Voiceover artists find their pitch

Published Dec. 15, 2012

They are the unseen voices: the ones who greet you on behalf of Target, Costco or AutoNation when you're placed on hold. And they are busy this time of year. The Christmas season is a merry one for voice talents, as clients request more holiday greetings and winter updates to entertain their captive callers.

"It gets very busy because people want specifics. They want to change the music on their program to have holiday music," said Tom Kane, a voiceover artist and former radio personality.

Kane is among those voiceover artists who make a living narrating ads for local and national businesses — and they say companies seek out their services to avoid having idle callers and potential customers hear generic recordings or (gasp!) radio silence during their hold time. Some messages promote the business' history, while others inform listeners about new sales and products.

"They want us to make it a little personal," Kane said. "We try to get out a message, a personality of the business with their on-hold program. We want it to be innate to that company."

Kane writes and records up to 50 spots a month during the holiday season through his company, Rosebud Advertising Productions in Oakland Park in Broward County. He said that overall, he has a customer base of 5,000 clients nationally.

It can be a solitary job. These artists use a special phone line or email digital files from their homes. Kane sits in front of his microphone to record ads inside a 500-square-foot home studio. It's steady work, driven by word of mouth. Pay varies from studio to studio, ranging from $10 to $25 per script for a high volume of scripts to more specialized talent such as Spanish-language artists who charge $100 to $200 per script.

"It's one of those things you hear but you never really thought about it," said Jesse Lubar, president of OMG National in Plantation.

Lubar, who has been in the business since age 17, runs the company with help from creative director Russ Riba. The company has 60 employees, including four full-time voiceover artists who write scripts and record them in a studio booth at the Plantation offices.

Riba, who manages the voice talent staff, also records spots for auto repair shops, towing companies and Harley-Davidson. He describes his vocal personality as the "young professional guy next door."

To maintain his tone, he drinks about five bottles of water a day. But sometimes, he can't avoid allergies. That happened the week of Thanksgiving when he missed two days of recordings.

"When you get a cold, your voice gets all gravelly or nasally; it doesn't sound professional. I wait for my head to clear," said Riba of Coconut Creek

So he played catch-up on Black Friday, recording ads that began with "Happy holidays from the dealership. We wish you a safe and pleasant season."

"It's just a warm and friendly holiday message," he said.

Darlene Pistocchi, a full-time freelance voiceover artist, records remotely from her Hollywood, home office. She's the voice one might hear when calling beauty parlors, vet offices, chiropractors and real estate firms.

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She said the work allows her flexibility with her two teen children.

"Having the opportunity to work from home is huge for a single parent," said Pistocchi, who alters the pitch of her voice to complement the client's business. "If you're on hold for a Harley-Davidson, they like the deep sports athletic voice. A chiropractor spot may want a more soothing pleasant voice. You change your voice around."

For the holidays, she's been recording messages that say: "Temperatures may be dropping, but no matter how cold it is outside, it's always warm and friendly at . . ."

Said Pistocchi, "You have to sit in front of the mike and go with it."