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Do Senior Voices Face Fewer Auditions and Less Choices?

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

November 10, 2008

Comments (5)

Senior couple embracing

Are older, more mature voices overlooked when auditions are reviewed?

Today we'll take a look at two very different stories, one of which I credit with the inspiration of this article, coming up now on VOX Daily.


Does Voice Age Matter?

Bud Sisson will be 78 this December. His first paid voice over gig was in 1981 and it ran for years. Recently he had one client who used his voice for their commercials for ten years, and during their ten years their sales curve was constantly on the up and up.

Bud doesn't talk fast and never did, and with his hearing problem, he has difficulty understanding fast talkers. Based upon his experience when he was writing and producing radio and television commercials for a retirement complex, Bud found that older people do not like announcers "who talk so fast that I can't understand them."

Considering the size of the senior market, why is it so hard for senior voices to find work?


Are Older Voices Discriminated Against?

By Bud Sisson

I feel that the cards may be stacked against some of us especially senior males and senior females.

The fault, I believe, is with many of the voice seekers.

There are two issues in my opinion which stack the cards against us:

๏ Age discrimination
๏ Pace

They are connected.

I speak as a senior male who for ten years had a client who used my voice, and I am proud to say that during that time, the client's sales curve kept going up and they expanded their sales staff. The producer had a technique that more producers might consider. After what both she and I considered to be a good read, she would also say, "But we're a bit over." However instead of saying "Pick up the pace, 90 times out of a hundred, she would say, "Let me see what I can cut."

My producer and I agreed that for maximum understanding faster is not better.

At a more moderate pace, the voice actor has more time to color words and bring out the meaning. So I would suggest that voice seekers should try writing only 20 seconds of copy for a 30 second commercial or 40 seconds of copy for a one minute commercial.

The worst example of speed are the pharmaceuticals who at the end of the commercial read off the warnings and side effects of their medications so fast that no one could remember any of it. Are they trying to hide something?

So am I too old for the voice industry? I don't think so.

I am picky about what auditions I do. Some questions I use in deciding what auditions I will do. Does the product or service interest me? Do I like the copy for the custom demo? Can I read the demo script in a specified time? Does the script and the product fit with my personality and my voice style?

Bud Sisson

~~

Reaching A Market Comprised of 79 Million Baby Boomers

Michael Turnbull's Story

Known for his mature, trustworthy voice and ability to connect with the baby boomer set, Michael Turnbull, age 61, has just started a new chapter in his career complete with the re-branding of his business, an accreditation of his services through SaVoa and by joining the ranks of the Platinum membership at Voices.com.

Profiled recently by Susan Berkley of The Great Voice Company as one of her favorite success stories, Turnbull has never been busier pursuing the craft he loves while arranging his work around his lifestyle as a grandfather and yachtsman.

A mature professional voice over talent, Michael Turnbull has done more commercials, narration and documentaries catering to the needs, interests, and buying habits of the 79 million baby boomer generation than any other voice in the industry during the last 5 years.

His warmth, friendliness and believability has branded campaigns for clients such as Ford Motor Company, Volvo, Good Neighbor Pharmacy, Heinz, Blue Cross / Blue Shield and has narrated pieces for the US Air Force - Nellis AFB, Whitehall Museum in Palm Beach, and Chivas Regal History.

~~

How Are Older Voices Perceived in Voice Over?

There is a validated market for senior voice overs. People cast based upon age specific requirements to reach their target audience, and sometimes, that may mean that a mature voice is not the voice for the job, but then that goes for other voice ages, too.

Although Michael is younger than Bud, his voice still falls in the same category where reaching people of a certain age is concerned in the mature to senior adult demographic.

While the younger spectrum of the vocally mature curve may be working with more frequency, how do mature voices fare in general?

Is there any noticeable discrimination?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

Best wishes,

Stephanie

©iStockphoto.com/Luca di Filippo

Related Topics: Bud Sisson, industry, mature, Michael Turnbull, radio, senior citizen, senior voices, TV, voice acting, voice overs


Comments


    Hi Stephanie!

    I can see where you're coming from with this. It's because of the target audience. The majority of media is dominated by young people from ages 13 to 30 (or something like that), and thus, they respond more to voices that appeal to them, namely young, attractive sounding voices. Now I'm not saying senior voices aren't attractive (in fact, I love the wise, deep sound of a good senior voice), I'm merely stating that most people my age (around 20's) prefer to hear people their own age in most all forms of media and entertainment, no matter what the age being portrayed. It seems that young voice actors are playing characters and whatnot of every age (child, young adult, middle age, senior, etc.) but people fail to realize how much of an impact it makes when an actual senior voices a senior character. Look at the emperor from "Mulan". They could have gotten any young or middle aged man to portray him, but they made an excellent decision to cast Pat Morita instead, and because of that, the emperor is one of the most believable characters out there. Ok, I'll stop here. This was pretty long, sorry about that. I'm just upset about how seniors are discriminated against in this field.

    Dan "ConVito" Conlin

    Posted by:

      Interesting topic. In my opinion, it's all about some producers opinion and what the current market fad is leaning towards and not necessarily discrimination.
      Consider the latest unending political commercial blitz. Most of the voices you heard were mature and wise sounding. I don't believe we heard any young 20 something hipsters hawking candidates, now did we? In a sense isn't everyone in this business discriminated against in some way, shape or form? The way our god given vocal instrument sounds may be right for some communication but not an other.

      I am currently and have been in the process of securing a big time talent agent on the west coast. I myself have a delivery style in the 40 to 50 range. I was told by my manager, that most of the top talent agents right now are not signing talent in my age range. There's plenty of us! In fact too many of us. The trend is the 20 year old, disenchanted, know it all, hip, MTV voice, Whatever that is. So, I am SOL for the moment. But like all trends and fads... this too shall change and once it does... the 20 year olds will be discriminated against. Those are my thoughts.

      Posted by:

        Hope you're right, Ed! I fall into a similar vocal range, and at times I feel SOL, too, especially trying to find agents on the coasts who might be willing to work with out of town talent - although I have to say I've been swamped with work lately and the numbers are even up over last year. It would be nice to think the pendulum will make that swing... Not that I want anyone to be discriminated against, you understand!

        I think there are a lot of voices being used out there that are really inappropriate for the products. I suppose it's just the producer's personal preference or what's in "style" at the moment. But, who has the money to buy out there? I guess younger people may be more eager and willing to part with their "disposable" income. However, I think advertisers would be wise to write commercials and cast them to appeal to those with the money who are a little more discriminating in how they're willing to spend it. Frankly, many commercials these days are just obnoxious and/or stupid.

        That being said, it's important for voices of all ages to keep learning and honing their craft. The attributes of our voices and skills we've learned that got us work in the past may be the very things holding us back now. For example, we learned to work with our voices to try to sound the best we could - but in today's "real, conversational, non-announcer" era, ya gotta get loose, ya know? - no matter what age range your voice is in. The biggest compliment I received recently was from someone who said, "you've really got this real person thing down"! Who knew?

        Posted by:

          Age plays a discriminating role in every aspect of this industry... and in this case not necessarily the age that you are, but the age that you sound... unfortunately, I sound like a 12 year old - which isn't so great when you're applying for radio news casting gigs...

          Posted by:
          • Jaclyn MacRae
          • November 11, 2008 4:47 PM

            I have an idea. Let's kill all the young talent. Then us "seasoned veterans" can clean up! I learned this trick from Tony Soprano.

            Posted by:

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