Serge is a fresh, reliable and authentic professional. He’s worked with Domino’s Pizza, Axe, Google, Disney, Audi, LG, Mentos, Pringles, Dannon, Knex, Qatar Airways, Siemens, Exxon Mobil and more. Even with his extensive corporate client list, Serge loves working with smaller, local brands, too; and with all of his projects, expect a quick and quality turnaround. Serge is also a lifelong learner–he works with the best of the best VO coaches like Nancy Wolfson to keep his VO skills sharp.
Currently living in Budapest, Serge works from his broadcast quality home studio with access to Source-Connect and other remote connection tools. For a sound that’s equal parts intriguing and inspiring, book the one and only Serge De Marre today.
Listen to the full epidotes in our Podcast:
Mike Aiton: Hello and welcome to Source Elements ‘On the Mic’ with Mike Aiton. And today my special guest is Serge- Well just how do you pronounce your surname?
Serge De Marre: Yeah, so I’m Belgian, I’m Flemish and in Flemish, we would say Serge De Marre.
Mike Aiton: Serge De Marre?
Serge De Marre: Yeah, you’re doing quite a good job actually.
Mike Aiton: Thank you.
Serge De Marre: Because usually, English-speaking people are like, whenever I go to go to Starbucks and I say, Serge, they’re like, “What? What’s your name?” So I let people know that you can pronounce it any way you want. You can say, Sergei, Serge, Serge De Marre. So yeah, sounds good to me.
Mike Aiton: Serge De Marre. Right, that sounds very transatlantic right.
Serge De Marre: Fancy. It does, yeah.
Mike Aiton: Okay. And you live in Budapest, in Hungary?
Serge De Marre: I do.
Mike Aiton: What’s the weather like there today?
Serge De Marre: It’s a little bit grey. The weather was nice over the past few weeks, and it was quite sunny, quite warm, but it’s definitely autumn or fall has started here in Budapest.
Mike Aiton: Yes, the shadows are getting longer.
Serge De Marre: Yeah, yeah.
Mike Aiton: The night is drawing in and all that jazz.
Serge De Marre: I hate it but it is what it is.
Mike Aiton: Okay. So we’re going to start with our Quick Fire question round, which we call ‘Which flavor Source’ which is a quick fire questions, and you get three to five seconds to answer. And if you want to have two answers, be my guest. You’ve got three to five seconds on each one. So Serge?
Serge De Marre: Yes.
Mike Aiton: Here you go, fingers on buttons, no conferring, bonus round. And what is your favorite biscuit or cookie?
Serge De Marre: Wow, that’s so difficult. Speculaas which is a Biscoff cookie.
Mike Aiton: Yes, I know Speculaas.
Serge De Marre: Yeah, yeah, that’s absolutely my favorite.
Mike Aiton: Yeah, me too. Favorite book?
Serge De Marre: Oh, ‘Born a Crime’ by Trevor Noah. He is great and his book is even better.
Mike Aiton: I’m a huge Trevor Noah fan, I love his accents. I have bought his book and I haven’t read it because I’ve been told the podcast version of it or the spoken book is so much better because he does all the accents in it.
Serge De Marre: Yeah.
Mike Aiton: Okay. Next question, starter or pudding?
Serge De Marre: Pudding.
Mike Aiton: Oh, Mac or PC?
Serge De Marre: Mac.
Mike Aiton: Ah, that was quick. Analog or digital recording?
Serge De Marre: Digital recording.
Mike Aiton: Okay, when you listen to music, do you prefer vinyl or CDs?
Serge De Marre: I don’t have either. I’d say vinyl.
Mike Aiton: Okay. Do you play a musical instrument?
Serge De Marre: Not anymore, I used to. I used to play the piano when I was a kid but I didn’t like it anymore at one point and I stopped playing it so but I’m now, yeah, I should have kept going on. But yeah, that’s a different story.
Mike Aiton: What’s the most recent music that you purchased?
Serge De Marre: Do we still purchase music?
Mike Aiton: Well, that’s the question,
Serge De Marre: Right. Oh, my God, that I cannot remember. Oh, it must be a One Republic album because I’m a huge One Republic fan.
Mike Aiton: Okay. And what’s the most recent software that you purchased?
Serge De Marre: Source-Connect.
Mike Aiton: Ah, you’re a man of taste. It’s not a trick question by the way.
Serge De Marre: Right.
Mike Aiton: Who’s the most famous person you have met?
Serge De Marre: That’s also a tough one but I would say, Phil Collins.
Mike Aiton: Oh, go on then, spill the beans. What was Phil like?
Serge De Marre: So I met him like somewhere in the early 2000s. And he is a super great, nice guy. He’s just- yeah, he was wonderful. I was working as a sound engineer for a Belgian reality show and they were going to Disneyland in Paris for ‘Brother Bear’ the movie, for the premiere or something. And Phil Collins was there and they got to meet the family, got to meet for this reality show, they got to meet Phil Collins and I was there as a sound engineer, so I got to meet him too. So yeah, that was awesome.
Mike Aiton: I’ve done a fullback mix for him on Top of the Pops once back in my youth.
Serge De Marre: Oh, wow, that’s so cool.
Mike Aiton: It was quite hard work actually that day, I’m telling you it was his best day.
Serge De Marre: Yeah, oh.
Mike Aiton: But anyway, we’ll move swiftly on from that one. But it’s shame because I’m a huge Genesis fan but early Genesis especially. Mountains or beaches for a holiday?
Serge De Marre: A bit of both.
Mike Aiton: Good answer.
Serge De Marre: Can I say that?
Mike Aiton: Yes, totally. Preferred headphones?
Serge De Marre: The Bayer dynamics DT 770 Pros, yeah love those.
Mike Aiton: Preferred weekend, city break or countryside?
Serge De Marre: City break.
Mike Aiton: Do you have a most hated colloquial phrase?
Serge De Marre: It’s probably in Dutch then I guess, in Flemish.
Mike Aiton: Fire away for our Dutch listeners.
Serge De Marre: Going to be something like absolute, which is just a stop word, I guess, absolute which means definitely.
Mike Aiton: In the same way as totally?
Serge De Marre: Totally, yeah, totally, absolutely.
Mike Aiton: Yeah. What’s the last film you watched?
Serge De Marre: The last film I watched was? I cannot remember Mike.
Mike Aiton: Haven’t seen the new James Bond then yet?
Serge De Marre: I haven’t seen it yet, no, no. It’s in theaters here in- I guess it’s dumped in Hungarian and I don’t speak Hungarian.
Mike Aiton: They don’t subtitle?
Serge De Marre: They don’t do that, no, I don’t think so. I’ll have to go somewhere abroad and watch it.
Mike Aiton: What famous person alive or dead would you most enjoy a night out with? Apart from Phil Collins?
Serge De Marre: Right. Does he or she have to be famous or not?
Mike Aiton: No. Well, yes because that’s what famous person, alive or dead?
Serge De Marre: Yeah, okay.
Mike Aiton: Can’t say your granny because they’re not famous, I’m sure she’s lovely.
Serge De Marre: I think I’d say Ryan Tedder from One Republic. Not just because I love his music, but just because he’s written so much music. I wonder how he does that write music and hits actually. I’m sure he has a formula and I would love to know that.
Mike Aiton: Is there anyone you would have liked or have liked to record or work with?
Serge De Marre: In voiceover I guess?
Mike Aiton: In whatever genre, whether you do?
Serge De Marre: Whatever genre?
Mike Aiton: Yeah, whatever you do. If that’s your work, then yes.
Serge De Marre: That’s my work.
Mike Aiton: Because quite a lot of voiceovers people also do on camera as well, so?
Serge De Marre: Yeah, true. No, I don’t do on camera.
Mike Aiton: Are you like me, great face for radio?
Serge De Marre: Oh, no, I’m a model, I’m beautiful. People should put me in front of a camera. I mean, it’s a shame. I’m behind a mic.
Mike Aiton: Is this the point where I go, absolutely.
Serge De Marre: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely, yeah, totally. I think that’s a tough question as well. I have a lot of people that I look up to, but not like, like a star dumb ish thingy thing, I guess, yeah.
Mike Aiton: Do you have a favorite actor or indeed a favorite voice actor you choose?
Serge De Marre: I have tremendous admiration for the people that work for ‘The Simpsons’. I love that show. It’s just mind-blowing how they do all those voices, how they are so witty and fun and it’s- Yeah, so if I could meet the team of The Simpsons, love that, and work with them, yes.
Mike Aiton: Okay, cool. So let’s talk a bit about you now. We’ve discussed you’re based in Hungary. May I ask what took you to Hungary from Belgium?
Serge De Marre: That is quite a long story. So I started out in radio in 2004. I had my own radio show that some- no actually earlier than that, 2000/2004 I had my own radio show and national radio in Belgium, until 2010. And my husband’s work decided to move him from Belgium to the United States for his work. And so we moved to the United States,
Mike Aiton: How terribly frightful of them>
Serge De Marre: Right. We lived in DC for two years, then moved to Texas. Oh, my God, Texas, lived there for eight years and moved to Budapest in July 2020. Mid pandemic decided to move him from Texas to Budapest
Mike Aiton: Mid pandemic?
Serge De Marre: Yeah, that was just, it was very interesting. So yeah, we’ve been living in Budapest now for a year and a half because of his work.
Mike Aiton: Presumably you’re freelance rather than employed?
Serge De Marre: True.
Mike Aiton: And you have your own studio? We’ll discuss the gubbins in your studio, maybe slightly later. Do you work in other studios at all apart from your own?
Serge De Marre: Not anymore. I used to when we lived in the United States, back before I bought my booth once in a while clients would actually prefer to have me in a professional setting. But right now, no, I just only work from home, I don’t go to studios.
Mike Aiton: Do you have a preferred studio that you’ve ever worked in?
Serge De Marre: Most of the studios in the Netherlands are amazing. Not because of the studio itself but the people are so friendly in the Netherlands. And the first time you meet them they feel like friends, they’re very friendly and very, ‘hey, how are you doing? Welcome. And it’s so nice to have you’.
Mike Aiton: [Speaks in Dutch]
Serge De Marre: Amsterdam. And they also have the tradition in the Netherlands, they have like a kitchen lady, someone who cooks lunch, makes lunch for you with sandwiches and whatever you want. And they always said to me when I drove from Belgium to the Netherlands for a recording session back in the day, it was like, “Hey, do you stay for lunch?” And I was like, oh my god, this is amazing. And then we had a nice chat over lunch at that company and the kitchen lady, the cook basically was there around to serve you and it was just amazing, I loved it.
Mike Aiton: So you end up building a relationship because they’ve put in the infrastructure to allow relationship-building to happen?
Serge De Marre: Yeah, absolutely.
Mike Aiton: That’s very clever actually.
Serge De Marre: Yeah, and it’s very fun because all the people at that company have lunch at the same time. So it creates a bond.
Mike Aiton: And also it forces people to have a sort of implied work break as well, rather than, yeah, we’ll just have a sandwich over our keyboards?
Serge De Marre: Right, yeah, I do love that.
Mike Aiton: Which is healthy.
Serge De Marre: I’m sure it is.
Mike Aiton: How would you describe your job to those who know the industry? Describe yourself in 30 seconds?
Serge De Marre: I just love what I do. I wish I could just be behind the mic more because most of the work is actually finding clients, negotiating with them on fees and timing and etcetera, etcetera. And then you get into your booth, record everything, well fairly quickly edit and send it out. It’s interesting, too because I used to think- I think a lot of people think that it’s you’re in your recording studio all the time, but basically, you’re not. I think it only takes up like 40% of the time, the actual recording, maybe less.
Mike Aiton: There’s the old commonly quoted adage that, being freelance is 95% sales and 5% performance.
Serge De Marre: Yeah, yeah, it is.
Mike Aiton: How would you describe your job to someone who doesn’t know your industry particularly well?
Serge De Marre: I would use very simple words, me behind a microphone, recording the voice for a commercial, the voiceover for a commercial or e-learning, or web videos. And like, “Oh, I never realized there was someone actually doing that.” I mean, I get the questions a lot, because my husband’s work is in a different sector. And most of the people just don’t understand what I do and I have to simplify everything and tell them and explain. Oh, that sounds so much fun, they say, “Do you actually do voices for animation and movies as well?” I’m like, “no, not really”. Oh, okay, then they’re kind of disappointed.
Mike Aiton: I find that when you meet someone, if I say to someone, oh, I make sound for film and TV. And they go, “Oh, okay, what films have you mixed that I’ve seen? Or what TV shows?” And that, well, because I’ve been at it for 40 years, I can reel off a list of things I’ve probably seen, you know, I used to work for the BBC, and then had a career in Soho. But it’s interesting how members of the public tend to instantly think, so have you won a BAFTA? When someone says to me, “Oh, I’m a marketing director”. “Really want any awards? Have you’ve got any campaigns that we’ve ever heard of?” People don’t ask that question of non-creative non-creative people, how many billions have you made? No, no.
Serge De Marre: True.
Mike Aiton: There’s plenty of work that doesn’t win awards that’s really good that people do.
Serge De Marre: Absolutely.
Mike Aiton: And people’s only yardstick of measurement is an award. I have a friend who’s a composer and people always say to him, “So when am I going to see your name on one of the film credits?” And his answer is always “Well when are you going to write that award-winning book? You know, when you’re going to win a Pulitzer Prize? You keep talking about your novel”
Serge De Marre: Right.
Mike Aiton: It’s a hard climb and you’re applying a very hard measurement to me.
Serge De Marre: Yeah, definitely. But I think it’s because people, especially the audio sector, is like, people don’t see it. They don’t realize it’s there, because they don’t see it they only hear it. And voice is actually or sound or music is actually very- well it’s ingrained in our lives so we don’t think about it I guess that’s the thing. And that’s probably our jobs as well to make it- let me put it this way. If the regular public says like, “Huh there is something with that music”, that’s probably not a good sign usually because then there’s something wrong. So our work has to be-
Mike Aiton: I’ve always found it akin to being a defender on a football team, that you never win the match but you could easily lose it.
Serge De Marre: Right.
Mike Aiton: When it when it’s right no one notices.
Serge De Marre: True.
Mike Aiton: When it’s wrong people notice. In the same way, yeah, I find when I’m watching a film or a drama, if it’s good, I’m sucked into the script, and I just become a viewer. If the script is not very good, I start going, “Yeah, I’m not sure about the reverbs on the ADR. Did I hear that?” My mind starts wandering and you start applying professional measurement to things.
Serge De Marre: Very true.
Mike Aiton: So let’s talk about your background now. So you mentioned you had a national radio station show. So how did you start in the industry take us back to the very beginnings?
Serge De Marre: Well, the very beginning I had a boyfriend, we broke up and I was miserable and I was- this is back in 1999 or 2000 or something. And I was behind my computer chatting with someone on I think it was ICQ or MSN back in the day, which he was an old school- well, not really a friend but an acquaintance I’d say I guess. And he was working at a local radio station and he was like, “You know what you need to get out of the house. Why don’t you come with me to my radio show and just sit, we’ll do the radio show I’ll do.” He would do the radio show, I’d just visit him. I was like, “Yeah, sure, okay, sounds fun”, because I’d always liked radio. And then when his show was done, he was like, “okay, we’re going to put everything, the whole soundboard off-air and you’re going to sit behind the mic and we’re going to record something just for fun.” “Oh, yeah, fun, okay.” So he recorded everything on MiniDisc. It was quite fun. And it ended up that mini disc on the station manager’s desk. And a couple of weeks later, he was like, “Hey, I really liked that. And we have a spot opening up would you mind doing a show here?” And I was like, “Sure, okay.” So that’s how I started.
Mike Aiton: Wow. So you had a kind friend who actually was unkind to you by throwing your demo, accidental demo onto the station manager’s desk, kindly.
Serge De Marre: And I’m sure it was really bad, it was really bad. But they thought it was amazing and it was like, “Oh, we don’t have anyone else so let’s put him on the air.”
Mike Aiton: They must have seen something they wouldn’t have asked otherwise, you’re very humble. So you started having a regular radio show?
Serge De Marre: Yeah.
Mike Aiton: What followed on from that?
Serge De Marre: Well, so yeah, then I was like, “Oh, I’m the big man, I have my own radio show”. No, I’m exaggerating, but it was kind of like that. And then I wanted to go from this local small radio station to the next step to a national radio station. So I just basically started recording demos for the station manager of the national radio station. And I think I just sent him like, demos every month. This was on CD, or MD, the internet was way too slow back in the day. It was kind of the same thing, at some point, they needed someone and they were like, yeah, he’s probably- he’s okay-ish.
Mike Aiton: Right time, right place, right opportunity?
Serge De Marre: Right, it was that. It took like six to twelve months before they actually said, “Well, you know, what, we do have a spot opening up, we need someone and you seem like a trustworthy guy, you show up on time to the radio station, and let’s just do it”. And that’s how I started at the national radio station, just filling in for other people, and then growing my way, and then after a couple of years, they were like, “Okay, you’re ready for your own show right now.” And, yeah, so that’s what I did, basically,
Mike Aiton: I mean, presumably, you must be quite aware, as a radio presenter, because it’s a slightly different job to being a voice actor. And as a radio presenter, you have to have a distinct personality, that’s you that effectively you’re cultivating and you have to be very self-aware of how your audience is reacting. And presumably try and modify, change or adapt or learning how to communicate to a large audience effectively.
Serge De Marre: Yeah.
Mike Aiton: Talk me through that a bit?
Serge De Marre: Yeah, it’s very interesting as well, because I mean, I listened back to demos from the 2000s, when I was working for the local radio station and was like, it sounds really bad, it’s not good. And I sound so robotic. And so pushing on my voice, and it doesn’t sound like a good show host or DJ or whatever you call it. And I had to learn that, I had to learn to read off of a script, where you’re not supposed to sound like you’re reading it, you need to try to connect to the listener. And that’s what I learned all those years, that reading a script, that you have to sound conversational like you’re talking to a friend.
Mike Aiton: Because you’re talking to someone you know, who’s relatable?
Serge De Marre: I love being alone in that radio studio because then I’d feel like no one’s listening to me. There’s just this one person somewhere, I had this in my mind, this one person sitting in his car or whatever, at home and he’s listening or she’s listening to the radio. And that’s the person I’m talking to, that’s how I actually imagined it.
Mike Aiton: That’s your visualization.
Serge De Marre: Yeah. And it’s very interesting, because once a year with that radio station, we went to the beach in some kind of beach house where we made radio for two months, and people could visit us and that always kind of stressed me out. I was like, “Oh, so many people are coming to visit us,” and they were able to come into the studio while you were doing your radio show. And that was always a little bit, certainly, in the beginning, the first couple of weeks, was kind of stressful, because, “Oh my god, people are actually listening to me”.
Mike Aiton: The harsh realization of reality.
Serge De Marre: Yes, yeah.
Mike Aiton: Did you relax then effectively on these outside broadcasts over time sort of thing? I presume it gave you more familiarity with being out and about and presumably when you’re doing an outside broadcast in a beach house, then you’re getting a lot more external input than you do in a dark studio on your own or with a studio manager helping you?
Serge De Marre: Correct. I also figured out that a lot of the listeners, the people that came and visited us, they didn’t hear the mistakes that I thought I made. So it gave me more self-confidence, I guess like people were just, “Oh, it’s so good to see you and I love your show or love this or whatever”. And then you were like, “Yeah, but that show, the show I just did or two days ago or whatever, or when I said that or that, it wasn’t good, that show was really bad”. And they were like, “Oh, yeah, I love this, this and that.” So yeah, it was very good, actually.
Mike Aiton: Because in the same way, when you’re talking to a friend, they don’t say, “Hmm, what you said was quite interesting but technically you used a subjunctive before an adjective and you shouldn’t do that, it’s grammatically incorrect.” No one cares, people know, people just keep communicating with me and I like what you’re saying.
And you’re probably right. And then again, if you do not make any mistakes at all, and speak properly, and grammatically correct, etcetera, then it probably well people are going to notice and they’ll be like, “You sound robotic, you don’t sound real.
Mike Aiton: Nobody listens to radio Jesus, who’s perfect.
Serge De Marre: Mike, we’re figuring everything out here. Oh, my God, this is so philosophic, I guess.
Mike Aiton: So moving on from your national radio show, what made you veer off from doing live radio shows into the world of voiceover?
Serge De Marre: I’ve always been intrigued by voiceover and I wanted to start doing that also because well especially if you’re doing the national commercials in Belgium at least, or voiceover for TV shows, then it pays quite well, I mean, compared to radio, I guess. So. I wanted to do that and I found it very, very interesting and fun to do that. I bluffed my way into it, actually. So I contacted a national TV station, a niche station for women. I wanted to really work for that TV station as a voiceover for their TV shows. And they were like, “oh, yeah, we need someone” again, the right person at the right time. They asked, “Well, yeah, we need someone to do the voice”
Mike Aiton: I’m picking up a common thread there that you’re very persistent?
Serge De Marre: You have to be.
Mike Aiton: And it’s about if you don’t keep knocking, you’ll never be at the right time?
Serge De Marre: Yeah, I do believe that. If you really want something just work towards it and keep knocking on that door and someone will answer it one day, yeah, I totally believe that.
Mike Aiton: People keep asking me, how did I get into the BBC? And I’ll happily tell them. But I’m the last television sound trainee the BBC ever took on and I’m 55 now so it was a while ago, back in the late 80s. And I always say to them, almost, without wanting to be a cliché, if you kind of need to ask the question, you’ll never know the answer because the answer is, you’ll find your way, I found my words. And my way was just, I saw an advert when I was in university and they wanted a trainee sound engineer. And I thought, that was my dream job, I’ve always joined the BBC and applied, and didn’t do my chemistry homework, you know,
Serge De Marre: I really believe that if you’re- of course, you do have to have some talents. And you have to be reliable, and you have to show up, etcetera, etcetera. But if you really want something and you work towards that and you try to improve yourself, etcetera, etcetera, then people will see your value, I guess. And that’s what they did at the TV station as well. They asked me, “Have you ever done voiceover for a TV show?” And I said, “Yes, of course, I have.” I had done that for like a local TV station before but I didn’t have quite the experience but I just bluffed my way in and that’s how it took off. And then from there and moving on to other work as well.
Mike Aiton: It’s radio with pictures.
Serge De Marre: Yeah, it is very easy.
Mike Aiton: Okay, so you got a job doing voice to picture at the TV station, the women’s TV station, interesting choice?
Serge De Marre: Yeah, they wanted a male voice for older women.
Mike Aiton: And from there on?
Serge De Marre: Well, so I was then able to use that name of the TV station which was like I said, a national TV station, a smaller niche station, but I was able to use that name, I am working for that TV station. And next, I want to do this and contact, casting directors and producers and production companies etcetera. And then you just have to contact a lot of people. And at some point again, there is someone who will say, “Okay, we need someone right now. Can you come over? Can you do it for us?” I’m like, “Sure I can do this.” And then that’s how you continue your work, it’s at a slow pace but yeah.
Mike Aiton: One thing leads to the next and you keep going up a tier sort of going at a tangent?
Serge De Marre: Yeah. At some point, I remember voicing a radio commercial for an album of a Belgian artist musician, and that was then the next thing that I could use as some sort of demo for other commercials. Like, “Hey, I did this for this Belgian artist, I voiced his radio commercial.” And then yeah, that’s how you grow up or you jump up actually, basically. Each time you just use all that work that you did before.
Mike Aiton: So as you’re sort of progressing and moving along, it sounds like a lot of what you’ve done is been sort of, learned on the job effectively with sort of either sort of mentorship via, like your original contact in the radio station, or on the job experience. Would you like to have done any more academic sort of learning? Or do you use other vehicles of learning like the internet, for instance?
Serge De Marre: I would like to say, however, that I did not really learn everything on the job. It’s not that I couldn’t do anything at all, and just bluffed my way in, I mean, there was some kind of talent, I believe already there, and some kind of knowledge from working with video and audio. And then I just wanted to go up to the next level. In Belgium, there isn’t really like a school to learn, not back in the day, probably these days, there is some school that will teach you how to do voiceover, I’m sure in Belgium, I guess. I do a lot of coaching. I try to go online find, not really YouTube, but go to the specialists, the coaches, read a lot of their blogs, just have a one on ones with them. Zoom casts with several people, not only in Belgium, or the Netherlands, but also worldwide with people in the UK and people in the United States.
Mike Aiton: So you’re quite engaged with the rest of the community sort of in either passing on what you’ve learned or learning off other people and gaining experience?
Serge De Marre: Yeah. And it’s, it’s not like you want to copy what they are doing, but more like, stealing ideas or just using their ideas. “Oh, that’s a very good idea. I’m going to use this and see if this works for me, I think this one would work for me.” And if you go to different coaches, you can pick different things from them and create your own kind of, I don’t know how to say that, but just your own thing.
Mike Aiton: Your own secret sauce.
Serge De Marre: Yeah, that’s it, yeah.
Mike Aiton: That’s pretty much how I learned when I was at the BBC. I picked 120 very talented people in the department, went around, and picked the best of each. In each genre found what can I learn from this person, what can I learn off this person and you mold the lot, you take the cream off everyone sort of thing and mold it together, and then cook it up, making my own party, my own nonsense of how I do things. And I think that’s a good way of learning.
Serge De Marre: Absolutely. And I’m sure of the way I do it as well, I watch commercials online or when I’m watching TV and listen to what those voiceovers are actually doing. And I’m sure you do the same, right, with editing. You’re like, “oh, this is so interesting, how they did this. I’m going to try and replicate that or spin my own way on this or just make it my own.”
Mike Aiton: I think that if you have a creative bone in your body, you’re constantly absorbing via osmosis. And, there’s the cliché that originality is undiscovered plagiarism. I kind of don’t 100% agree with that but I do agree with it in terms of, there’s a philosophical question that has every photograph, or every sort of photograph ever being taken, and we’re just merely replicating, maybe? But as someone who has a hobby of photography, I find, I don’t care. If I see something that I like, I absorb it, and it gets filtered through my lack of personality and my lack of imagination, and I apply my own stamp to it and do my thing. And if it makes me feel good when I do it, then good on me, it doesn’t matter if I’m interpreting someone else. Could you argue that Ravel and all these other great composers merely just have absorbed Bach and Mozart and spat it out? Well, yes, well done.
Serge De Marre: Yeah, probably
Mike Aiton: And the problem with that is? Yeah, I think absorption is a really strong thing, I think and there’s always something to learn from absolutely everyone. I remember as quite actually quite an inexperienced sound mixer I would often- the guy who was making tea or as a runner would come in. And if I was unsure of something I’d say, “Have you got a minute?” and he’d go, “Yeah”. I’d say, “Sit down just a minute, watch this scene and see what you think.” And he sometimes will give me some feedback and go, “Oh, I was expecting to hear this or didn’t like hearing that”, and I went, “Okay, that’s a good idea. I hadn’t thought of that” or, “Okay, interesting perspective as a stranger to the occurrence”. Everyone everywhere has got something to give, I’m a big believer in that.
Serge De Marre: Yeah, same here, I agree. That’s how you do it I guess, you just absorb as much as you can and try to make it your own secret sauce as you said, it’s so well, yeah. And I think coaches in general, are there to point out the things that you do not notice or see.
Mike Aiton: Yes.
Serge De Marre: Because of course, we’re all blind in some way, I guess we see things but we don’t see everything. And I think coaches are there to like, point things out, “Hey, did you see this?” “Oh, no, I didn’t, that’s interesting. Let me try and use that.”
Mike Aiton: Yes. If you keep doing this, you’ll never go hungry. I was watching something last night where someone was explaining how to do vibrato on string bends on the guitar. And he went, “Never do vibrato until you’ve finished the bend, then apply variety”. He said, “That’s how you that’s how you’ll pay for your sandwiches.”
Serge De Marre: Yeah, and we need sandwiches right?
Mike Aiton: Absolutely.
Serge De Marre: We need those.
Mike Aiton: So what do you enjoy the most in your job?
Serge De Marre: I like the actual recording, being in my studio, and being creative. When a client, for example, sends me a script and a video of a commercial and then I can start the creative process, try stuff out, try it a couple of times. Like how can I put the script? How can I voice this script in a way that it’s still intriguing and that it makes sense? And that I can still get it within like the 20 seconds or 10 seconds or however long it may be? I really like that process. That’s just, yeah.
Mike Aiton: There’s a kind of rush to it sort of thing, it’s a sense of fulfillment?
Serge De Marre: Yeah, it is, yeah, there is absolutely. And then when you’re finished, usually when I record stuff, I give like three options to the client, like I have this version, this version, this version. And then yeah, it’s up to the client, they can pick whichever version they like. And then when it’s finished, the audio engineer goes over it obviously. And then it’s just, not every commercial but when it’s done well, that gives me like a real fulfillment like, “Okay, this is so nice, this is an amazing project and I was able to, to lift this project up to the next level and we all did.” It’s like teamwork, right? We all did our best and it’s just we made something great.
Mike Aiton: We all, communally scored a goal, yeah.
Serge De Marre: Yeah.
Mike Aiton: So what would you like to do more of? And indeed, less of in your career?
Serge De Marre: You mean, like the type of work or?
Mike Aiton: Either, anything? What’s your instant reaction to that question?
Serge De Marre: I do not like, well, I’m okay with everything I do right now, basically. But I mean, if I had to pick, I would prefer to be in the studio recording material, much more than I do right now. And, I’m self-employed, it’s just me and I need to think about oh, yeah, I need to be on social media, I need to post something because it’s been like two, three days, or sometimes even two weeks since I’ve posted something or.
Mike Aiton: That yawning chasm of three days without a post, yeah,
Serge De Marre: Right. But I mean, it’s quite important if you want to keep working to be active on social media and contact your clients, or, networking, whatever. And sometimes I don’t have the time or I forget, or I’m not in the mood. And that’s actually something that I would love to hand over to someone but I’m not sure if that’s really realistic. Also the administrative stuff, like invoicing and that’s just yeah, very repetitive, and it’s just.
Mike Aiton: So less of the business and more of the creative you’d like to change the ratio?
Serge De Marre: Yeah, absolutely.
Mike Aiton: And what sort of work would you like to do more of if you could have a choice?
Serge De Marre: I really like doing movie trailers.
Mike Aiton: You’re the first voice actor I’ve asked, who said that. Most people go animation, which that seems to be everyone’s goal. But interesting, movie trailers, okay.
Serge De Marre: Yeah, movie trailers and commercials
Mike Aiton: Tell me why?
Serge De Marre: Animation really intrigues me but it’s, I’m not there yet. I would love to do some more of it but I’m not sure if it’s really my thing.
Mike Aiton: Yes.
Serge De Marre: But the voiceover for commercials and movie trailers, that’s something I’m really- I’m going to be very blunt here, I’m really good at it, I think.
Mike Aiton: Yeah, okay.
Serge De Marre: And I love to do that, I just love it. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of movie trailers in Flemish or in Dutch that need voices over so they need fewer voiceovers for Hollywood trailers these days as well. They try to use fewer voices
Mike Aiton: The Hollywood version, I suppose.
Serge De Marre: Yeah.
Mike Aiton: The one thing everyone in Holland is extremely guilty of, apart from having great biscuits is they all speak English.
Serge De Marre: They do yeah.
Mike Aiton: So it’s funny because a lot of Dutch people that I speak to have always seemed to have an American accent because they’ve had so they’ve learned so much of their English from American TV.
Serge De Marre: Yeah, it’s interesting. When I was younger, at school, we learned UK English. But then you watch US English all the time, American English on TV. And then I moved to the United States, lived there for 10 years. I’m actually a US resident and I’m going to return to the United States. So I think I have an American accent for a little bit.
Mike Aiton: There’s a twang in there somewhere, I’m sure you know, being in Texas has rubbed off on you somehow yeah, like it or not?
Serge De Marre: People don’t think I’m from Texas, however, I’m not that- my accent isn’t really Texan accent.
Mike Aiton: No the strongest thing I hear is the Flemish accent.
Serge De Marre: You do?
Serge De Marre: I do hear it yes.
Serge De Marre: Okay, that’s interesting, that’s fun.
Mike Aiton: My ex-wife’s Dutch so I’m quite attuned to the sort of the dynamics of spoken Dutch,
Serge De Marre: Right. Yeah, yeah, you’re probably right, the dynamics are still there. I mean, I’m Belgian and I’m a Flemish, so yeah. So I think that the whole influence is there. So the Flemish influence is there, and then the UK English, from when I went to school and then the US English from TV and music and actually living in the United States. So I think I’m a good mix for international stuff.
Mike Aiton: Yes. And I have to say I admire the way you say the local version of Budapest, rather than Budapest as we say, in England, but we’re terrible in English. And 99% of the time, if you say it in English you’re wrong.
Serge De Marre: So true.
Mike Aiton: But we try and take the moral high ground and lose.
Serge De Marre: Vienna, is (?Viennan) in Dutch and in Hungarian, it has a totally different name as well. It’s Becs or something back. It’s B, E, C, S, yeah. Who would recognize that right?
Mike Aiton: Wow, I’d no idea, got me there. So what advice would you have for the next generation who might be starting out in their career or looking to start out in their career?
Serge De Marre: I think it’s getting tougher and tougher to be successful and get into voiceover or voice acting since there’s much more competition in the last 10 years, I guess. I believe that you start networking- first believe in yourself, if you really want to do something, just go for it and start networking, be nice to people and be helpful. And I think that’s the most important thing and try to learn as much as you can from other people. And I’m like that too. If new voice talent, email me or call me or whatever and they asked me for help I do help them with whatever they need, as far as I can help them, obviously but if only if they’re nice to me. Sometimes people are just like, “Hey, I’m a student, and please voice this for me for free”. I’m like, “No, not going to do that.”
Mike Aiton: Yeah, I’ve had people who write to me and say, “I’m doing a Ph.D., or I’m doing, my undergraduate projects in blah, blah, and I want to find out this, this, this, this and this”. And I kind of go “Okay”. But they want me to write it for them and I kind of go, “I’m not doing your work for you. I’m happy to help and happy to give you ideas but I’m not going to do it for you. It’s your research, not mine. I’ve already mucked up my career, I don’t need to muck up yours.”
Serge De Marre: Yeah. And I do want to do that but only if people are just- it needs to be the whole package. If you’re going into this business, and you’re someone who’s not friendly or who’s not, like on time or not, you do not know how to communicate well then you’re in the wrong business, I guess.
Mike Aiton: I think those are the 101’s really. If you can’t be nice to people the basic then they’re going to be autistic about your behavior. Sorry I said, autistic rather than artistic. Then you know you’re in the wrong job and you’ve just got to learn to be nice to people it’s the only way.
Serge De Marre: Yeah, I have students contacting me regularly and when they’re nice and like, “Hey, are you able to do this for a low fee or for school or whatever? I usually do that and I actually do stuff for free for them as well for as long as they’re like, “can you do this?” then be very nice.
Mike Aiton: Don’t ask don’t get but also be nice?
Serge De Marre: Yeah be nice and I will do that absolutely.
Mike Aiton: So when, when you’re working let’s now think about your workday, how do you take direction or critique?
Serge De Marre: I used to be very bad at that, meaning that not that I would like to argue with someone, but it would really hurt me if someone gave me critique. I do remember this fondly. I was working at the national radio station, which we talked Cue music back in Belgium like we talked about before. And at one time, I was doing my show, the station manager called me in the studio, in the middle of my show, and was like, “What you just said on air was just it was terrible, it was not good, that was not good. Don’t ever do that again.” I was like, “Oh, my God, this hurts so much.” I don’t think that was his best choice to do that, right in the middle of my show. But I was like, “Oh, my God, first off, he’s listening. Second, he doesn’t like what I’m doing. I’m not going to do anything anymore for the rest of my show,” so it was just like, yeah, I shut down for a little bit. I was not good at accepting that critique. Now, when people critique me, it still kind of hurts sometimes but I try to take like note of what they’re saying. I try to understand what they mean and especially if their clients, they can critique me all the way because I mean, they’re paying for me for my work. And if they don’t like what I’m doing, then I’ll do something different.
Mike Aiton: Do you think it’s true that if you don’t feel anything, and if you have no sensitivity, then ultimately, the critique is meaningless? Because it isn’t tapping into something emotionally within you, therefore, you can’t alter it to be better. If it doesn’t hurt a little bit or doesn’t make you think you’re not resonating with it.
Serge De Marre: You’re in my mind here, Mike. That is, yeah, I guess you’re right, yeah, absolutely. That’s very philosophical again, of you. But yeah no, you’re probably right, I never thought of it that way. Probably if it doesn’t hurt you, or it doesn’t do anything with you emotionally, then you’re probably an asshole and you’re going to do the same thing over and over and be bad, I guess.
Mike Aiton: Yes. You’re just going to hear them say, “Can I have it angrier or you’re going to do exactly the same thing, but just louder.” But that louder doesn’t mean angrier.
Serge De Marre: Yeah.
Mike Aiton: And if you’re motivated to kind of go, “Oh, I wasn’t angry enough, damn.” And part of you the small fraction of you must go, feel disappointment and feel that anger that you didn’t get the anger across?
Serge De Marre: Yeah.
Mike Aiton: And you think would motivate?
Serge De Marre: Mm hmm.
Mike Aiton: I guess I’ve spent too long in therapy.
Serge De Marre: Oh, that’s it, therapy. It’s not like you’re a philosophical person?
Mike Aiton: No, just I’m in touch, I’m in touch with my inner self.
Serge De Marre: That’s amazing.
Mike Aiton: So when you’re working in a session, do you like it when sound engineers pip in with opinions?
Serge De Marre: Absolutely. I love it when it’s teamwork, and a lot of sound engineers, they have very good ideas, they know what they’re doing, they have been in the business for so long. They see a lot more projects coming along than voiceover I guess because sound engineers are working full time on different projects. How many projects a day can you do as a sound engineer? Probably a lot, as a voiceover not. So no, I do appreciate it when people pitch in and have their ideas.
Mike Aiton: Interestingly, you say that because you’re making me think now. I have a just distinct memory that when I was doing short form, so trailers, that I used to find out, you’d have an hour to do the average promo for TV and in come the voice artists, you’d have to record the voice and then mix the M&E and blend it all together and make it work. And you’d kind of have an hour and you go through this kind of roller coaster where you’d always have to reach your perfect crescendo in the last five minutes of the session where you kind of go, “That’s it we’ve peaked” sort of thing. And then the director would go, “Yep, that’s it, thank you can print, put it where it needs to go”, whatever. And then there’s this huge comedown afterwards, where you kind of go, “oh, I’ve got to go through the same emotional ride with the next one that comes in.” And you’ve got to build up to a crescendo yet again, often with a completely different voice artist. I used to find doing promos because I’d put my heart and my soul into it very emotionally draining in that way.
Serge De Marre: I can imagine that.
Mike Aiton: I wonder if it’s the same for you where you have to go from you know, you’re voicing a corporate thing about nuclear reactors to suddenly doing something about, men’s mental health or identity to gender crisis or and you suddenly have to switch gears so much, do you find it draining doing so?
Serge De Marre: I don’t find it draining, but it is not easy to switch like instantly. So what I usually do is take a small break of like 10/15 minutes. If it’s something like that, for example, if you’re voicing imaging for a radio station or something and like a very, you’re shouting and everything and then afterwards, you need to record a script that’s much more intimate, then I do- it’s not draining to me but it’s, I need a break because otherwise, I cannot get in the right mood.
Mike Aiton: You got to let the adrenaline out?
Serge De Marre: Yeah, yeah. Because you have that rush from that script that’s like that needs all that energy, and then you go to something that’s much, much softer and emotional, then you have to be able to switch. So what I usually do is take a break, go downstairs, walk downstairs, open the fridge and drink some water or whatever, relax for a couple of minutes and then come back. As an audio engineer you can’t do that I guess right? Because yeah, you have like one hour and the next hour-
Mike Aiton: When I used to smoke I used to find going out for that cigarette sort of between used to help. And now I don’t smoke anymore sort of thing and you kind of think, “Oh what now?”
Serge De Marre: A carrot break instead of a smoke break? Bring carrots with you and go outside to eat some carrots?
Mike Aiton: A carrot break, love it. They’re bloody hard to light, yeah.
Serge De Marre: Yeah, you have to eat them, don’t light them.
Mike Aiton: Don’t smoke them, yeah. “Oh, man. I’m doing 20 carrots a day now, I’ve never been so unhealthy.”
Serge De Marre: Now we need labels on carrots as well.
Mike Aiton: Yeah, don’t smoke these remember. Yeah. So do you prefer open or close talkback between takes?
Serge De Marre: What do you mean by open or closed talkback?
Mike Aiton: In the old days, talkback was always off and the second, you’d finish your take, you’d be sitting there in the studio, down the line waiting for God to sort of review, think, watch again, and then come up with his direction. A more modern trend is to have, the second you finish your take and the transport stops talkback opens and you can hear discussion. Some people like that sense of discussion and being involved in hearing everything. Other people kind of like, “Oh, I need a moment to sort of reflect what did I do myself? You know, how did I feel about that?” Before God talks to them over the headphones and says, “Can we have the same again, but different please?”
Serge De Marre: Bring me another rock?
Mike Aiton: Yeah. Can I have it, yeah, faster, but sounding slower?
Serge De Marre: If it’s that, then I prefer not to hear it. But no, in general. I do like the open talk back. When it’s closed, then you’re thinking, “What are they saying?” You see their mouths going and they’re like having a discussion. “What are they saying?” They’re probably like, “He’s terrible, we should get someone else.”
Mike Aiton: He wears crocs, I’m never letting him in my studio again, yes.
Serge De Marre: Right, we’re not paying him. And they’re probably just talking about, “Hey, what are we having for lunch”, instead but you don’t know. So I’d rather have the talkback open. And when they’re doing that, it’s fine. I can still disconnect from that and reflect myself on what I just did.
Mike Aiton: Yeah.
Serge De Marre: Would any voice actor be saying, “Well, no, I don’t want to hear what they’re saying.” I don’t know?
Mike Aiton: Some people would like that kind of sense of silence and solitude and peace. But in general, I’d say the ratio more people preferred open rather than closed. But I think it depends on the dynamics of the session.
Serge De Marre: Yeah. No, that’s true, yeah.
Mike Aiton: Because if you’re doing a big commercial, and you’ve got a room full of creatives, often, they like to have the, ‘Who’s most important in the zoo’ type discussion and everyone’s got to say, I think one frame forward to get- no, one frame backward. And I’m more important than you. And they need to have all that and then distill it all down and then go to the voice talent, “Yeah, we loved it.”
Serge De Marre: Yeah, no, I totally agree. There needs to be if there’s like, 20 people in a room, no, I don’t want to be, I don’t want to listen to that. There needs to be one person who tells you what they actually want, who summarizes everything like okay, “we liked everything”, who makes the decision basically. And tells you, “yeah, this is a decision we made and we need you to do this”. Because otherwise it’s just- but if it’s only like three, four people, then I’m fine with it and would love to listen in and be part of the discussion. Because sometimes you can just be very helpful as a voice actor, just like the sound engineer can be very helpful with-
Mike Aiton: Sound engineer helpful? Surely not. Yeah. So how do you think learning in the industry has changed? For better or for worse?
Serge De Marre: How it has changed?
Mike Aiton: Yes.
Serge De Marre: I think it’s always been there, I mean, it’s just different. You’re not going to a voice-over school where someone tells you how to do stuff. So you have to figure it all out yourself.
Mike Aiton: It’s less formal.
Serge De Marre: Yeah, it’s less formal. You have to figure it out yourself and try to connect with people and coaches and casting directors and audio engineers and try to be like, become friends with them, or I don’t know what and just try to learn from them. I don’t think it has really changed these days maybe I’m getting old. And maybe there is like this institution where you can or you go through then at the end become an actor,
Mike Aiton: School of voice-over.
Serge De Marre: Something like that, I don’t think like-
Mike Aiton: next to the Ministry of Silly Walks.
Serge De Marre: Yeah, I don’t think it really exists. I wouldn’t have time to teach other people how to be a voiceover. So I do think that people that do have the time probably-
Mike Aiton: Aren’t doing the work?
Serge De Marre: Aren’t doing the work, for whatever reason because maybe their voice isn’t good enough anymore, or it’s too weak, or they’re getting too old or they don’t like it anymore, they just prefer to be on a schedule instead of like, you don’t know when you’re going to work or whatever.
Mike Aiton: Do you have any YouTube channels or Instagram accounts or people you particularly follow or watch? Either for learners or even indeed for experienced people? Are there any people you can recommend?
Serge De Marre: Stefan Johnson, he’s an American. He is very popular- I’m not on Tik Tok but apparently, he has like over a million followers or even more on Tik Tok, he’s on Instagram too. And he posts his best stuff on Instagram, which is more than enough for me. But he’s really good and he’s really good at the social media thing too and I love to watch these things. I recently revamped well a couple of years ago revamped my whole Instagram and try to make use of the algorithm and just get rid of all the personal people from my Instagram account. And I started following a lot of voice actors, casting directors. And that makes that every time I open up, Instagram, I see all those voice actors posting stuff like some things are not interesting. A lot of things are very interesting. They post good tips, some tips are rubbish, or they’re just posting to post something, which is fine. They’re not relevant or I already know them because I’m so smart. But, yeah, Stefan Johnson, oh, my God, I have so many people on my Instagram, that you-
Mike Aiton: Are you a follower of Booth Junkie at all?
Serge De Marre: Oh, yeah, I like him too. But he’s more like the technical, he does more like the technical stuff, right? I like him, too, he’s very good. I follow a lot of Dutch and Belgian voice actors, international voice actors. There’s this one guy in Thailand, his name is (?crit tone)?
Mike Aiton: Okay, don’t know him.
Serge De Marre: I believe he’s fairly young. But he voices like all these car commercials in English and his voice is just so, yeah, I mean, it sounds like a mismatch. I hope I’m not insulting him when he hears this, but I mean, he has- yeah, his voice is very different from what he looks like you wouldn’t expect-
Mike Aiton: I find that quite common actually, that it’s quite interesting that I often play a mental game myself of imagining what someone looks like, based on the sound of them. And often, your preconceived ideas are so wrong.
Serge De Marre: Well, I mean, they’re probably 100% of the time wrong.
Mike Aiton: Some of the people who sound really bullish sometimes are, you know, you think, “Oh, I was expecting you to be seven foot tall and 260 pounds and you’re like me 5′”8 and sort of slight”, well now I wish I was slight. But that’s success and that they’re selling or convincing me of something that is not my expected.
Serge De Marre: Another guy who you need to follow on Instagram is Brent Allen Hegel, he is in California. He does a lot of movie trailers. So that’s why I follow him and same thing there. He can change his voice, make it a lot deeper in the world.
Mike Aiton: Okay, what nuggets have you learned early on in your career that have stayed with you?
Serge De Marre: I’d have to say the, talking to a friend thing, in radio that’s a huge thing and obviously in voiceover as well. Which was- it was very difficult for me to get rid of that tone when I was hosting my radio shows too. And at one point, it just clicked for me, I guess. I don’t mean that with like, it was one day I just was not doing it and then the next day I was able to do it. It was just like gradual but there was one point that it just clicked like, okay, conversational.
Mike Aiton: Yeah, I get it, yes. Sort of awakening, yeah.
Serge De Marre: I always got it but it was difficult to produce it to sound like you’re not reading from a script. Because Mike, I’ve been reading from a script all the time for like, an hour in 15 minutes right now or 45 minutes. How long have we been recording? This is all pre-scripted. No, I’m just kidding.
Mike Aiton: I wish, yeah.
Serge De Marre: Don’t you like how conversational I sound? That’s the most important thing I’ve learned, I guess in my whole career.
Mike Aiton: What advice would you give your younger ambitious self?
Serge De Marre: Calm down.
Mike Aiton: That’s interesting.
Serge De Marre: Yeah.
Mike Aiton: I think because you’re tenacious, and your tenacity has really come across that you really have just never given up. You’ve always kept pushing, and kept elevating and kept. But, interestingly, you say to yourself, calm down.
Serge De Marre: I mean, it like in, I’ve always been, like and I still in a way am worrying about things thinking about, “Oh, I want this but I, but it’s not working out, so I’m worried about why isn’t it working out?” I just have gotten better at it, like calming down, like easing my mind. Not that running all the time, like that energy or that anxiousness in your body. But it used to be like very bad, like, yeah, stressed about things that didn’t happen or things that went wrong. And looking back at it now I’m like, yeah, a lot of things went wrong and terribly wrong sometimes. But I’m still here, we’re still alive, the world is still here, so.
Mike Aiton: I’ve often said to people that I’m glad I’m a sound mixer because I can always rewind and do it again, and drop in and autopilot.
Serge De Marre: Yeah. Well, you can’t do that in radio, for example.
Mike Aiton: No. No, but that’s why I gave up live TV, I preferred post-production. Because I always thought I had this sense of, good enough never appealed to me, I always thought I could do better, I want to have one more crack at that. I could have another idea.
Serge De Marre: It gives you stress, no?
Mike Aiton: Yes. That’s why I discovered for me that I hated the sense of, I got away with it. I don’t want to get away with it, I want to do the best I can. And for me, that meant quite often having a second attempt at things. And I really liked and one thing that was said by, oh, who was it? Ben Burt, I think it was who said the quote about sound design that, you know, it’s being not frightened to go down nine wrong turns to get to the right one.
Serge De Marre: But aren’t you like, when you have a do-over you are much more critical of yourself. And then I’ve sometimes have like, I’m not satisfied ever, I’m never going to be satisfied because I always think there’s something that I can do better.
Mike Aiton: That’s an interesting question that raises the sorts of the sting philosophy of a mix is never finished, it’s merely abandoned due to transmission.
Serge De Marre: Right, yeah.
Mike Aiton: You know, the creative person can keep on creating and honing and infinitely polishing till you get past the Japanese state of perfect, but it’s still not good enough.
Serge De Marre: Yeah, and that’s the pro of doing stuff live well you cannot, you cannot do it again. So it’s out there it’s done and so you don’t have to worry about it anymore.
Mike Aiton: I think it depends on which side of the fence you sit on.
Serge De Marre: Because it’s it is what it is.
Mike Aiton: For me, a greater sense of satisfaction came from the second attempt, or the third attempt or the fourth attempt, then the first attempt of nearly, yeah, that wasn’t bad, or that went quite well. I understand that pleasure but it was never as great as the former for me.
Serge De Marre: Yeah. But then again, if you’re doing, for example, live TV, you rehearse like, 50 times, I’m exaggerating, of course. And then and then it gives some kind of satisfaction when you actually nail it when it’s actually live although even if it’s not really perfect.
Mike Aiton: That is actually a fair point. Although, I always found in television that 95% of the rehearsal was all about camera moves, and the look, less so about sound. They’d have stand-in members of the pop band there pretending to play while they worried about the camera moves rather than actually can we have the band playing another three times and get the mix perfect, but hey.
Serge De Marre: You’re probably right, yeah,
Mike Aiton: Sound you just assume you will get it right because you always do, you’re the defender you just don’t make mistakes. So let’s now have a little talk through your setup, we’ll change gears a bit here. Do you philosophize and to up the technical ante here. So you’ve said you’re a Mac man. Are you a laptop, or a mini, or an iMac?
Serge De Marre: I have a MacBook Pro and a mini, for the booth, I have a Mac Mini. And then I have the MacBook Pro on my work desk, which I use that one with, with an external display. And I can take the computer with me when I travel, to record on location. But the Mac Mini is separate and it also gives me the opportunity to, when something goes wrong, I can switch out the computers and just continue my work with the other computer. But the Mac Mini is great.
Mike Aiton: You have a spare?
Serge De Marre: Yeah, always a spare.
Mike Aiton: So what audio interface? I think you’re an Apollo twin guy?
Serge De Marre: Yes, I am. I had an Apogee for a long, long time.
Mike Aiton: The duet?
Serge De Marre: Yeah, that one. And I’m not really that technical. I mean, I probably more know more about the technical stuff than the average voiceover I think but I’m not like a tech guy. So I asked someone, what would you recommend to me as an audio engineer? And he said, “Well, you have to go for the Apollo twin Universal Audio it’s so good”. So I said, “Okay, I’ll buy that one. And I got it and was like, whoa, this is great I love it.”
Mike Aiton: You really notice the difference?
Serge De Marre: Oh, absolutely and all the things that you can do with the plugins and yes, there is a huge difference, absolutely.
Mike Aiton: Because you can record with plugins on the way in can’t you?
Serge De Marre: Yeah.
Mike Aiton: Because it’s got the DSP?
Serge De Marre: Yeah. Not that I’m doing that myself, I usually get someone to do it for me. But then I’m like, “Oh, yeah, this is awesome.”
Mike Aiton: And which digital audio workstation do you like to use?
Serge De Marre: I always worked with cool edits back in the day and late 90s, early 2000s.
Mike Aiton: CP?
Serge De Marre: Yeah. I kept working with that which it’s now Adobe edition, of course. But I’m very familiar with that, I can do probably not use every feature but it’s still fairly similar to the old cool edits. And I can work fairly quickly with it, so yeah, that’s my preferred one.
Mike Aiton: I always wondered was Sadie, a big one in Holland with radio people? Because it’s huge in the BBC.
Serge De Marre: No, I don’t think so, no.
Mike Aiton: Headphone-wise, you’re a Beyer dynamic man 770 Pros I think you said earlier wasn’t it?
Serge De Marre: Yeah, they’re very comfortable on your head and they’re not that expensive I think.
Mike Aiton: They’re fully enclosed aren’t they?
Yeah, they are. The sound is good, too. You can turn them very, very loud which I used to do when I worked at the radio station, which is not good for your ears.
Mike Aiton: No, a lot of radio people do like it, quite cranked.
Serge De Marre: Yes, the louder the better but it’s not good for your ears, don’t do it. Remember children, a disclaimer.
Mike Aiton: Yeah. Microphones, what’s your poison of choice?
Serge De Marre: I think just like a lot of American voiceovers, I have the same things. It’s the Sennheiser MK H 416 that I’m speaking into right now. And I also have the Norman TLM. 103, I have two of them. I think that’s enough.
Mike Aiton: Why the two? Do you have just because in case you connect to a client who wants something sounding a bit different, or?
Serge De Marre: Yeah.
Mike Aiton: If I put a shotgun to your head, excuse the shotgun pun and said “You can have one desert island microphone?” Would it be the 416?
Serge De Marre: Yes, yeah, absolutely. I think the NOIman is amazing, is very good, but it picks up too much other stuff.
Mike Aiton: Yes. It’s very, very sensitive.
Serge De Marre: It’s so sensitive.
Mike Aiton: And it’s very low noise as well.
Serge De Marre: Yeah, absolutely. Lower noise than the Sennheiser but the Sennheiser is still-
Mike Aiton: And you can scream into it as well. It’ll take a lot of input I seem to remember. I think I recorded my electric guitar with one once, quite the 105 DBS and it sat there and went, “yeah, and?”
Serge De Marre: It was like, yeah, sure, okay, doesn’t hurt me at all
Mike Aiton: Yeah, my ears were giving up before the microphone.
Serge De Marre: That’s crazy.
Mike Aiton: Okay, let’s now talk about your booth. This is obviously a point of much interest for many in your community.
Serge De Marre: I have a studio bricks booth. The studio bricks one voice-over edition, but it’s a little bit customized because I’m quite tall.
Serge De Marre: Oh, how could you?
Serge De Marre: I’m quite tall. So I needed a raised roof so that’s what I did. I put an extra section on it so it’s higher.
Mike Aiton: A convertible, I love it. My booth, I have a convertible, it’s like a VW with a raised roof.
Serge De Marre: And I can say it’s a customer booth right? Although it’s really not, but I can say it, it’s custom.
Mike Aiton: Nice.
Serge De Marre: And yeah, I like it a lot. It’s a huge difference from my walk-in closet.
Mike Aiton: In fact, everyone who I’ve spoken to, who’s said, I now have a booth, have said, I wish I did it earlier.
Serge De Marre: Right, yeah, absolutely.
Mike Aiton: And I didn’t endure with the closet or the wardrobe for so long.
Serge De Marre: I wish I could get a bigger booth though. But yeah, I mean, it’s great for what it is,
Mike Aiton: What about, are you a sitter or stand up? Because some have said that studio chairs are odd because sitting is the new smoking? Are you a sitter or stand?
Serge De Marre: I do both. For the longer work, I’ll definitely sit because I’m an old man and my back hurts after a while. But for like commercials or for stuff that needs lots of energy, I’ll stand up. But I’m sitting right now because we’re having a nice chat, I want to be comfortable as well. So if it’s like low-key stuff like e-learning- well you still need some energy in e-learning obviously, but still.
Mike Aiton: Not as much as a full sort of character animation thing or?
Serge De Marre: Yeah.
Mike Aiton: And presumably, all radio shows are done sitting down on aren’t they?
Serge De Marre: So that’s the interesting part. I was standing up at the Cue music, the national radio station, weren’t allowed- or we were allowed to sit, obviously but they preferred us to stand up. And I kind of like that standing up thing. Like you have more energy, you have more control over the board and like, we stood up.
Mike Aiton: Didn’t know that. I mean admittedly my background is TV, so I never went to Broadcasting House very much. So didn’t have much to do with the radio side of the BBC.
Serge De Marre: I’m sure they’re sitting at the BBC on a chair instead of standing up.
Mike Aiton: Let’s now think about the pandemic and remote working how’s the pandemic affected your work?
Serge De Marre: It’s difficult to compare, actually. Because, yeah, I mean, you’re in the middle of a pandemic, and you don’t know what would have happened if the pandemic wasn’t there. But if I compare it to the year before the pandemic happened or hit, I think the amount of work was slightly more. So I’m not sure if I can-
Mike Aiton: Since
Serge De Marre: Yeah, since the pandemic. Obviously, like the first two months were like, terrible, because everyone was like, “Ah, we’re just going to, we don’t have the budget anymore, everyone’s working from home, adjusting”, adapting blah, blah, blah.
Mike Aiton: We’ll sit this one out yeah for a month or two.
Serge De Marre: Yeah. But then, after a couple of months, when everyone was used to it, they were like, “Okay, let’s start it up again.” And no, I had quite a good year actually, 2020 wasn’t that bad. So it was better than 2019. So, yeah, no.
Mike Aiton: And you said earlier, that your work is now 100% remote pretty much?
Serge De Marre: Yeah, yeah. I think that helped too, I bought, I bought my booth, obviously, before the pandemic hit. And it really helped me because, yeah, suddenly, a lot of clients were like, yeah, well, we cannot go to a studio because of the social distancing, etcetera, etcetera so we need someone who can record from home. I had everything I needed, I was ready to go. I was like, “Yeah, here I am”. And you can even-
Mike Aiton: Your timing was bang on?
Serge De Marre: Yeah, I think so.
Mike Aiton: Okay, so how do you see working in post-pandemic times if there’ll ever be post-pandemic indeed?
Serge De Marre: Yeah, that’s the question, right? People have adjusted in they’re like, they work from home, they do like it in general, I guess. So they much better understand that you are not able to come to the studio. I can go to a studio in Budapest or I can fly out to wherever you want me to go but that’s going to be too expensive to buy a plane ticket and fly to Brussels or London or wherever it is. I’ve had over the past- before the pandemic, I had like several clients like being disappointed like, “Oh, you cannot come to Brussels, oh no, we’ll have to look for someone else,” and I’m like, “Okay”. Because they didn’t even want to use Source-Connect or something similar something, didn’t know how to use it or I don’t know.
Mike Aiton: Naive fools.
Serge De Marre: Yeah right. But I think people have adjusted and they’re much more open to it like “Oh, okay, yeah, sure we can make the distance work, that’s not a problem at all.” I mean, especially with Source-Connect, I’ve had sessions with people all over the world from South Africa to the United States to name it.
Mike Aiton: So in a way, it’s kind of enlarged your client or the possibilities of your client base because you’re connected to the global village effect, you are part of that global village?
Serge De Marre: Yeah, yeah. No, especially since I’m speaking international or global English your clients are all over the world because if someone, for example, in South Africa wants to produce a commercial that will be broadcast worldwide. Well, yeah now it’s easier for them to find me and for me to be found, I guess, and to be able to work for them.
Mike Aiton: So how do you personally find working remotely?
Serge De Marre: I love it. Yeah, I’ve been doing it for so long working from home. Yeah and the remote part is fun, too because actually it kind of feels like you’re in the studio, you’re actually still going to a studio but not really physically going. It’s just your voice that travels to that other studio.
Mike Aiton: The analogy I always like to use is the piece of string between the booth and the sound desk just happens to be about 1000 miles long, rather than 10 feet long.
Serge De Marre: Yeah, absolutely. And some studios also have like a separate voice booth without a window, for example. So yeah, you don’t have to be in the same room or physical space, or city or whatever, you can be anywhere. And just like we’re talking right now, right? We’re talking right now and it just it feels like you’re sitting next to me, I can’t see you but I can hear you clearly.
Mike Aiton: And emotionally we’re close together.
Serge De Marre: Oh, yes we are Mike.
Mike Aiton: How do you think your clients find working remotely?
Serge De Marre: Since a lot of the clients are still working from home, especially in Europe- I’m not sure how the situation in both- the UK is not part of Europe anymore, right?
Mike Aiton: Sorry. I think I need to swiftly move on from this one, I can’t be political, it just makes me cry.
Serge De Marre: Okay, no worries.
Mike Aiton: So you think most of your clients enjoy working remotely?
Serge De Marre: Well, most of them are actually still working from home themselves, and they enjoy it, they’re not in traffic in the morning rush, the traffic jam when you’re going to work or from work, they can spend more time with their kids. So I think they’re kind of used to it by now most of them, a lot of them. And so it’s fairly easy for them to just book someone who has his own studio and just everything’s taken care of. You don’t have to book the studio anymore, you can dial in into the studio, if they want, they don’t have to. And afterwards, I just send the wav file via email to them and it’s all said and done and we’re done.
Mike Aiton: At Source Elements we have a philosophy that when we’re apart, making things together helps us stay connected as human beings and creates a bond. How do you feel about that statement?
Serge De Marre: I think it’s the next thing after actually being in the same space, right? Like connecting with other people over a cup of coffee, while you’re in the same room obviously, is probably a little bit better, I guess. Because you can, you can see facial expressions, and you probably have a little bit more time to get to know each other but this is the next best thing after that. The sound quality is so amazing, it feels like you’re in this- I mean, if I wouldn’t have like headphones on right now and you’d be on speakers and just close my eyes- I can still close my eyes with headphones on obviously. But then maybe it would feel like you would be in the same room I guess if you have very good speakers.
Mike Aiton: Yeah. How long have you had Source-Connect then?
Serge De Marre: I do find that a lot of Europeans are a little bit wary of this Source-Connect thing because it’s quite an expansion, I think, especially if you buy the license forever. And the Dutch and the Belgians are like, they keep their budgets in mind. So they’re like, oh, let’s not use or let’s use something cheaper or different, something different. But Americans, for example, and people in London, in the UK, United Kingdom, yeah, they love it. And that’s why I need to have it because I want to connect with everyone over all over the world,
Mike Aiton: I mean, the monthly rental of Source-Connect is what is it? $35? I think.
Serge De Marre: Yeah.
Mike Aiton: If you can’t earn that in the first 20 minutes of your session, you’re in the wrong job.
Serge De Marre: True. No I mean, for me I would pay for it, I wouldn’t mind. But a lot of the studios are wary of that and I don’t know why. And it’s just like the chicken and the egg. I have it but if studios don’t have it, or the studio has it but the voice actor doesn’t have it, yeah. I don’t know, it’s so weird.
Mike Aiton: My answer always to that is use a better quality of voice artist, yes.
Serge De Marre: True. So true, so true.
Mike Aiton: So what advice would you pass on to someone trying a remote workflow for the first time?
Serge De Marre: In my experience, it’s very important to be available, you have to be available, because a lot of- the voiceover part is the last part, usually, and you as an audio engineer can probably confirm this, is the last part that comes to creating the project most times. So they’re like, “Okay, we have one hour left, and we need a voice right now,” and if you can say yes to that, yes, I’m available, then you’re the guy. And if you’re ready, technically for that so they can dial in and listen in and direct you or not, if it’s a self-directed session, then you’ve got the job and you’re making money. If you have to say, “Well, I’m not available today, but maybe tomorrow or next week, because I’m, I’m away or if I’m too busy with other stuff”, then yeah, it’s not going to work out. So availability is very important, I believe,
Mike Aiton: Availability, and also preparation seems to be from what you’re saying? Being ready to record at a moment’s notice?
Serge De Marre: Yes, yeah your gear has to be ready, you have to be able to just- the computer has to be on basically, that’s what I do. My computer is always on and I just have to hit that record button and record and that’s it. And sometimes clients are like, we need this very, very quickly. We have one hour because-
Mike Aiton: Yesterday.
Serge De Marre: Yeah, because we’ve contacted a voice artist before and he’s not available, and you’re actually our second choice blah, blah and you’re like, “ouch, this hurts.”
Mike Aiton: I’m going to make you my first choice in future.
Serge De Marre: Yeah, yeah, they might do that. And then you have an extra client because you’re quick and good.
Mike Aiton: What do you think of the pitfalls to avoid?
Serge De Marre: That’s a tough, tough one I guess, the pitfalls?
Mike Aiton: Interestingly enough I mean, voice people find this a harder question. Because the elephant in the room for sound engineers quite often, or editors, or other people who have remote working voice people always have headphones on because they’re in a booth. But it’s surprising the number of people who expect to have remote collaboration and don’t wear headphones. So the other end you hear yourself coming back over the other end microphone. And that can be quite disconcerting.
Serge De Marre: Yeah. But is that really a pitfall?
Mike Aiton: I think so because personally, I think it’s if you start with your headphones on, no one’s going to sort of say, I can hear myself coming back.
Serge De Marre: Yeah. No, that’s true.
Mike Aiton: And if they do, it’s a routing issue on your desk, not anything to do with your loudspeakers.
Serge De Marre: True, yeah, that’s very true.
Mike Aiton: Let’s now consider what would you say is the recipe for your success? What’s your top ingredient?
Serge De Marre: Believing in myself, like going for it, persistence, being persistent, and just doing stuff. Not that I’m like someone who does everything all the time, I’m a procrastinator as well, once in a while.
Mike Aiton: Why put off today what you could do tomorrow?
Serge De Marre: Yeah, yeah that’s me. But on the other hand, if you really want something and you go for it, and you succeed that’s amazing. I think if you’re able to do that and focus on the right stuff, yeah.
Mike Aiton: What would you say is the thing you’d most like our listeners to take away from this interview?
Serge De Marre: That Source-Connect is the best. No.
Mike Aiton: Very good.
Serge De Marre: I didn’t get paid for this, by the way. I think the takeaway is, especially if you’re a new voice artist, or even an audio engineer, just make sure that you’re ready not only you yourself being ready to analyze a script or to know how to work with your DAW or, but like, the technical stuff needs to be ready too. And make sure you have a backup plan for when it goes wrong, that you can still get the work done on time. So have that Source-Connect subscription ready.
Mike Aiton: Obvious, very good. How would you like to change the industry if you could?
Serge De Marre: I think what’s not going well in the voice talent industry is the rates are going down, which is not good, I think they should be going up. So that’s something that should change. If I could, I would change that but it’s not going to change obviously.
Mike Aiton: Do you think rates are going down because of the flood of practitioners and it’s becoming a race to the bottom in terms of price, or?
Serge De Marre: I don’t like to use the race to the bottom thing, because I’m not sure if that’s really true. But it is true that for example, people on Fiverr, people that are voice artists on there they don’t know, actually, the standard rates. They don’t know what a fair rate is. Yeah, they might ruin it for like the professionals, I guess. Because your clients are getting used to that, right, like, lower quality, lower rates. But right now, there are still enough clients who still like the professionals and the good equipment and the good sound quality and obviously, there is a difference.
Mike Aiton: There’s a nice quote I once read that says if you think it’s expensive to hire a professional try hiring an amateur.
Serge De Marre: Yeah, that’s true. And professionals get work done quickly, usually, and they’re more expensive, but in the end, they’re going to be cheaper. And that’s what you’re saying right?
Mike Aiton: Yes. And to a higher quality with fewer artifacts and fewer problems and they’re consistent. And if they do a pick up it’s, they match themselves, they don’t sound very different in their intonation every time they change. But that’s the difference between a professional and amateur I always think,
No, for sure. And that’s why I like Mac too because it is more expensive, but I can keep my MacBook for example for like five years and it still works after five years and I can sell it and still get some decent money for it. I used to work with PC a lot and oh my god they were so horrible, after a couple of years. Just one/two years your computer was just done, was crap.
Mike Aiton: You realize you have just lit the blue flame and the internet is now on fire.
Serge De Marre: Yeah, right.
Mike Aiton: With Mac v PC hatred, calm down internet.
Serge De Marre: It’s okay, yeah. Well, people are allowed to use PC if they prefer it, that’s fine. I’m just talking about my preference.
Mike Aiton: It’s okay to be misguided, that’s not a problem, right? No I’m only kidding. I have used both in my time. What would you like as your audio epitaph?
Serge De Marre: I’m sorry, what is that?
Mike Aiton: An epitaph is your inscription on your gravestone?
Serge De Marre: Oh, okay. I always have to think about this song, I can’t remember which band it’s from but it’s, they have a song called ‘hey, look, Ma, I made it’ that’s one of the lyrics and I love that.
Mike Aiton: That’s cool.
Serge De Marre: I love that lyric, so that pops to mind like, ‘ hey, look, Ma, I’ve made it.’
Mike Aiton: That’s very cool indeed.
Serge De Marre: Every time I have a little success, I’m like, ‘hey, look, Ma, I’ve made it.’ So yeah, probably that one, I love that one.
Mike Aiton: I’m going to ask him a question that I tend to ask all sorts of the women, which is, are you aware of any sort of gender issues, what’s it like to be a woman in a sort of slightly male orientated world? But I kind of feel to us the balance, I need to ask the men the same question as well, do you feel it’s a male-dominated industry? And do you think there are a gender identity issues within our industry?
Serge De Marre: I don’t feel that but that’s probably me, I guess. I mean, if women are saying that there are issues, then there are issues, I guess. If I can’t see them, it’s not that they’re not there.
Mike Aiton: They don’t come from you.
Serge De Marre: Sorry?
Mike Aiton: That the issues don’t come from you.
Serge De Marre: I don’t know maybe I’m part of the issue, I don’t know. I hope not but I try to be open and get someone else’s thoughts about this and learn from other people’s experiences. But yeah, there are a lot of men in this business and not enough women, I guess that’s for sure. I’m not sure if it’s really an issue, I mean, I don’t feel that is it is an issue but it probably is an issue. If you understand what I mean?
Mike Aiton: Yeah, totally. What you’re saying is I’m not empathetic if there are issues, I’d like to hear them and understand them and see what I can do. But I’m just not sure I’m totally aware of what they are.
Serge De Marre: Right, yeah, that’s what I’m saying.
Mike Aiton: And the same way, I kind of agree with you to the degree in that whenever I hire someone to work for me, it’s always a case of number one, are they fun to work with? Number two, are they good at what they do? Number three, can I afford them? And number 647 trillion is are they a man or a woman? I just don’t care, I don’t think of people’s gender at all, I think of them as people. So for me gender is a non-issue but I think it’s very easy, it’s a bit like saying, for the average white person racism is not a problem, right?
Serge De Marre: Yeah, I think it’s very similar. Because we’re not aware of any problems but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any problems yeah. But it’s an interesting discussion to have. I don’t have the answer to that discussion but it’s a very interesting discussion to have, I guess.
Mike Aiton: I’m slightly loath to ask the question. But then loath to ask the question terms of not because I don’t want to hear the answers but because I don’t always understand what the problem is.
Serge De Marre: Yeah.
Mike Aiton: And partly, if I’m having to ask the question, it means there is a problem, which means it’s a shame that I have to ask questions.
Serge De Marre: Yeah.
Mike Aiton: In the same way, there’s a huge outcry at the moment about safety for women in Britain, because a police officer was recently convicted of murdering someone
Serge De Marre: Oh, wow.
Mike Aiton: While he was off duty, and it’s brought up a lot of issues about women, women’s safety in Britain. And everyone’s saying, “Oh, we should have apps that allow women to be safe.” And then people are saying, “No, no, what we should actually be doing is addressing the fact why do our men in our society think it’s okay to attack women?’ That’s what we need to be addressing, not teaching women to defend themselves.
Serge De Marre: Yeah, I’m sure you’re right. I don’t have the answer, unfortunately. I wish I could solve those problems.
Mike Aiton: No, I don’t either.
It’s important to read up on these things and I’m not sure if I really want to be part of that discussion. I don’t think I have a lot of knowledge to add to the discussion but I like to listen.
Mike Aiton: We can still be empathetic.
Serge De Marre: Oh, yeah, we can be empathetic and we need to listen to these things and just make sure that we at least try to understand them, yeah.
Mike Aiton: My last question kind of, is about work in terms of how do you find using an agent versus getting self-generated work?
Serge De Marre: Very interesting question as well. Because especially on the mainland in Europe, we don’t have agents actually. There are a couple of agencies in Europe like in the Netherlands, I’m working with boys booking.com, for example, but they’re not really agents. They’re online websites, they try to find more work online from people that are looking for voiceovers for online. But now that I’m starting to get into the United States markets, now you have to learn to work with agents. And it’s interesting, it’s different, and I kind of like it at some point, because you can actually hand over some extra work, work that you’re doing yourself, I guess, you can hand it to the agents. Like, ‘Hey, you look for the client, you negotiate with the client and let me know when you’re ready, and you’re done negotiating my rate.
Mike Aiton: I do the art, you do the science.
Serge De Marre: Yeah. That’s very convenient and fun to be able to do that yeah.
Mike Aiton: But in a way, there’s kind of- in the US it would seem that because of this sort of reliance on the sense of agents that there’s a degree some obfuscation where you’re not taken seriously unless you have an agent.
Serge De Marre: Yeah, yeah.
Mike Aiton: To a degree.
Serge De Marre: That’s true. That’s just the way it works in the United States, I guess up until now but I’m sure it’s going to change eventually, I don’t know.
Mike Aiton: And I wonder if that’s because, in the States, there’s a great thing of whether you’re union or non-union?
Serge De Marre: True.
Mike Aiton: And it’s a concept that I’m not sure about in Belgium, or how you’ve experienced life in Budapest but in the UK, there’s no such thing as union or non-union gigs. And the concept in America where most things are union rates, I kind of applaud the sensation of keeping rates, where they’re looking after everyone’s well-being and all this sort of thing and keeping rates to a sort of professional standard. It’s a dynamic that I can’t understand because I’m not in it because we don’t have such a thing in the UK. I find it quite alien, this concept of union v non-union?
Serge De Marre: Right. But I think since 2008, or something, there’s a lot more non-union work in the United States as well, the union- apparently the way I understand it, and I’m not a specialist on this, but the union is getting smaller and smaller, union work is less, less, less in the past years and a lot more people in agents are working nonunion. So I’m not sure if it’s going in the right direction in the United States if you like unions.
Mike Aiton: Interestingly enough can be quite a paradox because, yes, it’s great that it opens up and all that sort of thing. And I think it’s very good to sort of have a sense of open free markets. I’ve always been a believer in that in sort of the European market, I can say that quite confidently as an ex-European sadly. But I think the other side of the coin is that if you get too much deregulation that you can get a flood of people looking for work, you can get too many Fiverrs. There can be a case of deregulation to the point where you get like the American Health System, where it becomes a complete Zoo.
Serge De Marre: That’s true. On the other hand, going back to the Fiverr thing, I have noticed several clients that were on p2p websites, not my clients, but in general, big production companies being on p2p websites. And then, later on, I heard well, they moved on from that and went to an agent because they were like, we were getting a lot of rubbish as well, people that were trying to attempt voiceover work, but weren’t actually really ready.
Mike Aiton: Couldn’t cut the mustard, as we say.
Serge De Marre: Yeah. And so they get like, 100/200 auditions and like, 75% is bad. If you go to an agent, the agent does all that work for the client as well.
Mike Aiton: Yes. You’re choosing which cream do I like and you’re not having to worry about the milk.
Serge De Marre: Yeah. And so I think, especially the bigger clients, the bigger production companies they’re like we don’t have time to sift all through all that rubbish. So we need to have like the good guys immediately, we want to be sure that whenever we need them, actually tomorrow or whenever that they’re actually ready, and they’re good. And they can analyze the script and the recruitment is good, etcetera, etcetera. Maybe I don’t know, there will always be enough work for the higher tier jobs, I don’t know.
Mike Aiton: I hope so. I mean, I’ve always thought that there should be. What I would not like to happen is for the music world, where the same paradox has kind of happened with record labels. Where in the 60s 70s, and 80s, it was really, really hard to get signed as a group and a band. And the A&R artists were in total control of who became signed artists and who could release music. Now, anyone and their dog can release music, which is great. But the trouble with that also, is everyone and their dog does release music. So actually, how do we as consumers find good music? Because there’s so much to sift through. It’s a bit like YouTube’s lovely, it’s brilliant but there’s an awful lot of rubbish on YouTube as well.
Serge De Marre: Yeah, true. And that’s maybe where radio stations come in, right? They can make that selection for you so you switch on the radio station, and then you’re listening to some quality music, at least the quality of the recording is going to be good.
Mike Aiton: Yes, so with freedom, and democratizing everything is it is a good thing but there’s also the paradox of too much freedom, too much choice can be quite a bane as well.
Serge De Marre: Yeah.
Mike Aiton: And it’d be interesting to see how the market settles over time and over history looking back, I don’t feel very sorry for the record companies I have to say.
Serge De Marre: No, true, yeah.
Mike Aiton: I feel more sorry for the music artists who I think are being sort of screwed by the Spotify’s of the world.
Serge De Marre: Yeah, true, no, that’s absolutely true. But I think it probably all comes back to which artist is the most creative, right? Because you said there’s a lot of rubbish on YouTube? Well, if you’re creative, and you make quality stuff, then you’re probably going to come up with a way to be popular on YouTube, some way or another.
Mike Aiton: I agree. I’ve always thought cream rises. Some people turn around and go shit floats. That’s true with the largest common denominator sort of thing. And if you do come up with the goods, and in the same way, I think as a voice artist if you keep delivering the goods, and to a high level, and keep coming back with happy customers, your customer base will expand, word of mouth will work. There is a future and there is hope. Just because you can go and buy a 100 pound USB mic, sit there and go well I can use Zoom, it’s free. It doesn’t mean you’re going to have a successful career.
Serge De Marre: Yeah, absolutely.
Mike Aiton: Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
Serge De Marre: Yes, totally.
Mike Aiton: So I think that’s a very good note on which to end and say thank you very much for your time, Serge. It’s been absolutely fascinating talking to you, I’ve really enjoyed it.
Serge De Marre: My pleasure, this was amazing. Thank you, Mike, I love talking to you
Mike Aiton: And keep spreading the word about Source Elements, keep evangelizing.
Serge De Marre: I will.
Mike Aiton: Okay, thank you Serge.
You’re welcome. Talk to you next time.
Mike Aiton: Okay, take care. Bye-bye.
Serge De Marre