The Duke of Dayparts: Duke Morgan
Gotta love Duke Morgan for taking time from his busy schedule to tell our readers a little bit about sustainability. Just because you’ve hit a huge gig doesn’t mean you should be test-driving Ferraris just yet. Be realistic and take it a day at a time.
How did you get started in VO?
The Majority of my life behind the mic was in Toronto, Canada. It was there that I received my training, bumps, and scrapes and developed a thick skin towards criticism. Let’s face it, not everyone is going to love your voice, or your style of read, so you just take it when it happens and move on. I was blessed with being exposed to a variety of situations from landing some roles in movies, to being a reporter, to also being a radio news anchor, and moving on to on air personality and eventually the promo voice on staff at a major TV network while doing a host of commercials. I also landed a role from DIC in LA as Bulletproof Vess, a police cartoon character in an animation series.
How did you get where you are today?
I became a US Citizen years ago, moved to Las Vegas, and set up shop in my home – arming it with some of the best equipment one could buy – and learned how to produce spots as well as voice them. I now have what I call a small advertising boutique set up where I furnish clients with radio spots and voice TV spots and also write and produce TV spots. I am currently on Albertsons spots in some parts of the USA and just wrapped up doing a bunch of spots for Chevy. I have ISDN, phone patch, Skype for voice. I use “You send it” for large wave files and basically supply clients with whatever they need voice and production wise.
What do you think of Pay sites like Voices 123 and Voices.com?
I think they helped ruin the industry and made the owners of those sites millionaires.
You should never have to pay to get auditions; you should have an agent that supplies them for you. Having said that, belonging to an organization where they take a percentage is OK, but having to pay up to 300 dollars or more a year with no guarantee just to get auditions, and on top of that having to bid a price is nonsense.
You might deliver a great read and provide a good price but someone else will come along and perhaps undercut your price by half, and even though the read is not as good, chances are the engager will go with the cheaper price. That is not what the biz is about. You will get a lot of schoolteachers and such who pick up a cheap audio program, and as long as they can read and edit, they bid 50 dollars when the project is really worth $400.00 depending on markets and media. Many times those spots are used on Radio, TV, and the Net and anyone who bids 50 dollars and has an OK read will be chosen over someone that has an outstanding read and bids $200 To $400 dollars. If you are good then you should be paid what your worth. Those places are like the dollar store for voice talent, only the talent pays.
What gear and production system do you use?
I have 3 microphones, A bock 5-zero Seven, and AKG C-414- and a Sennheiser 416 Shotgun mic. True systems mic pre amp, mated to a DA KING FET Compressor all going into a Mackie 24-8 mixer board.
I use SAW STUDIO a PC based system. Saw Studio allows you to have instant access to 6 libraries that you have created at once.
With six libraries comprised of music, sound effects, and various audio artifacts it allows me to work extremely fast in putting together a spot. Some people have down played this DAW, but it’s each to his own. Find one you like and can operate easily and your job becomes easier.
I am not a MAC GUY or a PC GUY, I just use what works best for me, I suggest doing the same for you. Use whatever works best for you.
What are your favorite plugins?
I like Izotope- I think they are a cut above anything out there and they help shave a lot of time
From your project including mastering.
What is the best voice processing trick or voice-over technique anybody should know?
Record at minus 7db, that way you will never over modulate your sound.
Bring up the volume in the final mix- and tweak it a little with Eq- It will sound good.
If you want loud then invest in the Izotope Ozone 4 plug in to give it that punch!
When it comes to VO work, studio & gear, what are your most ingenious methods/discoveries for saving time and cash?- Never put off tomorrow what you can do today, soon as the job or audition comes in, if possible get it done and sent back out. Tomorrow you just may be too busy.
Saving cash? I think in the end if you invest in high-end gear, the cash will come back to you.
If you sound cheap like tin in an audition, you will never score anything, so do it right the first time and besides it’s a biz expense which is deductible
How do you schedule your work (priorities…..)?
Paying jobs always first, auditions after.
What do you love about working as a freelance VO talent?
You can to some degree set your own hours, you have many bosses, and they are your clients.
The difference is you do not have to deal with them all day long. When the session is over as long as they are happy, that is all that is important and if you have to take some comments that are not warranted, it’s only for a short time, not the whole day.
When was the first time you remember falling in love with VO?
Acting in plays in school, then doing morning PA announcements and adding in some personality and the “Junky Joke of the Day”
Who are your VO idols/mentors? Who influenced your work as a voice-over artist?
Most of the people were in Toronto, and in those days, they had voices that could shake a house down. Make no mistake, they acted just like the light voices do today, but they had thunder to their sound, and that just made people listen. When you are gifted with a magnificent voice and learn how to use it, you can read the phone book and captivate people.
What is your dream job?
This is it, I am doing it.
Where did you work before radio?
I was young when I got into this business- around 17 years of age. So in addition to school my jobs at that time were part time, pumping gas and being a camp counselor for youngsters during the summer as I worked towards getting into the Broadcasting side of things.
What would be your 3 main tips for a youngster trying to start a VO career?
1- Tenacity- they may tell you to give up- but do not.
2- Be aware that the biz is changing faster than ever, try to stay one step ahead of the changes.
3- If you get lucky and land a well-paying on going gig, save and invest your money first, then once invested use some of the golden eggs from the investment to have your good time. Today those on going gigs are not on going, everything ends.
I was speaking to a VO talent who was used for ABC network promos. He made a nice stash of cash and loved the job. It was on going- but only for about a year. Now it’s gone and they won’t use him anymore. He laments how he misses the money.
That’s the point, you may get one or two gold records, during your career, and the rest will be job by job, so when lightning strikes, save the cash and resist burning it on a fancy car or something like that and you’ll be in it for the long run. You’ll be able to survive the lean years.
These days agents are not what they used to be, no one really sells you anymore or introduces you to the big ad agencies. It is all by computer auditions, which makes it tough, because the direction they provide may not properly convey what they have in mind. It would be better if at least they did phone auditions so you could get some feedback and adjust your read.
But that’s the way it is today. Hit and miss.
So in ending, you may get lucky and have an outstanding career, you may have an average one where you make enough to keep you happy and pay the bills, or it may be a struggle. I do believe you have to be good and versatile but I also believe the star you were born under has a lot to do with success as well.
There are a lot of great actors out there, but why do only a few make it? Same thing with voice people. Some are not even all that good but rise to the top. It’s called luck!
Find that penny and polish it well and keep it in your pocket for in this biz, you will need all the luck one can find.