Relatively Speaking about the Voiceover Community

From Mike’s forum on Discovery:

Q: Mike, I know the number of people doing voice overs are fairly small, relatively speaking (no pun intended).

Do you ever meet with other voice over actors – the ones who narrate the other DC shows? I know your schedules tight, but is there a trade group – like SAG for film actors, conventions? – N

Voice over conventions – that’s funny.  Who would be the announcer?

Relatively speaking, the voiceover community is indeed small – maybe 10,000 altogether, celebrities notwithstanding.

At the highest level, there are two or three dozen people that you have never heard of that do most of the lucrative work – high profile narration, network promos, and commercials. Collectively, this group probably earns upwards of 60 million dollars a year. I’m friendly with many of these people, and play cards with several of them from time to time. There is no club however, and no secret handshake.

The next tier consists of maybe 1000 voiceover professionals who all earn 6 figures or better, and fight viciously over the scraps from Tier 1. This group is comprised of some truly talented men and women who are dedicated to the work, and audition constantly. I have a good friend in this group, who spends at least 40 hours a week auditioning, and books maybe three jobs a month. He makes around $60,000 a year, and never knows where or when the next job will come from. He’s typical of the group. Some have agents, some do not. Most belong to SAG and AFTRA, but others do not. The union thing is touchy these days.

The remaining voiceover artists, and vast majority, earn less than $10,000 a year. In general, they are bad actors who have been told by friends and family that they have a nice voice and should get into the business. These people get just enough work to be encouraged, but are usually cranky and frustrated because they hear the same people over an over and can’t understand why it isn’t them making a fortune. You would be surprised at how unimportant a “good voice” is to most voiceover. It matters, but nearly as much as people think.


3 thoughts on “Relatively Speaking about the Voiceover Community

  1. I have heard that acting ability is just as important as having a pleasant sounding voice.

    Mike, does a Tier 1 voiceover artist ever have to audition? If not, do you keep a dossier of sorts (the way models do) that you shop around, or is reputation and/or word of mouth enough?

    You talk about the cranky and the frustrated: could this not be in response to the very few opportunities afforded to the voiceover actor?

    Since a select few end up with most of the work, how does each voiceover tier feel about the fact that many (if not most) of the voiceover jobs in film and television go to well-known, well-established “celebrity” actors?

  2. Hey Mike,

    Thanks very much for a very concise and accurate description of the voiceover world.

    Believe it or not, there are some very well-attended gatherings for voiceover talent. The largest is a biennial convention in LA, which, generally speaking, features guest speakers from the most successful group you mentioned above, presentations, panels and instruction from voiceover actors in the middle group, and lots of people from the third group in the audience.

    Another, much smaller conference, happens semi-annually, and is only open to working, professional voiceover talent. (If you’re interested in attending this one, just holler, I’m sure that your application would be approved. ; ) This one follows the “unconference” format, which means that it’s participant-driven, featuring successful voice talent sharing their knowledge and experience with fellow actors.

    I’ve been lucky enough to speak at both, and the unconference vibe is certainly more my style. In fact, I recently wrote a blog post about how effective these “unconferences” can be:



  3. Hey Mike,

    I agree that the cream rises to the top, but according to a casting director friend in Los Angeles, their database has about 30,000 voice actors, which includes everybody across the income strata from LA to New York, including celebs. In something like 1985, there were 800 total!

    The industry is indeed growing. There are voiceover meetup groups in several cities, and there are a couple of notable VO events: Faffcon (the un-convention)for working pros only, and the semi-annual “VOICE” convention usually held in Los Angeles, with the next scheduled in June 2012. I’ve attended both events and they are excellent. By the way, I act as one of the announcers for the VOICE event! No kidding.

    All The Best,

    Bobbin Beam

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