Murphy’s Laws of Voice Over

Look at the bright side. We wouldn't have blooper reels if it weren't for ol' Murphy and his perverse, previously unreleased laws of voiceover.


OK, let's take a count. Who here DOESN'T know our old friend Murphy? Didn't think so.

Yeah, he’s a real people pleaser. Always there for us. In a perverse, unwanted way.


For those of you scratching your heads, here’s the refresher course on Murphy’s 3 Laws:


1. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

2. Nothing is as easy as it looks.

3. Everything takes longer than you think it will.


Sounds like a typical day in voiceover-land, where usually one of those three laws will sneak up and conk you on the head.


So in the spirit of well, if it's gonna happen, it's gonna happen ... I present Murphy’s 10 Laws of Voice Over. Admittedly, they’re taken from Murphy’s subsequent Laws of Technology. But hey, I used to work in IT, so I think in all good faith I can mangle, er, borrow, them a bit. And I’ve thrown in a few more that no voice actor will ever dispute. So here we go:


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1. Logic is a systematic method of coming to the wrong conclusion with confidence


Take that, Mr. Spock! Yes, you may *think* that’s what the client wants, but just because they say so explicitly in the specs, doesn’t mean that’s truly what they’re looking for. Proven by that commercial or twelve that we’d auditioned for, only to hear it voiced completely different from what they had said they wanted.


Lesson here: do your best “you” and send in a second take that’s your unique spin on their story. The client may like it so well that they decide to go in that other direction that you just showed them. After all, most commercial messages appeal to the emotions, not the intellect. Highly illogical as it may seem.


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2. Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some fool discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition


Hello, casting sites? We’re talking about you. Just because it’s “new and improved” doesn’t mean it’s better.


This law also applies to those times when a client books you for a project and then completely changes its scope. Like expanding a 5 minute narration to 10 minutes without expecting to pay more. Or changing usage from “internal use only” to include paid advertising or deciding that it’ll be used “without restriction in perpetuity.” Clients, we love you and we know you’re no fools … but neither are we and we have to talk.


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3. All great discoveries are made by mistake


Harkening back to Law #1, sometimes the client doesn’t really know what they want until you show them! It can inspire them to take their campaign in a totally different direction.


Likewise, as artists, sometimes we don’t realize what we’re capable of until we try something new. So don’t be afraid to work with that new coach in a different genre. You may end up discovering your inner genius. (Wouldn’t that be nice?!)






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4. A failure will not appear till a unit has passed final inspection


Ouch. How many of us have completed a project and turned it in to the client, only to discover that an important name was mispronounced? Many failures can be avoided up front. That’s why it’s smart to check with the client BEFORE you begin to record to verify pronunciations, including things like numbers and currencies that could be voiced more than one way. You really don’t want the embarrassment of having your client point out your mistakes.


Sometimes the “failure” is the client changing their minds after the agreed-upon recording has been delivered. That’s why it’s so important to state your revision policy up front, so that everyone’s on board with client-initiated changes after the fact. It's the professional way to conduct business.