We are living in an exciting time in history, with multiple generations living and working together. There may be some challenges to so many generations working closely side-by-side, but it has significant benefits. Understanding each generation’s characteristics and expectations can help us communicate efficiently and work together harmoniously. This week we will dive into the different generations of voice over talent working together and how they fit into the wacky world of voice over.
The Silents or Traditionalists (1925-1946)
This group of individuals was born in the beautiful era of the “Roaring Twenties” and World War 2. Think Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Natalie Wood, and Morgan Freeman. The age of radio, milkmen, and rituals of home-cooked meals. They grew up with very little technology and had to overcome adverse circumstances such as poverty and poor healthcare. They are known to be thrifty, respectful, and loyal. It was the early days of voiceover, created by visionaries such as Walt Disney. Mickey Mouse in 1928s Steamboat Willie used a voice-over recorded in 1900.
This group of voice actors was most likely living in large urban centres such as Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, etc., where the acting and voice acting studios were located. They may have wanted to pursue a career in on-camera acting but stumbled into voice acting as the demand for the service grew. The Silents would have voiced many projects, including the first cartoons and television advertisements. They would have also voiced for radio dramas and live-sporting events. Some may be, but this is generally unlikely. This generation is well into their 80s and 90s and may still dabble slightly in VO performing senior citizen roles. Most are likely enjoying their retirement and time with friends and family.
Generations of Voice Over Among Baby Boomers (1946-1964)
Baby Boomers encompass a large number of individuals today. They were born post-WWII when soldiers had returned home ready to settle down and start a family. This is the era of black and white televisions, TV dinners, and hippie culture. Think Michael Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney, and Madonna. Baby Boomers are known to be workaholics, dedicated to quality over quantity, goal-oriented, and love the idea of stability. I’ve personally found this generation particularly interesting and transitional. The face of the world really changed during this period and is reflected in what we see today.
This group of voice actors lived in large urban city centres where work was available. At this time, more agents appeared in the voice over world, representing talent and booking good-paying jobs. Although radio-drama series were phasing out by the mid-1950s, voice actors were booking more work for television and cartoons. Audiobooks were also gaining popularity in the 1970s, providing another stream of income for Baby Boomers as well as new lines of work such as movie trailers and documentaries.
There is still quite a demand for the Baby Boomer voice. Think commercials for financial institutions, comfort food, and legal advice. The Baby Boomer voice projects warmth, compassion, and a feeling of security. They also voice quite a bit of e-learning and corporate narration. The voice style popular during the Baby-boomer period tends to have a hard-sell approach, which is less prevalent but still requested now and again. The Baby Boomers are phasing out slowly, but as long as they can speak, the work will come.
Generation X (1964 – 1981)
Generation X is the largest group of voice actors today, although they are called the forgotten generation squeezed between Boomers and Millennials. The evolution of technology shapes them. Think Elon Musk, John Krasinski, Tiger Woods, Julia Roberts, Leonardo DiCaprio. Gen X’ers are more educated than previous generations, self-reliant, individualistic, and hardworking. Their infamy comes from the Brat Pack, MTV, and the ’80s.
Generation X is still going strong with voice-over gigs for television and digital commercials, in-show narration, IVR, and audiobooks. They are the popular choice for anything corporate related such as e-learning and corporate narration, a big piece of the voiceover industry. This generation has begun to bring in diverse voice actors from different cultures and ethnicities. The Generation X voice is kind, engaging, and professional, yet doesn’t come across as bossy or parental.
The majority of the castings are Middle-Aged talent (35-54). Gen X’ers may have voice agents but are savvy enough to find their own business through cold-calling, networking events, online casting sites, and referrals. Persistent and consistent are good descriptors of the Gen-X voice.
Generations of Voice Over Among Millennials or Gen Y (1982-1995)
Millennials, also called Gen Y, are the children of the Baby Boomers and were born between 1982-1995. They grew during the digital age and are great with technology, creative, open-minded, and curious. Think Scarlett Johansson, Emma Stone, Drake, Lebron James, and Mark Zuckerberg. They are skilled in various industries and love to bounce from job to job, try new experiences, and care for their health.
Millennials are pretty busy in the voice-over world. You’ll hear them often on national TV commercials. They’re usually the ones with raspy voices and sound very relaxed. They don’t like the hard-sell commercial tone and favor sounding like the guy or gal next door. There is a high demand for this diverse generation, especially anyone with various accents and ethnicities. Millennials provide voice work for audiobooks, narration, and Artificial Intelligence. They value freedom and creativity, so living in large urban centres to find work isn’t for them.
Millennials are just getting into the thick of their careers and still have a long way to go before retirement, so they are open to new and creative methods to increase their income. They may have an agent or two, but most of their business is generated through their marketing efforts, website, or online casting sites. They want to take control of their income and are very open to the next hot thing in VO.
Generation Z (1995-2010)
Generation Z, or Zoomers as they are sometimes called, are children born after 1995. They are incredibly familiar with technology and masters of the IoT (the internet of things). They grew up with lots of screen time and all the modern conveniences of life and were encouraged by their parents to jump into the unknown. They are socially conscious, risk-takers and entrepreneurs. Famous Zoomers include Greta Thunberg, Billie Eilish, Kylie Jenner, and Max Verstappen. Zoomers hate to be sold to and prefer purchasing items from social media channels such as Tik Tok, Instagram, or YouTube.
Like Millennials, they appreciate the flexibility of finding work from many sources. They love to find voice work online, anywhere, and anytime. They prefer online contact rather than communicating on the phone, and instead of being open to trying new things, they’re the ones creating them. Gen Z talent books a lot of animation work and commercial and audiobooks. They are Digital Nomads who are just starting their careers and appreciate the flexible lifestyle available today.
Generations of Voice Over For Every Project
It is clear to see that there is a voice for everyone today. One generation isn’t better than another, and they all combine to create a wonderful community that supports and encourages one another. The industry is constantly changing, and limitless opportunities are ahead for the next generations of voice over.