Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting J. Michael Collins at VO Atlanta. J. Michael is passionate about voice over and the ever-changing logistics of the industry. He has generously answered my Questions for the Pros with candor and his unique expertise.
How did you originally get into the voice over industry?
I started in radio at the ripe old age of 15. Through a lucky stroke of circumstance, I would up hosting a drive time business news talk program on Bloomberg Information Radio before my 16th birthday. During my time as host, I started doing spots for the station, and then its advertisers, and this continued through subsequent radio opportunities. By the time I was in my early twenties, I had agency rep, and was making a modest living doing VO.
You seem to be an expert on the pay to play sites for voice overs, those being Voices.com, Voice 123, Bodalgo, etc. What advice would you give to someone starting out in the VO industry using one or more of those sites?
Two pieces of advice: 1.) Don’t buy into the myth that you have to bid low to make it on these sites. My average booking is union scale or better. Focus on the quality work, and leave the junk for the amateurs. 2.) Remember that these sites should only be part of your business plan. I’m often associated with online casting because I’m an evangelist for the business model, and I do believe it is the future, but for now it is about 35% of my income, with the rest coming from agents, production houses, and self-generated work.
Besides the P2P sites, what other ways would you suggest to market yourself in the VO Industry?
P2P sites are a great place to start, but you should be building industry-standard demos to attract agents as well. Check out resources like Voicebank for lists of production companies and ad agencies who may be open to adding you to their rosters. Being on a production company roster can often be just as valuable as having an agent, as they send out auditions frequently, and often to a smaller pool.
What genres of VO do you work the most in? And are those genres generally the ones that are hiring the most?
My business has transitioned a lot with shifting consumer tastes. As trailer, promo, and commercial decline due to changing habits and demographics, I think we will all be doing a lot more e-learning, corporate/industrial, and explainer narration. I know I am. E-learning is 30% of my business today, and it is one of the fastest-growing and most lucrative genres in the industry.
Do you yourself continue to receive coaching for VO?
This is my, “do as I say, not as I do,” answer. I’m blessed to have been born with this gift. I’ve never had coaching. Indeed, it’s only over the past 7 years or so, when I gave a go at becoming a coach, that I realized what a valuable tool it can be for most talent. I have been privileged to work with and mentor talents who have grown into leading bookers over the past decade, and I’m a big believer that unless you are one of the very rare people who just is hard-wired to do VO, coaching is something you should pursue continuously.
And finally, do you have a general piece of advice you would give to potential VO artists?
This industry isn’t as complicated as we make it seem. It comes down to one thing: Be good, and then audition, audition, audition. The biggest reason I advocate for online casting is because it is the only place where you can receive dozens of HOT leads every single day. If you do lots of quality auditions, and place them in front of motivated buyers, the rest will fall into place.
J. Michael Collins is a professional voice actor, coach, demo producer, and casting director with over twenty years of full time experience. Recognized globally as the leading expert in online casting, J. Michael is driving the future of the industry with his cutting edge insight into the voiceover career of tomorrow.