Before you start reading this blog, you should know this is an individual perspective and not a fact check on the industry overall 🙂
Although I’m an absolute morning person, it is not really the best time for my voice. Couple of years back, I reached the studio at 9am for a recording without any warm up (there was no time) and was sent home by the client and the recording was rescheduled for later that afternoon! (such a keeper this client) But I must admit, I have been quite reckless in the first 2-3 years of being in the industry and got lucky with such understanding clients. At the time, I didn’t even think that this was gonna workout for me in the long run. Clearly its not the same anymore and now I make it a point to do extra warm up if I have to record in the morning.
0. My own stuff : Over the years I’ve realised that, as a Voice artist there are so many things to be careful about (always learnt it the hard way). Recording right after a meal or even having cold or spicy/ deep fried stuff just before can really hamper my performance. Even not having rested enough or being hung over (that’s rare I swear) can impact the output. Things that I can control should never be the reason for me not getting a project. So obviously I know better now than to let these things affect my recordings.
But this is not what this blog post is about! Lets get to the main dope that spurred on this write up. I got a sample script from a TV channel producer. She said she loves my voice for the narration of their upcoming show (that’s always flattering) so even though I wasn’t super crazy about the budget, I sent in a scratch. Her favourite among my work was the – Star Plus Nayi Soch one which she asked me to use it as reference for recording the scratch. She was clear about what she wanted and loved the scratch I recorded. I even pulled her leg about the budget and was not amused! And that’s why some clients don’t praise my work a lot, they’re afraid I’ll ask for more money.
1. Misplaced Reference : It all seemed to be going smoothly until her top bosses got back with the feedback to add more energy and life to the recording. Now if you’ve heard my Star Plus Nayi Soch Voice Over, it is extremely subtle and has a mellow energy. In any case as per the feedback I re-did the scratch. I didn’t hear from her for the rest of the day so I had to face the hard fact that my voice didn’t get picked for the show. Now this happened to me after a long time and however secure I may be today, these things can still temporarily get one down. I messaged her asking, ‘They went with someone else, didn’t they?‘ mildly hoping they hadn’t.
She said she was too upset to tell me that they had in fact picked another voice. I think she was even more upset than me. She thought my voice was perfect for the show but the top management didn’t share the same opinion. Thanks to the meagrely budget, it was easy to make peace with not getting the project!
2. Top Management doesn’t approve : From what I understood and heard of the selected voice (yes this sweet woman was kind enough to share the selected sample with me), they wanted someone nasal with too much enunciation! Lol just kidding but only partly. So all in all, I could figure why the other voice worked more for them. And although I didn’t agree with the reason I understood it. But this incident led me down memory lane, all the crazy times started coming back to me.
And this particular instance was a breeze compared to those times when I didn’t even know why my voice hadn’t worked out for a project. When I was a beginner, no one even bothered to tell me I didn’t get selected, forget telling me why! I know now that its not humanly possible to respond to each one of the voice that hasn’t been shortlisted. But at the time I couldn’t help but keep going over and over about what I could’ve done and what I didn’t do, feeling absolutely helpless while these thoughts tortured me!
3. Tight Deadlines : There have been some times when the deadline to record a scratch for a project is so tight that I’ve had to record from wherever I am, even if a phone recording is all I can do. They say it’ll work, that’s what they tell you! I have my doubts about the phone recording quality affecting the selection process. But what can I do if the client insists!
But these days I try my best to give a scratch recorded in the studio even it means investing money in a studio just for the scratch. Thankfully for the Channel scratch I had some recordings lined up and could record it in a proper studio. So I know for sure the quality was not the issue, one more variable eliminated. Disclaimer : I don’t record scratches every time, there is always the danger of it getting misused. Only regular clients or credible sources get a scratch. Also I hardly ever record the entire text, but enough for the client to get a clear idea.
4. Got paid but still got replaced : Couple of times there have been projects I’ve recorded for and at the last minute another Voice was used for some strange reason. And even though I got paid, its quite an unsettling feeling to know you’re voice got replaced. Most of the times I try to get to the bottom of it purely out of curiosity, but at times even the project handlers don’t know the real reason.
This one time I was being directed for a high end automobile’s spot and as per the direction I did a soft classy take and till date that spot is one of my favourites in terms of the style and mixing. But I can’t put it on my portfolio, you know why? Because they went for a giggly bubbly style voice at the last minute because I wasn’t available to redo it at that time to. Bubbly giggly for a high end automobile’s spot!! Creatively I didn’t get why they did that but in the end, the client has got to be right, right!?
5. Scratch selected but final recording not approved : But you know whats the worse kind of rejection, recording the scratch, having it approved, recording the final script (which is usually much bigger than the scratch) and then out of the blue, its not what they wanted and on top of all that, now they can’t even pay me because they aren’t gonna use the recording! It is the worst kind of rejection!!
My question at such times always is, couldn’t you figure what you really wanted when you heard the scratch? Does my time and effort mean nothing to you? Not using the recording in your project doesn’t do squat for the time and effort I put in! As if the recording studio I hired is going to be super understanding and just return the money I spent because the recording is “not going to get used!”
6. Client’s late realisation : This one time, after I submitted the final recording, the client had this realisation that they wanted an American accent now and asked me if I could do it (I can’t do an American accent because I’m not American, duh!) but we didn’t even get to that part because they weren’t at all considering paying me for the first recording. Such clients just don’t value the efforts of an artist. They tell me its just a few lines and I should stop being so fussy!
What they probably don’t realise is that, years of hard work and practise is what makes it seem so effortless now. But I also know its not even their fault at times, their own client runs a pretty tight ship when it comes to budgets hence this mechanical attitude. Still its important to fight for the effort you have put in!
7. Throwing darts, blindfolded: A while back I recorded for a bank explainer video. Now you would think how complicated can that kind of a job be. At first when the client asked me for a redo, I thought maybe they just wanted a different style. They’ve been a regular client so I recorded again with no solid reason for it inspite of the fact that I usually submit minimum 2 takes with this kind of Voice Over job. After the second and then the third time they got back with the same request, I started to lose it more and more each time. Only because I couldn’t understand what they more did they want me to do. Trust me, it wasn’t the re-recording that bothered me so much. Every artist worth their salt wants to see their client happy with the output. It was the lack of clarity on their part that was really getting to me.
When they came back for the 4th time with yet another re-recording request, I got the feeling they wanted something that was outside my zone, unfortunately. Over the years I have developed a great range and can do much more than what I could when I began. But there’s still a line beyond which I can’t go, atleast not yet. My voice can do a lot but clearly not everything which is why there are other thriving voice talents, right!? (I gotto stop sounding so cocky)
8. Want a different voice but already invested in me : Anyways in this particular case, they were insistent on working with me only because getting another talent would mean additional cost. Now I’m usually a very cool person, if someone’s asks me nicely they can get much more out of my voice than they’re paying for. But this time I had pretty much lost my cool and wanted to take this client’s case so badly! However thanks to years of experience (sucks to be so wise) I knew his own client was yanking his chain so I found myself very calmly messaging him, ‘I think you need to pick another voice for this project, it does not makes sense for me to put in anymore time and effort. And please don’t worry about paying me. No hard feelings.‘
Sometimes the feedback or reason for disapproval is so vague that even if I wanted to give them what they want, I wouldn’t know where to begin. Just recently, I performed 2 scripts from projects I didn’t get in a session with a top most Voice Over Coach and Artist from US who also does casting for projects. He said that my takes were super and that the client was probably looking for a different voice texture for the project. So if I hadn’t let go, the Bank project client for the lack of knowing better, would’ve insisted on pushing me further and further, magically expecting me to sound like the voice they’d probably heard somewhere else. Apples and oranges I tell you! Ideally I should’ve fought to get paid but it becomes a tricky situation when it comes to a regular client.
9. Budget, Quality vs Quantity : Now lets not forget this elephant in the room. One of the major reasons for not getting picked for a project is the budget. If you’ve over quoted (as per the client’s budget) then that’s it, there’s no second chances. This is exactly why me and so many of my artist friends find quoting for a project, a task. I certainly do not want to over quote but I most definitely do not want to underquote either! But I’ve realised that more often that not, if someone is haggling too much with me, they really don’t care about the quality. They’ll promise me massive loads of work for a shoe string budget and make it seem like they’re doing me a huge favour.
Well then its upto me if I want to be a quality artist or a quantity artist. Today I tell potential clients upfront that if its only quantity and not quality they’re looking for, then I’m not the artist for them. In fact I also add, that there’s a premium involved in getting great quality. But having said all this, I think for beginners, its alright to take up such projects for a short period of time to gain the much need knowledge and experience.
10. Beware of Exploiters : There are rare cases when the client tells you that your recording wasn’t approved and refuse to pay you when in fact the recording is going to get used. Regardless of this they must pay. Once I was working with a client the first time and they said the recording wasn’t working for them (with no concrete reason) after approving my scratch recording! Just to safeguard myself against any exploitation, I asked for an email from them stating they won’t be using the recording in that project or any other project. They probably didn’t but still.
So that’s my two cents about rejection. Rejection is actually a very harsh word and that’s why I think it hardly gets spoken about. I think along with posting about our triumphs (guilty), as a community we need to share with each other about such experiences as well. I really hope this blog post helps my fellow artists. Comment with thoughts about this blog post or if you have anything similar to share!