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
As a creative director, video director, copywriter, booth director or advertising professional, are you offering direction or are you simply paraphrasing the script for the actor? If you find yourself summarizing the script to voiceover talent, consider starting with the tone of the piece and then revealing the “why” to the talent.
Let us consider the following scenario from a creative director during a voiceover session:
Creative Director says: “Have you had a chance to look at the script? Basically, it’s a COUPLE who walks into a gas station and the STORE CLERK asks the COUPLE if they would like to buy a lottery ticket. The COUPLE finds out they won the lottery after they scratch their ticket and they can’t believe it. Let’s take a pass whenever you’re ready.”
Here, we see a scenario where the booth director has offered an abridged version of the script to the talent. Many times offering a short synopsis of the script is confused with offering direction to voiceover talent. If a commercial voiceover script has been provided with an adequate amount of time for the actor to prepare (minimum of 15 minutes), then a summary of the script is unnecessary.
Instead, consider focusing on the tone of the piece.
To communicate the tone of the piece, welcome the voiceover talent into the creative process by providing the context of the script versus a summary.
For instance, the creative director could say, “our client has a new scratch off ticket, and this piece is to create excitement around this new scratch-off. We are trying to communicate to the audience that even the largest purse can change the winners’ life.”
From this background information, it is clear to the voiceover talent that the message that is trying to be conveyed in the piece is ‘excitement and life-changing.’ Therefore, our hero, the COUPLE, now knows to dial up the enthusiasm. Meanwhile, the STORE CLERK might hear this tonal direction and think, ‘I need to ease off the eagerness and sound more aloof to elicit more contrast with the COUPLE.’
By simply communicating the context of the piece, the tone is established, and the creative director has offered the actors a road map for a more nuanced read.
After this tone has been established, focus on why your advertising agency created this particular script for the client. Often, creative directors that communicate the concept of the script to the actor will reveal the “why.” For instance, using the lottery scratch-off scenario: “Chris – our advertising agency created this script because we want to highlight that ordinary couples can change their lives with a scratch-off. We want the COUPLE role to highlight that partners can enjoy scratch-offs together. The COUPLE represents all partners – whether they are best friends, co-workers, love interests, any duo that would like to make a life-changing memory. Our creative team and copywriter envision the COUPLE walking in together after a hard day of work and the winning ticket changes their life. In this sense, the lottery is more than a ticket; it is a memory, a shared experience or a ritual that bonds co-workers, family members, friends, etc.”
Okay. Now we have some insight into the “why” or the purpose of the piece. With the intention of the piece now clear, the voiceover talent can make more informed choices based off of these insights. It is clear that the copywriter placed the “COUPLE” in the script to highlight the excitement of the lottery while also instilling in the listener that these tickets create lasting memories with your loved ones. To stimulate that excited, memorable feeling, the voiceover talent may choose to take the listener on a journey by beginning the piece tired from a long day of work. Then, the COUPLE might offer a slow build into a realization that life has changed. And then, “oh, yeah – I’m with my partner, too!”
In short, if you are a creative director, video director, copywriter, booth director or advertising professional looking to avoid summary-traps while eliciting deeper performances, communicate the tone and offer the “why” to voiceover talent. By welcoming the voiceover talent into the creative process, all parties can dive deeper into the commercial copy and offer more dynamic interpretations of the piece.
Remember that time you read an awesome blog post from a creative talent on his website and you decided you need to get to know each other? Audio, voiceovers, copywriting, editing, idea generation, turn-key creative...let's go. Do you have any creative needs? I can be reached at Chris@ChrisBurnettVoiceActor.com or 213.761.8212.
Chris Burnett - seasoned voiceover talent, on-camera talent, coach, creative thought-leader and hopefully your new best friend. Let's chat-preferably over cocktails.