The Future of Voice-Overs: Need Will
Grow, Tech & Biz Savvy Top Priorities
By Alex Torrenegra
President and Co-founder, Voice123
Sept. 13, 2008
Voice123 just turned five years old, and I was asked to write about it. Several times before I have written about the history of Voice123. This time, however, I boldly write about the future of the voice-over industry as a whole.
Being the president of Voice123 has allowed me to have thousands of conversations with talents, producers, voice seekers, clients, agents, voice over coaches, and union leaders.
Each conversation has helped me shape an idea of what I think the future of the voice-over industry will be.
Some of you will agree with my predictions, some of you won't. Whatever your position may be, please keep in mind that my predictions do not represent my desires.
My logic may or may not predict what my heart would like to experience.
VOICE-OVER NEED GROWS
50 years ago, most people in the United States had limited choices for getting information:
Today, the number of options is almost unlimited for any given person:
Each one of those communication channels wants to be unique and have its own content. Many of them require voice-overs.
This trend is happening all over the world. As the fragmentation continues, more and more voice overs will be required to fulfill those needs.
NEED HOME STUDIO
The price of the technology and the equipment required to have a professional-grade recording studio keeps going down.
Time, our most important commodity, will be the most important factor when voice-over talents determine their rates.
By recording from their own home, at any time of the day, wearing any clothes they want (if any), voice-over talents will be able to offer more for less. As such, home studios will become the norm for most projects (not all projects, though).
Voice-over talents that are tech-savvy will be able to set up better home studios.
They will also be better audio engineers, better with editing recordings, better at using online tools such as Voice123, etc.
In short, they will be able to deliver a better product.
Voice-over talents that do not know how to properly record and deliver using these new methods are on their way to being extinct relatively soon, and are already facing skilled competition as you read this.
MORE JOBS, LOWER PRICES
Voice-over talents with home studios will be able to do more recordings per day than talents that have to rely on rented out studios.
Less commuting means more productivity, and quicker turn-around time.
More productivity means lower prices for the buyers (the voice seekers), but a more steady income for the sellers (the voice over talents).
You can think of it as the industrial revolution of the voice-over market. From being in an artisan profession, the independent voice-over professional will move on to become a service-oriented profession where booking 100% of the working-day time to do jobs will be the objective, and almost a requirement.
BIZ SKILLS TOP PRIORITY
Having a good voice will always continue to be important. But in a few years, voice-over professionals will only succeed if they have basic skills in marketing, sales, billing, accounting - and most important of all, in how to make their clients fall in love with their service.
Given that 'time' is the most important commodity nowadays, voice-over talents that help voice seekers save time will be the most successful.
It will be easier to win the lottery than to become a national celebrity doing voice-overs.
Media fragmentation makes it very difficult for anybody to become a widely-known celebrity. However, on the other hand, media fragmentation has sky-rocketed the demand for voice-over professionals.
In the past, few voice-over talents could be full-time professionals. Those that were full-time professionals were making the big bucks.
In the future, fewer people will become rich doing voice-overs, but many, many more people will be able to have a decent and above-standard style of living by being full-time voice-over professionals.
In the past, when the media was not so fragmented, it was easy to determine if the recording that a talent was performing was going to be broadcast in a national, regional, or local market.
Nowadays, few recordings are meant to be distributed in a specific geographical area. Many recordings are not even broadcast. They are electronically reproduced on-demand.
During the next few years, and as the media focuses on delivery-customized experiences to the consumers, almost all voice -over talents will be charging for the time it took them to do and deliver the recording, regardless of who will listen to it.
This, of course, means that royalties will probably become a thing of the past for almost all voice-over projects.
FEWER UNION JOBS
Years ago, both screen actors and voice-over talents were cast and hired the same way: They had to go somewhere to be cast. If hired, they then had to go somewhere to perform their work.
The voice-over hiring process of today is very different.
Even if screen actors can cast online, we are far, far way from the day when they can record their scenes with their own video-cameras and deliver them online to the producer of the TV show.
Voice-over professionals and screen actors rarely have the ability to share focus on both areas today.
Having the existing unions represent voice-over talents is as useful as having cab-driver unions represent auto-industry workers. True, they both have to deal with cars and they both want to switch to hybrids as quickly as they can, but their work is performed in significantly different ways.
New buyers of voice-over services have figured out, in most cases, that dealing with contracts under existing unions to hire voice-over professionals doesn't make logistical sense.
It won't be long before almost all of the current signatories realize that, as well.
WILL UNIONS ADAPT?
Will existing unions adapt to the changes brought forth by technology?
I wish they would, but based on my conversations with them, they know little about the reality of the common, non-celebrity, voice-over professional.
It will be easier for a new voice-over guild to grow than for the existing unions to adapt.
On top of that, the relationship between voice-over professionals and their clients is moving away from being an employee-to-business relation, to become more of a business-to-business relation.
As a consequence, I think that non-union jobs will dominate most of the voice-over market for many years to come.
THE AUTOMATED THREAT ...
Voice-over talents won't be replaced by automated text-to-software applications. Not, at least, for several decades to come.
Although advances in this area have been impressive, this has a long way to go before voice seekers consider it a viable alternative.
First, current technology still lacks many features that would allow a voice seeker to properly "direct" the computer.
Second, if those "direction" tools are ever developed, they will be complex to manipulate. Being a voice-over professional is, among many other things, being creative.
When a graphic designer is hired to create, the buyer usually wants the designer to add his/her creative touch to it. The same applies to the voice seeker.
They want a creative person behind the mic delivering something unique. As with graphic designers, technology will continue helping the voice-over professionals, rather than diminish them.
TIME WILL TELL
I know these are bold predictions and I know that statistically speaking, I may be wrong. Time will tell.
What are your predictions? Do your predictions match mine or are they widely different? Let us know!
Voice 123 is the online marketplace connecting voice talent seekers with professional talents and voice producers. Voice seekers post their projects on the site, which are emailed to all suitable member talents and voice producers. Voice123 also helps voice actors advertise their voice and increase their online exposure with leading-edge online marketing techniques. Members have an online profile that includes their resume information and voice-over demos. Talent can also audition online to projects posted by seekers every day.
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