As some of you might know I’ve been blessed to grow up in the north east of England (the finest place on earth in my opinion) which means I speak with a Geordie accent. Now, it’s not a particularly strong or broad accent, in fact it’s quite a soft accent which means a lot of people (especially those outside of the region) have a very difficult time placing where I’m from.
Now, this got me to thinking, is my accent hindering my ability to be a voice over artist and might it stopping us accented folk finding? Any quick search of voice over jobs and you’ll find the vast majority out there ask for a “neutral” accent, and in my experience I’ve found this means they actually want a received pronunciation type British English, or a “BBC” accent.
Or they’d like the general south eastern accent, sometimes known as estuary English which is kind of a mish mash of received pronunciation and the London accent (I’m sure linguist will have my life here for butchering the description though!)
But why don’t people want more regional accents when hiring a voice over artist? I mean, the Geordie accent alone was once voted the most friendly and trustworthy in the country, the Yorkshire accent voted one of the happiest and even Welsh jumped in at number 3 in a sexiest accents list!
So, in a mix of my own ponderings and some personal experience I thought I’d list through some of the advantages and disadvantages of being a voice over artist with a regional accent and whether it might be time to invest in some elocution lessons…
· You stand out more with a regional accent. This is the most obvious one and also your biggest advantage. Usually as a voice over artist you have to graft for long hours doing your own marketing in an attempt to be noticed. If you have a regional accent though, then people are going to try and seek you out.
· I have a number of examples of clients who were specifically after a Geordie accent, and because the pool of us Geordie VOs is quite small, we’re a lot easier to find (although probably the most famous Geordie VO is Marcus Bentley who did Big Brother. Incidentally, I met him once at a party, but I was blind drunk. I probably made a terrible impression and am on some voice over black list somewhere now…)
· Long story short though, if you have a regional accent and your own website there’s an excellent chance you’ll be making it to the first page of Google if a client I looking for your sound.
· This is just a personal thought really, but I think regional accents are just kinda neat! It’s always fun to learn about the quirks and slang found across not just the regions of the UK but across the English-speaking world.
· By far the biggest gripe I’ve had using my Geordie accent is that people can’t quite understand me. Now, even though I don’t have a strong accent I’ve still had comments from clients asking me to soften it even further. This has always been confusing for me as I have no problem understanding any regional British accent and am always quite shocked when others don’t. You’d be amazed at how many times people have asked if I’m Irish, Scottish or Welsh, I mean, seriously? How can people not know the difference!
· But hey, this on me as the voice over artist to fix, if I want more jobs I can’t expect the client to get themselves on an accent identification course despite how much I’d like them too…
· People can associate a stereotype with your accent. This is something of a bugbear of mine as, thanks in no small part to the, er, “wonderful” TV show Geordie Shore, the Geordie stereotype has been amped up to the max and across the country we’re perceived as spray tan wearing mad ladz and lasses which unfortunately there isn’t much call for in the voice over world at the moment…
· A lot of clients might not actually want a unique voice, or to stand out. A nice standard received pronunciation accent can add that perceived level of class, you know the type, the deep James Bond style reading (not that a Geordie wouldn’t make a good James Bond, but even just saying this as an idea conjures images of a comedy version of Bond rather than the smooth classic style of old)
· Having an accent isn’t always the best when you’re working for international clients. I was an English teacher in Japan for 3 years in a former life and I’ll be honest, my students did struggle a little initially with my accent so I had to learn to tone it down. Since then I’ve done some similar voice over work internationally for a number of different English learning platforms where the consensus is always the clearer the better, and more often than not, this means they need a neutral, accent free voice.
Unfortunately for me I’m not able to do a “standard” British accent. Or any other accent really for that matter. I’m terrible at them. So, for the time being I’m stuck with my lovely Geordie twang.
It’s only recently that I’ve begun to think it might be affecting the number of jobs I get. As an example I’ve just done a quick scan through some freelance sites and there isn’t one job looking for any type of regional British accent, let alone the Geordie one. It seems the standard accent is going to remain king for the time being.
As a result, I’m thinking of taking elocution lessons this year to try and master the standard British accent (though I fear this could potentially make me unstoppable and no other voice over artists would be able to win work again). I’ll keep you posted if the lessons take off and I’m able to imitate the perfect, clean cut upper crust accent of the aristocracy.
Or alternatively I could start the regional accent revolution and bring together a band of accented heroes to force our unique styles on the world. A man can dream…