Two Small Letters, One Foundational Truth.
“Be Yourself; everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde
This very basic concept is something that has been reiterated again and again, not only during my career journey but life in general. Therefore, I’m going to keep this short because it’s already been said a thousand times. But since not everyone has heard it, it needs saying at least once more.
Sounds simple. Most people might overlook it and go “of course I’m myself, who else would I be?”. Well, instead of playing ‘life coach’, I’m going to focus only on the Voice Over Industry although anyone, I think, can pull from this.
Now, I’ve signed an NDA with my day job so I can’t speak too candidly about the ‘behind-the-scenes.’ But a quick Google search would show that I work for a small production company that produces Children’s Entertainment; right now we are exclusively on YouTube. That’s all the backstory you need, trust me. The words “YouTube” cultivate a lot of different impressions, depending on your personal experience with the platform but I think I can paint a picture regardless of your involvement.
When you first pop on “YouTube”, if you have an account, you will see your “Recommended” videos list and below it “Recently Uploaded” – these are videos from the channels you’ve subscribed to and YouTube’s algorithm for videos they think you might enjoy (you may or may not be subscribed to those channels). Those “Recommended” videos are similar to videos you’ve already watched. I believe other platforms, such as Netflix, uses the same algorithm. “Oh, you liked Sharknado? You might enjoy Sharknado 2.”. Keep this concept in mind, as I share a second example of where I’m going with this.
On the left hand side of your screen (as of 2018; who knows what it’ll look like in the future!) you’ll see your menu bar. This is where you can find your various Subscriptions, your Library and at the very top there is a second option called “TRENDING” with a little Fire icon. Trending videos are the equivalent to memes; they’re low-key going viral; think of the funny videos you see floating around on your Facebook feed.
If you are a YouTuber – big or small – you are aware of the importance of Trending. If you can produce a video that gets swept up in the trending current, you can ride the wave to more subscribers and a higher view count. To those not in the know, that’s how you make money. Technically speaking, the ads that are placed on your video are how you make money but you’re paid “per view”, essentially. I’ll leave all the business talk at that because again… there’s only so much I can say. But confidently, this is all information that you would find in a single article about YouTube, so I’m not sharing any secrets.
So, many people try desperately to become popular overnight by following the craze of the week. Do you remember Fidget Spinners? Yeah, that hit YouTube Kids Hard. Slime became so large, it’s no longer a trend and now has its own legitimate fan base, like Gaming and Beauty Channels; it’s weird. More power to the creators, of course.
However, the problem with this – swinging back around to the heart of this post – is that a creator will get so caught up in trying to be a part of the “it crowd” that they might lose who they are as an individual. Entire channels can change. And I don’t mean an overall growth to see what you enjoy most and what your viewers are most receptive to; this is natural and logical. The creator begins to lose who they are as an artist and oftentimes, you will see them lash out in one way or another. They may say “I need a break” or they might even get into some social or legal trouble; they get cynical in their videos and suddenly, they’re not fun to watch anymore. Or the trend dies, the viewers they cultivated weren’t genuine, and they’re left stranded on the beach as the wave ebbs back into the sea to grab another trend.
No, as difficult as it may be, the better approach, the one with more longevity, is to be yourself and stay true to yourself. Certainly, you can pull from successful artists and if something trendy falls within your wheelhouse you can engage (i.e. A new product is released and it’s super popular; why not do a video on it?) but ultimately, be YOU.
Just as a painter may dabble in various techniques or genres, they will ultimately make it their own and create a unique piece of art.
Okay, but what does this have to do with voice over?
I’ve said in an earlier blog, you should find and always have your own voice; mimicking and impressions have their place, certainly, but your overall work should reflect who you are as an individual.
Although, more specifically, this should be reflected in your brand. Now, I’m not a PR /Marketing Specialist, so I don’t know all the variable techniques and I don’t pretend to know. I do know, however, that so often a talent’s branding comes across as cookie cutter. There are a few who stand out in a crowd but… shouldn’t they all?
“Pot, Kettle” I do have a microphone image in my logo and this is something that has been done and rehashed since the microphone was invented. But just like milk usually has a picture of a cow on it, sometimes you need to “show” your product or service, so you have a chance to “tell” a client about it.
In the end, those YouTuber Followers are reflected in your Clients. I myself don’t have many (in either department) but I know this to be true based on the numerous seminars I’ve attended. You must show them – individuals and companies – what YOU can bring to the table.
And that is the key when developing your brand and maintaining your marketing and a question I am once again asking myself. “What Makes you, YOU?”, “What are your quirks or passions?”, “What makes you stand out from the crowd?”.
Certainly, you must look at what has been done successfully before you and what is trending in the industry now. For example, “No Radio Voices” can be seen in almost every audition description these days. And, I for one will probably do a few “Sound Alike” Vocal Showcasing for pre-existing characters that I can do a decent impression of. But this is the thin line that must be walked; I want to be in my client’s “recommended” list for being similar to other voices they like or are looking for. I need to show them what I can do and then make the part (a commercial or character) my own.
There will always be tactics and strategies involved with any business but ultimately, it comes down to you, being yourself.
“This above all: to thine own self be true” – Shakespeare