Celebrities in Competition with Veteran Voice Actors?

From MRW Water Cooler:

Q: Mike, have you seen this? Celebs muffle the voice of experience

Even though you are considered a celebrity are you concerned that you may lose out on future voice over jobs, or are you well known and respected enough to not have to worry? — Liz


Hi Liz

For the past few years, the LA Times has run a version of this article. It’s a big topic in an industry town, and it’s a subject that’s kind of fascinating for me personally, mostly because I’ve been on both ends of the situation. The voice over business (at least, that portion which is overseen by the union) has for years been the most efficient and enjoyable way for an anonymous Joe to make a very, very comfortable living. Even though the competition is stiff, the work itself is easy. I don’t mean for that to sound glib – I just mean that in a relative world, sitting in a climate-controlled room with your favorite beverage and telling a story is a pleasant way to make a buck, and thanks to the union, the bucks in question are considerable. Consequently, VO and narration have always been considered plum jobs among non-celebrities who are striving to prosper in a very competitive market.

Of course, any job that pays a lot of money for a little amount of effort is usually an anomaly, propped up by some artificial force that temporarily trumps supply and demand. They just don’t last. In this case, the “anomaly” that allowed a giant number of non-celebrities to compete for a tiny number of jobs that pay a lot of money was driven by the belief among celebrities that the work in question was “beneath them.” So, they stayed out of it, and their representatives discouraged them from going there. (This is the sort of rank arrogance I’ve alluded to before – the idea that big stars who make their living on commercial television look down their noses at the advertisers who ultimately pay their salaries – hysterical.) That sentiment however, has started to change. Not because of some new-found sense of humility, but because the money is just too good, and advertisers and clients (and of course consumers) are besotted with celebrity.

What’s interesting to me, is the way in which people cry “foul,” and the relative complaints of those who have been affected. For years, I fought for the scraps in the VO business, auditioning constantly and forever redoing my demo tape. It was slow going. When I was struggling to earn a living, (late eighties) I was resentful and envious of the fact that a handful of anonymous people were making the vast majority of money in the VO business. I wanted very much to be among the few who were making the lions share. (Jack Edwards, and old friend from New York, was making a million dollars a year auditioning for the same jobs that I was just a regular guy that no one had ever heard of.)

Later, (in the late nineties) I got my wish. I started to book a lot of work. I didn’t crack the “Top Tier,” but I was working every week, and feeling very pleased with myself in the way that people do when they start to see their hard work pay off. I was also feeling resentful and envious of movie stars like Gene Hackman who came out of nowhere and started to compete with little old me. (Hackman got the United Airlines account, which I had auditioned for and very much wanted.) I commiserated with my friend Jack. We both felt that Hackman had “cheated,” and couldn’t understand why he was taking work that he clearly did not need.

Today, a lot of people in the VO business (including Jack) look at me in the same way I looked at Hackman. And everyone in the industry looks at homeless guy – Ted Williams – as another kind of outlier that cheated the system and took opportunity from those more deserving. And so it goes.

Truth is, talking into a microphone is worth a lot of money. Part of that is due to the fact that there is a lot of money to be made in advertising, and part is because the unions made a good deal. But what this article really comes down to is the same tension that dominates the national conversation – the fact that there is nothing “fair” about the VO business. One percent of the people in are making 99 percent of the money. And that makes good copy.


P.S. to answer your question Liz, no. I’m not worried.

3 thoughts on “Celebrities in Competition with Veteran Voice Actors?

  1. I’m not worried either( for you) that is. You do such a good job and at least it’s a clean one and you don’t even have to wear your hat.LOL I have a degree in advertising but never persued it. Seemed like there was too much compation in it. Your voice is famous and I love it. Keep up the good work.Love the new Viva commercial. Hope mom and dad are well. Pat from Auburn,AL War Eagle!!

  2. Dear Mike,

    My son is most sincere in his invite. (we researched where to send his invite )He made his own invitation list for his “Crossing Over ” ceremony to Boy Scouts.My son has come a long way since he was diagnosed with Autism at age 3.I am so grateful to our physician Dr. Janice Prontnicki who strongly encouraged us to join Scouting ( she is Finn’s Neuro- Developmental Pediatrician ). Her encouragement to ” Main Stream ” Finn in social groups and organizations instead of hospital based support and social groups.It was the best decision we ever made to involve him in scouting. It not only benefited Finnbar, but our whole family as well. My husband John and I are both leaders to our sons Weblos II and Wolf dens. It as added to our family unity, closeness and being together as family doing things which is lost so much in society today.

    Finnbar has truly grown from being a self conscious, reluctant, shy and clingy child to a more confident, “Try It ” Scout and boy.We have discovered many things together. His favorite activities in Cub Scouting are camping, birdwatching, archery, BB guns,and hiking. This kid once had so many sensory issues from being unable to walk barefoot on dirt, sand, grass, and getting dirty, is now one of the “dirtiest ” scouts. I have the stains to prove it ! He is constantly barefoot and is thoroughly immersed in outdoor ,nature activities . I never thought the day would come when dirt was not a “freakout”, now the norm .

    Our cub scout pack is a “Hidden Gem “so to speak because of the special group of Cub Scouts in Toms River Pack 175 and Boy Scouts Troop 175 ( both of Toms River, N.J. ). We’ve attracted more boys in our county with Autism, severe ADHD, Learning disabilities, Hearing Impaired,Developmental Delays and other disabilities that happened by happenstance.Why you may wonder, because of word of mouth from parent to parent. The parents and scouts felt more comfortable because they weren’t DIFFERENT but the norm and majority in our Pack and Troop.This resulted in a Win Win all around for the kids and parents.Our crossing over will be the biggest thus for and the troop will now be closest to over fifty Boy Scouts. Did I also mention, we also have about 45 % of single parents too! Our pack and troop benefits because we have so many trades people as our parents, and their talents utilized in many ways. We’re just a bunch of hard working middle- class parents who just happen to be together in Scouting with kids of disabilities.A great many of our kids were also effected by Hurricane Sandy and that did not dampen their spirits it made us flourish even more.

    Our theme is Famous Boy Scouts. Each table will be named after different scouts with facts and what they did. My sons table happens to be the Mike Rowe Table

    So this is why I am also sending an additional invite to you to cover all the bases.A scout is prepared.

    Finnbar Spencer Maloney

    Would like you to share in his

    “Crossing Over Ceremony”


    Boy Scout Troop 175

    Sunday , March 3, 2013

    2:00 pm

    East Dover First Aide

    535 Garfield Avenue

    Toms River, New Jersey

    Ceremony and Luncheon reception to follow.

    Kindly Respond by February 21,2013

    to John and Allison Maloney


    Thanks Mike for taking the time to read this;and if you were able to come; be assured it would be secret, private, and surprise and certainly not crazy media circus event.

    Scouts Honor !


    Allison Maloney R.N.

Leave a Reply