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Breaking the Sonic Color Line | SXSW 2021

MC L Lyte
Music, TV & Film Producer / VO Talent / Speaker / Actress at Sunni Gyrl, Inc.
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SXSW 2021
March 19, 2021, Online, Austin, USA
SXSW 2021
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Breaking the Sonic Color Line | SXSW 2021
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About speakers

MC L Lyte
Music, TV & Film Producer / VO Talent / Speaker / Actress at Sunni Gyrl, Inc.
Roger Sho Gehrmann
Exec Creative Dir at SiriusXM/Pandora
Joan Baker
Co Founder & Executive Producer at Society Of Voice Arts And Sciences

MC LYTE - a legend in the world of music and entertainment – is a pioneering artist and a formidable actress of television and film

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Roger Sho Gehrmann is the Executive Creative Director at Pandora, where he co-founded Studio Resonate – the audio-first creative consultancy. Studio Resonate is made up of a fifty strong team of copywriters, designers, audio producers, and developers that produce innovative advertising for some of the biggest brands on the planet.

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Joan is Co-Founder/VP SOVAS & The Voice Arts Awards. Exec Producer & Host: That's Voiceover! Author: Secrets Of Voiceover Success, Voice Actor, VO Coach, Co-host: The State Of VO webinar

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About the talk

Our industry has a problem. Despite the fact that today’s American population is nearly 40% non-white, the voices we hear in the media – broadcast, animation, commercials, etc. – are still broadly white by default, largely due to legacy casting practices that date back to the mid-20th century. Our lack of progress has inspired many to break the “sonic color line” and eliminate the biases plaguing our industry. Tune in to hear from voice talent creative directors, and media executives as they discuss the evolution of the authentic voice in media, racial stereotypes in voice acting, the impact of race in audio ads, and how the industry can come together to make real change.

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Hello and welcome to Breaking the Sonic Halloween today on, join with actress iconic rapper, DJ and philanthropist MC Lyte and also would meet veteran of the voice acting industry and VP and co-founder of the Society of boys socks and Sciences during bake up. Welcome to you both and thank you for taking the time to have this really important conversation with us. My name is going to Grandma. When is Reza game and I'm the executive creative director of the SiriusXM app Pandora and Stitcher group. Now, that's a mouthful, I lead house to do your resume team which is out all your first

creative consultant fee. We partner with advertisers to bring their life Brands to life. Through Audio Snake is in a unique position over the past. 10 years was produced over a quarter of a million for your ass and Those ads hit the ears of about a hundred and fifty million listeners that we reach in the Pandora app SiriusXM at Stitcher audience. The advertising industry has a problem is a meteor of ways that we perpetuate racism in the way we write out ads. The way we address our audiences and in the audience place in particular, the voices. We engaged to bring out Brands to life

most notably. Despite the fact that the General market American Voice is made up of about 40% people of color. Unless an Advertiser is specifically targeting, a particular non-white audience was still off and presenting. Boat voices as the default? Why is this? Hopefully we can untangle some of this in our panel today at UT resonate with trying to do a pot and redefining advertising Industries, notion of the general American Voice to better, reflect the spectrum of voices. We hear in a community looking back at the first half of 2020 about 90% of the voice. Costing requests, we receive

didn't specify a race or ethnicity voice. Casting about 93% of those cases out white voices. Why it was a default? It was the industry standard and we didn't challenge it. We didn't want to rock the boat. Now in the wake of George Floyd's murder and the social Uprising that I followed, all of us, have done some evaluation in ways we can, we should be doing better for us that started the beginning of June of last year, we implemented a new costume policy that when no race or ethnicity specified in a client request. Again, 90% of those

requests, we now cost voices of color at least half the time. And guess what advertisers and audiences didn't bat an eyelash really? Isn't that revolutionary? We just needed that Joe to challenge an outdated way of thinking, but that's just the beginning to explain what we done by all about the clean shop and do better. We want to discuss the evolution of voice casting in racial stereotypes and voice texting and the impact of race in audio messaging and how the industry can come together to make them real changed. I'm honored to have these two powerful voices in the industry MC

Lyte and Rebecca to join me in for the conversation. So let's write in journal. One Stop with you. Can we just give me a little bit of your background and how you actually go into Voice work. Actually I got a divorce work because I could not get arrested on camera and that is because people would look at me and they would quite know what to do with me. They would always say, you know what? Exactly are you and in Show Business things, get put, you get Typecast. That's just how things are you get? Typed asked and I wasn't someone that you could Typecast easy. So and also being

biracial there, wasn't he? There is a history of kind of living in the in between it, especially in Show Business and not quite, you know, getting cash because you're not quite white, you're not quite black and no one knows what to do with you. Unless it's a very specific kind of role in which case you can't make a living, or you can't create a career around 1 roll. So I got into voice over because ironically, you couldn't tell who I was by my voice. You can't necessarily tell him. Tell him why you can't tell where I'm from and that was actually job

requirement. And being a successful voice after is that, you can't tell where the first is from, or their background. I got into voice over about 3 years ago, less than 30 years ago. So yes, the industry has evolved and changed but I could not get arrested on camera. So I somehow slipped into voice over without realizing it was even a career, but it was just another way for me to skin the cat and two and I was bound and determined to get a career in Show Business. That's really interesting. Thank you and see like, can you tell me how you got into

your voice? I hope I have a really good friend Malcolm-Jamal Warner who does a lot of books and he does a lot of waste over and I hit him up and 1997 or so. And I said hey can you tell me or share with me your agent and it was pretty rare cuz most people don't find some people who will share a large percentage, this won't even know any better. I didn't know any better. I'll just such a beautiful spirit. He was like right away. He gave it to me. And, and then when I spoke to the agent, and he said,

what why do you want to do voice over that? People tell me I have a nice voice and he was like, well what do you know? Like this is happening this weekend, and, and I took it at the end of it and he talked with the instructor and the instructor said they thought I had a lot. And, and yeah and it, it just really popped off from there. And I just think right into a couple of really big campaign and, you know, I just booked two commercials, which I've been doing a lot of voice over and stuff in award

shows, and ceremonies, and things of that nature. But it was a bit of another, you know, huge national campaign. And so I just want to say to all of those, all those folks out there that are interested in voiceover in and you go into the dark hole, you do this voice over and if you don't know how it's going to come back you don't know if the people ever heard it I just say Keep the Faith. Keep putting forth your best work and and know that it'll it'll pay off in the end. I just want to ask really is

industry that is behind the scenes. Most people don't let your chili or what's the most powerful way that you can get into the industry, get an agent, and thank you at work, so there's actually many ways, but there are powerful ways to do that, you're white or black. So I just want to say, I want to ride on your coattails there and say it's true. You know, you have to keep the faith. You have to train. You also have to train your voice. Your voice is an instrument. So voice over is not from the throat. It's actually a holistic experience.

It really is. It is I'd like to throw this next question to the both of you. What kind of berry is or challenges have you book with the title of color within the Voice work industry? This is it might be an assumption as sometimes that because as, as you mentioned jern, it's about working behind the scenes. It's not necessarily about the fuel face or what you look like, but it's definitely still part of other costing. Purses. I know voice of actors often has a web sites and there's some will choose to put a picture of themselves on their website. Some will choose

not to. Erica works and what other kind of battery is have have either of you seen or experienced in progressing within the industry. I will add to your website and invoice over unless you're famous. Right. Unless you're famous, you're going to put your picture on your website, which is fine. It's when you're breaking in or when you are in boys over and you don't quite yet, have clients people don't put their picture on because producers 10 to go to website and what happens as Bill sees someone like me and I go out, I really wasn't

looking for someone black or she's not edgy enough. He looks a little nerdy. So you don't put your picture on because you don't want to be tight casted through your voice. So what happens what producers like if they like to discover your voice they don't like to be told or shown. So if they're working on a project that go to your website they don't see your picture and they sure your your demo reel. All the sudden you might be the right person for this campaign because there was no visual to go along with it or to tell them how you

sound. Cuz I almost always say, oh my God, I wasn't looking for black or I wasn't looking for blonder, I wasn't looking for someone, you're overweight or fence, that's just part of show business too. So you don't want to give them that were there, looking at your website and they go, I am not sick, I don't want to hire her, I don't want to hire him. I was looking for something else. unless the basically, What you're saying is, don't use your face on your profile until your famous until you empty. Like

that is well, you know, because for some time, I was just like, you know what, maybe I won't sleep my name because I think you can also access insurance because a hip hop artist for this, but I think we need, these are given we're able to if you are trained. As Jones said, you're able to slip into another, you know, another skin. And I think that's what I forwarded me, the opportunity to work diligently with the image Awards. And when they took the pronoun, And

crew in which they were looking for a diverse production crew. So, Reginald hudlin. And his folks went in to do the Emmys this year, they pulled me in to do the video and I had to deliver a completely different voice for that particular show. So I just think that just because it's your Wards and I've also done BET Hip Hop Awards and urban appeal versus you know, straight lace but I do think as being MC Lyte. I too can get pigeonholed into what they think they're going to get. So

sometimes I do that doesn't say MC like just so that they can rid themselves of the notion of precursor or you know, to what they think is going to be. Yancy y a, I want to I want to focus answers to what you just said, just a little bit around, sounding Wall Street. All in a word used to describe. Sometimes, you get invoice directions to Urban or sound more black or sound one of her to recently. Use more blacks and that's a new word to me, if I have not heard that one before. But yeah, I saw that on a recent arrival

around that being used it in any direction. Like, I feel like it's coming from a place like bet or Hip Hop Awards. I can understand. It's a stylistic choice, but that can also be the same word used to describe a character, or a voice that could be really in a demeaning way, or in a way that makes wish I could feel real uncomfortable. Are looks on on that. In my lifetime. Never received something that set that I came into that on, you know, the description of what it was that they were looking for. But I

can say honestly I don't remember with bet in all of those, they don't have to say it. They already know what they're getting was MC. Lyte butt and two. I'm sure that my agency acts as a safe-haven sort of liaison to pass me, things that are right. And so I don't remember seeing Urban voice. I can kind of just I can through the copy, okay, I can tell through, you know, the corporation, the product. What are we working with here? And I can tell through the description of, this is more conversational distance and then they

ask for the ages. And then they might have black. They don't have black sent or they don't have the other day. The other day, I read for something and it said heavy, it said a female voice but then it likened it to Emma Stone and Angela Jolie but they still had me read for it. But it was an empty. You know, my voice it's really low and I imagine they're speaking voices, sit low as well. So you know, I'm as in a cell I would never like totally light-hearted. Yeah, I think you know it just depends if it's just like a prominent. If I'm in my regular time,

this is my voice and it, because I speak from the diaphragm, everybody thinks that when I speak like this, that I'm not feeling well, everything is let me tell you something, but I don't know. I'm always speaking, I will be speaking from my diaphragm and I'm always leaning on my Accords, so I have to really pay attention to speak in. This would be the natural Tone If I weren't. So lazy and sat down here with it, So, I don't know if you know, Emma. Other voices, speaking, speaking of

you ever have to kind of confirm, the sound of your voice kind of land opportunities, have you ever liked, has to make sure you had a default white boys part of your repertoire. Well, I think that I'm not sure if I would have interpreted that way, I, I may interpret it just as a train voice, not necessarily white or black voice that's trained. In other words training in encompasses, breath as MC Lyte with saying diaphragmatic breath. Is it necessarily natural soap? For kids, that

ships, everything becomes in your chest. So you almost have to relearn how to breathe, especially for voice over because the breath is everything. So, train your voice. I'd it encompasses even speech addiction to a certain degree because invoice over your. Your diction has to be better than the average person to speak. It has to sound natural and not So I'm not sure if I would interpret it as a white boys, as much as I would a train voice. Now, there is issues, there are issues with people when it

comes to train voice because as soon as a teacher and I've been training my voice for many many decades now. So if I study, will, I lose like another words, will you would be just developing another Branch to your tree and you'd be creating another Choice depending on the script but I'm not necessarily. So another words, we are auditioning for all kinds of Brands and this may now. But when you're auditioning brother for all kinds of global Brands, they usually want to

voice. That's kind of more. Or standard American speech although that is changing slowly. And so that's why you were trained is that you were trained your valves for example. So you wouldn't have issues. Like like there's this one issue called the is an inversion when you invert that sound is sound to a sound. So, for example, the word anytime, most people would say anytime and eat and most blacks mate may say that way more often than white. Anytime anywhere, you don't hear that on TV commercial. So when you see and hear

any any time, and it's almost like a foreign language because where we are so used to regionalism that when you become their friend at 2, Conversion this because you're trying to be more white. You're learning it be to develop your instrument. I love, I love the shooting and developing your, your instruments. I want to ask you, I know ask the In the past, several months. So, sorry, I think, without observe the shifting, entertainment industry, broadly,

where voice and voice over work particular, with the animation space, where we kind of thing, a long-overdue shift of the tolerance of white actor whose voicing non-white rolls, obviously race ethnicity and culture and located in just like, checkboxes in advertising. Sometimes I might ask a white puppy right at to write an ad in the voice of a black character for black. I'll be ready to ride at in the voice of the last next character. How do you think it's appropriate? Where, where should we be

looking to to which people should be allowed to tell, which stories. Well, I think it's definitely powerful to mixed racial background to voice animation world in the car. You know, they hire small a small group of talented with their voices. That's why they're actually, you know, famous and making $3,000 a week on the shows. It's because they can do all kinds of voices to whatever comes that are hiring. That they're feeling is more life. What's not broken? You don't have to

fix a huge. Huge kind of philosophy in show business. So this is so much money at stake that they usually just 10 to go to whites. Voiceover industry. No one knows that there are agents for sendoutcards for job. It's a, it's a black background, the character, but they'll send whites because he'll say to the people you can just do addition. No one will know if you book it to know and they are very white voices. The interesting thing is that what you just said? I

mean if you have someone who skilled and just can, you know he has a 5-6 maybe 11 voices in his wheelhouse it's like do you get that white guy? That knows how to do all of those things or do you get the black guy because he black? I do. I don't know. I don't know how to bring a bunch of things to the table. What has cartoons have been? Is that is in Walt Disney did all the characters? Who is cartoon voices, before it started going out to voice actress of me. It's just the way it's

been set up, but what I do think, is that thing about being directed? There is definitely an issue. It's not like it's not the same. If I go to France and I learn how to speak French and I learned how to become more or less French. It's like there's this background to Black that cannot be imitated and it started with slavery and it started with the suppression of being black and when you have with that is the history, you can't do this. This is our ancestors

will be on a French person. I know it's not in our souls. Something that you can direct it comes out of us naturally and it doesn't matter if my voice sounds Bourbon and you can tell I'm black or not. There's plenty of these people in voice-over dark-skinned and they're told they're not black. In terms of their voices would be a different conversation. If this was 50 years down the track, a 50 sounds horribly long but like And we're in a world where the, you know, the pool of voice actors is more Equitable and actually looks

like the makeup of the country. If it doesn't look like everyone is white and has a small amount of people of color. Once we get to the point where we have representation across the board. And I do voice acting at all levels. As produces as direct as managers Aspirus. Then this conversation shift and then this conversation, I think we'll move into it at Direction. When when anyone can start playing anybody, I know we're coming to the end of a decision in the running out of time. I'd love to continue this conversation. I'm thank you both so much as a really meaningful

conversation and it needs to be had as and I'd love to continue this. If you enjoy this isn't you like to continue this conversation. I want you to direct you guys to our newly launched industry initiative to stand to Sonic diversity. We want to make meaningful change in our industry to be more inclusive when it comes to the Places that we hear visit us at stand for the Sonic diversity.com girls are going to start up a clubhouse room right off the Des, please join our club house room for Society, for sound thinking where we'll be talking about the specific subject. So I thank you again,

both of you for your time and I hope everyone had had a good time. Listening to this conversation and you so much. Thank you, thank you. Thank you for having me.

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MC L Lyte
Roger Sho Gehrmann
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