Voice Talent Basics

What is a voice-over?

A voice-over is defined in the American Heritage Dictionary as "The voice of an unseen narrator, or character not seen speaking in a movie or television broadcast." This definition has recently been expanded to include computer presentations and Internet broadcasts as well. When you hear an announcer on at TV commercial, or a narrator on a documentary, the recording is called a "voice-over".

What do you mean by "Professional" voice talent?

The word "Professional" used to describe voice talent means the same thing as it does when applied to a musician, actor, or athlete. A voice-over professional earns a significant portion of his or her income by doing voice over work. While some amateurs can do excellent voice work, professionals perform most of the better work. Of course, most professional voice talent started out as amateurs. Voice Talent are also known as "voice actors", "voice artists" "voice-over artists", etc.

How do I find a voice-over professional for my project?

If you are located in a major city, there are talent representatives, or agents who represent many of the professional voice-over professionals in your area. They are usually listed in the business yellow pages under "Talent Agencies". (Caution: While most talent agencies are legitimate, professional businesses, there are a few which are not. Always use care when dealing with anyone in "Show Business" that you donít have an existing relationship with or a good referral.) Also, many voice-over professionals are listed in web directories and search engines.

Where do voice-over professionals come from Ė what is their training?

Those who work as voice talent come from many different professional backgrounds. Many are actors, former and current radio personalities while some started as musicians. Some are individuals who started out very young to be voice talent. In Los Angeles and New York, and some other cities, there are schools that specialize in training voice-talent. Many current and former TV and movie stars also do a great deal of voice-over work.

How do I know which voice-talent to hire for my project?

All voice-over professionals have a "Demo Tape" or CD available, which contains samples of their work. Also, many have their demo placed on the web, which you can listen to. You should be able to imagine what they might sound like on your project by listening to their demo.

If you have the time and budget, you can also "audition" talent for your project, by having them read a few sentences from your project, either in-person, or have them record and send you a sample. "Phone Auditions" are also a possibility, but many have found using the telephone to be unreliable, due to the audio distortion that the telephone can cause.

Note that most of your better professionals expect to be paid at a higher minimum rate for projects they have to audition for. Some well-known individuals will not audition for projects at all Ė this does not mean that they are difficult to work with, only that they donít consider the audition process to be an effective use of their time.


How much does "Professional" voice talent cost?

Prices vary widely, depending on geographic location, the experience and reputation of the talent, and a number of other factors. Generally, the better talent costs more. At one extreme end of the spectrum, a well known "celebrity" could cost tens of thousands of dollars or more, while a local disk-jockey who does part time voice-work might be hired for far less. While preparing budgets, it might be a good idea to locate the talent you think would be appropriate for your project, and find out what they charge.