Assuming you’ve already identified a pool of potential actors for your project, you now have the task of contacting them and asking for their submissions.  If you’re new to hiring voice talent here’s a run-down of best practices to ensure that you get the best possible responses to your audition query.

A well-designed audition email will accomplish two things:

  • You’ll get better performances from your talent pool.
  • You’ll save yourself from the administrative nightmare of multiple emails and other organizational challenges.

To begin, let’s look at this sample email audition request from our friend, Mr. Big.

I really do get requests like this from time to time.  Please don’t be offended if this was your email.  We all start somewhere, and we learn as we go.  So, let’s discuss what’s going on here.

This email leaves me with a long list of questions.  Here’s my reply to Mr Big.

Just imagine if Mr. Big gets an email like mine from every voice talent he contacts?

You know everything about your project. The actors know nothing.  So, let’s help Mr. Big.


Your email should include 9 pieces of information:

  • Your Intention–clearly stated.
  • Project Type
  • Audition Due Date
  • Usage and Rate Information
  • Session Date or Recording Due Date
  • Performance Notes
  • Pronunciations
  • Delivery Instructions
  • Supporting Materials

1.       Your intention–clearly stated

Start your email with a brief and clear subject line:   Audition Request from (your organization)

2.       Project type

Commercial, explainer video, e-learning program, corporate presentation, telephony, etc.  Even if the project type is obvious, it’s a good idea to say what it is in the email.  It just avoids confusion.

3.       Audition Due Date

This should be clearly stated near the top of the email.

4.       Usage and Session Fee Information

A full discussion of session fees and usage is way beyond the scope of this article.  So, let’s just say this:  Give your talent an indication of where the material will be used and for how long.   If you’re offering a buyout rate and you want to share that information in the email, do so.  It’s also okay to ask the talent to quote you their price based on the information you’re sharing with them.

Even if you’re a non-union production company, you need to understand how this works if you plan to work with professional talent.  To better understand usage, session fees and buyouts, click HERE.

Many professional voice actors, me included, refer to the GVAA Rate Guide when quoting a job.   It’s a great tool for you to know about, too, so you can build professional rates into your budget and understand the rates quoted by the voice talent.

5.       Session Date or Recording Due Date

If you’ll be directing the talent or setting up a remote session with a local studio, then you will need to make sure the talent is available for the session.

If you’re asking talent to self-record without direction, then give them a due date to make sure they can complete the project on time.

6.       Performance Notes and Pronunciations

  • Ask the talent to record enough to evaluate their performance.

Highlight the text to be recorded in the body of the email or the document attached to the email.

If it’s a commercial, you can certainly ask for the entire script.  If it’s an explainer, ask for a couple of paragraphs.  If it’s E-learning, maybe a handful of prompts or an introduction segment.  If it’s an audiobook a few pages is appropriate (about 5 minutes of audio).

  • It’s okay to ask for 1 or 2 takes.  This gives the actor an opportunity to show their range.
  • Provide some direction about the style or tone you want.Are you looking for a traditional announcer sound, or do you prefer more conversational? Should it be lighthearted or serious? Directorial notes will help your actors understand what you want to hear.

A side note about asking for the entire script for an audition:  Unfortunately, some voice actors have had their ‘auditions’ used in projects without their knowledge.  I’m happy to say it has never happened to me (that I know about!)

In order to protect our work, we may watermark our voice track or simply change one or two key words on the script (such as a website address or phone number) so that our audition track cannot be used in the final edit.

This is why many producers simply omit the last lines of a commercial from an audition request, since that’s where the phone number and web address are usually placed.

Best practice would be to omit web addresses and phone numbers from auditions altogether.

7.     Provide pronunciations for technical jargon, or unusual product names.

This is particularly important for medical and pharma recordings.  It’s also helpful if there are place names or people’s names that could be mispronounced.  An easy way to do this is to find an audio reference on YouTube and send a link with your email.  You can also record the correct pronunciation into your phone and send that with the audition.

8.     Delivery Instructions

  • Indicate the file format you’d like to receive (usually it’s mp3).
  • Provide clear labeling instructions for the audition files.  For example:  FirstName_LastName_ProjectName Imagine receiving 20 voice files from 20 different people and each one arrives with a unique and creative file name!   It’s an 8.0 administrative earthquake right there in your inbox.
  • Consider using a cloud-based platform for submissions.  Dropbox is a popular choice.  This keeps everything in one place and spares you from another inbox-tsunami.  There are several platforms to choose from.

9.     Supporting materials

The more you can share, the more information your actor will have to provide you with the best read possible.

  •  Share as much of the script as you can.

You may not have the entire script but if you have a full module or part of a chapter or even a rough draft, it helps.  It’s just for context.   If you have confidentiality concerns include an NDA for your talent to submit along with their recording.

  • Provide reference material if it’s available.

If you have a reference video that is similar in tone to your project, send a link!  Give us some idea of what you’re looking for and we’ll do our best to deliver what you need.


This all sounds like TONS of information.  It is. But it’s necessary information to share when you’re trying to hire a voice actor for a job.   The good news is that you can condense it all down!   Look at the following sample sentences that encapsulate a lot of information in just a few words:

This is a corporate narration, and the video will be shown to potential clients at trade shows.  It’s intended to raise awareness about a new service we are launching.

Or

This is a public service announcement encouraging kids to practice bicycle safety on the city streets.  It will play on radio stations in the state of Rhode Island for one year.

Or

This is an explainer video for patients to watch while they’re sitting in the Emergency Room waiting for their turn to be seen.

Or

This overhead audio will be heard at the Grand Opening event of our Annual Meeting for our franchisees from all over the world.

And that’s IT.

Now, let’s pull it all together and review Mr. Big’s Enhanced Audition Query:


Here’s my reply to Mr. Big’s enhanced audition email:

I hope that helps.  You can download an Infographic “cheat sheet”for this article here.

Happy voice casting.  Great performances start with clear communication.


Resources:

Voquent Blog:  Buyouts and Usage Fees for VO Explained

GVAA Rate Guide for VO Rates

Composing the Audition Email INFOGRAPHIC