Professional Voice Over Actors Facing Increased Competition from A-List Stars and Amateurs

voice-over-boothYou’ve probably noticed that an increasing number of big-name actors and actresses are doing commercial voice-over work.  Whether it’s Jeff Bridges pitching for Hyundai or Robert Downey Jr. pitching for Nissan, major Hollywood stars are much more willing to do voice overs for commercials than they were even a few years ago. 

For audiences, it allows them to connect a recognizable voice with a product, so it seems like a win-win for the company and the consumer.  Of course, there are some who don’t like the new trend: voice over actors.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, a number of veteran voice over actors speak about how the new trend affects them.  Some of the actors point out that the Hollywood stars’ voices aren’t distinctive enough to warrant the extra expense for the company and the loss of work for them. 

Voice over actor Tom Kane uses Jon Hamm‘s latest Mercedes-Benz ads as an example, saying, “Even if it is a terrific spot — which it isn’t — people don’t have a clue who that is.”

Another voice over actor, Keri Tombazian, largely agrees.  “Some are fabulous and some are pretty mediocre.  The unfortunate thing for us is that career voice-over actors are not afforded the luxury of mediocrity.”

The trend seems to come in part from less work coming from Hollywood, which has made traditional actors look for work outside of movies and television.  Decades ago Hollywood actors only seemed to appear in commercials as a last resort at the end of a dying career — which is why for years stars would do high-paying commercials that would only run in international markets.  However, with streaming video now all over the internet and smartphones, that sort of “anonymous” work quickly becomes global anyway.  It seems a natural progression since big-name Hollywood actors began taking major roles in animated films in the early 1990s and have being doing documentary voice overs for the last several years.  And of course, it’s a lot of money for less work.  As Tim Curtis, a WME agent who specializes in celebrity endorsements says, “Actors on every level want to do voice-over work.  It’s a fun thing for them to do, doesn’t take much time and can be really lucrative.”

Another difficulty for voice over actors is that it’s now easy for anyone to record lines with minimal electronic equipment, so being a veteran voice over actor with a home studio is no longer the advantage it used to be.  At this point, anyone with a quiet room and a smartphone can bill themselves as a “voice over artist” and create a few professional-sounding samples.  Still, while amateurs have the technology they lack the experience.

As a result, veteran voice over actors are facing increased competition from many fronts.  Nonetheless, with an increasing amount of video games, internet videos, and new media like apps requiring a voice, the increased competition is thankfully facing an increased demand for voice over talent.  It might be a different type of work, but it will still pay the bills!

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