Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Should a Voiceover Artist sign a Work for Hire agreement?

We’ve written a lot about rights that voiceovers should be aware of. As a voiceover agency and recording studio we work hard to keep on top of all this for our voices. We are always aiming to get all the information from clients as well as educating them to ensure they know about intellectual property and copyright. 

Now Fishy will take us through the final rights (wait what? Oh right not that last rites, rights rights). Yes, let’s talk about Work for Hire agreements (WFH). Many voiceover artists have been asking about this and so here is the latest about it all. We’ve discussed creative work previously. Overall, in the UK and in many places such as the USA, copyright sits with the author of the work of art. So, Fishy voices the words in some copy. Let’s say Fishy is an employee of BigFish Media. So far so good. In this case the work that they create during their day job is subject to copyright. Note that because Fishy is an employee of BigFish Media and thus with rights such as holidays, sick leave etc then work would come under BigFish Media in terms of copyright.

However, in the situation that Fishy is not an employee and simply swims up and blows bubbles at the mic for an hour then we could suggest that we get Fishy to sign a WFH. It would make us, BigFish Media the copyright owner of those Fishy bubble sounds. So Fishy would relinquish their right to being that owner.

However there are certain categories that can make the work exempt such as (1) a contribution to a collective work, (2) a part of a motion picture or other audio-visual work, (3) a translation, (4) a supplementary work, (5) a compilation, (6) an instructional text, (7) a test, (8) answer material for a test, (9) an atlas. Another point is that the work must be specially ordered or commissioned and have a written agreement where the parties use the “WFH” phrase.
So Fishy must have more than a verbal agreement on this. The WFH must be negotiated and though not necessarily signed before work on the project begins. Retroactive WFH is not permitted. 

It is not legally possible for a UK voice talent to sign away their copyright but many websites (based in USA or Canada) which insist on their voice talents signing WFH agreements have this term buried deep in their terms and conditions. 

If you sign a WFH agreement, then you are signing away your copyright. They own your audio and can re-sell your voiceover recording to someone else, or to another platform or application. They will get paid for the additional usage. But you won’t.

Here at BigFish Media we do not allow our clients to use the audio recordings of our voiceover talents for any platform and duration other than that which has been agreed by all parties. Voiceover recordings are not the work of the client or a third party, it is the work of the voiceover artist.

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

What microphone is best for voiceover?

Ah mic drop! Well not quite and actually never ever, ever never drop the microphone. Well unless you have another £500 (or more) or so to drop easily as well. Here at BigFish Media we take our microphones very seriously and we care for them as carefully as we do Fishy. Simply put our microphones are our BFFs, our pets, our loves and we really couldn’t do our job as a voiceover recording studio without them. So a few tips for you when you are in the booth:

1.       Do not touch the microphone – ok it might be tempting to twizzle and wiggle it so that it is closer to you and your mouth but please step away from the microphone. The only person that should touch that mic is the sound engineer. Never ever touch the microphone. Ever. The engineer has usually set it up and because they know the mic and its settings probably knows its “Just so” position so please don’t feel tempted to touch the microphone. Even if you are an experienced sound engineer – if it isn’t your mic, don’t touch it.

2.       Talk directly towards the microphone – well easier said than done especially if you have a lengthy script and you have a pop shield in the way and can’t quite get the last word in the sentence and….crane your eyes and head and keep your mouth natural stretched out towards the microphone. Depending on how you read your copy (paper/large screen device) ensure that you can see the words and sentences changing font size and spacing to ensure you can get a smooth read on any tricky to “can’t quite see areas” If you start to crane your head then you are likely to come “off mic” and the audio won’t sound great anymore, no matter how wonderful your voice is.

If you have your own studio then please take into account what microphone you should use for what piece of voiceover work. Here are BigFish Media we mostly work on advertisements, corporate videos, radio ads, IVR and much more. However the microphone we use is a work horse of microphones and is fantastic and is a generous living friend to many voices and their different pitches and timbres.

However please ensure you know your shotgun microphone from your condenser microphone and what works for what. We require voices to use a condenser microphone and really urge you to not use a shotgun or directional mic when working with us. This is because in our experience these mics are less forgiving and even if you move even slightly off mic you will lose a lot more vocal volume and you will more easily sound “off mic” than any other microphones. Our blog on a condenser or dynamic microphone is very useful if you are a voiceover artist who has their own studio please be aware about the use of microphone for what project.

Monday, 18 May 2020

Do Voiceover Directories Work?

In short: Mostly Not. Well not for well-paying voiceover jobs anyway

Many of the voiceover directories are over-subscribed and any producer who is trying to find a voice is not very likely to pick you. You are just one of hundreds or thousands of voiceover artists who are listed.

Then have a look at how many of these directories are on the first couple of pages when carrying out a search for voiceover. Apart from the widely-respected voiceovers.co.uk there were none. In fact, just searching today I got to page 5 before one voiceover directory was listed.

When I tentatively started pitching for voiceover work in 2002, I got listed on as many free voiceover sites as I could. Then plucked up the courage to spend some actual real money on voiceovers.co.uk; my first voiceover gig followed shortly afterwards.

There are dozens and dozens of directories: Voice123 (voiceover artists bid for the work - how low will you go?); Voices.com; Opuzz; BigTalent; thevoiceoverdirectory.com; the voiceworks; voicefinder.biz and Bodalgo. As far as I know I only secured one client (who spent thousand of pounds) from all of these websites combined. They are free for a reason.

And then there is another site which I discovered recently called voicejockeys.com with a 50 per cent commission rate and terms and conditions from the dark ages.You do wonder how many of these voiceover websites have your interests at heart. Or do they just treat you like a number as fodder for their own potential clients?

From my own experience, it's much better to spend your money on your own decent website and pay for Google Adwords. In the short term, this is the only way to get onto page 1 or 2 of Google.

However, the BigFish Media website is now near the top of page one of Google in the organic (free) listings - thanks to regular blogging, a good reputation (gained through hard work, repeat business and client satisfaction), using social media, (Twitter, Facebook, Linked In etc) and six months of dedicated work by the team behind our Search Engine Optimisation process.

And we don't have to pay for adwords for our voiceover business anymore.

Monday, 11 May 2020

Why do Voiceover Aritsts need to know about Copyright?

Copyright falls under intellectual property rights. For information on that please see here. Copyright is very important to any creator but especially to voiceover artists.  As a voiceover artist it is not legally possible to sign away your copyright. So you will always own the copyright to the material you recorded. Therefore your voiceover audio is only ever licenced for use on agreed platforms. You can find further information here. Intellectual Property Office

The laws have a framework so that people can see how work can be used. Responsibilities of people, as well as the rights of the owner are set out. What can you do with your work? Well you could copy, change, sell it, share it online, rent it or prevent other people from doing those things to it. When someone hears your voice played out whether it be online or downloaded to a device then they are interacting with copyright. The piece of work should be either original or tangible.

So for a work to be original you must have produced it yourself i.e. spoken it. Tangible means that the idea would have to be expressed in some sort of physical form so when you speak a phrase then it is only protected the moment you record it. Once recorded, it is protected.
But how do I protect my work?

As soon as your work is created or in voiceover world as soon as you have recorded it in audio form. There is no need to register this work unlike a patent or a trademark.

How long will your work be protected for?
A short answer is that it depends on factors such as the type of work created and when it was made. Generally the shortest length of time for protection is 50 years. But it could be 70 or more.

With the potential European relationship process underway, updates to legislation and copyrighted works will continue to be protected as there are other international treaties covering this. Examples of these treaties include the The Berne Convention and the TRIPS agreements.

Note that copyright may not cover all forms of creative work so Intellectual property may be more suitable. But do remember that it is illegal under UK law for a voiceover artist to sign away their copyright.

Monday, 4 May 2020

Why do Voiceover Artists need to be aware of Performers Rights?

How many voiceover artists don’t just merely speak the works on a script but actually perform? You all perform, we know you do. We watch and hear you deliver your copy lines and we know that you are performing. And with performances comes rights. Right got that?

There are a few and they include the following: reproduction right, distribution right, rental and lending right, making available right and the right to equitable remuneration. Now yes that is a lot all right but let’s continue. 

We will discuss equitable remuneration shortly here but let’s stick to this list first. The reason many of these rights were introduced was the advancement of technology. What now? Yes, as technology got nifty, smaller and easier to carry people started recording performances at cinemas and theatres and other places where people performed. These people then sold those unauthorised recordings. Oh crumbs – well that isn’t nice is it? Also the quality would be awful so again crumbs.

Rightly so, the government decided to introduce new rights. These are here:  Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (the CDPA as it is snappily known as). Look at the section 182. It covers the right of the artist to authorise a making of a recording of their performance. Then they can seek royalties for the usage of recordings of their performance. Yes we know, we know!

Then we find that as well as those other rights we have moral rights. But what exactly is this? Simply, this is the right to protection of the integrity of the performance against derogatory treatment. Yep so that recording of fishy singing cannot be taken and chopped up and made into a rude song to rival Baby Shark for example. These rights last for a while, 50 years from the end of the year in which the performance takes place.

But if then a recording of that performance is released publicly then the duration is extended for another 50 years from the year end of that year when it was released. Fishy, we will be hearing you decades from now. What a treat.
Show me the money! No, literally show me the actual remuneration rights please. And what are remuneration rights?  These are rights to ensure that performers get receive equitable revenues from the owner of the copyright in the sound recording or the film capturing their performance.

Equitable is the key word here. It is a little like how long is that piece of string so always ask what equitable means to the client. It also means that there are measures such as the “20% fund” which requires record producers and companies to pay organisations representing performing artists 20% of the gross revenue generated by the commercialisation of sound recordings performances during the additional 20 years of protection. Phew fishy, this is getting complicated. Well yes indeed it is and that is why we work hard to ensure our voices get heard (we know right? The irony) and more importantly paid equitably.

So now you are thinking, well what exactly is a performance? Yes immediately we will think of Fishy on stage in a dance or a music act (I am thinking of Fishy wearing fishnets and shaking some shells on the sea shore) but it also includes reading or reciting a literary work or any performance of a variety act or similar presentation.

Now if it is for consumption by the public of a script for any sound recording you make then surely that is a performance? It can be complicated so it depends if the performance falls within the definition. It also depends on what the performer brought creatively to the table.

 Fishy and our voices are all unique which means they bring their experiences and creativity to the table. Not one person shares the same voice so we feel it would fall into this definition. Now then, I know what you are all going to ask. What exactly is a performance then? 

Is Fishy recording away thoughts and feelings and copy an actual performance. And that is where we first started. When we talk about performances in a sound recording then things change in terms of period of usage. There is an additional protection period following release to the public which is 70 years rather than 50 years. So in effect, they are granted an additional protection of 20 years in comparison to other recording types.

A note on a doubling up of roles. The same artist may be able to have both copyright and performers rights in their contribution to a creative piece of work. So Fishy who is acing in a piece as well as directing it or producing it means they get to enjoy the copyright of the text as well as the performers rights when Fishy records the voiceover of the text.

Monday, 27 April 2020

Why do Voiceover Artists need to know about Intellectual Property Rights?

Today we are going to take a look at rights and here at BigFish Media our voiceovers and their audio productions are our top priority. Ok let’s move right along – see what we did there?

What is intellectual property and why should voiceovers know about it?
In the UK there are different forms of intellectual property rights. They are all individual and have different duration periods. They are all there to help you protect yourself against other people duplicating or stealing your work. The work could be the names of your products or brands, your inventions, the design or look of your products, the things you write, make or produce.  Amongst these is trademark, copyright and what we discuss in a subsequent post will be copyright.

What exactly is intellectual property?
An idea by itself is not intellectual property. What is though, is what you do with it. So for example, it is something unique you create physically. An idea for a film is not intellectual property but writing the screenplay is. I have this idea for a plucky little fish that finds their voice and when I get around to putting pen to paper then it will be intellectual property.

So, who owns what?
There are three areas where IP rights can be owned. Specifically, you own it if you created it (and it meets the requirements for copyright, a patent or a design), you bought the IP rights from the creator or a previous owner, you have a brand that could be a trade mark. So I could have bought the rights to my Fish Story from someone else who either wrote it down or someone who had the rights themselves.

Also note that intellectual property can have more than one owner, belong to people or to businesses and can be sold or transferred.  For example, my Little Fish Story could be owned by me and my fishy friend who collaborated on it, or a team who I wanted involved in it and should events happen that I find myself selling the story then I could decide that a business could own it.
If you are self-employed like all of our voiceover artists are then you usually own the intellectual property rights even if the work was commissioned by someone else.

However, if you sign a contract, then that can change. This is why it really is important to read that fine print. We always check all contracts and NDAs so that you always retain ownership of your audio and we won’t sign our voice talent up to things if they are asking you to give up that particular IP right.
Now, for those non self-employed workers. If you happen to create something as part of your work while you were employed by someone else then you do not hold the intellectual property rights. In our next blog we will talk about copyright for voiceover artists which is an intellectual property right.

Sunday, 5 April 2020

How do I deal with embarrassing sounds in a Voiceover Session?

Oh now, hand on heart and cover Fishy’s ears (do they even have ears?) we’ve all let rip and not just in a vocal way in a voiceover booth. At times our own bodies can come to play and decide to pipe up at the most inconvenient of moments. Depending on the client and the situation it can feel mortifyingly embarrassing or actually a funny story to tell down the pub. In either case, let’s go through a few scenarios so should it ever happen to you then you will be fine.

1.       Letting Rip vocally – sometimes we can open our mouths and either nothing comes out or we make a funny sound such as a squeak or a growl. What can you do about it? Nothing, our bodies and especially when we speak things honk or squawk which is why the engineer is likely to ask for a second take. Not for any other reason than to get a second take without a nose whistle.

2.       Letting Rip from the belly – drinking water, gulping for air can lead to that tell-tale gurgle drain sound. Does the mic pick it up? Yes it can do. What can you do? Nothing and it is fine, we know this happens and are happy to wait until it bubbles down again.

3.       Letting Rip from the botty – well this one for some reason is always a little harder to cover up but it does happen. There can be many approaches to it but honestly, we’ve all heard it and it is fine. Either smile and laugh it away and do a second take.

4.       Letting Rip from the bones – well maybe it is actually your ligaments. Knees click, backs creak, neck bones crunch. Yep we’ve all heard them and we know about it. Sometimes the mic won’t pick it up and sometimes they will. In any case again a second take will be asked for.

5.       Letting Rip from the room – ok now sometimes the room, chair, desk you may have in the studio makes a sound. Either from weight shifting, building work in other buildings, traffic or even rain etc. Again the engineer will take note and if necessary will ask for a second take.

Bodies pop, gurgle, bubble and snap. That is totally normal and we’ve all heard it, all seen it and we are totally ok with it. Our voiceovers are all professional and know that it is part and parcel of life so embrace it. You can always do a second take.