R.A.P. Interview: Marice Tobias

R.A.P.: When you say not to put something on a tape that's a lie, does that include spots you haven't actually done?
Marice: No. Not at all. What I'm talking about is a voice that you can sort of do, but you made up right then and there, or a read that was a fluke. That's why I work with someone prior to doing a tape, to make sure the work we're going to put on that tape is something they can deliver on a consistent basis and can deliver six months from now.

I produce my tapes in the studio. I have a lot of heavy hitters that I work with, and they'll send me the body of work they've done. We'll sit, and we'll listen; but I can tell you that the work they do in the recording session [with me] is where they are in their career at that point in time. They're at the top of their game. Therefore, when we compare the material we've generated with the stuff they've done, a lot of times, the stuff they've done just doesn't represent them anymore. They've moved on because, again, you're always working from your past. Now, if there's something that has been pulling for them, if there's a campaign that was very well known, absolutely it goes on. And if it's that well known, it leads the tape off so people will go, "Oh yea, that guy."

R.A.P.: What about putting something on the tape that is of a well-known, national nature?
Marice: Oh, I do that all the time. When I say my tapes are killer tapes, they're killer tapes. I mean, you sit and listen to my tapes, and my tapes will take your breath away. That's what a tape should do because there are a lot of tapes out there. In Los Angeles, the agents get between thirty and fifty submissions a week. Now, what is going to set that performer out of the pack? Number one, the tape itself has to be absolutely dynamic. Everything I produce is produced as if it were going on the air. We put a lot of production value into it. But the star of the show is the performance, so the production doesn't obliterate the performance.

I design a tape based on someone's voice print. I believe that when you get into putting a tape together, you're now into marketing, and the background I have in advertising and marketing comes into play there. In working with a performer, I identify their voice print. That's "the point of view," what they're bringing to the party. Then I design a tape to exhibit that by using it in predictable and unpredictable ways. But the scope is much narrower than many performers feel they need to put on a tape. That's because I believe you need to get known for one thing first. Get your foot in the door. Let everybody want to work with you. Then your career expands from that point on.

Then, that packaging has to be like an album cover. It has to be very tantalizing. But it also should carry some sort of feeling, the same way an album cover does, of what's inside. That album cover, that [cassette] J-card has to say, "Open me. Listen to me." So, a lot goes into the design of that as well. In working with someone on a tape, the concept is part of what I do. I don't do the actual artwork, but I can give feedback as the design progresses. I believe in that whole package being complete and sending a very specific message. The more specific you are, the more you're going to work.

R.A.P.: What should the length of the demo be?
Marice: Two to two and a half minutes. Of course, narration is a little longer.

R.A.P.: Has phone patch gotten to the point now where it is almost a necessity for voice-over studios?
Marice: I think so. I know that, of my heavy hitter clients, forty to fifty percent of their work is phone patch.

R.A.P.: Do you find phone patch to be as effective as being there in person?
Marice: Yes. I coach over the phone. I have a lot of clients I coach this way. I even have a client in Japan.

R.A.P.: What other ways has technology changed the voice-over business?
Marice: The technology is always changing. The quality of the reproduction of the sound is so accurate. Therefore, the performer's technique has to be really, really excellent. If there are any things that you have, like sibilance and mouth noise, you have to be much more hyper-vigilant about that because the technology really hears everything. It even hears what you're thinking now.

R.A.P.: This next question is based more on personal observation rather than on researched facts, but it seems that when a station is looking for a female air personality, it's easier to find a good female voice as opposed to a good male voice. Why does this seems so?
Marice: Well, this is now a very personal comment. This is not a professional comment, but, being a woman myself, I know this: we work harder. A woman, to make it in the business world or any profession, has to work twice as hard as a man. That's just a given. So when you're working with a female performer, you're working with someone who has really put a lot more into it. Now, I'm not saying that every man doesn't work, but I'm saying, by and large, my female clients are much harder working. They're more diligent in their training. They're more diligent in all the aspects of their career because, in voice-over, the amount of work for women is substantially less than for men. So the competition is that much more intense, and the excellence level is that much higher.

R.A.P.: A related observation is that if a guy has a real deep voice, then he has a good shot at getting a radio gig based on his voice alone. Female announcers, on the other hand, are not judged by their "ballsy" voices, so they need something else, something more.
Marice: Right. They have the relatability. They use wit, charm, whatever. Their work is much more dimensionalized than a lot of the males' work.

R.A.P.: And all this bleeds over into the voice-over business?
Marice: Yes it does, but still, there is a problem. When you get into the performing arts area like voice-over and television, this is an industry wide problem, the dearth of work for women. There is so much less. Now, there are some markets where there is more than others. Take Minneapolis, for example. In Minneapolis, the emphasis, in terms of voice-over, is for comedy and dialogue. And when you have more comedy and dialogue, you're going to have more women working. Minneapolis is a very distinct market.

R.A.P.: Something we often see in radio production is the use of female voices for the "sex sells" approach. Any thoughts on this?
Marice: Traditionally, there have been two kinds of female voices that work: the super-sexy voice and the bimbette. Those are just cliché stereotypes. As a result, a lot of the tapes I get from women will fall into either of those two categories. I train my women to be spokespeople.

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