In this first interview from VOICE 2010, Stephanie Ciccarelli talks about how she was influenced by her background in music and love for helping people succeed in their careers, and how this developed into Voices.com, which she co-founded with her husband.
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Transcript of conversation with Stephanie Ciccarelli
Andy: One of the incredible things about the voice over industry is that it is truly an international community and with many changes have happened over the years and now many talents are finding work through on-line communities and pay-to-play sites, and one of the biggest of these is Voices.com. and with me today is Stephanie Ciccarelli. Welcome Stephanie.
Stephanie: Well, thank you Andy, it’s a pleasure to be here.
Andy: OK. Stephanie… Just very, very briefly, what is your role in Voices.com? What’s your job title, and what’s your role, and then I’d like to talk a little bit about you.
Stephanie: OK. Well, I’m a co-founder of the company. My husband, David, is the other co-founder, which is convenient in a number of ways, but what I do specifically within our company is I am the Chief Marketing Officer. So, anything to do with what people see of Voices.com in terms of perception, and how we present ourselves with our words, any articles that might go up, the press releases, podcasts that go… that’s all in my area there. So I tend to be more involved with community, and I really enjoy developing and fostering relationships with our customers.
Andy: OK. Well, we’ll come back to Voices.com in just a moment, but I’d like to learn a little bit about you. Now you have a background, I believe, in music… so what is that background?
Stephanie: Well, I sang… I guess if you want to go all to the very bare minimum of what it really is. I have been singing all my life and I was in choirs and theatre groups as a child and, you know, that just kind of all went along with me as I got older, and I have degree in music – Bachelor of Musical Arts – and my instrument was voice, as you can imagine. And essentially being a voice major I have a vested interest in my instrument and how it’s being used, and also in education. That was one of the things I really loved. I loved teaching children to sing, and I sang in my church choirs, and cantored all different kinds of things. I was really involved in that… and sang at weddings.
I think one of the best parts of the performance was just being in the presence of people and making them happy with what you could do. And I think I am able to make that translate through my articles – in a way – in helping other people, because I don’t do that kind of thing any more, myself, I might sing at a friend’s wedding, as a gift, you know.
Andy: So you were singing mainly in a choir, or solo?
Stephanie: Solo. I did a lot of solo work, and I loved being in choirs, because that’s a really beautiful music.
Andy: Absolutely… One of …. my early experiences was I was involved for a very long time with a church choir, and that was a real blessing to get the discipline of … performing with others … and … learning about how to use the voice. Do you think that’s important for … for … many voice actors, or…?
Stephanie: Oh, yeah. I think it’s one thing to use your voice when you speak, but it’s a whole other thing to know how to use it as an instrument . And if you come from a musical background, like if you are singing – which is probably the best thing to come from if you are going to be a musician, and go into voice over – you already know what your instrument does, how you are meant to look after it. You know the range of it, hopefully, because you’ve been using it a lot. You know how to take care of it, warm it up, and you also know how to take care of yourself to prevent illnesses and that kind of thing. And I think, also, coming from a choral background you understand that your voice is just part of a bigger production, right? So if you are in a choir, and you are singing amongst other people, maybe there is an accompaniment, maybe there’s a conductor, it translates directly to the world of voice over. Because if you are in a voice cast, for like, say animation or video game, or any other – maybe you are doing a live announcement, like a reading, you know, like a public reading of a work – with other people, you need to know how to work with those people on a team. And I think that’s really great. Especially if you know how to take direction. Direction is huge. So I definitely think that coming from a choral background, and being able to be directed, and to understand someone else’s vision, and to bring it to fruition, it’s a really great asset for any voice over artist.
Andy: OK. One of the things we were hearing in one of the VOICE 2010 sessions yesterday was how changing the … pace of a read, and thinking of it in musical terms – and even, for example, talking about a list of words: changing… thinking of the notation of the musical notation almost of the … of how you are phrasing it was a great … aid to direction, and understanding directions. So I can understand that… that’s great. So… But as you say, singing is different from … the type of work that most of the voice artists working with Voices.com are doing. Mostly it’s spoken performance…
Stephanie: Yes. Spoken word.
Andy: So how did you … become interested in this aspect of voice?
Stephanie: That’s a good question. I think it probably wasn’t something that I grew up wanting to be… or to be involved with. I knew I always wanted to do something for my voice. That was always apparent. I had to make a decision at one point, when I was younger, and my mother said, ” Stephanie, you are doing too much. You are going to sing, or you are going to act. What are you going to do?”. And I chose singing, because that’s where my heart is. So anyway how that goes into voice over – in some round about way – is that as a young university student I needed to make a demo, like everybody does, because every singer, every musician needs to have something – just like every voice artist does – to pass along, to show a prospective client what you can do. Anyway, along the way my mother had found this article, newspaper, and you know it featured this handsome young man who had this recording studio, and you know it was downtown in London where I was from, and she just left it in my room.
Andy: That’s London, Ontario…
Andy: Not my London.
Stephanie: Yes not your London
Andy: Which is London UK…
Stephanie: Yes, I know… it’s the Queen’s other London – that’s what we like to say… and that’s what she calls it, I hope. Anyway… So there was a newspaper article in the London Free Press, in Canada, and my mother left it on my bed, for me to find – presumably – and so one day I come home from school and I see this article. And I read it and you know, it’s this young man who has a recording studio, and I thought, “Oh! I need to make a demo, and my Mum’s just put this here. Isn’t this nice!… I’m just going to email him. I’m too nervous to call his phone number… I’m just too nervous”. Anyway, I emailed Dave – and that’s David Ciccarelli, for those of you who are listening, and may not know – and so anyway, I wanted to see what his studio was like. And that led to having a tour and him making me a few cups of tea, which was very nice. No-one had ever made me tea before outside of my own home…
Andy: And we know this is very important for you…
Andy: We often share international cups of tea together…
Stephanie: We do! Yes… and so he made me this very nice herbal tea, and so we got talking and we had so much in common, and we ended up working together, because there was something that was just saying we were drawn to each other.
Andy: There was a chemistry.
Stephanie: Exactly. We had the same kind of beliefs and ethics, and everything was just lined up. And we thought, “You know what? I want to work with him, because he has the same vision as I do, and he wants to go where I want to go”. And so we did work together – mind you, this is singing, so I did some singing there. But eventually down the road we started to date, and then we got married, and you know, we were getting more and more known for what we could do audio production wise. Because he is an audio engineer. Right? That’s his background, and I was a voice major. And so we would get phone calls, and people would say, “Oh, can you record our phone system? Can you do this? Can you do that?”. And that’s nothing that we ever set out to do. Like, people just started asking. And so – OK… So I did some phone systems, voice mails, some IVR stuff. I did a couple of commercials – you know, just local stuff. Nothing too wild. But it was just… it was interesting. And so we said, “OK. Well, we can do this”. And so on our website, which was interactivevoices.com at the time, my name was on the home page, and we thought we should balance this out a bit, and add a few more people. And so we just looked for random voice talent. There was one called Lisa Oakie, and she’s Canadian, and she was in one of the magazines we saw at the Business Depot… There was a little story about Lisa Oakie and how she does all this voice over. “Voice over? What’s this?”. Anyway… we invited her, “Do you want to be on our website?”, “OK”. So we put a link up there, and it just went to her own website, you know, so the traffic was going away from us… but we are like, “Oh, isn’t this nice? We have another voice talent page…”. The next one, I think was DC Douglas, and then a few more people started… “Hey, Can I be on your home page?”, because we were ranking really high in the search engine for key words that were obviously voice over related.
Andy: And this was about what time?
Stephanie: Yeah. 2003. Late 2003. We were just like, “Wow… All these people want to be on our website because they know there’s work, and they can see that, you know, people’s websites are being linked to directly from our website. You know, obviously something good is going on for these people. They were probably all talking to each other as well. So anyway, we figured, “You know what? We don’t really want to do the voice overs ourselves”, because that was nothing we set out to do. It was just something that, “Yeah, we can do that for you, right…”, because David was more into designing sound logos and music composition, and so when it came time to… we had a young family at that point, and you know how hard it is to find time that’s quiet around a baby… or any child of any age for that matter… and so it just became very stressful. It was just like, “I don’t want to record”, it became this chore, this task, and it wasn’t creative any more. It was just like I have to do this, and it became like… a really stressful point for us in our lives. “We’ve got to stop this… What can we do? We’ve got people coming here saying they want to be on our website, and we don’t want to do the work any more. How can we make this work?”.
Then one day it dawned on us. “We could just build a service for these people, because we don’t want to do this work…”
Andy: You enjoyed the connectivity… connecting people… and you were good at it…
Stephanie: Yeah. We loved it. When I was in university I was on the music… Faculty of Music Students Council, and I was the Gigs Commissioner, of all things. That was what I ended up being, and my responsibility was to – you know whenever a call would come in, someone from maybe another faculty, or the President needs something, or someone is getting married locally, you know: “Do you know of any string quartets that we could have, that could come?”. And so my responsibility, as being the Gigs Commissioner, was to say, “Yeah. I’ve got a whole list of people on here”. All students would sign up and say, “I want to do work”, or whatever. And so I would refer three at a time to these people, and hopefully they would find someone they could work with within those people, and you know, book their wedding musicians, or book their whoever they needed. So that was kind of my background in that, and of course it was – I don’t know – I guess it was kind of agenty in a way, but I was getting no cut from it. It was a Students Council role and I really just enjoyed connecting those people, and making sure that they got work of some kind, because you know, students are starving artists, too. Right? You need work and I don’t think I ever took any of those for myself, you know, the singing gigs. I just, I didn’t… I saw it then… I saw it even then as a conflict of interest, for me. What I loved was making sure other people could succeed, because of… in some way to help them.
Andy: It’s part of the creative process, in a sense, isn’t it? Because although you’re not on the end product you’re… you’ve made it happen.
Andy: And there’s a certain buzz in that, as well… So this is… this is what has moved you forwards now into Voices.com, and you’ve got a… For me, Voices.com was an epiphany, because until then I hadn’t had any… I really hadn’t had any input from outside about how to develop my voice over career, and I’d been doing professional voice overs for four years until that point, and this is 18 months ago. And… and so the first training I got was from Vox Daily, and Voice Over Experts, which is the podcast series you do. So this is obviously… another of your babies… and something you love very much. So what role do you see that playing? I mean… it’s been very important for me. Is this why you do it?
Stephanie: Oh Yes. I just love it. Well, we first started blogging in I think it was 2005 – tail end of it, right before New Years, around Christmas time, we started. It was like a… you know, everyone was blogging now, it was the new thing. David’s always on top of the next digital whatever, and very much into the technological scene, and being on the cutting edge, always anticipating stuff, so, “You need to start blogging. You need to do this”. So I did, and it started out very basic… and I tried, and the biggest thing for us was “Do it every day. Do it every day… Because if you don’t, then how do you build a readership? How do you get a following? How do you even get anywhere?” … to be frank, if you’re not consistent. Right? So I did that for a while, and for a long time there weren’t any comments. Probably went months without comments. And then we got the bright idea, we would email our customer base and say, “Hey! Look at these articles in the newsletter… and updates… and you can learn about this, and that and whatever!”. And then all of a sudden the comments started coming. Like if you don’t tell people you have a blog, you’re not going to get any comments, as you know, unless they just find you organically in a search engine. So that was really important for me, and I’ve… because I don’t perform any more – like as you know I don’t do that, and I’m not really into that, and I don’t do voice over work. I know you had asked me this earlier, “Do you do any?”, and I said, “No”. I might do company podcasts or be on the teleseminar, but that’s the extent…
Andy: But there’s a training role.
Stephanie: Yeah… in more of an educational, nurturing way. I wouldn’t call myself a “trainer”, for instance. If someone said, “Can I study with you”, I’d say, “No… not in that way. I can help you. I can give you some suggestions, and I can direct them to maybe someone who I think they’d be a good fit for, or as you say, listen to Voice Over Experts, find someone who you think has a style that resonates with you, and if you like that teacher, by all means go on and contact them, because they can teach you by Skype. You don’t have to be in the same city. Right? Or you could buy any of the products or maybe save up to go to a workshop, or come to a conference like this… and meet them all in person. But it’s extremely important that we give people the tools to become educated, because without the education, you can’t go anywhere either.
Andy: Yes, and you provide it as a free service which is wonderful, and yesterday when you were talking you said the education and training was “My favourite part”, and that’s very obvious in the range of articles that you are posting on Vox Daily, and the way that you’ve attracted a wide range of people to speak on Voice Over Experts. And of course, even your slogan, which… wonderful slogan…
Stephanie: Oh! I know! Isn’t it just?
Andy: “We say it for you”. It’s a team work thing.. And… oh… I wrote that, didn’t I?
Stephanie: You did. No one here can see the wink-wink, nudge-nudge. Yes! That’s very true, and you know that was perfect. That was absolutely perfect, because you know you do say it for those people. And, you know, whenever people say, “Well, what do you do? What do you do at Voices.com?”… You know, obviously we connect people, but we make the world a better place, and we make it sound better too. So… it’s just a wonderful way to express what it is that we do, because – especially using the word “we”, because that’s representative of everyone who’s on that website, right… It isn’t just one person, or the people who are constantly booking, or whatever, it’s everybody who is working with those clients. “We say it for you”.
Stephanie: That’s good.
Andy: Well That’s fantastic, Stephanie. Well, we’ve been chatting on Facebook, and by email for a long time, and it’s just wonderful to have met you this week.
Stephanie: Thank you. You, too.
Andy: A great pleasure. Thank you very much.
Stephanie: Well, Thank you, Andy.
About Stephanie Ciccarelli
Stephanie is one of the most connected people in voice overs, a sought after industry expert and respected blogger. In 2003, she co-founded Voices.com, the voice over marketplace, and has been actively engaged in the voice acting community ever since. She graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts ’06 from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario and is also the author of many eBooks, including the Definitive Guide to Voice Over Success, editor of the VOX Daily Voice Actors Blog and also shares her insights and unique perspectives via podcast.
Stephanie is also the author of The Definitive Guide To Voice-Over Success and ThePodcastingEbook: Your Complete Guide To Podcasting.
Based in London, Canada, http://www.Voices.com provides an online marketplace, facilitating transactions between business clients and voice over professionals, employing a comprehensive suite of web-based services. Clients that have worked at Interactive Voices include NBC, ESPN, PBS, The History Channel, Reader’s Digest, Olay, L’Oreal, Comcast, Nortel Networks, Bell Canada, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, ING, Western Union, Ford, GM, Jaguar, Firestone Tires, American Airlines, the US Army, the US Government and many more.
Vox Daily – “A daily dose of voice acting news, articles, tutorials, interviews, intelligentconversation and business ideas.”
Voice Over Experts – “The educational podcast featuring renowned voice over coaches from the US, UK, Canada and abroad.”
Andy Boyns at Voices.com[podcast]http://www.fileden.com/files/2009/11/24/2662799/acaba05_Stephanie_Ciccarelli.mp3[/podcast]