Commercial Demo Evaluation – Rule Summary

This is a summary from Rules for Commercial Demos. If you want your demo evaluated, read these rules. You can order a demo evaluation or demo at the bottom of this page.

MOST IMPORTANT‼

Radio folks: Do NOT include include anything related to a radio station!

Your first track/clip must have a real person speech pattern in the first three seconds.

Each clip must sound like it could have come from a collection of actual commercials of your voice only.

You need a minimum of three short commercial-only clips that contrast with one another, no voice fading or silence between clips. We suggest NOT trying to create a full demo until you have three great clips that are authentic and different from one another.

👉 ORDERING AN EVALUATION

You MUST read all the way through the post below before ordering an evaluation!

A $2 part 1 preliminary evaluation (click here to order) in most cases should provide enough suggestions to lead to a significant improvement in quality, and help you understand some of the types of issues and improvements possible, as well as avoid key issues that can cause immediate rejection. 

Plus, crucial issues will be noted. However, not every instance of an issue will necessarily be pointed out, though no particular type of issue will be ignored. For example, we may point out a mis-articulation but not point out ALL mis-articulations, particularly since some slight misarticulations are allowable on most demos.

We have read many agent evaluations of demos over the last 15 years, and agents rarely agree or provide identical feedback on the same demo! Agent evaluations are based on the clients, scripts and talent they work with most frequently at their agency, as well as their personal biases. Note that it has become rare for outsiders to any agency (not already repped at the agency) to receive much specific feedback on their demo.

An $8 part 2 summary evaluation can provide answers to questions, as well as suggestions for how to better present your brand voice, improvements in contrast or music selection, a quality rating, performance improvement notes, and more detailed feedback overall. 

After receiving your preliminary evaluation, if you wish to resubmit your demo with (or without) changes for the more complete summary evaluation, including answers to any questions you may have, click here to order.

First, here are two demo samples. Eash is the first demo produced for two non-professional talent, mixed for them at the School of Voiceover. Scroll below the Audio Samples to learn what you need to know to create your own demo. For more detail, read Rules for Commercial Demos.

Demo Audio Samples:

Female Demo Sample

Click above to listen.

Click image below to enlarge.

Neither of these recordings is intended as an example of a “perfect” or somehow flawless demo. These are simply the most recent male and females demos we produced at the School of Voiceover at the time of this writing. Each is a collection of decisions that could have been made differently. Each has flaws—some well hidden, some slightly obvious. We typically narrow any demo down to 2-4 versions before settling on a final version.

Male Demo Sample

Click above to listen.

Click image below to enlarge.

The images above are what the audio looks like in Audacity after mixing tracks together with their sound effects (lengths are in seconds, and were added graphically). These were produced for non-professional talent still taking classes, who have yet to contact their first voiceover agent.

The first thing to note is that the fifth female track—Neutrogena—at nearly 19 seconds long, stretches the rule about avoiding extra-long tracks. But listen to it: the commercial has a lot of variety, and talent show great range in the different sections of this single clip. The point here was to showcase the talent’s ability to cover a wide range in a single performance as that is one of their strengths. And four standard-length tracks precede it.

Also, the Female sample has three clips in the Beauty & Personal Care category, also stretching the rule about similar clips. Of course, they are all separated from one another, and are not identical subcategories (hair color, mascara, facial cleanser, respectively). The point here is that this category is where the talent is likely to be competitive. Excluding the extra-long clip, the average length of clips in the female sample is a typical/desirable 7.3 seconds.

Clips for the Male talent follow the rules more closely—the longest clips 11.35 seconds, the shortest, 1.8. But again, there are three in the Liquor category, and two in the Automotive category, stretching the category rule. In this case, these showcase where we think the talent will be competitive—and, the talent is a bartender.

Read on to learn what you need to know when producing your own demo:

 

✅ BASICS

I will use the term clip interchangeably with track to mean the same thing: an individual commercial on your demo.

  1. COMPRESSION/LEVELS/CLIPPING: Levels should be near maximum, and consistent from track to track. A small amount of clipping is often desirable (some music is provided already clipped, for example) but should not be noticeable! Sound quality should not be sacrificed. Voice should not fade in or out. Apparent and actual volume levels from clip-to-clip must be similar—the overall level shouldn’t get or feel significantly louder or softer. If something “feels” faint or faded and other approaches don’t help, try increasing levels to the point you have more clipping.The first step is to run compression (makes the soft parts louder) on vocal tracks before adding music or sound effects. This does NOT mean talk louder! Speak intimately or softly wherever appropriate, but increase the gain/amplitude—to make the quiet parts louder. Compression is the easiest way to do this, but you can also make manual adjustments. Just select/highlight your audio, and (if you’re using Audacity) click the Effects menu and choose Compression. Here are some suggested settings (set compression based on peaks, and a ratio higher than 3:1 are the main suggestions):
  2. LENGTH + NUMBER of CLIPS: If you already have a FULL commercial demo, it should be less than 65 seconds. As long as a demo is not over-long, shorter than :55 is not necessarily an issue. If your resume does not mention significant recent voice over work, your demo is not expected to reflect work that you have done and it is understood that you are introducing yourself to the industry. For reference, recent survey of pros found their demos were average of 61.1 seconds, long and the average number of tracks was 6.7. A typical demo clip is 6-11 seconds long. Yes, they have gotten shorter over the years. A few alternate clips (interjections) can be 1-3 seconds (in between longer clips).
  3. MUSIC: Music should of the typed commonly used in commercials. Go here for music suggestions. The kind of music should not take attention away from the voice too much. For example, music with a strong, loud beat often doesn’t work well with voice (though you could go through and quiet each beat manually in post-production, this is usually not recommended).
  4. BEGINNING/ENDING/BETWEEN CLIPS: No noticeable silence or sound effects between tracks. It is not necessary as a rule to fade music in or out, though sometimes it will not work unless you do.
  5. MP3 FORMAT: There is no expectation that you provide an ultra-high quality format. The sample demos above, for example, are in MP3 variable bit rate mode, with fairly low quality settings—set to vary from 65-105 kbps. (What this means—variable—is that where needed the quality will be a maximum of 105 kbps, but as low as 65 kbps if the algorithm “decides” a portion of the audio will sound adequate at a lower quality setting.)

CONTRAST

Each clip must contrast with the one before and after it.

The voice should come through more prominently than the music/sound effects (SFX), but the music/SFX should be “present” enough to add emotion (music should be neither too loud nor be so quiet as to be barely noticeable).

Contrast simply means that two clips in a row don’t seem the same. BUT! Use your best, most authentic performances. Don’t simply plan “variety”—use the highest quality acting from your performances/recordings.

However, if there is sufficient difference between the clips, any specific similarities can be overlooked. They need to FEEL different, not necessarily follow exact rules. But, here are the rules for achieving CONTRAST:

Category (topic type)

Avoid two in a row about cars, makeup, healthcare, etc. In general, you should only have ANY topic once or twice overall, three times max. However, if we can NOT tell from the words chosen what category the clip is, it doesn’t matter where you place clip as far as category is concerned.

Emotional style

First, avoid stylistic repeats, such as avoid two energetic in a row, two serious in a row. If there are other significant differences between styles, this is allowable, however.

But mainly: YOU need to sound like you are talking about different topics, sharing different emotions, not identical topics/emotions only with different words. This is tough for new talent, you will tend to sound the same on everything until you get better.

Music

The style and energy of music needs to contrast from clip to clip.

SPEECH

Group words together into clumps. Don’t space them all out from one another.

This is what we call a cadence issue: We speak naturally in clumps of words. Well-known example: “Know what I mean” sounds like “no-whuta-meen” in common speech. That does NOT mean you should have bad articulation, but words must blend together as they do in natural speech.

Spacing out sentences/phrases from each other with long pauses is the same problem. Ideas connect and flow in natural speech. Sentences shouldn’t feel like individual performances recorded separately, like lines in a poem.

Example Script: Studies indicate kids who learn music excel in reading, science and math.

Avoid the feeling of of a run-on sentence. It should NOT sound like you’re rushing to the end of the sentence “Studies-indicate-kids-who-learn-music-excel-in-reading-science-and-math.”

Here is an one possible grouping: Studies indicate—kids who learn music—excel in reading—science and math.  This does NOT mean add pauses!  It means that “studies indicate” should flow together slightly, and “indicate kids” should not flow together quite as much..

Also, do not isolate words for emphasis. It should not, for example, sound like “Studies indicate Kids. Who. Learn. Music. excel in reading, science and math. “

Articulation and Accent

You must articulate accurately, but still sound natural.

Example Script: “I am going to downtown.”

Relaxed speech version: “I’m going tuh downtown”.

The trick is to make the cadence and emphasis FEEL like “I’m going tuh” but actually articulate all the pieced accurately. When you try too hard, it sounds like “I. AM. GO-ING. TOO” Be accurate, but sound casual.

Get Your Demo Evaluated

  • Because many people ask for demo evaluations, if you want us to evaluate your demo, your demo clips MUST follow the rules. We do evaluations at a very, very low cost, but since most people do NOT follow the rules before sending a demo, we charge $1.99 for a step 1 preliminary evaluation— 1️⃣ click here to order a preliminary evaluation, (but first read this page) which takes 1-3 days, but often much faster.

After receiving your preliminary evaluation, if you bring your demo into compliance (or if it is already in compliance), step 2 is a summary evaluation. 2️⃣Click here to order a summary evaluation for $7.99. This will touch on your brand voice and money voice, point out performance flaws and how to fix them, and give reasons and suggestions for improvements as well as provide an overall rating. If you did not order a Step 1 preliminary evaluation first, you will be refunded $5.99 and given a preliminary evaluation instead. (If you want detailed followup such as a detailed practice program, production or music-matching tips, we can provide that as well for an additional cost)

What is a Commercial “Demo”?