“Society has a need to hear voices of all kinds.”

How I view the voice actor’s culture/lifestyle today is informed from how I viewed it in the past.

Having been a voice actor for 50 years, I’ve known a time when the culture of the voice actor was founded on being of service to those who requested or required a human voice to be a part of a creative collaboration of communication and the spoken word.  There were a limited number of media outlets and networks that would broadcast these messages, usually to specific audiences, primarily radio, television, film and music. 

The equipment required to do the recordings was extremely expensive and cost prohibitive for the working voice actor to own. Creative professionals and sound engineers worked in fixed locations where the recording studio and television and radio stations had the equipment to record the voice actor.

These circumstances informed the voice actor’s culture of the time, which I found to be respectful, supportive, exceptionally creative and fun, composed of talented professionals who enjoyed creating and communicating. 

Auditions were done at our agents’ offices, in person, which created meaningful friendships along with an extremely fun, creative and supportive environment of face-to-face encounters where people could catch up on each other’s lives.

In general, there were few awards for voice acting performances.  Broadcast ratings, sales generated from advertising and the occasional recognition from an Advertising Association.

Payment came in the form of a salary or SAG-AFTRA check negotiated by an SAG-AFTRA authorized agent

The voice actor’s world today is drastically different from the one I just described.  Technology makes recording equipment easily accessible with broadcast-quality home studios now an industry standard. The speed of communication and connection is lightning-fast with the internet, smart phones, and social media.

One of the down-sides of this is that the voice actor has now assumed more responsibility beyond their skill of voice acting for no additional pay.  They must now be their own director, sound engineer, editor AND performer for countless auditions and often performances AND, they must be available 24/7!

For many, who are consistent bookers with clients worldwide, this has brought on a new level of exhaustion.  “Self-Care” has become a buzzword in our industry, because many are on the verge of “burn-out.”  I heard a voice actor share in an interview, they often go 3 weeks at a time not leaving their house.

The positive side of this is the basic mutual internal needs of a voice actor ... like the need for creative expression, a love of socialization, and a willingness to be supportive of other voice actors on their journeys remain constant.  This has led to the creation of hundreds of virtual workout groups, virtual VO coaches and virtual VO classes.  It was a God-send in meeting those needs during the pandemic.  But there still was another internal desire ... to be working, creating and learning with real people in person in real time.  It brings an authenticity that can’t be found in only virtual experiences.

I believe acting is an art form that requires social exchange and is best done in-person with real human beings.

And voice actors need to be fairly paid.  There is more non-union work than ever before.  But a sign of hope for me is seeing influencers in the industry are creating avenues where non-union work can be converted to union work.

Society has a need to hear voices of all kinds, from all cultures, orientations and cultures.  The founding of SOVAS has been the single most profound influencer ensuring that occurs.

Today’s voice actor must also be well-informed with genuine, trusted information on the art of voice acting and the business of voice acting, learning how to balance both from seasoned, proven professionals.  And, their work needs to be acknowledged for its contribution to the Entertainment and Advertising Industries. The Voice Arts Awards produced by SOVAS is the industry-standard. 

It is my belief that voice actors will always instinctively get their social needs met for fun and meaningful interaction in their own ways.  But we will always need experienced, seasoned, trusted leaders who serve as guiding lights for our journeys to be the best they can be in an industry that is the best it can be.

Debbie Hirata
Voice Arts® Award-winning Voice Actor