While it’s still frequently referred to in the trade, the demo reels are no longer what it used to be twenty years ago. In fact, it’s dead. Just to reiterate: a ‘reel’ (or ‘tape’) used to be a selection of the best work a voice-actor had recorded over time. It was used to showcase range and versatility and would contain a wide variety of material. Reels could be anything from two to five minutes in length, and would be eagerly presented to potential clients.
Attention spans are much shorter nowadays. Potential clients demand instant gratification. Your ‘demo’ should no longer be a single presentation that’s a couple of minutes long. On the contrary: your demo has to consist of short, separate audio clips, each with a targeted description that explains exactly what it is (called a meta-tag) that’ll come up in a search. Under ‘commercial’ as a subheading, for example, you could tag your selection of voice samples ‘hard-sell’ or ‘soft-sell’ or ‘character voice’, etc. You’d do the same for each section). Between fifteen and thirty seconds is a good duration. When a potential client clicks ‘play’, what he or she needs to hear is what you want them to hear – and the professional quality has got to be instantly audible. Usually, a client will decide whether you’re the right person for the job within five to fifteen seconds – no more.
In essence, meta-tags are a combination of ‘being heard the right way’ and ‘being discoverable on Google’. The audio clips you upload, and the words you choose to pointedly describe those clips, become your online representatives 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Make that time count. We can all but assure you that if you upload a sixty-second demo and there’s a great example of your work forty seconds in, nobody will ever hear it.
The psychology of sale comes into play again here. By being prepared, your subliminal messaging is clear because you’re telling the client: “Hey – I know you’re busy, so I’m not going to waste your valuable time. I’m a professional and I can do the job. Hire me.”