Your First Demo is Done. Now What?

Map of a scavenger hunt

Congratulations! You've navigated this far. Your hard work has paid off. Your first professionally recorded voice over demo is recorded. Give yourself a pat on the back!

Presumably, coming this far has taken you years of performing on stage, on camera, private coaches, acting, improv and scene study classes. Not to mention finding a professional demo producer and engineer to create this masterpiece that showcases you! All of which is a worthy investment in your career. Now you're wondering..."What do I do with it?"

If you've ever taken a voice over class, you probably heard something like, "record your demo, seek representation." In that case, do your window shopping before you first demo is recorded. It is not a requirement to have representation to be a successful voice actor, much like you do not have to be part of a union to make a successful career as a voice actor. However, if you would like to work in television and film, those opportunities are most likely only going to come through a reputable talent agency. I say, most likely, because until the turn of the century and the adoption of the internet, that was the case.

Sure, there are success stories, like Don LaFontaine who was working on the 1964 western Gunfighters of Casa Grande, when he had to fill in for an unavailable voice actor in order to have something to present to MGM. After MGM bought the spots, LaFontaine began a career as a voice actor.

For the majority, you will require an agent who will act as your buffer between you and your clients which include ad agencies, recording studios, casting directors/directors, producers, etc.

Where do I start looking for a Talent Agent?

You knew this day was coming, but now you actually have to put yourself out into the world. The Voice Over Resource Guide lists agencies in New York and Los Angeles, but what about all those agencies in-between?

Chances are, if you're just begging you don't have many notches on your belt at this point. And no, sorry, your MP3 recordings from class - don't try and be clever and create your own demo reel.

SIDE BAR: If you have recordings from your classes - which you do because you took at least more than one voice over class. Upload those babies to your iTunes music, sync them to your iPhone, get in the car, play said recordings and self direct yourself. What do you ears hear? Is this a REAL person? Is what you're saying believable? Or just is it just some put on voice that doesn't sound real and is actually kind of annoying.

Let's be honest. The odds of your fresh, new demo knocking the socks off a top talent agency in a major market like Los Angeles or New York (without a referral) are pretty slim. Not impossible. I should know - that was me. Chances are you're not ready at this stage. Your demo might get their attention with a referral, they might invite you to come over to their beautiful studio in Los Angeles, they might ask you to read for them, and then they might ask you to have a nice day!

I'm not here to discourage anyone from following their dreams - but, I will tell it like it is for those who have the guts and determination to follow their heart and do what they love so they never have to 'work' a day in their life ever again.

This blog isn't here to bum you out about the endless amount of effort it's going to take before you get the chance to wow a top agency in a major city that's flooded with talent. This blog is here to help guide you along the scavenger hunt. Specifically, to find an agency that's willing to take a shot at representing you and giving you the opportunity to prove you've got what it takes to be in this industry. Before that, we have some homework to do.

What Does the Talent Agency Need from Me?

The days of cold-calling agencies is over. Nor can you email talent agencies, "Here's my new commercial demo! Listen to how great I am! Represent me, please!" I mean, you could if you want to waste your time and be remembered as an unprofessional neophyte. Look it up.

Every agency will have their own very specific requirements for submitting your information for consideration. Did I specify, specific? Get used to this, it's a concept called, following instructions. If an agency only accepts submissions sent by mail (you know, stamp licking), do not email your cover letter, resume, and demo. Prove that you know how to follow specific instructions and do what is asked of you.

Have the following general information ready:

  • Cover letter

  • Resume

  • Demos

  • Headshots

  • Union status

  • Home studio setup

Second to the Voice Over Resource Guide's list of reputable talent agencies, there's always Google. My recommendation, start alphabetically, by state:

"Voice over (talent) agencies in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona..."

This search can also be broadened beyond the United States, should you consider representation world wide.

CAUTION: Be aware of agencies requiring you to pay for their services. Those aren't talent agents. Those are scams. Yes, agents collet a fee off the top of your work - but they don't charge you for their services.

What should I do with my Demos?

You should be very proud of the work you've done. Show it off. With the advent of social media and the internet, the possibilities of where you can showcase your work are endless. If you have your own website, "demos" should be visible, if not front and center on your homepage. Whatever method you chose to display your demos, be sure it is simple, convenient and easily accessible. I.E. Not five clicks into your website, or accessible only by downloading. Use your best judgment and expect both praise and critique.

What shouldn't I do with my Demos?

You should be very proud of the work you've done. Therefore, be weary of critiques and criticism from both those not familiar with the voice over industry (friends/family) and those who are and are not active demo producers or industry professionals. There is no one way to produce a demo. Each genre of voice over has its own standards in demo production and even then industry standards are constantly evolving with time. The last thing you want is doubt in your new masterpiece.

When should I record a NEW Demo?

Similarly to when you asked yourself if you were ready to record your first demo, now it's time to reflect on your growth. Ask yourself, does this demo represent me and my talents, currently? Typically demos begin to date themselves around three to five years.

Who should produce my next demo?

This is an artists personal choice. You need to find a producer who you feel comfortable discussing the intricacies of your demo with. The copy choices, the number of spots, the length of the demo, the SFX and music, etc. Because this is not my area of expertise, I recommend you use your best judgement while shopping around. Ask your fellow actors with demos you've heard and really liked, do your research and don't be surprised if it costs you anywhere from $1,500 - $2000.00. A professionally produced demo is worth its weight in gold over your buddy with Garage Band, who is in a garage band.