By Lin Parkin
August 19, 2013
In this episode of Voice Over Experts Edge Studio Managing Director, Graeme Spicer, joins Voices.com's Social Media Manager, Ashley Davidson, to discuss his role at Edge Studio, what most people don't know about the educational facility, and why top-notch acting skills should take precedence over top-notch equipment when you're just starting out in the industry.
Graeme Spicer joined Edge Studio as Managing Director in June 2013. Spicer brings a unique perspective to Edge. He has over 25 years of experience in marketing, strategic planning, business development and operations management in companies from small startups to multi-billion dollar global organizations. He is a faculty member at OCAD University, where he teaches on a part-time basis courses in marketing research, strategic planning and professional best practices. He is a working voice actor and is an active member of the voice over community. Follow Graeme on Twitter at: @GraemeSpicerVO
A leading authority in the voice?over industry since 1988, Edge Studio specializes in the production of voice recordings, and the training of new and established voice actors, narrators and other spoken?word performers. Edge Studio facilities have produced or recorded more than 13,000 voice over projects, spanning all genres. Edge Studio has facilities in New York City, Connecticut, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles, and regularly produces and trains remotely via telephone, ISDN, webinars, Skype, and other technologies. Follow Edge Studio at: @edgestudio
Welcome to Voice Over Experts, brought to you by Voices.com the number one voice over marketplace. Voice Over Experts brings you tips, pearls of wisdom, and techniques from top instructors, authors and performers in the field of voice over. Join us each week to discover tricks of the trade that will help you to develop your craft and prosper as a career voice over talent. It's never been easier to learn, perform and succeed from the privacy of your own home, and at your own pace. This is truly an education you won't find anywhere else. Now for our special guest.
Interviewer: Good afternoon and welcome to the interview style Voice Over Experts podcast with Edge Studio's new managing director, Graham Spicer. Founder and CEO of Edge Studio, David Goldberg, recently announced that they are expanding their team in preparation for a continued growth at his voice over education facility and production studio. And Graham Spicer is their new managing director. Graham brings 25 years of experience in marketing, strategic planning, business development and operations management in companies from small start-ups to multi-billion dollar global corporations. And he's also a working voice actor.
So without further ado I'd like to bring on Graham Spicer today, welcome Graham.
Graham Spicer: Hello, thank you very much for letting me speak with you today.
Interviewer: So for those of you that aren't familiar with Edge Studio can you please explain to everybody what exactly Edge Studio does and what they can offer to a voice over talent?
Graham Spicer: Absolutely. Edge is actually three different businesses kind of wrapped up into one. And most people think of us first and foremost for education. And yes, we are, I guess, arguably the largest or best known education organization for voice actors in North America and we have 26 different coaches who are all working voice actors and we do webinars and teleconferences and one on one coaching sessions. It's all part of what it is that we offer from an educational standpoint.
But we're also a full service production facility and that we have, you know, working studios in New York, in Los Angeles, in Atlanta, in Washington and Connecticut. There's one I'm missing, I can't remember where it is cause I haven't been there yet. But we do, actually we are actually producing stuff every day whether it's commercials or audio books or web videos, etc. And which is pretty cool cause it means we hire the talent that we train. So it kind of goes full circle.
And the third part of the business is, I guess, something that your listeners will be amongst the first to hear and that is that we have recently brought George Whittam on board. George if you're not aware is the, you know, kind of VO studio tech guy to the stars in Los Angeles. He, his, you know, kind of claim to fame, well he services anyone who's a big name in Los Angeles but his claim to fame was that he was the recording engineer for Don Lafontaine in the last three or four years of Don's career. So George is an incredibly valuable asset. So we now have this whole third business area of being able to assist people with their home recording needs.
Interviewer: Sounds very exciting, you guys have a lot of exciting plans coming up in the future. So in your own personal opinion what do you feel makes Edge Studio unique from any other coaching facility?
Graham Spicer: I think that one of the key differentiators for us from, you know, other coaching facilities is that we do run, you know, productions every day. We're a full service production house. So, yes, it gives us an opportunity to hire those students we train. But also it ensures that we are always up to date, always up to speed on what the latest trends in the, you know, what's happening right now in Los Angeles when it comes to commercial reads, are they more casual, are they less casual, what's happening in New York. We understand those things because we're immersed in it every day.
So that's one thing. The other thing is that every one of our coaches are working voice actors. So they, they know what the students go through on a day to day basis. And, you know, none of them make their living full-time as coaches and we like it that way. And we purposely go out of our way to ensure that, you know, those are the kind of people we're bringing on board.
Interviewer: So why don't you tell us a little bit about your new role with Edge Studio as their managing director and tell us how this came to be.
Graham Spicer: Well, I ran into, I've run into David off and on over the last three or four years, in fact I still remember going to the studios in New York on a visit I was making to that city three years ago. And I sat with David and paid him my, I can't remember how much it was at the time, for a critique of my demo. So I've always been aware of Edge. The other thing is that I used to travel a fair amount in previous jobs on, I used to travel for work and often found myself in New York and in need of a recording studio. So I would usually use Edge if I needed a studio in order to, you know, either bang off an audition or to actually have a phone patch or source connect session.
So ... David and I have kind of been aware of each for a while. I had actually been doing some work with George Whittam and it was kind of in the negotiations back and forth between VO studio tech George Whittam's organization and Edge that I got to know David a little better and he got to know me a little better. And I think that he recognized I bring a unique set of skills in that, yeah, I'm a working voice actor so I get the business and I go out of my way to network and to get involved in what's going on in the community. And cause community is a very important thing to David and to Edge.
But I also had this whole other life. I had, you know, 25 years of corporate experience in senior marketing roles and strategic planning roles. I teach, you know, advertising research and strategic planning at the university level in Toronto, I do that on a part-time basis. So I had the right perspective, I had the right context but I also had this whole different set of skills that David thought would be a good fit with where he wanted to take the organization. That Edge has been growing, you know, Edge has been growing incredibly strongly over the past couple of years. It started from like, you know, David and one or two other people three or four years ago and now we've got 26 coaches and all these facilities.
So it takes a different skill set now in order to keep this operation growing at the kind of level that we want it to.
Interviewer: So since you have about 25 years of experience in marketing and strategic planning and business development, can you share with everyone how you've applied these skills to your voice over career?
Graham Spicer: Yeah, I think that what many aspiring voice actors forget is that the performance side of what it is that they want to do for a living is only a small percentage of the total roles that they have to play. Yes, they have to be a good actor, no doubt about it, but they also need to be a recording engineer, they need to be an accountant and bookkeeper, they need to be a successful entrepreneur, they need to understand, you know, taxes and other governmental kind of things in where, in whatever area it is that they live. And we get excited because that's the kind of people that we are, you know. We're all creative people, this is an opportunity for us to express our creativity and that's what draws most people to voice over. We just need to make sure that the business side's being handled as well. You know, running a small business and that's what every voice over actor does.
So I've certainly been able to bring a lot of my background in contract law, in human resources management, in strategic planning as we'd mentioned earlier, in just corporate management. That all which has been beneficial to me as a voice actor and I think will be part of what makes me useful to the Edge team.
Interviewer: So for somebody that is looking to get started in voice overs, because you are a working actor yourself, what advice can you give to someone that is just looking to break into voice overs?
Graham Spicer: I think the key thing that I've learned now that I'm about five years into this business is - and I'm going to say this, it's going to sound self-serving but it's not because if you ask anyone who knows me I've been saying this long before my affiliation with Edge - is that I strongly recommend that you spend a tenth of the money on equipment that you would like to and spend 10 times the money that you first think about spending on training. I think that a really great performance in a $100 mic is always going to win an audition over a mediocre performance into a $3,000 Neumann. Spend your time, your effort and your resources on training. Get better at the craft.
Interviewer: So because you've been a working voice actor for numerous years now, what trends are you seeing in the voice over industry?
Graham Spicer: I think that the digitization of everything is changing all of our lives. The same thing that happens when, you know, no one sends handwritten letters anymore, in fact no one sends emails anymore. My 15 year old daughter now tells me "No, no, emails aren't even cool." I mean everything has to be done via text. I email my daughter and she told me that "Well, I only check emails once a week, Dad, on Mondays because that's when I get my work schedule, it's emailed to me."
So everything has become digital. Like the days of Don Lafontaine being in his limo, the famous limo rides and going from studio to studio to studio all over Los Angeles and recording in each individual TV network's booths. And there was $100,000 of equipment and they would record onto magnetic tape and the edits were done literally with razor blades and scotch tape, those days are gone, right. You don't need $100,000 or you don't even need $10,000 any longer to have broadcast quality audio coming from your home.
I think that with a $300 mic and a $300 preamp and a decent piece of software and your laptop and some acoustic treatment, under $1,000, under $2,000 certainly, that people could be doing broadcast quality work. The other thing to keep in mind is geography doesn't matter anymore because again you don't need to be in Los Angeles or New York or even Toronto in order to be able to fully participate in this business. Because technology now allows for you to be in Des Moines or in, you know, Butte, Montana and still be successful in this business.
That has completely turned the business upside down which has upset a lot of the traditional actors. Like it used to be 25 years ago there was certainly under 1,000 folks, men and women, primarily in Los Angeles and New York that did the lion's share of voice over. Not the case anymore. Now there's probably 15,000 or 20,000 people that are making at least a part-time living as a voice actor and they are geographically spread everywhere.
Interviewer: So before we close up the podcast, do you have any last words of wisdom that you want to share with our listeners from beginners to veterans and everyone else in between?
Graham Spicer: I guess two things. First of all, getting into this business because your friends and your family have always told you "You've got a really nice voice" isn't going to lead to ultimate success. The industry requires people with all types of voices. Some of them they kind of, you know, traditional announcer voice and, you know, that we would normally think of people as having nice voices, and there's a role for that for sure. But the current fashion in voice over is ordinary folks, just sound like you're just talking to me, don't announce to me. And that is, that is something that it's important the voice actors realize. That it's not about the tool - although the tool is important, your voice is important - but it's much more about your acting ability. So it's not enough to be a great announcer, you have to be an actor. And that is something that many brand new voice actors don't fully comprehend, don't fully get.
And the second thing I think is that there is no overnight success in the voice over business. The homeless, you know, Ted the homeless guy who became the voice over, the voice over guy for, I think it was KFC he ended up doing voice over for, I think it's important that people recognize the guy before he fell on hard times had been a successful radio announcer for many years. Like this, there's no overnight success, it takes persistence. Your, I wouldn't quit your day job to go and become a full-time voice actor. It, you know, it's, I love Malcolm Gladwell who's an author who writes business books. He talks about the fact that it really requires 10,000 hours to become a real expert at anything. It took Wayne Gretzky 10,000 hours in his teens of playing hockey before he became the Great One. It took Bill Gates 10,000 hours before he became the powerhouse and founded Microsoft.
I'm not saying that it's going to take 10,000 hours for anyone to become, you know, make a living at voice acting, but don't expect it to happen overnight.
Interviewer: Well, thank you so much, Graham, for sharing your words of wisdom with the audience for voice over experts podcasts. For more information on Edge Studio you can visit their website at edgestudio.com. And we do welcome you to keep in touch with voices.com. You can like on our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, watch many tutorial videos on our YouTube channel and also partake in the discussions going on in our LinkedIn group.
So a big thank you to Graham Spicer today and to everyone at Edge Studio.
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