Blog When Do I Need a Demo Reel? And How do I Start?

A demo reel showcases your range as a voice artist in roughly one minute. Think of it as something like an auditory business card! No doubt you’ve seen voice actors on social media sharing their demo reels accompanied by lovely art and their finest performances. Listening to their offerings is as fun as it is educational, not to mention inspiring.

But is a demo reel necessary?

Confused? Understandable! The thing is, not every casting call requires a demo reel. Even casting directors for professional, paid projects don’t always ask to see one. If all the auditions you’re trying out for aren’t asking for a demo reel, then you don’t need to start thinking about putting one together anytime soon. If they are, however, you may want to consider putting a plan together for your first-ever demo reel.

Your First Demo Reel

Once you start eyeing auditions and casting directors who want to see a demo reel, it may be tempting to invest in a slick, thousand-dollar production. After all, you want to put your best face (errr… voice) forward! Spending that much isn’t necessary at this point in your career.

Record with your own equipment, in your own sound-treated space. Write your own scripts for character work, or find your own scripts for a commercial reel. Compile together your best takes into a one minute showcase of your talents. It’s as simple as that!

You don’t need any bells and whistles in your first homemade demo. Unless you’re already a savvy audio engineer capable of properly balancing sound effects and music with vocal recordings, stick with raw audio.

Use this demo reel when you’re first getting a feel for voiceover and considering it as a possible hobby or career path. Once you’ve gotten more experience under your belt and decide you want to continue learning the ropes, you may decide to move on to your second demo reel.

Your Second Demo Reel

Demo reel #2 comes when you’re growing more assured and comfortable in your voice, through experience, classes, workshops and maybe even coaching. At this point, you have a clearer idea of your vocal range, the character types that best suit your voice, and the projects you wish to pursue.

A stronger voice deserves a stronger demo!

For this demo, we recommend reaching out to an audio engineer who charges between $20 and $80 for mastering your reel. You can find one on Twitter, reddit, or the Closing Credits Discord. While you’ll still be responsible for the script at this level, the audio engineer can take over on the compiling and mastering side of things. They should have a library of music and sound effects at their disposal as well, adding a heightened sense of environment to your performance.

This increased ability to contextualize your voice and understand how it fits into the world being created in the script leads into knowing when to begin your third demo reel.

Your Third Demo Reel

By the time you’re ready to think about demo reel #3, you’ve taken a few classes and gotten some one-on-one time with a coach. Your skills have advanced past what’s represented in demo reel #2 and you’re ready to show the world what you can do now!

No matter what segment of voiceover you’re trying to break into, you need to take some time to research the outlets best suited to your voice as well as your professional goals. Keep their sensibilities in mind when crafting your script and performances.

In addition, you’re going to want to invest more in audio engineering this time. Expect to spend between $300 to $800 this time. You’re going to want a more experienced engineer than before, too, since your demo is intended for bigger studio consideration. Demo #3 will serve as your calling card until your coach tells you that it’s time to move on to your fourth and final (kind of… but we’ll get to that) reel.

Your Fourth Demo Reel

We’d like to reiterate a previous point here because it’s so crucial:

They’ll know when you’re ready once you’ve displayed the acting aptitude needed to upgrade from demo #3 and work alongside the most professionally competitive voice actors in your field. You’ll also need to have specific studios in mind

The most professional-sounding demo reels cost anywhere from $1.2 to $3 thousand, and are recorded in association with brand-name studios and the industry’s top writing, directing, and engineering talent. That’s a lot of money to spend if you’re not prepared for the big leagues, which is why we so heavily push getting your coach’s blessing first.

No matter the quality, demo reels have a “shelf life” of about three years or so. Start budgeting for your replacement as necessary so you’re ready to show off fresh material and further polished acting skills. At this stage in your career, we advise that you stick with this level of quality when reaching out for opportunities.

Closing Credits: Answers to Demo Dos and Don’ts

All performers want to show their very best to the world, and the Closing Credits team is here to help you make that happen! We offer a variety of voice acting, demo engineering, and audio engineering classes designed to build your skills through interactive lessons with live instructors, a constantly updated curriculum, and accessible resources for every learning style. It is our honor to assist our students as they grow their creativity… and careers!

Additional Resources

There is no short supply of demo reel information on the internet, and a lot of it can conflict with one another. Some of it might even be completely outdated! To make the research process a little easier, we've got a few additional resources to check out. We recommend Dee Bradley Baker’s demo reel guide on his I Want to be a Voice Actor! blog for an expert opinion on topics like length and which voices to choose. Kira Buckland’s articles “When are you ‘ready’ for a demo?” and “Creating a Demo Reel for Online Voice Acting” at Voice Acting Club are also valuable reads.

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