top of page

There's a Reason you're not getting Booked

Those of you who follow me on Tik Tok and Clubhouse, or who have been to any of my webinars, know that I don't sugarcoat things. So in keeping with that, I want to tell you why your sound might suck- and why you're not getting booked.

I handle voice casting for some of my clients, but I am not a full-time casting director like some of the bigger names out there. The ad agency clients I work for appreciate my approach, which is very different than the current state of casting that many of you are used to. It's a curated list, and I mostly do directed slots via Zoom with Source Connect. This allows me to get my ears on your sound ahead of a job you might book. In my notes, I have a column with a star rating on a scale of 1 to 5 for overall sound quality. During the pandemic lockdown, bad sound quality was a deal breaker. The studios weren't open, and we needed you to be 'broadcast ready'. These days, it's not that cut and dry. If your read is solid, but your audio quality is bad, I will simply ask if you're ok with coming into the studio if you book. If the answer is no- then your file is not submitted. (There have been exceptions where we needed things to sound like "real people", and the poor audio quality actually worked to achieve that. But that is a rare case!).

Do ad agency clients listen for sound quality? Yes... and no.

I can give endless examples of problematic home setups, both from the audition process and from having consulted with well over 2,500 voice actors since lockdown started. The voice acting community is a super helpful and well intended group, but there is an awful lot of bad advice and horrible gear recommendations made regularly in facebook groups and other forums. For a lot of it, context matters. The sandbox I play in is generally commercial recording for TV and Radio advertising. The standards I try to deliver for my clients may be different than someone doing audiobooks or e-learning work. So keep that 'lense' in mind as you read the rest of this article. And even as I make that distinction, you also need to know that basic, good audio practices SHOULD carry over to ALL of the work that's out there.

At the end of a voice casting session for a single voice for one spot, I might submit 24-30 voices to my client. That's it. One actor every 10 minutes for 4 hours. You are one of relatively small group of good voices! I reach out to the best agents I know in markets that have a thriving community of successful actors. My reasons for that can be a whole other discussion- so I'll hold off on that for now. So do ad agency clients listen for sound quality? Yes... and no. They are likely listening over their phone or maybe popping in airpods and such. I have asked some of them over time, and the answers are mixed. I can tell you this with absolute certainty: if you're recording in your echoey living room with an air conditioner running on a cheap USB mic with maybe nothing but a shield behind it (which does nothing by the way), and the next person's file was recorded on a Sennheiser 416 in Studio Bricks booth- it is a major shift in quality, and they absolutely feel it, even if they can't put it into words.

Below is an screen capture of a recent casting session I directed (yes, directed. Like the olden days) to show the level of quality I typically receive: 1 star being absolutely unbookable and five stars being as good as a booth at most major studios. If you look closely, you'll notice a total of three 5 star ratings, and an awful lot of 1 star ratings. Again, this is only a deal-breaker if you can't come to the studio to record... but on a visceral level, bad sound absolutely works against you. It is a very competitive market. You know this, because you audition a dozen or more times a week and haven't booked anything in ages. Right? When I ask actors "are you ok with coming in if you book?", they understand that this means their sound isn't great. The majority of them would absolutely LOVE to not be their own engineer for a change. But some seem genuinely shocked by the ask! Here are some common responses and how I feel about them as an engineer:

But my agent says I sound good!

Your agent isn't a sound engineer.

I've done other bookings and no one has complained.

I was shocked on a recent casting session when someone with a mic and a shield in an echoey space told me their mic was a Neumann. I would have guessed a cheap USB mic by the sound of it. Their response is one I get often from actors and agents: "No one has ever complained". Wanna know the truth? They haven't complained to your face- but they have most definitely complained. Sometimes I've gone back to the client and said "this isn't useable, and we need to re-record after I help them with their sound". Ask any engineer and they will tell you.

So and so (insert fellow voice actors name here) told me to get this mic!

Some mics lend themselves better to certain acoustic spaces than others. Just because your friend/ coach/ actor friend/ dealer has a mic they love doesn't mean it's right for you! Be careful where you get your advice.

I need to keep my mic positioned here so I can see the copy better.

Comb filtering is the enemy of every audio engineer these days. If you want to know what it sounds like, cup your hands around your mic while you're speaking. That "boxy" or "hollow" sound is the result of sound waves bouncing off close surfaces and into your mic from different angles, cancelling out certain frequencies in the process. If you have a tablet of computer screen right behind your mic- you're probably getting this sound. If you have any number of foam padded boxes to stick your mic in as a "booth", you're definitely getting this sound. If you're in a closet that is 2.5 feet by 2.5 feet and completely padded- you're getting this sound.If you're standing in a device that looks like an old-timey camera... well, you get the idea.

This is the only room I have to record in.

I totally get it, and you're in good company! Not everyone has a carpeted walk-in closet or a second bedroom to convert into a media room for self tapes and audio recording. But you need to find a solution. There are so many options.

The business has forever changed, and it is still expected that you have a home studio as a voice actor. Most large brands will still ask you to come in- our booths are booked every day. The business of finding voices is a mess- everyone reading this knows it. You're already fighting the ever-present vague spec, a lack of direction and coast to coast competition. Your sound quality needs to be as great as the read you're presenting! And while I keep notes on who sounds good and who doesn't, I don't necessarily report that information back to the agents. This is because I continue to consult with actors at night on their setups, and I feel like being a casting director while giving feedback to agents is a conflict of interest. It would be the same as a casting director telling you to take their class while you're auditioning for them. That's an understood no-no.

While this whole article might seem like a big advertisement for my consulting services, it's truly not! As any casting director will tell you- they WANT you to book the job. Their job is to get a great performance out of you and put their best foot forward for their clients. Sounding good is a part of that. You sounding good at home makes everyone shine! Even if you are ultimately asked to come in for a booking, a solid sound audition will most definitely help get you there!

Does this make sense?


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
bottom of page