‘Voice-over artistry is lucrative but depends on how you approach it’
Seun Sobo is a creative, multi-gifted young man with knack for thinking out of the box. He is one Nigeria’s leading voice-over artiste and the founder of Voice-Over Academy, a Lagos based ‘Voice-over Bank’, a one-stop shop for audition and booking of voiceover talents in Nigeria and Africa. In this interview with DANIEL ANAZIA, he speaks on his foray into the business and how it can create thousands of jobs yearly for the teeming Nigeria youths.
As a voice-over artiste, how did you start your career?
I know a bit about advertising, but my core area is branding. I got into branding through voice-over in my university days at the University of Lagos, where I studied Botany and also the School of Media and Communications, Pan Atlantic University, Lagos. I also attended Orange Academy, School of Advertising and Branding. By my second year at the university, I already knew I wanted to do branding for a living. Back then I used to do jingles for a handful of brands, so I developed the interest and skill from there.
A friend introduced me to a talent development company. From then I started getting jobs for voice-over, and with that I supported myself in school; hence, I abandoned botany for voice-over and branding. Whenever I was given a script, I would go back and study it to know why they had chosen that particular concept. A lot of creative people are not business savvy, so many of them die frustrated. I once attended the world’s largest voice-over conference in Atlanta, United States, and I learnt so much. I was able to represent Africa very well.
How lucrative is voice-over business in Nigeria and how big has the venture grown from the time you started?
Voice-over is a lucrative business but then it depends on how one approaches it. People must learn the basic principles of the business for them to be able to succeed in it. As a person, I registered my first company as a student from the money I made from voice-over. For a long time I was into branding, it was along the line that I branched off into voice-over.
I have never gone out of job for the past 15 years. My voice has taken me to so many places around the world.
I started Voice-over Academy as a class, and the first class was sold out; there were over 40 people in attendance. The second, which was in 2015 was also sold out. So in 2016 I registered the academy and a little over one year after, we are bigger than we ever thought. Today, we have a voice-over bank where we keep voices of our alumni. Most of the people who pass through our academy get jobs through us. We have worked for several organisations including banks, insurance companies, multi-nationals and dozens of other big organisations across the country.
What is the driving force behind most of the trainees that come to the Voice-over Academy?
We are in a generation where we have a lot of millennials; these people are looking for alternative education and unconventional streams of income and development. So, Voice Over Academy is dedicated to grooming and churning out world-class voice over talents. Our vision is to simply become the preferred reference point for excellent voice talents across Africa, and we focused to achieve this goal through intense curriculum with inspiring and practical teachings from our team of veterans, who are our faculties.
Compared to other African countries, how huge is the voice-over industry in Nigeria and, if fully tapped, how many jobs do you see it creating?
The biggest voice-over industry in Africa at the moment is South Africa. They have all the things needed for professionals to thrive there. The next is Nigeria but I am optimistic that with the development we are witnessing in the sector, we shall soon take over from South Africa. The worth of the industry in Nigeria is estimated around N500 million from the research a few of us carried out. We are involved in every industry to sell their products and concepts; we put a voice on all they do. Annually, the Voice-over industry can create at least 10,000 jobs if given the type of support that is needed. Sometimes, people ask if I do anything apart from voice-over and I tell them it is the only thing I do. They are often surprised considering what we have been able to achieve with the little we have made from the business. It is a pity that in Nigeria the yardstick for success are material things and not what people carry inside them. We are working hard to change this flawed value system especially among the youths in the society.
At the time you started, what were some of the fears you nursed?
We are the first voice-over academy in Africa even though there used to be a voice bank in Nigeria. However, we have created the voice- over bank where clients can choose from an array of voices to match whatever they want to promote. We have graduated almost 100 people since we started. We are making a lot of efforts to bring all that we have seen in the US and other parts of the world to bear in our voice-over industry in Nigeria. Voice-Over Solutions Limited is the parent company housing Voice-Over Bank and Voice-Over Academy. Before we give out jobs, we let the artistes know how much the client is paying and how much we are going to take as our professional fee. We also do not restrict any of the guys that work with us, we allow them do stuffs for others as much as they want. Even though we are paid less, the voice-over artistes under us get more money for their services.
Our target is to have about 10, 000 voices in our bank at the end of this year. Right now, we have around 500 voices.
In spotting talents, what are the major criteria that you look out for?
The number one criterion is a good voice. The second is clarity in pronunciation, while the third is a rich command of our indigenous languages. These things are in high demand, so those who are blessed with the attributes must take advantage of them.
What are some of the sacrifices you have had to make to keep your voice intact?
As a voice-over artiste, you must avoid oily foods, do vocal warm ups, don’t shout too much, and also avoid too much cold things. This way, I have been able to keep my voice fresh.
The voice-over sector is not patronized like other sectors in creative industry. Moreso, it has been said and believed that many voice-over artistes die wretched. What do you think are the challenges?
Like I said earlier, the voice-over the industry in Nigeria is worth about N500 million, and it can create at least 10,000 jobs annually if given the type of support that is needed. A lot of voice-over artistes do not understand the business; as such they are core professionals. When some people think about voice-over, they feel it’s a side hustle, not knowing that it is serious business. The way the industry is structured is a bit funny at the moment because a lot of voice-over talents have been dedicated to agencies. These agencies sometimes owe them wages for several months, leading to frustration of the artiste. There is the need for professionals to come together in sector. Though, there is a professional body, it is not as strong as it should be. What we are trying to do is to bring a new order into the sector where more young people can be trained ahead of thriving careers in voice-over
Who were your role models when you came into the profession?
The truth is that I was self-encouraged. I listened to the likes of Patrick Oke, Femi Sowoolu and others while growing up. Through them I got more inspiration to push on. Though a lot of people confuse it, broadcasting and voice-over is not the same thing. Voice-over is more than presenting on radio and television.
In what ways is your academy encouraging youths to come into the profession?
Our voice-over talents are thoroughbred professionals, who have been trained to deliver quality work for a variety of voice projects such as TV and Radio commercials, movie trailers, animations and cartoons, documentaries, autobiographies and video profiles, audio books, podcast, live announcements and backstage voices. We are in existence for easy and direct access to a wide range of voiceover talents primarily in Nigerian languages and other African lingua. Our solution is fast and reliable especially with our E-studio that churns out voiceover briefs in real time. Our voice-over bank is a one-stop shop for audition and booking of voice-over talents in the continent for various voice included projects and jobs primarily in Nigeria and Africa.
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