It was not too long ago that the phrase, "I am a voiceover artist," would instantly stir inquisitive responses from curious strangers at a cocktail party. Inevitably, that next question was either, "what is that?" or "how did you get into voiceover work?" The questions, although asked from different people, were always the same. Recently, however, these conversations about the voiceover industry itself have pivoted to a different question: "as a voiceover artist, are you afraid of being replaced by artificial intelligence?" After many thoughtful conversations regarding this subject, I decided to simply deploy artificial irony and ask Chat GPT directly, "Will AI eliminate the voiceover industry?"
Here is what Chat GPT says about the voiceover industry, and I wrap up this blog post with my own words after this Chat GPT answer:
While AI and text-to-speech (TTS) technology have made significant advancements in recent years, it is unlikely that they will completely eliminate the voiceover industry in the foreseeable future. The voiceover industry serves various purposes that go beyond simple narration, and human voice actors bring unique qualities and nuances that AI-generated voices may not replicate entirely.
Here are some reasons why the voiceover industry is likely to persist alongside AI:
While AI-generated voices have improved and are suitable for specific applications, such as text-to-speech for accessibility purposes, customer service, or navigation systems, they still have limitations. Issues like unnatural intonation, pronunciation errors, and a lack of emotional depth can be apparent in AI-generated speech.
The voiceover industry will likely continue to evolve alongside AI technology. Human voice actors may even incorporate AI tools into their workflows to enhance productivity and streamline repetitive tasks. However, their artistic contributions and the human touch they bring to voiceover work are aspects that AI is not likely to replace entirely.
Okay, now back to me, CHRIS. Here is the wrap up that I mentioned above:
So there ya go; the short answer to 'are you afraid of losing your voiceover career to AI?' is "nah." As work-flows become more automated, brands will rely on the human voice to personalize content and build trust with their consumers. For example, I could have started and ended this blog-post with AI, but I believe it is important to hear from a human as well. In the future, the desire for authenticity may require more regional dialects to be used to prove that the voiceover artist is actually human, and to demonstrate that companies value authentic customer relationships (awe, bless yur heart and git yur boots ready, I speak Texan, ya'll!).
And finally, if you have read this far, then I will splash a human emotion into this voiceover/AI blog post and simply say that, personally, in my small corner of the internet, I protect peace and choose to not live in fear. The simplest way I have found to stay optimistic and hopeful, versus living in a fear, is by maintaining my sense of wonder in the world, which keeps me in a perpetual state of curiosity. This curiosity has served me well by providing me the ability to keep learning, adapting and growing as a human and a voiceover talent.
I mention this because the truth is that doing the voiceover job is the reward for the real work, which has very little to do with the performance of voiceover. While I wish that every waking moment of my day was spent voicing projects in my voiceover booth, the reality is that voicing a video project is really only the smallest part of the job of the voiceover talent. When I am not in the voiceover booth working on projects for video producers, creative directors, advertising agencies and production houses, I spend time producing turn-key projects for other brands, editing video projects, cleaning up voiceover audio in ProTools, creating content for social media (let's connect on Instagram - @therealchrisburnett), updating my voiceover website (did you know I added a financial narration section?), auditioning for projects, invoicing and bookkeeping, crafting newsletters, touching base with clients and writing blog posts (such as this one), etc. All of these ancillary creative skills that are used to generate voiceover work are marketable skills in their own right. In short, my passion for voiceover combined with my innate curiosity has made me a creative pocketknife who soaks up all facets of the creative process, and I am fortunate that I also enjoy the ancillary creative pieces of a career in voiceover.
So when we see each other at our next cocktail party, let us move away from fear. Instead may we chat about the benefits of a strong and malleable mind - the ultimate hedge against change and any technological advancement.
Hi friend! - remember when you read an insightful, well-thought-out blog post from a creative talent and thought, 'this guy is on a different level and I would love to get to know him.' I'm so glad that you thought that, and that you reached out right afterwards so we could get together and connect over coffee, cocktails or dinner. Here is my email address so we can connect: email@example.com
If you are a person career-minded creative individual that struggles with finding time to relax, perhaps the best way to improve your career is to do the opposite of completing that next to-do… instead, take a quick pause and recalibrate with a hobby that will help you relax AND benefit your career. As strange as it sounds, learning a musical instrument improves cognitive function, relieves stress, increases creativity and, in my opinion, allows you to approach your creative projects from a three-dimensional view.
As a content creator, copywriter, producer, voiceover talent, director, or video editor that is responsible for generating content at-scale, playing an instrument and understanding the intricacies of music composition will compliment your storytelling. The parallels between music and narrative pieces are endless. Songs, for example, follow the narrative structure, and I have mentioned before that a music-bed is the ultimate directing hack. Furthermore, an understanding of instrumentation will allow you to dial-in emotional tone faster. For instance, knowing a major chord will typically sound more “cheerful” than the “melancholy” of a minor chord might enable you to find a music-bed quickly or help you to communicate tone to the voiceover talent and client. Other nuances appear as well: for instance, a string instrument generally pairs well with a spec pushing “inspiration, “ and acoustic guitar plays well with “warmth.” In short, a grasp of instrumentation opens the door for more dynamic storytelling because creatives have a more holistic understanding of the pieces being crafted.
Picking up an instrument will undoubtedly benefit your creative career by dramatically enhancing the skill of script interpretation. To begin, music has its own language that parallels storytelling. For instance, a music piece will begin with an intro and conclude with a resolve just as a narrative piece offers an exposition and resolve. Similarly, a song can crescendo while a story climaxes. Additionally, many musical words such as staccato, tempo, beat, and accent all correspond with directing voiceover talent, interpreting copy and scoring a script. Even the word “score” has a shared meaning! And there is the obvious parallel between voiceover director and conductor…
Understanding music and playing an instrument also makes you a master of pacing and tone, thus creating a “good-ear.” The nuances of a music bed and understanding how a voiceover compliments a piece can improve directing abilities, and learning an instrument enhances this skill. For example, when working with pitch, a director that comprehends musicality can offer the best places to lift words and create emotional pivots at the appropriate times. Similarly, as a voiceover talent with a “good-ear,” directing notes are interpreted more clearly (even if the client is struggling to "speak creative"), because the subtleties of one’s performance are more easily identified and adjusted, since tone has been practiced with an instrument.
In short, music and instrumentation offer many ancillary benefits to a career minded creative individual. By learning a musical instrument, creative minds will benefit from the numerous parallels between storytelling and music. Theses parallels – song-structure, the language of music and listening – will create more enriched content from creators, copywriters, directors and video editors. Simply put, the skill-set that is acquired from playing an instrument is transferable to other creative endeavors building a more holistic understanding of each part of the creative process.
Did you make it to this paragraph? If you have reached this point, I would like to thank you for taking time to read this post. I take pride in crafting unique perspectives on the advertising industry that cut through the clutter. As the world moves faster, I am striving to build connections. True connections take TIME and the ability to slow down when appropriate. Clearly, we are on the same page since you scrolled through an article that took more than :06. I would like to collaborate with you. So please reach out with a “hello,” and let’s make great content together. I would appreciate you commenting or sharing this post if you found it insightful. I can be reached at Chris@ChrisBurnettVoiceActor.com. High-fives from a fellow creative-mind and voiceover artist. ChrisBurnettVoiceActor.com
Looking to maximize every voiceover session? Five tips to get the best out of voice talent with a BONUS tip at the bottom...
Let's be honest - placing a "process" on creativity can be a moving target due to its subjective nature. So how does an advertising agency, video producer or creative director ensure success from voiceover talent when every session is a little bit different? Below is a simple formula to maximizing sessions regardless of the different scenarios surrounding it.
1) Give the voiceover talent the script as early as possible.
Often times the voiceover talent receives the script immediately before beginning a session, so there is very little time to prep or read it through. For the best performance from the start, it helps to provide the script (even if it is rough) at least 15 minutes before the session. This allows the voiceover talent to have any pronunciation questions prepared while also noting any tongue-twisters before the session, and marking the script for optimal performance.
2) Begin by playing the original audio from the voiceover talent you hired.
In most cases, an advertising agency or director has hired a specific voiceover talent based on the pre-recorded demo that the voiceover talent provided.
It is preferable to begin the session by referencing this audio so everyone has an objective place to start from in regards to tone. At this point, as the director, you can offer early feedback on the audition that provides a road-map for both parties on how the piece should sound. For instance, “Chris – we liked the energy and personality you brought to this particular set of lines. In the first take, can you keep that same vibe but come down at the end of the line so it sounds more like a statement?”
3) Present a brief background of the concept.
It is surprising how often a voiceover session begins and the first comment from the director is, “let’s grab a take.” Time is extremely valuable, but before hitting the record button, consider beginning with a general explanation of the tone of the piece, the campaign and the company culture. For instance, "this is a friendly, welcoming piece inviting new customers to try out this company’s new product. Their current advertising environment centers around younger audiences who are in-the-know. So we cast you because in your demo, we liked how you sounded cool, hip and spoke to the target audience." Then, let the voiceover talent hear the music or see the rough cut of the picture with the scratch track. By providing a small amount of background information, this ensures that everyone, from the advertising agency to the voiceover talent, is on the same-page when beginning.
4) Lead Your Critiques with a Compliment
Every person, regardless of their field of expertise, enjoys a compliment from a professional peer. Voiceover talent and actors are no different. During the first take, listen closely for an opportunity to praise the actor’s performance and consider leading your critiques with a compliment. This small gesture invites the voiceover talent into the creative environment and softens future critiques. By extending a small compliment, directors can establish a safe-space for creative-play, and bring out the best in the performer.
5) Less is More
Performance is subjective and collaborative by nature, so voiceover perfection is in the ear of the beholder. Therefore, power is having multiple options of lines in various styles of delivery for the final presentation to the end-client. Rather than explain at-length what is needed, mention a small critique and let the voiceover talent give you variations. You can then hone-in on the target by referencing your favorite take of the variations. For instance, “Hey, Chris - can you give me an ABC of this line with a little more attitude?” Then, “those three takes were great, and my preference is C. Let’s roll another set of three in the style of C."
Here are a examples of simple, brief phrases that work well:
"Chris - that was nice - let's try it again with more of a smile throughout,"
"Great, Chris; this time let's try it more determined,"
"Wonderful read; can we go again with a slower pace on the front-half?,"
"I love the delivery. Chris, can we emphasize this word on the next one?"
By keeping brevity in the critiques and leading with a quick positive statement, it allows more time to actually record so everyone can operate from an objective piece of audio versus discussing a subjective idea of what they want. For this reason, when offering critiques and asking for alternate versions of a line, less is always more.
BONUS TIP! Did you notice the words "we" and "let's?" Collaborative words work best when offering critiques, because the best creative is a team-effort.
Did you find this helpful? Please reach out if you have any questions you would like addressed in future articles. For more perspectives from inside the booth and creative needs, please reach out at Chris@ChrisBurnettVoiceActor.com
Chris Burnett - seasoned voiceover talent, on-camera talent, coach, creative thought-leader and hopefully your new best friend. Let's chat-preferably over cocktails.