Do the audition, then forget it.  There will be thousands more just like it.  Put everything you have into the five minutes or whatever it takes you to record it, then let it sail away.  No tears!  :)  And best of luck to you!  





Friday, June 9, 2017

3 Things.......

It's Friday, and here are my three thoughts for the week...

GENDER NEUTRAL CASTINGS

This week I've received no less than three castings looking for, "gender neutral," voices. I've heard some buzz about this for a few months, but hadn't yet encountered it myself. It's an interesting trend that may presage yet another avenue for talent to pursue if it sticks. I wonder if perhaps it is a corollary of the Xanax read I talked about a few weeks ago, which seems designed to be as anodyne and broadly inoffensive as possible. What are your thoughts on this emerging trend? Is it a fad, or here to stay?

WOVOCON


If you are looking for a great experience getting together with your fellow voice actors for knowledge-building and relationship-building, look no further than WoVO Con, the World Voices Organization's annual conference. (https://www.world-voices.org/WoVOCon-IV) Coming up in just two weeks in Las Vegas, this fourth edition of the conference promises to be the best yet, with talent flying in from around the globe to attend. If you're there, make sure to say hi!

VALUE ADD

This is a concept I frequently come back to with newer talent. While I'll always defend the need for fair pay as a voice actor, in an expanding marketplace we often get bogged down by terminology that may be too broad to be of service when it comes to pricing. I've seen talent reject jobs that were described as regional or national broadcast for paying too little, when a cursory review of the product or service, (or a simple email exchange with the buyer,) would reveal that by, "national," they mean three nights a week on a C-grade cable network at 2AM for three months. One reason I never post a rate card is because every job is unique. If Dominos wants a New York/New Jersey/Connecticut regional TV spot for 13 weeks, that's one price and a re-bill thereafter. If it's Joe's pizza with one location in each state, it's reasonable that the price won't be quite the same. Think about what the client's overall budget for production and airtime is. If you are getting 2-5% of that, you are getting a fair shake.

Until next week, this is JMC.

Friday, June 2, 2017

3 Things...

It's Friday, so here are my three things for the week....

Cost Cutting

As some of you know, I've been pretty loyal to British Airways over the years. Their fleet is modern, it's easy to earn and use frequent flier miles with a little foresight, and they get me where I need to go in style without spending a fortune. Once upon a time they were pretty loyal to their customers too. When they made mistakes, they compensated you for it....sometimes more than necessary, (I remember getting 75,000 miles once for a complaint about catering.)

Those days are long gone. If you were paying attention to the news over the Memorial Day weekend, you surely saw the chaos at London's Heathrow Airport due to a mysterious IT collapse on the part of BA. While it was a disaster for many, (and one Anna and I barely avoided,) it was predictable considering the current management's strategy of cutting every expense to the bone. From onboard amenities, to cramming in as many seats with as little room as possible, to nickle-and-diming customers for every possible cent, British Airways has become a shadow of its former self in the last couple of years. IT, having been heavily outsourced to India at the lowest possible price, was no exception. The results were catastrophic.

There is, however, a silver lining to this story, and something to think about for the voiceover industry. We live in an era where companies are cutting costs brutally, trying to maximize shareholder revenue and squeeze every penny of profit from their enterprises. This has trickled down into VO in the form of far more back and forth over rates than we used to have to deal with, as clients try to keep their production costs as low as possible on orders from above. Like BA's IT, this can often lead to compromises in quality.

The blowback from the IT meltdown gives a glimmer of a better future. BA shareholders are demanding an investigation. The CEO is likely to lose his job. The delays and cancellations. along with compensation, will likely cost well over a hundred million dollars. British Airways is learning a hard lesson about the downside to considering cost over quality, and heads are going to roll. More importantly, the culture of the company is very likely to change.

For those of you lamenting the current state of play with regard to voiceover rates, it is worth keeping in mind that the present circumstances have less to do with issues specific to our industry than with broader economic psychology. The world was staggered by the Great Recession, and corporate practices changed.....but those changes are cyclical. As the economy continues to accelerate, and companies recognize that cutting for the sake of cutting leads to poor results in the end, the marketplace will likely shift once again. When that shift happens, those who have been holding out for professional rates, and not training their clients to see them as a cost-effective option first and foremost, are the ones who will benefit.

Personality

When you are directed to be warm, empathetic, and caring in a read, what is your first reaction? A lot of talent process direction technically, so a string of words such as those will immediately lead to a shift in tonality, a more intimate address of the microphone, perhaps a bit of a hush to the read. Intellectually, that all makes sense, but more and more I see talent who are thinking their reads, not feeling them. Emotions don't come from technical precision; they come from the heart. This is why one of my key principles as a VO is to always build a character for commercial reads......to never be JMC, but instead step into the psychology of an entirely different person who, for a brief moment, is living the content of the copy. To get to warm, empathetic, and caring, it's your soul you need to stir...not just your brain.

Beaches

I'll be visiting a few beaches over the next couple of weeks. Some for fun, and some for business. Follow along with me on Facebook as I drop clues relating to a MAJOR announcement in the month of June.

Until next time, this is JMC.

Friday, May 19, 2017

3 Things.....

It's Friday again, and time once more to scattershoot about what's on my mind this week....

ENERGY

Throughout the webinars and coaching I've been involved in this week, one consistent theme has been a particular focus of mine: Energy! Are you bringing it to every read? Many talent are afraid of going too far with their delivery, when in fact buyers and casting directors are often looking for the read that jumps out and gets their attention. Moreover, we perceive our own energy level as higher than it registers with the average listener; it's a phenomenon of the human ear that we think we are more energetic in our speech than we actually are. Top VO talent aren't scared of making a jackass of themselves, and audition-weary buyers sometimes need to be startled awake by a talent who is totally committed, (or perhaps should be.) Don't hold back!

CONFERENCES: THEY AREN'T JUST FOR VOs!

This week I picked up a copy of the sponsorship prospectus for DevLearn, the nation's largest conference dedicated only to E-Learning developers. You know, the kind of people who hire voice actors for their modules. Moreover, those who attend this conference of over 3,000 E-Learning industry professionals are ponying up almost $1,500 each for a ticket, plus hotel and travel, which means the companies they work for probably aren't the type to skimp on talent quality to save a few bucks. I'm considering setting up a booth in the exhibit hall, either on my own or with a group of fellow voice actors. As I've often discussed, E-Learning is one of the fastest growing and most lucrative genres in voiceover. I want to be where the buyers are.

WOVO CON

I'm looking forward to being in Sin City in just over a month for WoVO Con, where I'll be joining Dave Courvoisier and David Rosenthal for a live Rates Roundtable, and presenting on The Future of Voiceover. Will I see you there?

Enjoy your weekend!

JMC

Saturday, May 13, 2017

3 Things

Today I'm launching a new weekly blog series to take a look at three voiceover related topics that are top of mind at the end of my week.

First up:

The Future is Here

The issue of rates and compensation continues to percolate around the industry, and there is a certain sky-is-falling character to much of the discussion. In a figurative sense, the sky may well be falling. Rates at the highest end of the market are clearly under pressure. We are all seeing jobs from agents these days that look like they are missing a zero compared to what they once might have paid. I tend to believe that this is more a result of changing media consumption habits reducing the effectiveness of traditional broadcast media advertising than any supply/demand issue, but there's no denying that there are a lot of talent willing to take on major projects at lower rates than ever before for the sake of the credential. It will be interesting to see how this phenomenon progresses over the next couple of years, but the likelihood is that the days of making deep bank from working strictly on the national broadcast level are slowly coming to an end.

Nevertheless, there is a strong argument to be made that the broader voiceover industry is healthier than it has ever been, and will only continue to offer more and more opportunity to those with the ability to anticipate its evolution. For years, I've been telling people that the future of VO success is earning a robust income $500 at a time. That future is here. This doesn't mean accepting peanut rates for broadcast or new media work that generates large numbers of impressions, but rather embracing that the future for most talent will be found in corporate/industrial work, e-learning, and local/regional broadcast. Indeed, that's already how the vast majority of full time voice actors are making their living. The good news is that as commercial, and especially big league commercial, continues its inevitable decline due to new media and more segmented/targeted advertising, these other sectors are growing at an exponential pace. Moreover, the supply/demand curve for these genres is far more favorable than it is for commercial and even animation/video game voice actors. There is more work out there than there is quality talent to do it, which a quick review of auditions from any online casting site or other non-curated talent pool will demonstrate in abundance. The flow of $300-$1,000 jobs has never been stronger, and it will only continue to grow.

The sky is very much intact.

Demo Length

I've been following a few discussions on this topic this week, and I'm concerned that the debate over demo length is becoming a little too simplified. Not all demos are created equal. The conventional wisdom of around a minute with a fair amount of variety is a good baseline for high-impact demos like commercial, promo, trailer, and imaging. These demos lead to auditions or a foot in the door more often than direct hires, and buyers in these genres, very generally, tend to be high-end creatives with trained ears able to form impressions quickly. Fast paced, exciting, and packed with (reasonable) variety is key. No one wants to listen through two minutes of commercials, either, no matter how good you are.

What gets lost sometimes is the difference between buyers/gatekeepers in the genres mentioned above and those who are hiring for industrial narration, explainers, e-learning and the like. I've heard a lot of narration demos lately that are barely distinguishable from commercial demos. When I'm hiring for narration, or considering suitability based on a demo, eight seven-second cuts doesn't tell me much. Do I want to hear your range? Sure, but I just need to know how much of the conversational to polished spectrum you can cover. 3-4 different styles is plenty. What I'm more interested in hearing is whether you can sustain a read and engage my audience. These both require more than five or ten seconds of copy. Anyone hiring voice talent for multi-minute industrials/explainers or thousands of words of e-learning has run into talent who can flash greatness in short bursts but cannot sustain a read over time. This leads to awkward situations where re-casting can be necessary and compensation comes into doubt. Buyers in narration genres hire straight from demos more often than they do in other parts of the business. I would much rather hear 3-4 twenty to thirty second reads if I'm making that decision than a bunch of quick cuts. Show me competence, consistency, the ability to tell a story.


The Xanax Read


It all started with that Facebook Live commercial, (youtube.com/watch?v=YDmYpWhuGx8,) and now it seems like the post-Millennial trend is to reads that are actively sounding bored. Not even bored in a slightly edgy or sarcastic way, but rather just simply disconnected entirely from any emotional investment in the copy. I have my own theories on why this is, but I'd like to hear your thoughts on this emerging trend. Are we all going to have to learn how not to act?

Until next week, this is JMC.


Monday, April 17, 2017

A Good Day

I had a nice Thursday last week. One of those days where a few things come together and you unexpectedly book more revenue in 24 hours than your usual monthly target. A happy dance may have been involved. Perhaps two.

My instinct, sitting there at about 3PM on the Thursday before a holiday weekend, was to power down the studio, slap myself on the back for a job well done, and open a nice cold cerveza. See you Monday, voiceover business.

Instead, I did another 30 auditions over the next few hours, replied to client emails, worked a bit more on my upcoming book, began writing several scripts for student demos, and did some marketing. I quit around 10:30 that night.

Do I have a problem? Maybe. It's hard not to love what we do. It's harder still not to take it for granted when it is going well. Yet, I recalled last April, when after a surprisingly good March considering over a week of lost workdays for VO Atlanta, I had the ugliest month I've had in a few years. Yes, it was an aberration, but missing your standard monthly target by 40% even once lingers in the memory. So I passed on the beer, and went back to work.

One of the most critical separating factors between the talent I see acting relaxed and comfortable in the consistency of their business, and those who always seem to have a little panic around the eyes, is the sense that the only answer to how much VO work is enough for the former group is always, "more." While many talent will catch lightning in a bottle from time to time, the glow of that big booking or career-advancing step fades quickly. Consistent, repeat business from a core of stable, loyal clients does not.

How do you get there? You do 30 auditions when you would prefer to have a brewskie. You make one more marketing call when you'd rather spend a few minutes making monkey noises with your kids.

You don't stop. You push harder. You keep going.