VOICE OVER CAREER
Scared Of What AI Might Do To The Voice Over
Market? I'm Going 'Verified Human.' Should You?
By J. Michael Collins
Voice Actor, Coach & Producer
I've spent my career trying to see where the herd is moving and then either getting ahead of the next move, (or more often), moving in the opposite direction.
This philosophy has helped me build a voice over business and voice over-adjacent businesses that have thrived for almost three decades. It has also served me well in financial planning and investing.
Scared of the markets right now? I'm not.
Warren Buffett once said that it is wise for investors to be "fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful."
I'm buying market dips right now in multiple sectors, while most people are selling. If the market crashes, guess what? I'll still be a buyer. In the long run, the growth will be there.
The herd mentality in voice over today is all about figuring out how to incorporate AI, voice models and voice clones, into a voice over business plan.
Who will be the first movers who get out ahead of this trend and capitalize on it? Who will be harmed?
Not me. On both counts.
LESSON FOR FREELANCERS
Recently, I encountered a fascinating Twitter thread by content marketing writer Rob Lennon, who has self-published 45 titles on Amazon and is highly familiar with the freelance writing industry.
The freelance writing industry has similarities to voice over, though it is not directly analogous. However, Lennon's article struck a chord.
Lennon predicts that, "Entry-level freelance writing jobs will be decimated w/in 5 years and replaced by AI wranglers."
This is similar to my prediction of fairly imminent demise of entry level voice over jobs at the hands of AI voice models:
Lennon posits that, "A chain reaction occurs. Fewer entry-level business writing jobs are available. Years go by. Fewer writers getting better at their craft. Fewer writers writing about writing. Thus begins the gap."
Voice over will likely experience a similar phenomenon. Fewer low-end jobs available. Fewer new entrants into the industry. Eventually, buyers are left with a stark choice between human, or robot, as the available talent pool thins over time.
HIGH END: STRICTLY HUMAN
A market will begin to emerge for what Lennon calls, "strict human verification."
High-end buyers will demand authentic human voices. Consumers will demand them. And the most discriminating may choose to work only with those voice actors who can guarantee that their voice does not exist in artificial form.
If you are licensing your voice in AI form now, it will be very challenging to assure future buyers that someone else won't be able to use a model of your voice to recreate the deliverable you provide them.
It may, in fact, dilute your value in a market that starts to prize verifiably human voices.
I'M GOING 'VERIFIED HUMAN'
We don't know what the future looks like. This is just one of many possible outcomes.
But one thing I've yet to see from AI modelers is a use case for how voice actors make more than pizza money from voice clones.
Show me how we get to 5-figures monthly with an AI model and you'll have my interest.
Until then? Going forward, J. Michael Collins voice overs are Verified Human, and I'll be proudly displaying a badge declaring the same on my homepage in the near future.
Of course, I'm also buying stock in Veritone. So we'll see.
ABOUT J. MICHAEL
In more than 20 years as a professional voice actor, J. Michael Collins has worked with many of the world's largest companies, brands, sports leagues and organizations - in both the classic agency-based VO world and online casting marketplace, where he has become a leading authority. He is also recognized as an industry-leading voice over coach and award-winning demo producer, and is a multi-time Voice Arts Award nominee and winner as voice actor, demo producer, script writer and casting director.
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It made me think of a conversation that I recently had with a company that wanted to contract me for a machine-generated likeness of my voice. They tried to buy it out in perpetuity for a low four-figure fee, and third parties could party with my voice however they saw fit.
Out of politeness, I read the contract and asked two questions: Instead of the buyout, can I get royalties? Also, can you provide your clients the option to work with me directly for a real human option?
I never heard from them again!
Here's a little "Verified Human" logo I whipped up in response to this - feel free to use or spread it!