In 1966, Jon Lee started doing voice-overs for TV commercials. By 1996, he had 35,000 voice-overs under his belt. He estimates that in the last eight years, he has done another 5,000 spots. Not bad, but the business isn't what it used to be, he says.
"In its heyday, there were a handful of us doing the work," Lee recalls. "I could easily do three or four a day; some weeks I did as many as 100. I'd go to do one commercial and end up doing multiple commercials for that product. That was typical, and you didn't have to be a star to be a product spokesperson.
"I started out as an actor," he continues, "but when I got into voice-over work, that's what I did for a living. The very successful voice-over people were making seven figures. I can't say I was one of them, but I was able to move my family from New Jersey to Greenwich, Conn."
In the early years, most voice-over artists were men with pleasant "announcer" voices, many came out of radio, and a fair number were not actors at all. Today the field is wide open, awash with actors of all types and at all stages of their careers, although very few actors now make their living doing voice-over work exclusively.
BackStage.com members: To read the rest of this terrific feature, click here.
Not a member yet? Click here for information on how to receive all the benefits of BackStage.com.