Kathy Poelker Narrates & Produces “Unfinished Business:An Angela Panther Novel” by Carolyn Ridder Aspenson

February 5, 2014

Unfinished Business Cover

Want to enjoy a great audiobook, FUN read that’s filled with all kinds of characters, events, and situations?  Give a listen to Carolyn Ridder Aspenson’s delightful “Unfinished Business: An Angela Panther Novel” available through Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.  You’ll laugh out loud at some of the antics of Fran, the friendly ghost and Mother of Angela Panther, the voice of this story. You’ll also cry out loud as the story unfolds and we see “life” right before our very eyes!  Don’t miss out on the fun of it all. You’ll soon learn what happened to “those Herschey bars, the ones that were hidden in the closet…”


Kathy Poelker is one of the founders of Windy City Voice Talents located in Chicago, Illinois and is also a Voice Over Coach for Such A Voice. She is a voice over artist, copywriter, and jingle writer. Kathy’s voice over specialties include commercials, radio, TV, eLearning, narrations, industrials, children’s books, IVR, websites, and audiobooks. Kathy is also experienced in broadcast marketing and robocall advertising. For more information, please visit http://windycityvoice.com


Using Royalty-Free Music in your Voice Over Production

June 24, 2011

Why Use Royalty-Free Music?

Music is everywhere. Whether you’re working on a website, podcast or even a PowerPoint presentation, everything seems that much better if it includes some music.

But where does all this music come from? Sure, it seems like there’s a limitless supply — everywhere you turn there are new opportunities to hear and download all kinds of tracks.

The question is, how much of that music can you legally use?

The Royalty Machine

The music industry is a very complicated machine with many players who are all vying for a piece of the musical money pie. A single piece of music might be tied to several revenue streams, with many groups collecting a fee for its use. For this reason, it can be very time-consuming and expensive to gain the rights to use a musical composition in a commercial application.

We’ll define commercial music as the use of music in a public setting, or the use of music to aid in product or service promotions. When you buy a song from iTunes, for instance, your license covers personal listening. Personal use is just that: for listening to. Personally. Adding a track to a podcast that’s getting hundreds or thousands of hits is not personal use. If you do so, you’re putting yourself on the hook for all kinds of fees and/or royalties.

There are several fees that are associated with commercial audio. All of these fees are mandatory if you want to use music commercially. The following royalty fees must be purchased for every musical track:

  • Mechanical rights
  • Public performance royalties
  • Synchronization and transcription rights
  • Publishing rights
  • Neighboring rights
  • Master use rights

That single iTunes track you bought for $.99 could end up costing thousands of dollars for a simple use. In fact, popular music tracks have been known to cost in the million-dollar range for the use of one single song for a very limited time.

Stock music catalogs have helped to simplify the purchase of music for commercial applications because they let you pay a single entity for all of the fees, rights, and royalties associated with a song. Some stock music libraries are called royalty-free, because most of the rights, fees and royalties are bought in a single, one-time purchase.

While stock audio and royalty-free audio are not new concepts, there are still some misconceptions about what exactly stock audio is, specifically in relation to royalty-free music.

Royalty-Free Music

So what is royalty-free music? This should be a simple concept; for example a royalty-free photo is a photo you can use for an indeterminate length of time at a single purchase price. This is the model of iStockphoto.

While you would think that royalty-free music is an equally simple concept, it is not. In fact most royalty-free music is subject to one or more royalties.

Try an Internet search for “royalty-free music” and there will be no lack of results — but be warned; music purchased from the vast majority of royalty-free music sites actually does require royalties. In fact, almost all royalty-free music sites have an FAQ with this question — “What is royalty-free music?” They do this because they don’t include performance royalties or often mechanical licenses in the cost of the track. Many royalty-free audio sites say that the music may be subject to performance royalties, or will require cue sheets to be filled (so artists can get their royalties), or that physical copies of the song cannot be made (DVDs, toys, etc).

If you are looking to purchase royalty-free audio, you should be looking to see if their audio is truly royalty-free. For instance, if any of their artists belong to a performing rights organization then their audio collection cannot be considered royalty-free, because performance royalties must be collected on that audio for any public use of the music.

The iStock standard audio collection is one of the only truly royalty-free collections in the world. That is the reason that we do not accept members of any performing rights organizations into our collection. It is important to us that we offer a royalty-free audio collection that actually ensures our buyers will never have to pay a royalty fee.

Some broadcasters are used to paying millions in performance royalty fees in the form of a yearly subscription. These broadcasters aren’t required to pay for each use since they pay annually. For them, purchasing from a collection that doesn’t include performance royalties is a viable solution. But what about a small business’s phone hold music, a small restaurant’s background music, a podcaster, or independent filmmaker? For many people it is simply not financially viable to be paying millions in performance royalties. The performance royalties on a music track’s single use could prove to be several times more expensive than the compositions original cost.

But I Won’t Get Caught

Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “Who’s going to know?” Who’s going to find out? Why should I even worry about it? After all, no one’s caught me yet.

Try this: type “ASCAP sues” into Google. The search will reveal hundreds of situations where (often unknowingly) a piece of music was used without paying performance royalties. American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) has gone as far as threatening to sue the Girl Scouts for singing campfire songs. The bottom line is that if you need music, and you do not want to pay re-occurring performance royalty fees, then iStock audio is one of the very few safe choices for quality commercial audio.


Making A Jingle Work for You!

February 22, 2011

Can’t seem to get that “catchy little tune” out of your brain?  Are you finding yourself humming it during the day, or even during the night when you’re SUPPOSED to be sleeping?  THAT’s exactly what the advertiser wants YOU to experience!  Did you know that if you set it to music, you won’t forget it!!! Recall that “stick-in-your-brain tune” and you’ll also remember the information the advertiser wants you to retain!  And…his sales will increase.  It works every time, no matter what you’re selling.  Ergo…the “musical jingle!”  Bring it on…and bring on the sales, as well.

Current brain research supports this powerful and impacting “musical” phenomenon.  Think about it…how did you learn YOUR A-B-Cs?  And how have you taught others to recite their A-Z sequence themselves?…By SINGING it again and again…and again.  Many of us also learned our multiplication tables through a little math tune, or the names of the state capitols in that same musical way.  Our “strategic and intentional teacher” provided these “musical tunes to learning” (because she KNEW the powerful connection those little ditties would provide in embedding that information in the students’ brains).   Music supports the message within, and the experience is both pleasurable and powerful

Just like Mary Poppins suggests, “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.”  In this case our “spoonful of sugar” is a little bit of music!  Music makes the “medicine” go down a whole lot better.  No more “dry bones” when it comes to storing important information.  Do it better with a little music!  When you consider some of our largest and most profitable companies and their advertising methods, you’ll soon recall a “jingle” that carries their particular message to the ear of the consumer.  Who could forget the simple melody that supports the words “You deserve a break today!” – Of course, it’s McDonald’s!  Did ya’ just hear that little tune in your brain once again?  The “musical jingle” embeds that information more deeply in the listener’s brain!  Want another example?  How about that old Empire Carpet jingle…can you sing that tune?  Bet you can, and now it’s gonna bug you for the rest of the day – or night!  MUSIC!  Powerful!  Impacting! 

Want to know WHY this happens when we use music?  Our brains are uniquely “wired” to store patterns and relationships.  They seek these patterns throughout life, and what better place to find patterns than in music!  Quoting brain research guru Eric Jensen, “Music aids memory because the beat, melody, and harmony serve as ‘carriers’ for the semantic content.  That is why it’s easier to recall the words to a song than a conversation.”  The most important part of this research suggests that when we put KEY WORDS TO MUSIC, we will typically get better recall.  So, that being said, if you want your audience to remember important information, simply set a small portion of it to music and it will get stored “magically” in the brain for later recall!  Voila!  Works every time! 

When you’re ready to get your story out to your clients, using a powerful medium called the “jingle,” then give Windy City Voice Talents a call!  Kathy Poelker will be ready to create just that right little “stick-in-your-brain” tune to drive your customers crazy in a positively lucrative way!  To hear a sample of her demo jingles that she produced for United Airlines and Eastman Kodak, visit http://windycityvoice.com/voice-over_talent.html

Kathy Poelker is one of the founders of Windy City Voice Talents located in Chicago, Illinois and is also a Voice Over Coach for Such A Voice.  She is a voice over artist, copywriter, and jingle writer.  Kathy’s voice over specialties include commercials, radio, TV, eLearning, narrations, industrials, children’s books, IVR, websites, and audiobooks.  Kathy is also experienced in broadcast marketing and robocall advertising.  For more information, please visit http://windycityvoice.com

Stop Thinking Negative Thoughts!

February 1, 2011

Defeated, discouraged, depressed…These are just a few of the “state of mind” emotions that can result from what many people now term, “stinking thinking”.  Stinking thinking, otherwise known as thinking negative thoughts or negative self-talk, is a common but unproductive pastime, especially for actors.  Just imagine how much extra energy and creativity we would have if we weren’t continually bogged down by thoughts of doom and gloom!  Our chosen field of work is filled with subjective opinion and oftentimes we hear the word “no”.  That’s part of the business of being a voice actor.  You need to be prepared to hear the word “no” a lot…And yet, not let it discourage you!  If you find that you are unable to cope with rejection, voice acting is definitely not the right career for you.

It’s true…We all tend to think in extremes, but for some of us, this extreme thinking somehow becomes distorted and unhealthy.  There are many reasons why we may practice this distorted thinking.  Often, we may simply be tired or hungry.  Sometimes, we may be experiencing the effects of depressants such as alcohol or crashing from stimulants like caffeine or cigarettes.  Or, in severe cases, we might be suffering from depression, and our brain may not be producing or utilizing serotonin or dopamine correctly.  Following are some common forms of “stinking thinking” (from Burns, David D., MD. 1989. The Feeling Good Handbook. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.).  Take a look and see if any of them are getting in your way.

  •  All-or-nothing thinking:  You see things in black and white categories.  If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.
  • Overgeneralization:  You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
  • Mental filter:  You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors the entire beaker of water.
  • Disqualifying the positive:  You reject positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count” for some reason or other. You maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.
  • Jumping to conclusions:  You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.
  • Mind reading:  You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you and don’t bother to check it out. 
  • The Fortune Teller Error:  You anticipate that things will turn out badly and feel convinced that your prediction is an already-established fact.
  • Magnification (catastrophizing) or minimization:  You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else’s achievement), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or the other fellow’s imperfections).  This is also called the “binocular trick.”
  • Emotional reasoning:  You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”
  • Should statements:  You try to motivate yourself with “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts”, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything.  “Musts” and “oughts” are also offenders.  The emotional consequence is guilt.  When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.
  • Labeling and mislabeling:   This is an extreme form of overgeneralization.  Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself: “I’m a loser.”  When someone else’s behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him, “He’s a damn louse.”  Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.
  • Personalization:  You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event for which, in fact, you were not primarily responsible.

We’ve all done it!  You can’t be involved in a highly subjective and creative field such as voice acting and not stumble into “stinking thinking” from time to time.  The dangerous thing about “stinking thinking” is that it can spiral out of control and, once it does, is very difficult to recover from.  As voice actors, it is important for us to quickly identify any negative thought patterns, break the pattern and get our minds and thoughts back to a “good” place.  Every voice acting coach will tell you, “the mic never lies”.  If our heads are filled with negative thoughts, the resultant emotions will “spill out” of us and into our reads.  Not at all a desirable effect.

So what’s a stinky-thinker to do?  First, when you find yourself caught up in negative thoughts, you need to immediately stop, step back from the situation and write some of those thoughts down.  Next, start with one of the thoughts you’ve written down and try to identify what it is specifically that is making you think that particular thought.  You need to try to pinpoint the reasons behind why you’re feeling badly.  Finally, you need to compare your thought to the likely reality of the situation.  Be truthful with yourself…This can be difficult to do especially if you are feeling “stuck” in a mood.  The reality is, however, that by identifying the reasons behind your thoughts, you can improve your mood and begin making healthier decisions.  This will translate into a much more positive attitude which, in turn, will be “heard” in your work.

If you find that you’re having trouble reasoning through the thought process or if you just can’t seem to break the negative thought pattern, then ask a close, trusted, positive friend or a therapist to help you.  Sometimes a more subjective perspective can be invaluable!

David Lecinski is one of the founders of Windy City Voice Talents located in Chicago, Illinois and the Casting Advisory Manager for Voice123.  David is also a voice over artist and does voice overs for IVR, radio & TV ads, Flash movies & presentations, documentaries, eLearning, audiobooks, social media advertising – you name it, he voices it!  For more information, please visit http://windycityvoice.com

Social Media – “To Be” or “Not To Be”? Good question!

January 19, 2011

These days, it is almost a given that in addition to a company website, business owners are also setting up shop on many of the popular social networking sites.  These include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, WordPress (where this blog is being “hosted”) and many, many more…Whew!  Seems like a daunting task for somebody to “manage” all of those. 

Right now, you may be asking yourself:  Why bother?  Why do I need to be on Facebook or YouTube when I’ve already paid some designer a whole bunch of money to create my company website?  The answer is simple…Trust.

If you are like me, you probably value the opinions and recommendations of friends and relatives – Especially when it comes to buying products and services.  Let’s face it, people talk.  If your friend tells you that he/she had a good experience with a particular product and you are in the market to purchase a similar product, you will probably end up buying the same product your friend recommended.  Why?  Because you TRUST your friend.  Why would your friend steer you wrong or lie to you?  Generally speaking, people TRUST their friends, more so than they may trust any advertisement.  No need to do any further “research” before my purchase…No sir…If it’s good enough for my friend, it’s good enough for me.  This is the basic marketing principle behind social media.

Facebook, for example, currently has more than 500,000,000 subscribers and growing daily!  No, this is not a typo…I mean more than a half a billion – that’s billion WITH A “B”!  If Facebook were a country, it would be the 3rd largest on the planet (behind China and India).  That’s a whole lot of people “talking”.  In addition, Facebook’s “population” is made up of more than 96% of “Millennials”.  Millennials, an abbreviation for millennial generation, is a term used by demographers to describe a segment of the population born between 1980 and 2000 (approximately). Sometimes referred to in the media as “Generation Y,” millennials are the children of the “Generation X” (children of the post-WWII baby boomer generation).  These are the people that will, over the next 20-30 years, be purchasing your products and services if you are currently running a business.

Statistics show that a business starting up today is much more likely to exist 5 years from now if the business actively participates in social media networks.

Of course, if you are going to be on a social networking site, you had better consistently offer a darn good product or service!  Again, people talk.  Remember that old saying “It only takes one bad apple to spoil the entire bunch”?  Now I don’t know about “spoiling” the entire bunch, but trust me when I say, if you have one “bad apple” as a result of your customer not having a pleasant experience using your business, people are going to know about it!  Are we as business owners ALWAYS perfect?  No.  Do our customers ALWAYS have a good experience?  No.  Are there some people out there that can NEVER be “pleased”?  Sure.  But don’t you think those peoples’ “friends” know that they are high-maintenance or “difficult”?!?!  The key here is consistency!

I may be dating myself, but do you remember the old Faberge Shampoo commercials on TV back in the early 80’s?  If not, you can check it out here:

In the ‘olden days’ when that commercial was released, word-of-mouth ‘advertising’ was the most effective form of promotion a company could be involved with.  Well, guess what?  It STILL is…however ‘word-of-mouth’ has been taken to the Internet via the social networking sites and messages are spread virally this way.

Our message to our friends spreads like a virus…we tell our ‘friends’ (sometimes numbers in the hundreds) and they tell their friends (another several hundred) and so on and so on…

Get my point?

David Lecinski is one of the founders of Windy City Voice Talents located in Chicago, Illinois and the Casting Advisory Manager for Voice123.  David is also a voice over artist and does voice overs for IVR, radio & TV ads, Flash movies & presentations, documentaries, eLearning, audiobooks, social media advertising – you name it, he voices it!  For more information, please visit http://windycityvoice.com

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