Some Observations on the Ever Changing Landscape of Voice Over Acting – Part 1

The voice over acting business is going through something similar to what the music business has been grappling with in recent years.

Voice Over Agents (like record labels) are getting squeezed out more and more as the voice over actors (like music recording artists) find ways to go directly to their clients (consumers) via new forms of technology, especially the internet.

There is a word for this phenomenon. It’s called “Disintermediation” and it is defined as the “removal of the intermediaries or middlemen in a supply chain.”

Other examples of businesses or industries that have been strongly impacted by disintermediation are: Computers (both hardware and software), travel agencies, bookstores, video stores and stock purchasing.

Two markets that are currently in progress of disintermediation in a big way (in addition to voice over acting) are the real estate market; RE agents are getting squeezed out due to online homeseller transparency, and education, as online education continues to erode enrollment in traditional schools and universities.

It is interesting to look at how this process of disintermediation has affected how I spend my time each day as a working voice over talent.

The Old School Way to Start Voice Over Acting

Back when I first started voice over acting in the early 1990’s, the internet was not the marketing tool that it is today. In order to get a voice over acting job, I had to physically go out on an audition or be booked for a job by my talent agency. That always meant driving many miles to studios or casting agents in Los Angeles, San Diego or somewhere in between. No problem, I was young, single, carefree, gas was only $1.15 per gallon and I drove a very reliable Toyota Corolla!

I also had to find ways to establish and maintain relationships with recording studios and producers who I met along my travels. Because I’m a pretty social person by nature, I excelled at making connections with people who hire, or even suggest voice over acting talent to clients. As a result, I booked more and more voice over acting jobs and the momentum eventually began to build over time.

At this stage of the voice over timeline, making it in this business was fundamentally contingent on where you lived and who you knew. You HAD to live in a major market or metropolitan area, or at least be willing to commute to those areas on a regular basis. You HAD to know the kinds of people who could offer you voice over acting opportunities.

So, living in Orange County, California was perfect for me to get my feet wet and start building a career as a voice over talent.

Then, Along Came Technology

Technology can be a blessing or a curse depending on where you stand in relationship to it. Looking back, it would have been truly impossible for me to have started my voice over acting career living where I do now in Southwestern Michigan.Technology created more opportunity in Voice Over Acting

Likewise, were it not for technological advances that make home recording studios now possible and even easy to set up, I could never have even dreamed of moving out of crowded, traffic-jammed, expensive Southern California when it was time to start a family, buy a bigger home and shift gears into a more stable and practical lifestyle.

On the other hand, because of technology, I now have to compete with a lot more voice talent than I ever did in the past. This fact has forced me to constantly work on improving my marketing skills and continually adapt to the changing voice over acting landscape.

Just Because It’s Easier to Start Doesn’t Make it Easy to Succeed

If I was trying to start my voice over acting business today, I honestly don’t know how far I would get in that process. Even though the access to jobs and opportunities is greatly expanded to the point where virtually anybody can set up a studio and start auditioning for (and hopefully booking) lots of voice over acting gigs, I actually think it is much harder to “make it” in this business today than it was twenty years ago. And by “make it,” I mean ramp it up to the level where you can make a living at it as your sole source of income.

In Part 2 of this article I look more at the impact of technology on voice over acting, and specifically on what skills and abilities beyond acting training are needed for today’s voice over actors.

 has been in the voice over acting profession for more than 20 years. She has collaborated on thousands of projects and partnered with hundreds of production companies, marketing and advertising firms, commercial voice-over recording studios and corporate/business clients around the United States and throughout the world. Check out her Voice Over Acting Demos and request a Voice Over Services Quote for an upcoming project.

8 comments on “Some Observations on the Ever Changing Landscape of Voice Over Acting – Part 1

  1. David H. Lawrence XVII on

    I LOVE this. You so get it. I speak to so many VO artists who are still trying to figure out what happened while they weren’t looking…and you nailed it. Great post – and I can’t wait for the second half.

  2. Debby Barnes on

    “Just Because It’s Easier to Start Doesn’t Make it Easy to Succeed.” Truth. Your observations are spot-on, Debbie. And the ever changing VO landscape you so eloquently write about appears to be moving at break-neck speed! Yikes. Can’t wait for Part 2! 🙂

  3. Marc Scott on

    When I started doing voice over work I worked in radio and television. That meant easy access to clients, producers and studios to record! I was blessed to never have to commute further than my job.

    On a day like today, when a foot of snow has fallen since the morning, I thank God for the internet and recording in my home in my PJ’s!!

    Is it harder to make it in today’s landscape? I think you could argue that either way. But I will say this, as the middleman is removed, more and more people call themselves voice actors, and rates drop due to freelance sites, it will certainly be an opportunity for the cream to rise to the top, work hard, and earn a great living!

  4. Johnny George on

    Indeed. I remember those long drives here & there too starting in the 70’s – 90’s. When I built out my studio, I remember bragging to a studio friend of mine. His reaction was, “why would you feel good about cutting me out of the equation?” I was surprised, because it didn’t occur to me that was what I was doing. I thought I was embracing technology and wasn’t that cool?

    Since that time we both understand the dilemma and respect each other’s territory. But I must say, with the pool of talent increased, it’s a “who will work the hardest to stay ahead of the curve?” Increased coaching, quality demos and marketing are only the basics for staying on top or at least on the competitive edge.

  5. Debbie Grattan on

    Wow, thank you David, Debby, Marc, and Johnny for your insightful comments. Life, career, and being on a forward trajectory in any situation will involve evolution to some degree. For those who can embrace and ride the wave of that change, there is usually greater reward than for those who remain stagnant, and resistant to change. Humans by nature tend to be resistant to anything new, so sometimes it is hard to keep plugging along in unchartered territory.
    BTW, in case you haven’t seen it, here is a link to Part 2 of this blog:
    http://www.debbiegrattan.com/blog/voice-over-acting-landscape-part-two/

  6. Bettye Zoller on

    Your article is very well written and wonderful. Thank you. Yes, that’s exactly what is going on. The industry is changing rapidly just as many others are because of internet interactions. I started voiceovers in 1972. Simultaneously, I was a full time studio singer (background vocals on major labels, jingles, etc). The studio singing industry pretty much weakened in about 1980 so very grateful to have my robust vo career including work in audio book narration. I narrate as Bettye Zoller Seitz if you’d like to see my work in that genre. Of course, I’m also voice coach and make good demos.

  7. Debbie Grattan on

    Marc, I was pondering what you wrote in your comments and wanted to say a little bit more…

    I agree that you could say it’s easier or harder depending on how much you are able (and willing) to embrace technology. I’m not naturally a very technology oriented person. Luckily I married someone who is, so I have been able to enjoy the benefits of staying ahead of the curve in technology without having to do all of the heavy lifting that my husband can handle for me. I’ve learned what I had to learn (just enough to be dangerous 🙂

    I think the point I was trying to articulate, and get clear on for myself as I was writing this, was that given the current state of the VO biz, I’m not sure I would have the chops marketing and technology-wise, to really ramp up into this business. I definitely have the acting chops, but without significant strengths in the other areas, I just don’t see it being a very easy ride. Very steep learning curve!

    You strike me as a smart and naturally very technology oriented person. I’ve really appreciated you sharing some of your tips on your blog (http://marcscottvoiceover.com/category/blog/) and I’ve been implementing some of them (as you know). I can understand that for someone with your background and technical know-how, it would seem fairly easy to ramp up these days. It’s interesting to see the difference of perspective on this.

    Thanks again for reading and taking the time to share your thoughts! Much success in 2014!

  8. East NY on

    While voice over agents of the traditional kind are struggling, many are simply adapting to the online playing field and promoting their representation business over the web.

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