What if what’s coming for your voiceover business isn’t an avalanche? What if it’s a tsunami? I started thinking about this blog post after reading my friend Jeffrey Tobin’s post called Your Tsunami is Coming.
As I read, I thought back to what I see as a vivid example of a tsunami hitting the voiceover business as a whole. The strike of 2000. Until that year, while there had been some significant shifts of one kind or another (one example would be how auditions were being done at agency offices rather than in recording studios), most voiceover work (especially work that paid well) was was booked way it had been for a very long time, through an agent. And much of the time after submitting an audition.
Then the strike.
Suddenly, the amount of good paying non-union voiceover work exploded.
There were a number of factors involved, most of them related to the explosive growth of the Internet. Anyone remember the dot com bubble bursting in 2000? Yes, the bubble burst, but it was a bubble in the first place because of how rapidly the Internet had grown. It was now possible for someone looking for a professional voice to search and find good, quality voice talent who had their own web sites. With demos.
My friend Connie Terwilliger started her site in 1996. I posted my first site in 1998. Back in the late 90s there were not huge numbers of voiceover people with their own websites, and the majority of us who did have sites were working pro voices. So, someone searching for a voice was likely to find a professional. No need for an agent. Or an union. Or even a contract. Just connect via email or telephone. Work out the details. Email a script. Record at home. (I built my first studio in 1986.) And deliver the audio. Send an invoice. Deposit the checks when they arrived in the mail.
So, back to the tsunami. What does a tsunami do? It creates massive devastation and destruction. Which is, at least at some level, what happened to the careers of many voiceover people in the aftermath of the strike in 2000. No, it wasn’t as swift as a tsunami, but the aftermath was just as complete.
Loads of very talented people were booking less and less work. A decline that has continued for many. And for all of us, the levels of pay have never returned to what they once were. Oh, individual jobs can still pay very well. But the playing field today is very different than it was 25 years ago when I was still in my first decade of doing voiceovers.
Here is reality: some kind of destructive storm (or maybe tsunami) is ahead of each of us. How are we going to deal with the aftermath of whatever that turns out to be? What we can’t know is exactly what will happen. What we can know is how well prepared we will be to deal with it. Or them, if the trouble turns out to come in multiples.
Many of the people that have thrived in voiceover in the last 15 years have been people who have learned to ride the waves of change that have swept through the business. They have a professional website. They don’t sit back and assume that everything is going to stay the same. They know it won’t.
Learn to be flexible. Pay attention to the shifting landscape. Adapt as things change. As you do, you’ll see that everything works out.