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Business of VO: New Year, New Demo?

with Liz Atherton

The Pros and Pros of New Demos and why Raising Chickens Raises the Bar!

Everyone is talking demos these days! How important is a demo? Do I need new demos? The list goes on. Host Anne Ganguzza and special guest host Liz Atherton discuss the importance of demos in your voiceover arsenal with a smattering of good advice about acting, agents, marketing, training, and the importance of being! Oh, and then there are the chickens


Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode:

  1. I’m a seasoned pro and should still update my demos.

  2. Anne’s approach to demos and why training is essential.

  3. A good demo will get you an agent!

  4. Hire a professional demo producer – you get time with someone who knows what they are doing and you can learn from the best.

  5. Demos are not just for newbies.

  6. You can get hired from your demo, but you better sound like you, or you can be fired!

  7. A demo is essential to your marketing!

  8. You BETTER have your own website!

  9. Acting is the future of VO – the actor in you will get you hired

  10. You must be engaging, believable, and direct-able.

  11. Fresh material is a must!

  12. Demo specifics – what works and why!

  13. A great demo is money well spent – DO YOUR RESEARCH!

  14. Current Styles – it’s important?Hire the right director – they know what they are doing!

  15. Everything is subjective – hire someone well vetted!

  16. A demo is SO much more than an .mp3 – remember that when you evaluate the investment!

Referenced in this Episode

Direct links to things we brought up ++

Learn more about doing your demo with Anne!
Find out about 
Recorded on ipDTL
Awesome editing by Carl Bahner


>> It’s time to take your business to the next level, the BOSS level! These’re the premier business owner strategies and successes being utilized by the industry’s top talent today. Rock your business like a BOSS, a VO BOSS. Now let’s welcome your host Anne Ganguzza.

Anne: Hey, welcome, everybody, to the VO BOSS podcast. I’m your host, Anne Ganguzza, along with special guest cohost, queen bee Liz Atherton. How are you?

Liz: Hey Anne. I’m good. How’re you doing? Thanks for including me.

Anne: I’m working my way in this very beginning of 2020, trying to make it start off with a huge explosion bang so that I can have the best year ever.

Liz: You’re an inspiration. Guys, if y’all don’t know Anne Ganguzza, make it a point to know Anne Ganguzza. She’s not only a delight, she’s smart and she knows what she’s doing. So there’s your plug, Anne, and you don’t even have to pay me.

[both laugh]

Anne: Stop, no, don’t stop.

Liz: Woo! Oh. Anyway.

Anne: Since it’s a new year, I thought it would be a good time to discuss prepping ourselves for having the best year yet. And I think a very important component of your voiceover business is your demo. I thought it would be good to talk about demos in 2020. We’ve had this discussion before on this podcast, but I always like to keep things fresh. So let’s talk about demos in 2020. I would like to get your thoughts on how important is a demo for a voice talent today to market themselves and get business?

Liz: I’m going to come at it, if you don’t mind, from a different perspective. The reason I think demos are so important to the talent is that you are going to get several hours and maybe more with someone who knows what they’re doing. Yes, you’re going to create a demo, and yes, it’s going to come out sounding great. But what you’re really going to get is time with this person that knows what they’re doing. Ask them questions. It’s the best training you could ever imagine. And to me, that’s why people should always be doing demos. I mean, Anne, listen, you know I’m not a VO talent. I’m just a, or was a lowly agent. Now I’m just a lowly software person ,and I’m a mom, and I have chickens.

Anne: “I have chickens.” Raise the bar, girl.

[both laugh]

Anne: There’s nothing lowly about raising chickens. There you go.

Liz: Back to demos. To me, so let’s just take Joe Blow or Jane Blow voiceover talent and let’s just say they’ve been a talent for many years, and they know how to put out a good demo, but now they’re going to have this demo, and they’re going to get to work with Anne Ganguzza, right, and your engineer. Who’s your engineer, Anne? Is it you? Is it someone else?

Anne: Oh no. I have an amazing engineer in Santa Monica. His name is John Chominski. That’s a big shout-out to John. Love my engineer. John is amazing, from Atlantis group studios.

Liz: That’s fantastic. So let’s pretend that I’m a fairly tenured voiceover talent, right? But I needed a demo and I want to reach out to Anne, and I say Anne, I want to put together a demo. And Anne’s like yes, let’s do this. So now Anne doesn’t necessarily need to coach me through how I’m going to deliver the lines, right?

Anne: Wait a minute. I’m going to back you up there. The only reason I say that is because I’m that person.

Liz: I’m thrilled.

Anne: Yeah. I believe that if I’m going to direct a demo, I need to be able to understand and believe that you can deliver you can deliver those lines without me directing you. So the teacher in me comes out. So you actually have to coach with me. That’s the only way I’ll produce a demo. I am not — you cannot pay me enough money to just produce a demo. You have to work with me first.

Liz: Then my hat’s off to you. No seriously, I say this with all my gut. So, I’m this talent, right, and I’ve hired you to help me with this demo. So you’re gonna help me deliver the lines, but let’s just – so now I’ve trained with you and I know how to deliver the lines and I’m in the session. And we’re working on sound, and the engineer, your engineer is doing something special. I should be glued to the mic and to the headphones listening to what he’s doing and learning what he’s doing. I should be glued to what you’re sharing and saying about things I should do because you are an industry influencer. You know what you’re doing, and you’re a fantastic demo producer. So me as the talent, not only am I going to walk away with a demo, I’m going to walk away with being a better talent in what I’m doing. And to me, that’s the beauty of a demo. If I have new VO talent, you know, you listen to them, and they catch your ear, and you’re just like, “wow you have this fabulous voice.” For me, they’re asking, “how do I get into VO?” And I’m not trying to segue into how to get into VO, but to me, one of the first things they have to do is — maybe not the first, they have to generate a demo. And if they pick the right demo teacher, then they’re going to walk out with so much more knowledge at the end of the experience. To me, demos, on the agent side and the casting side, people ask, “what good is my demo?” Well, It’ll get you an agent. It’ll get you — I mean that’s –

Anne: That’s a really good point by the way. For those people who’re saying, but we audition for everything all the time. Why do I still need a demo? Or with pay-to-plays, people are like, all we have to do is audition and upload, we can do our own recordings of, you know, and upload that as our demo, pay-to-play sites. So why do I still need a professional demo? And you just brought up an excellent point that more than likely you’re not gonna get an agent without a professionally produced demo.

Liz: You’re not. And here’s the other thing, Anne. Whenever the demo – so I’m an agent, right, and I’m listening to your demo, and then let’s just say the first auditions come through, and you’ve been hired — sometimes you can be hired straight from your demos. Matter of fact, I legitimately had this conversation two days ago. A friend of mine – of course I have a lot of friends in the VOs community, she’s such a good VO artist. She had been hired off of her demo and the gentleman had been hired off of his demo. He could not speak himself out of a paper bag. He could not repeat, he could not re-create the sound. His demo was so overproduced and perfect that he could not redo what he was doing. So not only did he – I mean, I’m happy for him that he has a pretty demo and it got him hired, but he got fired from the job, they had to go find somebody else.

Anne: He couldn’t produce the sound.

Liz: He couldn’t re-create what he did on his demo. Had he paid attention to the techniques that got him to there, to all of that other kind of stuff, then he would’ve been a legitimate talent. I’m not saying he’s not a legitimate talent, but that was all wrapped up in that demo.

Anne: So I’m going to say, let’s just — I’m going to back the truck up for a minute and just reiterate what you just said. Number one, yes, you can get hired off of your demo. I am a firm believer in that. I’m going to say why. Number one, I think it’s great to be able to be hired off your demo especially if you’re along with an agent, and the agent is submitting on behalf, or they go to the agent’s website, and they’re listening to the demo. But I also want to say, if you have your own website, and good God if you don’t by this time. It’s 2020, guys, it’s time to have your website, and it’s time to have your work on your website meaning your demo. So if you’re a new voice talent, you don’t have work necessarily to put on a website, so put your demo on it. And when you do that, that demo acts as a marketing — that’s your marketing piece, 24/7. So while you’re sleeping —

Liz: It’s your door opener.

Anne: Yeah. Somebody could be listening to that demo and saying “oo, I like that voice.” I cannot tell you the amount of times people have sent me an email saying “you know what, I really love the voice you did on that Ford spot. Can you please, you know, what would you charge me for this?” I get hired off my demo all the time, not necessarily through my agents, but yes through my agents as well, but because it’s sitting on a website that’s available 24/7, and it’s always there for people to listen to whether I am able to talk to them or communicate with them or not. That’s number one. Yes, you can get hired off your demo. The other is you can also get fired from your job because you can’t reproduce the sounds on your demo. That, not excluding the sound with the sound effects and music, we’re talking about the direction and being able to play the actor and not being able to reproduce that on your own. That’s why I’m so adamant about students that I work with, I have to vet them. I have to know that they’re capable of producing the acting that goes in to that spot and they’re capable of doing that on their own without me sitting there and handholding them through it, which is why I make sure everybody works with me. It’s got to be at least a few sessions.

Liz: Well, listen. Let me –

Anne: Yeah. I just won’t do a demo. I won’t do a demo without it.

Liz: Well, let me — two things. I do think the future of voiceover is in the acting and everything talks to you. You have to be able to deliver the lines from the copy in a way that’s relatable and understandable. And if you don’t believe me, I know that you’ve been listening to the TV or the radio, and you’ve heard someone put that, [low voice] how’re you [high] doing [lower] today, [normal] and it drives you crazy. They may’ve gotten hired to deliver it that way, but it drives you crazy, so you need to be the actor. You do, and now –

Anne: The actor will get you hired. That’s what I believe. They can direct you once you get hired. Right? The actor I think is where you need to be engaging. You need to be believable. You need to be authentic. And if they want to direct you to that announcer read later on, hey, that’s fine. I got the gig. That was the important thing, and I’m getting paid.

Liz: I remember the other point I wanted to make. If you cannot be directable, break that badness. I say that — once in a blue moon because I’m a big ol’ mouth and I have opinions, Lord knows, people will ask me to help them out, and work with them, and coach them through an audition. Mind you everyone that’s listening, my opinion about the way that audition ought to be delivered versus the next person’s way of thinking it ought to be delivered are going to be night and day. But if you’re going to ask me for my opinion, you’re going to get it. If you get my opinion, and we’re working through it, pay attention. You learn how to do that by getting, working with a coach like Anne or you know, that’ll help walk you through that. I’m holding you up on high esteem there, but I’ve also seen you in your element, and you’re really good at what you do.

Anne: Well thank you, and I was just going to mention though, not just me but working with you as well. Because we got the opportunity to work together, like I totally, like, we’re like symbiotic.

Liz: We are. We are.

Anne: We’re on the same page. I totally get that. If any of you guys out there, any of you BOSSes out there get a chance to work with Liz, yeah, do it. Liz, I mean, that 20 billion years of experience does not go unnoticed.

Liz: [laughs] Anne, I’m just 19. Excuse me. Hello!

Anne: That’s right. She’s only 19. That’s what’s even more amazing., is that she’s 20 billion years of experience, but she’s only 19. Guys, if you have an opportunity to work with her, I’m just going to say it.

Liz: Can I get a little sidebar here? I’m coming at you from the studio of Diana Birdsall. Let me use Diana as an example. Here’s Diana who is a very successful voiceover talent, who I know for a fact did three demos last year at least. She’s got three in queue for this year of things that she’s working on. This is someone who is working, guys. She’s doing very well as a voiceover talent, and yet she’s still putting out new demos. Why? Because she understands the value in working with a good demo producer and a good engineer. I’m speaking for you here. Please speak up if you feel differently, but she understands the value. Two, her materials on her website are always fresh and new. And yes, listen, guys. Demos are not inexpensive. You get what you pay for. And if you put together a good demo — Diana is going to get more work from her demos out there. Let’s just say she doesn’t have an automotive demo. She decides this year — last year I invested in an e-learning demo or I invested in this commercial demo, but I really want to step into the automotive world, so this year, I’m gonna go work on my automotive demo. So she’s not only going to put out a new demo, she’s also gonna learn what it means, what an automotive demo looks like. What if she gets hired to do an automotive gig? She’s worked on an automotive demo, so she can step into that gig far better prepared than had she not done it.

Diana: Oh yeah. I’m a huge supporter.

Liz: Thank you, Diana.

Anne: I think it’s important to note — thank you, Diana. I think it’s important to note that, as you were talking about Diana has a wide selection, a wide variety of demos, — [laughs] I just sounded so announcer right there — Diana presents with a wide variety of demos, but what’s important about that is that they’re specifically targeted, and I think that’s something I reiterate over and over and over again in this podcast, and that’s being target market specific. Because first of all, your automotive demo is going to be completely different than your e-learning demo. It’s going to be completely different than a commercial demo.

Liz: It better be.

Anne: Because the market is different. Right? The genre is different, the buyer is different.

Liz: Let me jump on that for just a second. Somebody does, has a commercial demo. Just say that — and a promo. The two demos, right? Don’t put your commercial demo sitting in an automotive demo slot on some software place somewhere. It’s a commercial demo. If you want to play in the automotive world, do an automotive demo. Be specific about it. Show that you can do that. Because somebody — I’m a producer, and I’ve decided I’ll go pull 10 people with automotive demos, and I get legitimate automotive, automotive, automotive and then I get this, “hey, are you going down to Toys ‘R Us today?” What? Don’t be, you know, learn the genre, learn what you’re doing.

Anne: Now I’ve got a big question for you. This actually I’m going to be very excited to hear your answer to this. There’s so many people that go back and forth about the length of the demo. I truly believe commercial demos, right, for an agent, would be different than let’s say a commercial demo that you have sitting on your website 24/7 in terms of length. What’re your thoughts on, should a commercial demo be a minute or less, or can it be more, and what’re the ramifications if it is? Thoughts, comments?

Liz: So I think that the length is important, but your first 10 seconds is more. Because if you don’t capture the attention of the listener in that first 10 seconds, it doesn’t matter if it’s a one-minute demo or a two-minute demo. I personally, I’m much more — I don’t know if I’m going to be contradicting your thoughts, but I like a one-minute demo, because you hear what you need to hear. However the big thing in marketing right now, trends in 2018 and 2019 were storytelling. So I would like to see storytelling in demos. I call them the storyboard demo so that you actually in your demo, you go from everything from A to Z. We’re actually going to try to record one of these. For the record, folks, I’m not a demo producer. I don’t want to be a demo producer. I’m just a girl, as Anne and I have talked, I’m an entrepreneur so my brain never shuts off.

Anne: I think what you’re doing, you’re looking for something different, something that’ll help a talent stand out and be unique. And so in regards to length, I’m going to speak my thoughts on that. I think I’m going to generate the length of a demo as per who it’s going to. For example the majority of agents I’ve spoken to prefer a demo that’s a minute long and not longer. A big reason for that is because they’re busy people. I get that. We want to respect their time. You get what you need within the minute. I totally respect that. So if I’m working with a student, and we’re producing a commercial demo, I’ll stick to that minute because I know that they’re probably going to submit that commercial demo to an agent. That’s where they’re going to be getting a lot of their work. They’ll also put that demo on their website as well. Right? Now let’s say an e-learning demo or a corporate narration demo, the buyer is different. They’re not necessarily going to be submitting that demo to an agent necessarily. Here’s my corporate narration demo or here’s my e-learning demo, because the agent doesn’t necessarily work in those genres. So my thoughts about those demos is they can be longer because number one, they’re narration. They should show a little bit longer I think, because you need to showcase the arc of your acting in a little longer time period than a seven or eight second spot. It’s got to take longer. And that way, you’re showcasing the acting and the story revealed in any particular narration or the teaching moment, whatever it takes to get that spot to showcase your voice and the best acting, I’m going to say the best acting and the best sound possible. And so for me, especially because the buyer for corporate, it’s probably going to be either someone that happens upon your website and listens your demo. And all they care about, if I work at, you know – and I always use Boeing as an — maybe Boeing is not the best example but let’s say I work for Lockheed Martin. All I care about is aerospace. I live, eat, and breathe aerospace. I’m a corporate, you know, marketing director and all I care is I have a voice that can speak my brand. So when I listen to a demo and I happen to Google it, because I don’t — I’m a company, I don’t work necessarily through an agent to get my voiceover for this new video that I want to put on Youtube or on my website. I may do a Google. I may go a pay-to-play. For whatever reason, I may just listen to a demo. And if you’re speaking my language, wow, that resonates with me. That makes you memorable to me. With that, I would say the demo, it can be longer than a minute because they may or may not be listening to the whole demo. Now the other thing I would say about demos is, to have them at least in a player that breaks them up into each spot and so that you can visually see and people can jump around.

Liz: That’s a really good suggestion.

Anne: That may or may not be VoiceZam. There’s lots of different players that you can break up your demo in different tracks. That way people can just get the track they want and then say, “oh look, she did a spot for Southwest, and I work for Delta, so let’s hear what she sounded for Southwest because we’re competitors, and I want to hear her speaking my brand, or you know, the industry brand at least.” That’s where I think the length is going to be – it’s not going to matter so much. Because I’m designing a demo for that particular market, I’m going to make the length longer because I feel it’s gonna give you a better shot at getting the gig. Bam. I stepped down.

Liz: Anne, you’re so –

Anne: I stepped down from my, from my soap box. I’m very passionate. I’m passionate about that.

Liz: As well you should be. The only thing I would add to that, because the length, you got to be able to keep the attention.

Anne: Oh yeah.

Liz: Because the listener, just like you said, if I’m doing a Southwest spot, and I’m a Southwest person looking, I want to hear that. I think demos are invaluable. I think, just like using Diana as an example, you must be doing those and yes, they’re expensive, but they’re expensive because you walk away from them not only with the work, and guys, you know, you sit in front of your computers all day. You know what it is to put something out. Imagine trying to do that for someone else. You’re legitimately paying experts to get you the best sound and effort that they can, but it’s the training.

Anne: And their years of experience.

Liz: Years of experience.

Anne: And understanding the market. Like I don’t sit at my desk all day and not do market research. I do market research every single day on the corporate market, on e-learning. I research it because I don’t want to put out a demo that’s not current, that’s not relevant. And I work in the industry too, so I have a very good sense of what styles are out there and what’s current, what people are looking for. You’re paying not only for that piece of marketing material that you get, but also the director or the producer’s experience and research and all those years in saying, this is what the market is asking for, and this is how I’m going to give it to them in this demo production. So if you try to do it yourself, you can —

Liz: Don’t, don’t, don’t do it yourself. Don’t.

Anne: You probably don’t have that experience and that’s I think what you’re paying for.

Liz: You also don’t have the – what is it – not the subjective opinion. You only have your opinion if it sounds good or not, and you need that expert to help you with it. Again, you come at demos from – as an agent, you could get work off your demos. It wasn’t quite as relevant or prevalent. It might be on some of the software systems out there, the pay-to-plays where you’re posting your demos and getting hired from that, but for me I think it’s incredibly relevant for the amount of — the training. If I can sit and work with Anne Ganguzza to produce – I mean, to get a two-minute demo, or a one-minute demo, or a specific demo out, my goodness, what am I going to walk away from? I’ve had this person’s voice in my ear helping me be a better voice actors, and that’s priceless to me.

Anne: Well, thank you for the plug. I appreciate that, I love that, but I do want to say, I agree with you completely. Don’t think of – like, I want you guys to not think of a demo as just like one thing, it’s an MP3. Do you know what I mean? The demo entails so much more than that. It really wraps up, you know, education, experience, you know, years of experience researching markets and that sort of thing. If you look at the total cost and you say, “oh my God, it cost me this much for my demo” or “I had to train, and then I paid for a demo, and it cost me this much.” Number one, it’s not just an MP3 you’re getting. You’re getting a whole lot more wrapped up into it. Try to keep that in mind when you’re justifying that cost —

Liz: You must.

Anne: — in your business, in your business investment. It really is a business investment.

Liz: Ask questions, learn. Yes, like I said, I’m a big supporter and you get again, pick the right demo producer because you’re going to get somebody that helps you in so many more areas than just the end file. Yes, ma’am.

Anne: Research, ask, Google, guys. There’s lots of groups that talk about it, so you know, do your due diligence, and let’s get yourselves some amazing demos for 2020. Woo-hoo!

Liz: Yes, ma’am. Yes, ma’am!

Anne: All right. Big shout-out to our sponsor IpDTL. You too can network like I’m with the amazing Liz and your clients with Find out more at You guys have an amazing week. And we’ll see you next week. Bye!

Liz: Nice to see you, Anne. Take care.

Anne: Bye! Bye!

>> Join us next week for another edition of VO BOSS with your host, Anne Ganguzza, and take your business to the next level. Sign up for our mailing list at and receive exclusive content, industry revolutionizing tips and strategies, and new ways to rock your business like a BOSS. Redistribution with permission. Coast-to-coast connectivity via IpDTL.