Olympic Athletes Have Coaches – Why Don’t You?
by Harry Legg
So you’re a radio person wanting to get into the larger world of voiceover or to grow your VO work further… but do you have a coach? You might be saying to yourself, “I’ve been behind the mic for 10, 15 or maybe 20 years…why do I need a coach?” When I moved from Chicago to Los Angeles I had been behind the mic since I was a teenager and when I started asking around about how to break into real agency level VO someone suggested I take voiceover classes. I was really surprised by this recommendation. I already had plenty of freelance clients that were very happy with my work and I couldn’t help thinking, “Doesn’t the guy who suggested this know where I’ve been and what I’ve done? “ However, he suggested a particular voice coach who had a great website that posed a bunch of questions – what was my signature voice; how do you get an agent; what are the protocols when dealing with casting directors and many more questions that you don’t have to worry much about in the world of radio. Fortunately, I didn’t let my ego get the best of me and I signed up for the classes. It was the best thing I ever did for my VO business.
Now in the daily world of radio production, we may think we’re giving it our all – but compared to the level of script interpretation and quality of vocal delivery that is generally performed on the agency side – we usually fail miserably in radio. You bust into the production studio before or after your airshift and try to bang through the pile of production as fast as you can… c’mon, we’ve all been there! Radio companies love to send salespersons to training seminars and such but they rarely do that for their production voices and air talents. So, we have never been properly trained as many actors have been trained. That’s who you are competing against. In radio, many of us force our voice or are overly hyped…or if you’re on a rock station you might sound like a stoner… you get my drift. When you spend years and years performing in that mode you inevitably will have to have it beaten out of you. So, coaching is imperative; on one of my auditions at an old agent of mine’s office I was given a Subway Sandwiches restaurant script. Sitting in the lobby practicing the script was a guy who I had just seen a few weeks prior performing the leading role in a Broadway Show – again. That’s the level of people you are competing against.
I will emphasize again; if you are really serious about your personal VO business, you will find a coach. You don’t have to be in LA or NYC to find a great coach…many of them will now offer coaching via Skype or phone. Another side note to working with VO coaches and taking the occasional VO workshop is that it helps to “buy your way in”. Now I don’t mean this in a negative way towards any coaches…but it’s human nature – if you are a student that performs well in a seminar or with a coach – guess what – they are usually quite connected. Many times they bring in an agent or casting director to one of their sessions to critique students – you can see how it might be very beneficial to partake in these sorts of things. In my next blog, I’ll interview the VO coach that was recommended to me in LA and I’m going to try to convince him to write a regular column here, too!