Imaging In 2018 - Melody Sharp VO

Imaging In 2018 – Melody Sharp VO

Welcome to “Imaging In 2018” a Blog Series which looks at the developments in Radio Imaging and Production, the future and opinions from across the world.

This next few sections are “Voiceovers – The Producer Relationship”

Melody Sharp

I have had the privilege and joy of working with the amazing Melody Sharp in a previous Radio Station, where she was the main Station Voice. Melody is a dream to work with and has become a friend of mine over the past few years. If you have worked with Melody before, you will know exactly what I mean. 

She started as the female imaging voice in her home station, 
KSLZ-FM in St. Louis, and the first station to sign her after that was 99-5 The Wolf in Dallas. Melody can currently be heard on TV and Radio Stations all across the world!

Take it away Melody. Really looking forward to this one!

1. You have voiced thousands or even millions of pieces of copy - some terrible and some not so bad. But what are the pieces that really stand out for you that ultimately end up on your Reel/Demo for marketing purposes?

A “wow” piece for me is something that grabs attention and stands out from everything else. When a producer really knows their craft, the piece can be so well thought out and produced so cleanly that it makes me want to hit play again and again. It’s about great concise copy writing, and really solid, well balanced sound. I tend to always appreciate clever copy, subtle humor or a tie in to pop culture. And let’s be real… a VO talent always loves hearing the end product when a producer masterfully manipulates their audio into something that just sounds cool. 
                           Not all filters are created equal and when they are just right and applied to my flat-vibey delivery, I hear angels. (yes, I completely geek out over it.) But everyone has their own style preferences. Regardless of style, a good solid well thought out/executed piece will just stand out from the rest. I like to have a wide range of styles in a demo. I’m not only looking for the big, dramatic, hard-hitting piece loaded with gravitas…but the lighthearted, conversational, silly promo as well. It’s so neat for me to hear how each individual producer can have their own style, their own thumbprint, that they put on the pieces they create. VO talents LOVE TO HEAR how you use our voices. We can never get enough samples of our work so absolutely send more finished pieces. It not only helps us to build new demos, but it speaks volumes to hear how you use the audio we submit. 
                          It’s informative to note what takes you end up choosing for the overall sound you construct for your station, and how you pair it with all of the other tools in your production arsenal

2. When it comes to scripting - what would you say to the copywriter in making it easier for you to really deliver your best work. (Font size, context, providing audio, live guidance?)

I always find it incredibly considerate when a new client simply asks me if I have a preferred format for the scripts I receive. First and foremost, I try to go with the flow, so I don’t typically demand specifics. A standard 12-point font layout works well for me, written with typical capitals/lower case letters. Others might work best from all capital letters, or using a particular copy writing template so it’s extremely kind to simply ask, and will likely improve efficiency for your voice talent’s sessions. Experienced voice actors can read off of anything, but there are usually ways to make the task a bit easier. Properly written copy with appropriate punctuation, correct spelling, etc. typically means you are cutting out the guesswork allowing us to deliver the best possible performance. Plus – it’s just professional, so why not? A producer who takes the extra step to double check/proofread before hitting “send” is greatly appreciated. Ask the VO talent if they have any format preferences when you first sign on. 
                     Likewise, VO talents should try to accommodate you if you have any preferences as a producer. “I love a million takes – the more the merrier!” or “only 2 takes, and would you be able to separate each section so I can quickly find what I am looking for” etc. After doing this for so long, I have a pretty organized way I run my sessions but I’m always willing to tweak how I do things, to make the producers job as easy as possible.
What is in my inbox today?! Every day is different, that is one of the things I love about my job. One of the challenges of writing promo copy, is the task of coming up with fresh, new ways to say the same thing over and over. How do you get that winning combination of a fantastic script paired with really well constructed audio? Scripts are always fun for me, if I see a clever tie in to something big in the pop culture scene or a unique way to convey a tried and true radio staple. Just the other day, Mike Klein and Anthony Louden sent me some summer liners for WHZT. One line read, “…anybody throwing shade, because we could use some… it’s HOT… 98-1.” To me, that is radio perfection. It ropes in a phrase that happens to be trending – and it’s a great fresh way to talk about something (the heat) that we discuss year after year.                                 Smart copywriting like that makes me take notice. Years ago, I received some genius advice from Steve Sykes, when it comes to assembling these promos piece by piece. First, read the script to someone in your target demographic. I might think I have a solid relevant sounding idea but it never hurts to run it past a few people in that target demo just to keep myself as a copywriter in check. I think I’m a pretty rad <> year old 😉 … but my 24-year-old friend is a great reminder of just how OUT of touch with her demographic I might actually be LOL. Let’s just consider it “Relevancy Research” … never  hurts to constantly check in with some trusted friends from your target demo to get ideas, hone in on new catch phrases, or receive a big fat VETO if something just doesn’t hit the mark. You don’t want to be the station that SOUNDS like they’re trying to be cool but really comes across more like the creepster down the street. Ewe! 
                      Trusted feedback is so valuable in the process. Once the ideas are hashed out, the best thing you can do is read the copy yourself out loud. This isn’t a new idea. Does it flow? Do the words roll off the tongue or does it sound clunky or choppy when you try to get through it. If you want it to sound natural when a VO talent delivers it, it’s best to avoid roadblocks that would hinder the best possible end product. For example, I may have the ability to read 10 lines without taking a pause, but that doesn’t mean a sentence should be that long. Oftentimes, in copywriting, brevity is genius. Radio is so fast-paced. Short, to the point ideas, tend to win every time. Radio isn’t like television where you have a visual along with the audio to help deliver the message to the listener. The words you select should be clear, concise, to the point and thoughtfully chosen to catch attention. This can prevent the message from becoming lost in the shuffle.
In this day and age, turnaround time is expected to be so short that it’s partly why live sessions have gone by the wayside for radio. If a producer has something very particular in mind regarding delivery and they wish to convey it more specifically – absolutely shoot me a quick mp3! It’s the most efficient way to essentially have the benefits of live directing, without the hassle of scheduling a session or waiting such a long time for the end product. 
                      I have a few producers who recognize a difficult pronunciation or unknown artist name in their copy. They take the extra step to include a link or pronunciation sample to cut back on the guesswork or research I have to do before I record. They unequivocally get a platinum star from me (Denzil!) because of that extra effort. That is a producer who is covering all bases and completely taking care of their voice actor. It goes a long way in saving time, allowing the session to flow from start to finish without having to stop and start, and it lets the voice talent focus all of their energy on the performance and bringing your creative ideas to lif

3. You can write something that looks amazing but when voiced it really just doesn't work. Would you provide feedback or suggest a better way for it to be voiced?

Above all, I always want to be respectful of my place in the process. I do tend to be a little obsessive about proper grammar, however, I always read the script as it is written first. Then, I will likely give a take or 2 of how I think the line “should” read and correct the grammar mistake. There are instances once and a while where something just doesn’t flow, or the way it is written may be confusing to the listener.
                      I always give it my best shot as scripted, then I may include an alternate cut with my idea of an appropriate substitution. With turnaround time so fast nowadays, I usually don’t take the time to ask permission first, or have a separate dialogue about it. I just include the alternate options in the mix with the rest of the audio. That way the producer can choose on the fly and not have to take the time to get back to me with a thumbs up or down on my idea. If a change is more than anything basic, I usually note it when I email the producer and I let them know that I am ALWAYS available for a recut if they decide they want completely different wording once they start building the piece. It’s amazing how quickly you can form a relationship with your producer. I have some drastically different delivery styles that I offer and I always like to think that I sound slightly different on each station because I try to customize my sound for their particular taste. Likewise – my relationship with each producer is customized as I learn how they each prefer to work. There is nothing like getting into a good groove with a producer and having the ability to understand how they write, and how to give alternate options that you feel they would not just appreciate, but actually use. It feels great to deliver the best possible version of what they hear in their heads each time they create a new script. It’s a partnership like no other. I fell in love with radio 17 years ago and it’s the creative process amongst people I respect and appreciate, that keeps me coming back day after day.

Melody Sharp

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