GETTING THE MOST FROM YOUR STATION VOICE
Are you getting the most from you station voice? Everyone in radio today is expected to do more and that should include your station voice. After all, you should not just be paying for a voice, you should also pay for the brain that goes with it. From copy interpretation to spotting typos, you should be able to get a little more for your monthly retainer than 6-10 pages of a rip & read delivery.
There are some stellar talents out there who consistently give more than what is on the page. Often, their ad libs can be better than what was written first place, taking the work in a direction that sounds incredible on air. On the other hand, there are also talents who don't think twice about reading the script as written, despite a grammatically incorrect typo.
After all, everyone makes mistakes. As mentioned in the open, we're all expected to do more. When imaging multiple stations and producing commercials out the whazoo, one sometimes forgets to spell-check. Many times while writing, you may revise a line and omit an 'and' or a 'the' or neglect to include a phonetic pronunciation for that town that is spelled Medina, but pronounced muh-DYE-nuh. That's when it's important to have a voice talent with a brain. Someone who can realize a line that reads, "Kiss-FM has chance to win," is missing an 'a' or a 'your'; and, that no one in their right mind would speak that way. For example, I had a talent voice a promo for a ticket giveaway to the water park, Geauga Lake and I forgot to include the pronunciation. Instead of taking a moment to call me, Google the correct pronunciation, or take multiple shots at it, I got one read of "Go-ghah", when it's really pronounced gee-AW-ghah.
When auditioning talent, you might think about throwing in a little typo or some other test in the copy that'll show you what their made of. Not only should you want to see if they can give you the read you're looking for, but also can they think on the fly? After all, a talent could be on hundreds of stations and come highly recommended by a consultant or a format captain; but, if they make your job harder by constantly having to send them revisions, shouldn't that also be a consideration? You really need a talent who has your back as a producer. Ideally one who is a great actor, but also one who may have had some past production experience to make your life easier.
So who are some of ones who 'get it'? Who are the talents consistently that go above & beyond? Here are few I've identified as being real team players for the imaging producer.
Ann DeWig: Ann started out as an imaging producer and a damn fine one at that. In her last full-time gig at DC101, she cranked out some incredible theater-of-the-mind production, putting herself in promos with Tom Petty, Lars Ulrich from Metallica, and Hermione Granger from Harry Potter. She learned early on that a successful transition from radio to voice-acting means to emphasize the acting part. She can deliver the most mundane copy from real place with heart and emotion. And if you're looking for a specific read, she'll work with you to find the delivery that's just right for your station, format, market, etc.
John Willyard: John is great for his ability to throw additional lines into the session. If you're working on 4th of July sweepers, John will add in some lines from a session he just did for another market. He can always give you more because he's been doing this forever and is a fresh and brilliant as he ever was.
Jude Corbett: This guy is a great ad libber. He continually surprises with what he can contribute to the copy. Scripts always come back with what was written, however, Jude's improvs often outshine the writing and made the finished copy come to life.
Rachel McGrath: People have said this before, "Female imaging voice? You have to get Ann DeWig. But if you can't get Ann, get Rachel McGrath!" She is an Ann DeWig disciple. A brilliant producer & writer in her own right, she followed Ann's path into voice-overs by becoming an actor. But with her background in production, she can offer that little extra to help the producer make the finished product jump out of the speakers. Also like Ann, when she's on your station, she's part of the team.
Drew Patterson: Production Geek + Voice-over Geek = incredible product for any producer. Drew used to collect voice-over demos and study them. He took acting classes. He honed his craft while creating some wildly creative promos for Rock & CHR radio. Again the combination of production skills, creativity and a very smooth read make for a powerful ally in the studio.
Terry Phillips: Terry is wickedly creative from his years writing & producing imaging for WYCD in Detroit. During much of his tenure he used John Willyard and learned a lot from him thru osmosis. The smile in his read comes right thru the speakers and his ability to take the copy in a different direction can give any producer tons of choices when it comes to editing. And, he can be a back up to your production staff in a pinch.
Jeff Berlin: Talk about a voice-guy with production experience, Jeff Berlin spent a couple of decades at Kiss 108 in Boston before turning to voice-over full-time. Jeff's style goes from disaffected, Gen-X monotone, to a lively/friendly yet gravely read, so he's no one-trick pony. And if he's interested, he might just even produce for you too, you know, for fun (and a small fee, of course). Cause he's a radio guy!
Drake Donovan: Yeah, damn right I put myself on this list. I learned a thing or two from all of the people included here. Travis Moon, former PD of KAJA in San Antonio described me as "The guy your audience would like to have a beer with." Like Ann DeWig, I try to deliver copy as if I'm saying the lines off the top of my head. Like Jude, I explore improvisation and I'm not afraid to take the script in a different direction, but always keep in mind how the finished production will sound. With me, you not only get a station voice talent, you also get an second imaging guy who's always at the ready to offer up something extra.
And there are many others: Steve Stone, Rob Naughton, Rich Van Slyke, Dan Tucek, A.J. Bilger, Ryan Mill, Damon Oaks, just to name a few, were all studio rats before turning to voice-over, and some still produce too. These talents should definitely be on your list to audition the next time you're branding a station. They love radio and live & breathe radio production. When you hire one of these talents, your station will never sound better and your professional life will get tremendously easier and richer as a result.