What makes a good voiceover demo is a 60-90 second mp3 or wav file, composed of short clips that accurately represent your abilities as a voice actor.
That’s the cut and dry answer, now let’s take a deeper dive…
Table of Contents
- The importance of a good voiceover demo
- What makes a good commercial VO demo?
- What should be on a voiceover demo?
- Should a voice-over demo have music?
- Can I make my own voice-over demo?
- When should I make a voice-over demo?
The importance of a good voiceover demo
A voice actor must have a demo, it’s as simple as that; anyone who’s interested in hiring you will need to hear your voice and what you’re capable of doing in front of a microphone. Your demo needs to be captivating, and it needs to show your range – if it’s lackluster and every clip sounds the same, it won’t impress the listener and you’ll be doing yourself a disservice.
On the other hand, if your demo starts off right away with something ear-catching, a potential client might keep listening and if they hear something on there that matches the tone they’re looking for on their project, you might win the job.
…a voiceover demo is more than just a handful of recordings thrown together
What makes a good commercial VO demo?
A good voiceover demo will capture the listener’s attention within the first three seconds, and then quickly showcase the voice talent’s dynamic range. A voiceover agent or casting director will assess how well the talent fits a project, based on their voiceover demo. If the talent seem like a good fit, they might then be invited to submit a custom audition using a snippet from the script, or best case scenario – the talent could book the gig directly, without even auditioning.
What should be on a voiceover demo?
The first segment of a commercial voiceover demo needs to command the listener’s attention. It could be a clip from a commercial that has a curious sound effect, something musical, or it could be wording that’s striking.
After the opening clip, following clips should take the listener through all of the different styles that the talent can deliver. So, if a demo starts with a high-energy commercial for a car dealership, saying something like “This weekend, everything must go, go go!!!”, the next clip might be something that contrasts that style, such as a mature-sounding voice for a banking commercial. Those two clips could be followed by something quirky like a nerd, offering yet another style of voice.
Essentially, the demo needs to change gears rapidly, from one clip to the next, showcasing the variety of styles the voice talent can deliver.
Should a voice-over demo have music?
Voiceover demos typically feature excerpts from commercials that have been professionally produced – often with music, and sometimes with sound effects (SFX) added as well. It’s not crucial that every clip used on the demo is scored with a music bed – in fact, some of the strongest voiceover performances stand out because they’re “dry”, meaning they don’t use music. A famous example of this is the So God Made a Farmer commercial that Ram Trucks ran in the 2013 Super Bowl.
Can I make my own voice-over demo?
If you feel confident taking on the job of creating your own demo, you can absolutely give it a try. There are essentially three ways of creating a voiceover demo:
- Using samples from paid jobs (spots) you’ve done
- Recording new spots for the purpose of creating a demo
- Combining paid jobs you’ve done with new spots recorded specifically for the demo
It’s important to remember that a voiceover demo is more than just a handful of recordings thrown together. Deciding on the order of clips is an artform, and getting it wrong will cost you business. It takes skill and experience to know where the spots should go and why.
Another thing to consider is where you will get music beds. Sound Ideas and Universal Production Music are both excellent sources but there are many royalty-free options available with a quick google search of “production beds”.
When should I make a voice-over demo?
When you feel you have enough skill to walk into a recording studio, be handed a script and quickly get into character and read it cold, then you’re probably ready to make a voiceover demo.
To book jobs, you’ll need a demo – whether you upload it to an agents’ roster, a pay-to-play site or email it directly to a potential client.
Your demo needs to represent the different styles you’re capable of performing, and that you can replicate in studio if you’re booked for a session. If you need to spend hours and hours recording just to get one usable take, you probably need more practice.
Check out Do I Need a Voiceover Coach
James Dooley is the owner of Dooley Media Works, a voiceover recording and video production company. When he’s not being the “friendly, yet authoritative” voice of brands like KAYAK, Dove Soap and Honey Nut Cheerios, he provides voiceover coaching and professional voiceover demo production for aspiring voice actors looking to succeed in the business.