So my first blog post in a while, in fact since before the fabled L.A. trip (though if you missed it I did write a two part article for the VO Herald on said trip – Jay Britton Voice Over Herald)
Also welcome to my new website! It’s been a few months in the planning but I’m really happy with how it came out and must give enormous thanks to my designer – Kathy Osborne Design
Ok on with the blog!
So my title is slightly misleading (but nothing like scandal to drive traffic, just ask TMZ!) but I do think there is an important distinction to be made between finding your niche and learning your niche.
Voiceover is performing and with performing there is always a certain amount of ego (there has to be to take the inevitable rejection) and with ego there can also easily become delusion. When I was a kid I loved football, I loved to play football and aspired to be the next great Arsenal goalkeeper, the issue was, I was useless. Seriously, there isn’t a bone in my body that is attuned to sporting prowess and you know what, I don’t play sport.
Regardless of my initial thoughts to the lofty heights of football fame through many losses, coach feedback and self actualisation (putting my psychology A-Level to good use there!) I came to realise that I simply didn’t possess the talent required. Now I could have blindly ploughed on, insistent that I was the best footballer ever to have lived or I could have turned my attention to other activities I was more naturally suited to.
The analogy I’m rather ham-fistedly trying to draw here is that it’s not up to you to find your voiceover niche, nor is it up to you to decide what your niche is, that job falls fairly and squarely in the lap of the potential customers.
In my head I have a voice that is suited for every single type of job and I should book every one of them, I sound like Morgan Freeman and Joe Pasquale and I do every accent on the planet flawlessly. The issue is that pretty quickly my bookings will show that’s not the case. The way to find your niche, in my opinion is to look at what you get booked for.
In theory you should be auditioning for everything that comes your way, regardless of the genre and breakdown so if you’re booking more corporate jobs than you are commercial what do you think your niche most likely is? If you’re booking the “guy next door” sound and not the Gandalf “You shall not pass!!!” sound, what do you think your niche most likely is?
It’s important not to let your own preferences cloud what the industry is telling you’re good at and will be booked for. Personally I love character voices, animation and video games but I can’t deny that a significant proportion of the work I get booked for is “guy next door” corporate videos and “clean, British sound” e-learning. That’s the industry showing me what my sound is preferred for and so that should become my niche, does that mean I’m going to stop auditioning for character voices, no of course not but it does mean I might tweak my branding slightly or go after corporate rather than animation companies. To be clear, this isn’t quite clean cut and if you’re not booking for certain job types that you really should be, the issue may well not be your niche but a need for some more training so this isn’t necessarily always the reason you don’t book!
Yes, it can be disappointing to find out you’re the IVR king when what you really want to do is video games but that’s the reality of the business, the other reality being that this is in a constant state of flux! The biggest example of this is the now absent sound of “Announcers”, every other booking these days says “not announcery” and that’s because the social tastes and culture change. This means that while my “guy next door” sound might be dynamite for corporate work at the moment, in 6 months or 6 years that might be the touch of death to any corporate video and be all the rage in radio promo’s so it’s also important to not see your niche as a single fixed point of reference but more what the industry wants from you at any given moment in time.