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The VO Boss podcast blends business advice with inspiration & motivation for today's voice talent. Each week, host Anne Ganguzza shares guest interviews + voice over industry insights to help you grow your business and stay focused on what matters...

Dec 26, 2023

Get ready to redefine your understanding of the voiceover industry as host Anne Ganguzza and special guest co-host Tom Deere, pull back the curtain on the reality of the business and its inherent struggles. We dive deep into the pivotal SAG-AFTRA strike and how it's much more than just a Hollywood issue. It isn't about the glitz and glamour - it's about the hard truth of what it means to be a part of this industry, as a union or non-union voice actor. We'll tackle the misconception that all actors are high earners and shine a spotlight on the majority who are fighting for fair pay and intellectual property protection, especially with the advent of AI technology.

00:01 - Intro (Announcement)
It's time to take your business to the next level, the boss level. These are the premier business owner strategies and successes being utilized by the industry's top talent today. Rock your business like a boss a VO boss. Now let's welcome your host, Anne Ganguzza. 

00:20 - Anne (Host)
Hey, hey everyone. Welcome to the VO Boss Podcast and the Real Bosses series. I'm your host, Ann Gangusa, here with special guest co-host Mr Tom DHeere. Hello, Tom. 

00:31 - Tom (Co-host)
Hello Ann, so great to see you. 

00:33 - Anne (Host)
Yes, wonderful to be chatting with you again and you know, at the time of this recording we just had kind of a major industry event happen the SAG After Strike ended and I thought it would be a good time to talk about external factors that affect our industry and how we can prepare ourselves as bosses to really handle events that happen like that, that are sometimes not even within our control, and what do we do to sustain our businesses. 

01:04 - Tom (Co-host)
Yes, absolutely Off the top of my head. Keeping up with industry trends is extremely important, which is why, being subscribed to Hollywood Reporter, variety, backstage Magazine publications like that, our friend John Florian's VO Extra, which is sort of an online magazine just being aware of what's going on in the industry, because seeing the highlights on the nightly news can only get you so far, absolutely. Because just a little B-roll and a little this, that and the other thing is see Fran Drescher for five seconds blah and then like going on to the next subject. 

01:36 - Anne (Host)
Well, yeah, and we should know that Fran Drescher what her role. 

01:39 - Tom (Co-host)
Yes, as president of SAG After. 

01:42 - Anne (Host)
Yeah, know who the people are, know how it's impacting the industry and even if you are not a member, that was the whole thing. Even if you were not a member of SAG After and you felt that it didn't affect you, in reality it affected our entire industry as they were vying for fair pay and rights for creatives and actors and voice actors in regards to synthetic voices and AI out there Absolutely and streaming. 

02:09 - Tom (Co-host)
And streaming. Yeah, everything that SAG After does, all of their collectively bargained agreements and the rate structures and the minimums and all of that stuff, all of that has obviously a major impact on all the SAG After members. But it also has a huge effect on the non-union members, because non-union voice actors most tend to use SAG After CBAs collectively bargained agreements, if not a baseline, a guideline as to, in generally, how genres of voiceover charge, both in the structure of it and then the actual dollars and cents of it, and it will trickle down into the non-union world directly and indirectly. So, yeah, absolutely Everything affects everything in our industry. 

02:48 - Anne (Host)
And it's something to consider again I say this over and over again that it absolutely affects even though, as you mentioned, if you're not even a member, it affects the industry. It affects the perception of creatives and their value and their worth, and one of the reasons why we are in this as a business is to make money. In order to sustain our businesses and to do what we love for a living, we need to make money and we need to be able to pay the bills. We need to be able to have essential things like healthcare and, even if you're not a member of the union the perception of the market who has services or purchases our voice or hires us and pays us money. It's very important that that perception is one of value and one of worth, so that we can have this as a career, and have it as a sustainable career, so that we can survive. 

03:44 - Tom (Co-host)
It's interesting because most of the time when you watch the news or you're talking to people in other industries and there's a strike of some kind, it's usually we just want more money and then very things here and there. What was interesting about the SAG After Strike is that it was obviously nationally. Everybody was watching what was going on, because everybody who watches movies and television shows and streaming are impacted by this. This fall lineup and then in the spring we're really going to be feeling it because it's going to be rerun city. But what was interesting about this is that, yes, they wanted like a 7% increase and they wanted certain things, but the fact that they were talking about protection of our livelihood. 

Ai has the potential to take away our intellectual property, our IP, for on camera actors for their image, voice actors for their voice and then in other industries, musicians for their music, artists for their art, writers for their writing those five image, voice, music, art and writing. Ai is causing a lot of disruption, some of it in a good way, but most of it in a not good way, because of lack of understanding of it, lack of regulation and oversight on a federal level, and which was a big part of the SAG After Strike is that AI wasn't really taken into consideration in any of the collectively bargained agreements, so all of that needs to get back in there to protect actors from their IP being stolen. I think a lot of people didn't understand that if you're an extra and you get scanned and you get paid one fee and then they use you your likeness forever in a movie you just destroyed your extra career and so on and so on and so forth. 

So what was going on with AI in many ways is an existential threat to voice actors, so that's a big part of what this wasn't just about. Oh, those actors, they just want more money to be, to be movie stars. No, this was. If we don't do something about this, we won't be able to act anymore. 

05:40 - Anne (Host)
Well, yeah, and it brought awareness, I think, to the general public about our careers and the perception that, oh, they're just celebrities and more money and they're greedy. In reality, what was the percentage of people that make enough money, that are the high earners? There are only like 1% of actors in the union, and so the rest of them, the rest of us, the struggling actors, the starving artists, so to speak this is something that I think really was a good thing, so that we could have artists still pursuing this career feeling like, oh, I can possibly make it, I can possibly sustain this as a career, and so I think that's a good thing. Otherwise, you just end up with maybe just the high paid, high earning actors. 

And what happens to the creative process? What happens to movies, what happens to voice, what happens to music, what happens to the writing, when you just don't have the wide I would say broad spectrum of people vying to do this because they're passionate and they love it and they're good at it, but yet they need to be able to make a living at it. So, I think, bringing public awareness to the craft, public awareness of just how much that creatives are dependent upon, especially I go back to the pandemic. When? What do we do during the pandemic? 

We watch streaming, we watched movies, we listen to music and all of that was so important to help keep our I guess I want to say our- spirit and our sanity and our mental health that really was something that was crucial, I think, and of course, it goes back to support the arts, support the arts and our educational institutions, and really I think that this was just another wonderful example of bringing public awareness to what it is that we do and appreciation to it, yeah, I have a story with that in mind. 

07:34 - Tom (Co-host)
Just a week or two ago I live here in Midtown Manhattan. I went around the corner to the grocery store and I see some SAG Afterhab members striking and I noticed that the strike captain was an old friend of mine I've been friends with her for 30 years and actors hey, how are you doing? And we were talking and she explained to me that the reason why she's been able to keep her SAG After Health and pension benefits for the past few years is because of extra work. Not because starring or a supporting role or some Netflix thing, it was just being a New York working actor and just doing extra work. And she also does theater and other things. But like I don't think a lot of people realize that, just that relatively innocuous, almost unseen extra work pays her medical bills and goes towards her retirement. Because that's what the strike was about. It wasn't about the big movie stars. They're fine. 

I mean protecting their intellectual property from predatory AI practices is obviously a very big deal, and we're seeing deep fakes and all that stuff all the time and video game actors getting their voices harvested. But yeah, this is a blue collar strike if that makes sense Not unlike the auto worker strike that has been recently. I think it's mostly over now, but yeah, it's not unlike that. It wasn't about the movie stars, yeah. 

08:44 - Anne (Host)
And during the strike, because it was a it was a fairly lengthy strike I know that there was lots of speculation. You know Hollywood is dead, that kind of stuff or is that going to happen? And in reality, I mean understanding the people that hire us and pay us for our services and understanding like what it is that we deserve as a contributing asset to their products, to large streaming companies. Of course, without movies and actors and actresses, the streaming companies won't have anything to stream. And so I think also it brought to life a little more of an understanding of corporate mentality and how it can be, and it was kind of a wake up call, I think, to a lot of voice actors understanding that there is a beast out there that ultimately, when you are contributing to a product with your voice or with your likeness or with your music or whatever that is, that there is a fair way to be compensated for that and that it should be compensated. And I think that that was a major win for the union and for us as an industry. 

09:50 - Tom (Co-host)
Absolutely. Sometimes it's hard to understand, to reconcile the fact that we're trying to be expressive artists but at the same time, we have volunteered to be commoditized. You know what I mean. You're commoditized for how you look, you're commoditized for how you sound, and so there's a literal contract and a social contract which is okay, based on how you sound, we will give you this money. We understand that. 

Your training, your experience, your talent, all of those things the aggregate of that is you being able to do this Metro PCS commercial or be in this video game or narrate this audio book. So it's hard to sometimes separate the art from the commerce part of it. I like talking for money, but I'm an artist too and my AI voice is part of the commoditization. Commerce part over here. And then I go over here and I'm narrating this audio book or I'm being Inspector Gadget or I'm doing that sort of thing. It's complicated. It's very, very complicated. I think that the SAG After Strike brought to the surface exactly how complicated our industry is, and it's not just a matter of pretty face movie money or pretty voice radio spot money. 

There's just a lot more to it, and our IP is what we are. 

11:01 - Anne (Host)
Exactly, that is who we are. 

11:02 - Tom (Co-host)
I mean, that is who we are and what we are. 

11:04 - Anne (Host)
Yeah, our product is our voice and who we are, and that really is different from a product. Here's my physical product and so protecting our personal product, I think, becomes paramount. In doing that Now, when the strike was happening, there was, I would say, a definite impact to the market, to the voice over market in certain genres, specifically broadcast, and I think there was a lot of people who originally purchased likeness, voice music that were really like, ooh, we're going to step back to see what happens, to see how this plays out. So, tom, what are your recommendations for, let's say, anybody in the creative industry when these things happen? Because I'm not going to say that every strike is different, but there are things that happen in industries that we really don't have a lot of control over, for example, the synthetic voice. Right, we don't have control over technology that's coming. 

So, what do you suggest to voice actors and creatives when something impacts the industry, like this how to survive and how to maintain? What sort of tips or tricks do you have to encourage their business to continue growing? Or smart strategies to maybe pick alternate paths? 

12:19 - Tom (Co-host)
Well, in addition to my suggestion that I said earlier about reading the trades and understanding what's going on and I was witnessing this directly throughout the strike on social media there was a lot of hysteria, there was a lot of fear, there was a lot of judgment on various sizes, and you could see who didn't really understand what was going on, both union and non-union voice actors. 

Why it was happening and then they were just putting everybody in a bucket and labeling that bucket, so it definitely had a cultural and psychics not the right word but a psychological impact. So one of my biggest tips is yes, the AI and other things and what the AMPTP were doing and their offers was posing, in various ways, existential threats to our industry. However, you need to keep your eyes open, you need to remain objective, you need to collect facts and you need to make thoughtful, informed decisions about what to do to move your business forward. 

13:20 - Anne (Host)
Yes, amen, amen. That was just wonderful advice. Yes, absolutely Education. Education is so, so important. I say it Gosh. I feel like I say it almost every podcast Like what do we do? How do we handle things? Educate yourself, educate yourself. 

13:35 - Tom (Co-host)
And be objective whilst educating yourself. Don't prejudge the information that you're getting. Don't bias yourself while you're doing your research by listening to the loudest jerk in the Facebook group you know, or listening to your own FOMO imposter syndrome whatever's going on in your head that could get in your way. 

13:54 - Anne (Host)
It's always sensible to have a plan B. We've spoken about this briefly before, but, like having multiple income paths, and passive income paths too. I think I'm a big fan of passive income. 

I love having passive income and something that can help sustain you while maybe things are slow in your business and the market is reacting Again. We are slaves to the market in reality. If people don't value our product, they are not going to purchase our products. So therefore, we need to keep our eyes on the market and find out how we can provide a valuable product. 

14:28 - Tom (Co-host)
Yeah, developing voiceover adjacent skills, I think, is a really good way to do it. A lot of people develop their audio engineering skills because to be an effective voice actor, especially in the 21st century, you need to be competent when it comes to recording, editing and delivering audio files. Then there's other things that people do virtual assistants, proofreaders, translators if you're a bilingual voice talent virtual assistants, social media managers. 

So I mean what I just named five or six or seven things. So like, if you're early in your voiceover journey and you want to do this for the long run but you still need to sustain yourself and you maybe don't want to or can't, for whatever reason, have that full-time job, developing skills that will ultimately help you and complement and enhance your voiceover career and make money at at the same time can be a really great way to go. 

15:18 - Anne (Host)
And I always recommend that. I think we all bring our real world experience to the voiceover career. Like, I mean, I had a previous experience in teaching and in engineering and so those things and working in the healthcare industry, so those things I could bring to my voiceover career. But I could also consult, I could also continue to do those things, and I don't think there's anything shameful in pursuing multiple paths for generating income, especially when this is such an entrepreneurial endeavor. I mean, it is one of the things that most people, if they come from the corporate world, they're just used to I'm going to work and I'm going to get paid. Well, this is a completely different flip the switch kind of thing where, oh gosh, where's my next job coming from? That's where, I think, a lot of people who are not necessarily prepared or have never experienced being an entrepreneur before or being a business owner before this is new to them. 

So you need to really prepare yourself as much as you possibly can for fluctuations in the market. 

16:20 - Tom (Co-host)
One thing I teach my students is that your last gig isn't necessarily your lowest paying gig and your next gig isn't necessarily your highest paying gig, because people think it's this like vertical, incrementally thing that next big gig will be bigger, bigger, more money, bigger, bigger, more money, and that is not remotely true. 

16:39 - Anne (Host)
And I will ultimately make six figures. You know that I feel like they have climbed. I've made six figures. Now I'm going to make six figures for the rest of my career. That doesn't always happen. That does not always happen Again. Fluctuations in the market. There's a lot of factors in play. What are you investing in? What money is going out versus what money is coming in? 

16:56 - Tom (Co-host)
Also, is your voice trending, yeah? 

16:58 - Anne (Host)
Yeah, absolutely. 

16:59 - Tom (Co-host)
Oh gosh, yeah, I would like to think you're getting better and better at your craft, but if your voice becomes less and less demand I mean all the guys that sound like this when, 25 years ago, when I decided I wanted to be a voice actor and I was like hi, I want to be a voice actor. You know what I mean and you know all these basic bearded guys with Hawaiian shirts and you know what I mean. 

And now I mean is there still a demand for that kind of voice actor? Yes, exponentially less of a demand for that type of voice actor. But if you didn't develop your abilities as a storyteller? And develop your genre awareness and the ability to do different things than just this one announcer read, then your income will go down. 

17:38 - Anne (Host)
I talked about this with Law in a previous episode about casting. When it comes down to demographics, right the company's product that they want to reach a particular demographic. So it may not be that you didn't perform or you didn't nail that audition. It just might be that you're in the wrong demographic for the effective sale. I mean, if they're targeting a younger audience and you have a more mature voice, that may not make sense and vice versa. So again, it really it has to do with understanding the market and understanding where your product fits in that market. I cannot stress that enough. I mean that just to me is like you must think of that. 

18:17 - Tom (Co-host)
And your product will change. 

18:18 - Anne (Host)
Yes, exactly. And so if you have, let's say, a mature voice right, understand where you can fit in the industry so that you can get in front of people who are going to purchase that sound, that more mature voice, versus, let's say, I have a really young, millennial voice, or I have maybe a voice that is very trending with, let's say, non-binary and other types of genres that people are looking to fill in those voids. So, and don't be put off or set back or feel like, oh my goodness, I don't know if I'm going to be successful in this industry. You just have to find your niche. 

18:55 - Tom (Co-host)
Yes, let the industry tell you. Listen to the industry. People come in oh, I want to do this, I want to sound like that. Sometimes that works, but usually it's watch your auditions. If you're on pay to plays, who's liking your auditions? Why are they liking your auditions? What are the keywords in those casting notices that you keep seeing over and over again? I did that exercise not too long ago and, for example, I found that my number one online casting site buzzword for me was upbeat. 

I'm like oh because I kept getting booking and getting liking those it's like, oh okay, well then that's something I can put over here. But then I've also found out recently Ryan Reynolds is a keyword. 

19:30 - Anne (Host)
Oh yeah, I totally can hear that. 

19:32 - Tom (Co-host)
Yeah, that I've been getting. I literally just booked a commercial just last week because they wanted a Ryan Reynolds sound? 

19:39 - Anne (Host)
Absolutely, yeah, it's always good to know who your doppelganger is and who your sound of like is, and putting that as part of your marketing campaign can really help. Absolutely, seo keyword. Any other tips on what you can do when, let's say, the market is not necessarily looking for your particular product outside? Of education what else? 

20:00 - Tom (Co-host)
I was gonna say the easy one is get coaching. Talk to you, fabulous voiceover coach, but also talk to casting directors, talk to a Mary Lynn Wissner or someone else and say, okay, my sound seems to be out. Can you help me find a voice within my range and demographics that I can do and invest in some education, some training to kind of adapt, because your money voice isn't always gonna be your money voice? I know mine's definitely changed over the past few years. My Tom Plus has now gotten into more of this Ryan Reynolds, more sassy conversational kind of thing, and once I stopped fighting against that I started booking a lot more. Especially, I've been booking more commercial work. 

Yes because I'm bringing a lot more just plain old Tom to it. 

20:45 - Anne (Host)
Well, isn't that funny Because? 

as we progress and as my career advanced as well, becoming more of myself and understanding who I am and understanding my product and how I can bring more of who I am to the read always has gotten me more work. I mean it just progressively has gotten more work. So and again I say this on a lot of podcasts but it is so important more than ever now to be that actor, to bring your own unique point of view to the read, because that's what's gonna get you noticed and that's what's gonna get you hired. 

21:16 - Tom (Co-host)
As a demo producer, how many times have you worked with a student and you're talking before the demo record and they're just da-da-da, da-da-da-da, and you're like, okay, take one, and they go blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah like how many times does that happen? 

21:28 - Anne (Host)
Oh, yeah, a lot of times, a lot of times, and it doesn't take much to put you out of the moment, in the acting moment, and go into a read. It really doesn't, and sometimes it just takes a note or a loss of focus for like one second and it brings you right out of the read. So if you are not consistently in that scene, acting, reacting, doing that, you can just lose the read, which is why in long format, like narration stuff that I specialize in, a lot of corporate and e-learning to just lose your focus for even just a second can take you right out of that, and that's noticeable to the ear, it's noticeable to casting directors, but it's also noticeable to the people that are listening and the intended audience, which is something that you just don't want. So if the market is slow or you're wondering, what can I do? 

Yeah, education and coaching. I think, and again, I say that as an educator, I say that as a coach, but not just because I'm a coach. I mean, really, what else is there when you want to refine and upgrade and everybody's always trying to improve their products, right? Any company is trying to create a better product and that is not just a one step one and done process. I mean, that is something that if you're a company that wants to remain competitive and have competitive products, then you will continually evolve and improve that product. 

22:44 - Tom (Co-host)
Yes, marketing is also the thing to do when things are slow, always, always, always. The more you can demonstrate your humanity when it's slow, just to let people know that you're still here, you're still working in the voiceover realms and, even though you may not have a big gig to talk about, always be demonstrating your value and your progress. 

23:05 - Anne (Host)
I attended this conference. 

23:07 - Tom (Co-host)
I just got out of a session with this coach. I had such a wonderful time. I learned so much. Those are the things that are part of your longterm investment in your social media strategy, your online presence, your search engine optimization, and for people to know that, no matter what's going on, you are consistently there, you are consistently positive, you are consistently learning and you are consistently growing, and that helps keep you top of mind. 

23:29 - Anne (Host)
Absolutely top of mind is important. Well, what a great discussion, Tom. I feel like we could talk about this all day. 

23:35 - Tom (Co-host)
We could. 

23:35 - Anne (Host)
But I want to keep this top of mind because I think it's important. Bosses, here is your chance to use your voice, not only to get hired, but to make an immediate difference in our world and give back to the communities that give to you. You can visit 100voiceshoocareorg to commit and big shout out to our sponsor, ipdtl. I love IPDTL. Ipdtl gives me connections with wonderful bosses like Tom Deere here and many, many other clients. You can find out more at ipdtocom. Bosses, have an amazing week and we'll see you next week. Bye. 

24:10 - Intro (Announcement)
Join us next week for another edition of VO Boss with your host, ann Gangusa, and take your business to the next level. Sign up for our mailing list at vobosscom and receive exclusive content, industry revolutionizing tips and strategies and new ways to rock your business like a boss. Redistribution with permission. Coast to coast connectivity via IPDTL.