the voiceover agent series: how I partnered with the Sheppard Agency in Austin, TX

Editor’s note: Often times I get asked by both new and experienced voiceover talent “how do you get a voiceover agent?” Or “how did you get signed with a specific voice talent agency?” It occurred to me recently that there are some interesting and fun stories about how I have partnered with my voiceover agents. Everybody likes a good story so I thought I would share a few of them in something I’ve entitled “the voiceover agent series”.

Voice Talent Peter K O'Connell Sheppard Agency 19It is my personal opinion that Erik Sheppard of The Sheppard Agency (formerly Voice Talent Productions) was a grumpy old man by his early teens. Young as he is today, he still has that hilarious grumpy old man persona.

VO Agent Alliance_tall_audioconnellHe, of course, is a perfectly nice, smart guy, a family man (lovely wife -also a voice talent– , son and now a toddler daughter), a business owner (Sheppard Agency) and an advocate for the voiceover industry (VO Agent Alliance).

In my professional voiceover career, Erik is one of those people who seem like they have always been a part of it. I was trying to figure out exactly what year he called (or maybe emailed, I really can’t remember) to ask me to be a voice talent on Voice Talent Productions. I do recall him saying something about it just getting started and would I join etc. That maybe 2006 or 2007. The first email I could find from him (of easily over 600 emails) was 2008.

Point being, we’ve been together in this business a long time. I also believe him to be one of the hardest working agents I know of…auditions coming through to me constantly…on top of bookings and all over payments. The total package you want in a voiceover agent.

His Voice Talent Productions holiday parties were the stuff of legend…so much fun. All the VO talent from around the country would fly into New York City for the weekend and the parties were a blast. Seeing old friends and meeting new ones…all voice talents. Erik and Lindsay even got engaged at one of the parties.

I remember at the after-party for one VTP Holiday Party — it was a cold December night. Erik and I were talking outside because he was having another cigarette. We were talking about the voice acting talent at the party and I said that he really needed to take a listen to a somewhat (at that time) known female voice talent named Mara Junot. I think I had met Mara previously at a FaffCon – but her voice then as now was uh-mazing.

I said Erik, ‘you’ve got to sign her’. He said ‘you’re like the fifth person who has said that to me tonight’. I said ‘that’s part of the point of this party…discovering new voice actors…they show up, the other talents know them, hear them and make an introduction for them.’ Not because of me, but Erik did sign her and I think the Sheppards bought a boat, three cars and a summer home in Nantucket off commissions from the work Mara has booked.

From my commissions, the Sheppards’ were able to buy not one but two boxes of Girl Scout Cookies. Thin Mints, no less. So there’s that.

However, the greatest part of working with Erik are his audition notes…specifically when the rates or usage were ridiculously stupid. None of these note are printable (expletives deleted..and then there’s not much else to read) but trust me they are laugh out loud hysterical… day makers, when you read them.

He is iconic in his VO persona and legendary in his work ethic on behalf of his voice actors. Erik Sheppard is the guy you want in your corner when the VO battles rage.

New O’Connell TV Affiliate SHOW Promo Demo

Peter K. O'Connell Television Affiliate Show Demo

Affiliate promo voiceover work is one of the best parts of this business for a voice actor…it’s always new, the evolution of it is fascinating if you ever study it (even over just the past few decades), new shows, new news teams…the change keeps it interesting, I think.

Match that constant change with some really smart Creative Services Directors, who always come up with new promotional ideas for shows and events, and the voiceover work doesn’t feel so much like work.

My new television affiliate show promo voiceover demo includes not just my voiceover work (which I think is pretty good) but it also includes some of those great promo concepts that I mentioned, including shows like Ellen and Family Feud. The concepts and my reads are show-friendly, advertiser-friendly and overall…very brand-friendly for the stations.

The television affiliate news demo that I recently produced has a different feel – still promotional, but news is often times more serious than entertainment programming and so news promos need to have a more serious edge.

Both types of promo are right within my wheelhouse. If you’re a CSD looking for a new show or news promo voice for your television station (no matter the market), listen to the demo BELOW, please get in touch with me and let’s talk. Thanks.

LISTEN TO THE NEW PETER K. O’CONNELL TELEVISION AFFILIATE SHOW PROMO DEMO:

New O’Connell TV Affiliate NEWS Promo Demo

Peter K. O'Connell Television Affiliate News Demo

Besides the fact that it has been a while since I updated my TV Affiliate News Promo Demo, it never hurts when a TV station inquiries about my affiliate voiceover services to force me to get my butt in gear to make the demo update.

For those not in the industry, the TV affiliates are the local stations in your local TV market where you watch your ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, NBC & PBS network shows as well as national newscasts like World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News and PBS Newshour. These TV affiliates have local newscasts with name like Eyewitness News, Action News, NewsCenter, News 4 and have news slogans like “Live, Local & Late Breaking” or “On Your Side”.

I really enjoy voicing affiliate news promos but sometimes we voice talents forget that we need to actually update our voiceover work via our demos for prospective stations.

It’s like advertising agencies that are always busy working on client work and forget to update the agency’s marketing on their web site.

I also recently updated my TV Affiliate Show Promo Demo, more for the Programming department than the News department…I am equally comfortable in both genres.

When producing this new VO demo, I felt like less is more. So I kept the demo to 4 really strong segments that best represent the versatility of my affiliate news promo voice. I hope you agree. 🙂

If you’re a Creative Service Director at a network affiliate television station, I REALLY hope you agree.

Let me know what you think. Thanks!

LISTEN TO THE NEW PETER K. O’CONNELL TELEVISION AFFILIATE NEWS PROMO DEMO:

 

 

recording with robin hood

Robin Hood Studios Tyler Tx audioconnell voiceover talentAs I have mentioned in the past, I am a big proponent of finding local studios to record in when you are traveling. You meet new people and your recording environment is likely a thousand times better.

Well this week while in Tyler, Texas, I had some recording to do. I have been to Tyler before but hadn’t actually needed to record. This time, there was voiceover work to be done.

Off I went to Google. Immediately, I was drawn to one of the studios on the list. Robin Hood Studios. Great name, right?

Well more than a name, a cool history.

ZZ Top Platinum Album Robin Hood Studios audioconnell Voiceover Talent May 19

One of the platinum ZZ Top Albums at Robin Hood Studios in Tyler, TX

So Robin Hood Brians is the owner and chief engineer at the studio – which you wouldn’t know was a full recording studio just by looking at the building. The building WAS his parent’s house but since 1963 (and with additions built on) it is home to his historic, full service recording studio. For example, do you remember those platinum Z.Z. Top albums in the 70’s and 80’s? Several of them were recorded in the same studio I recorded in…I even had to wear a super long clip-on beard to record there (just kidding).

Voice Over Talent Peter K. O’Connell recording at the historic Robin Hood Studios in Tyler, TX, May 2019

The sound was great and studio was perfect in it’s eclectic-ness.

Robin himself is, as you might imagine, a font of rock and roll and broadcast commercial factoids and stories. He’s been doing this since the 60’s for goodness sakes! I think I was there longer talking to him than I was recording…which was fine with me as we shared great stories.

So if you are anywhere near Tyler and need to do some VO recording (or certainly music recording) I’ve got a place for you! Thanks Robin.

gone but not forgotten – hockey (not voiceover) edition

Peter K. O'Connell Voiceover Buffalo Sabres Carolina Hurricanes hockeyNo, despite their annual, horrible, embarrassing losing record, this professional voiceover talent is NOT giving up his primary allegiance to his boyhood team, the Buffalo Sabres. Evidently he IS talking about himself in the 3rd person (what a diva).

But my Buffalo Sabres are gone for this hockey season. Long gone. Like mathematically eliminated sometime last February gone.

However, in my new hometown of Raleigh, NC, the Carolina Hurricanes are playing the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals tonight. And I am supporting the #Canes quite fervently for two reasons.

  1. Boston…almost anything Boston
  2. Don Cherry

Boston I think is pretty obvious…Bruins are a Sabres rival. Patriots are a Bills rival. And the Red Sox…well just never mind, point made.

Don Cherry may not be as clear to everyone but it’s not because he was, at one time, the Bruins Coach.

See old Don…and I mean old and foggy Don…took umbrage (which I guess he does professionally…he’s a professional umbrager) at the Carolina Hurricanes creating an on-ice celebration after their many wins this season AND after the other team has left the ice. Fans love it but old Don says teams can’t entertain after the hockey game is over. It’s a professional sport, he claims…did he not hear about the hockey shoot-out rules?

Don went on Hockey Night in Canada (a show I grew up watching in Buffalo, NY and part of where I got my love of hockey) and called the Carolina Hurricanes a bunch of jerks. Here’s the video.

So as soon as I saw THAT…this life -long, Sabres only and always fan, made the decision to support the Canes by buying the BRILLIANTLY created “Bunch of Jerks” t-shirt produced by the Hurricanes. The Carolina Hurricanes have sold THOUSANDS of these shirts (3 of them to the O’Connells –  we will be wearing them tonight).

Much to his disappointment and likely painfully humbling to Cherry (which he of course would never admit), his comments inadvertently totally rallied the Carolina Hurricanes hockey troops worldwide. The Canes now have my support…unless they play the Sabres and then screw the Canes…it’s all about my Sabres then.

So YES, I want Don Cherry and Hockey Night in Canada to come to Raleigh for a Conference or Finals game…we will wear our shirts and scare the paisley out of old Don Cherry.

33 years between radio gigs

Before last week, the last time I hosted a live on-air radio show was 1986.

Peter K. O'Connell Catholic 540-AM Divine Mercy Radio April 2019

Voice Over Talent Peter K. O’Connell hosting the first live broadcast and first on-air pledge drive for Catholic 540-AM Divine Mercy Radio in Raleigh, NC, April 2019

I was thinking about that in 2019 on April 29th at 0 Dark Thirty in the morning as I was driving from my house to WETC-AM in Raleigh, NC to be on the radio for the next 3 days – a shift of about 12 hours each day.

Maybe I should back up a bit in the story.

About 6 years ago, when I lived in Buffalo, NY, there was a Catholic radio station network there that had asked people to help voice some of their promos. So I did that for the Stations of The Cross radio network to help them out…I’m a professional voiceover talent so, I decided, this would not be a heavy lift! 😉 Glad to help.

This was a volunteer effort because Catholic radio stations generally don’t make much money and often barely break even. They are usually completely listener supported. I hadn’t done much community service work at that time (I did all that in the decades before…and those were some heavy lifts!).

Some voice talents like to read for the blind, some like to donate their voices on spots for charities they support and I decided helping a couple of Catholic radio stations would be my volunteer work.

So 3 years ago, when the Mrs. and I were considering moving to Raleigh, NC, we were actually in RDU, looking at schools for the kids. If we found one we liked, we agreed we would move here (we did and…we did). But during that visit, I also checked to see if there was Catholic radio in the Triangle (RTP).

Turns out there was Catholic radio in Raleigh & Durham although it was a pair of low power FMs (LP); the ownership of Divine Mercy Radio, Inc., was trying to buy an area AM station but that sale hadn’t gone through at the time. When I called and volunteered my VO services to them…they were pretty happy that I called.

I have been voicing and producing promos for Divine Mercy Radio since then. Then this past February when the sale of the AM station they bought finally closed (and that closing happened pretty fast) they were suddenly on the air across Eastern and Central North Carolina. LOTS of work lay ahead for everyone volunteering.

WETC-AM RALEIGH, NC CATHOLIC 540-AM DIVINE MERCY RADIORunning a non-commercial, listener supported radio station like WETC-AM is pretty much a non-stop fundraising effort. The station can not operate without money so, without commercials, they need to fundraise. And if you’re a radio station, part of that fundraising means you need to go on-air and ask for money. If you have a 10,000 watt fundraising stick, you better wield it.

Which brings me to last week.

The station didn’t really have anybody else besides me with on-air radio experience. Or radio experience period. So when we talked about what an on-air pledge drive was going to sound like on the radio station, I was nominated…recruited…incarcerated…whatever you call it, I was hosting.

Well, I thought to myself: in for a penny, in for a pound.

That’s where I found myself, that Monday morning, sitting down in front of a microphone, one on-air switch away from broadcasting on a 10,000 watt AM radio station to 3 million people across Eastern and Central North Carolina with nothing more than a binder with some notes in it and my wits.

So really all I had was a binder.

But at 6:55 AM on Monday, April 29, 2019, I got to be the first live voice on Catholic 540-AM since the station went on the air in February (it carries network programming from EWTN, Ave Maria Radio & Relevant Radio). And it felt like only 33 seconds versus 33 years since I last hosted a radio show. Mind you, I had never hosted an on-air pledge drive…ever! My experience was with music radio and live request shows.

Peter K. O'Connell, John Dornan Catholic 540 AM Spring 2019 Pledge Drive

Voice Over Talent Peter K. O’Connell and John Dornan, Director Of Communications for the Diocese of Raleigh co-hosting the first on-air pledge drive for Catholic 540-AM Divine Mercy Radio in Raleigh, NC, April 2019

I was anxious as I went on the air that morning…but I wasn’t nervous. That surprised me a little. I wanted everything to go well yet I was in control…my pacing was a bit fast out of the gate, but I adjusted and it just flowed. The format was about 15-20 minutes of the pledge drive every hour. Sometimes I was solo and sometimes I had visitors / co-hosts. The co-hosts really made the breaks sound better than just me alone.

Three days later, it was over.

After barely 3 months on the air, in our first live broadcast ever and our first on-air pledge drive ever, Catholic 540-AM • Divine Mercy Radio raised almost $30,000. Early budget numbers had us only making $10,000.

Divine Mercy Radio Board Members Keith Flanary and Betty Rogosich with Volunteer Peter K. O'Connell during the first on-air pledge drive for Catholic 540 AM Divine Mercy Radio in Raleigh, NC, April 2019

Divine Mercy Radio Board Members Keith Flanary and Betty Rogosich with station volunteer & host Peter K. O’Connell during the first on-air pledge drive for Catholic 540 AM Divine Mercy Radio in Raleigh, NC, April 2019

While I am sharing my perspective on the event, it was in no way at all a one man show. It was, in fact, a TOTAL team effort of dedicated, loyal and kind volunteers. I was only a very small part of it.

It was an honor to get to work with such a fine group of people. I was pleased to be able to donate my services, doing something I have experience with, that helped the team succeed.

And yes, I was a little amazed that after all that time, one doesn’t forget how to radio. 🙂