Recently there’s been a lot of discussion about the value of awards like Voice Arts Awards and One Voice Awards for the year’s best demo in various categories.
Skeptics have pointed out that being nominated for or winning an award for your demo reel is not in-and-of-itself a sign of success. Ultimately, they say, only your booked work matters.
This perspective often comes from a place of wanting to help talent focus on the meaningful things that will increase their bottom line, and I’m sure it is, at its core, well intentioned. There’s definitely a valid argument to be made that a voice actor’s daily efforts should be expended primarily on tasks that generate work directly, such as auditioning and marketing.
However, dismissal of the value of awards for demo reels misses two very important points, one of which is directly salient to the bottom line of voice actors competing for these awards.
First and foremost, one must consider the opportunity provided to a voiceover artist simply by submitting for a Voice Arts Award or One Voice Award. Both of these competitions are judged by dozens of the most prominent talent agents, managers, and casting directors in the industry. Agents from all of the biggest LA and NYC agencies have participated, as have casting directors from all of the major casting companies and even Disney, as well as representatives from the most sought-after and selective management companies.
When a voice actor submits their demo to one of these award programs, they have the opportunity to be heard by the key players capable of helping them access the highest-level work. And, while there is certainly no guarantee or promise that this will actually lead to direct opportunities, having the chance to have their reel listened to, often in its entirety in this setting, gives voice actors a chance to make a front-and-center impression that simply submitting for representation through the usual channels might not. It’s a rare opportunity to have the most impactful people in casting as a captive audience.
There is another benefit to these awards as well, though more indirect.
Since the Voice Arts Awards launched almost a decade ago, the industry’s best demo producers have been forced to up their game. The chance for an award should absolutely not be the primary decision point one relies on in selecting a demo producer, but it certainly can play a factor in some voiceover talents’ process of deciding whom to work with. This has led to friendly competition among top producers, and has also required all of us to pay more attention to the finest details of scripting, direction, and production.
Without a doubt, the quality of demos being produced by the top ten demo producers is considerably higher today than it was ten years ago, and this is largely a result of industry awards creating a more competitive landscape. This means that more talent are getting top-level competitive demos, and these superior quality reels do ultimately lead to more and better work.
Certainly talent should be focused on immediate revenue generation. No one can argue that. But awards, for demos or anything else in VO, aren’t just a dog and pony show. They are a way of gaining the attention of the most connected people in the industry, and those impressions can help create channels of access that may not have existed for a voice actor before. The value is clear.