Let’s look at TTS and voiceover. With more new technology that can do the same job a human can do, there’s a concern in every industry about jobs being potentially lost. That concern is even in the voiceover industry with the rise of text-to-speech. The best way to handle the fear we may have about this technology is to know as much as we can about it. Here’s everything you need to know about text-to-speech (TTS), and how we as voiceover artists can quote properly to protect our careers.
What is TTS?
If you’re unfamiliar with text-to-speech, it’s a technology that takes the written word and converts it to spoken word. TTS can compile units of speech from words to entire sentences. The technology takes those units of speech and puts them together in a combination that creates synthetic speech that can say anything. It does this by making use of the voice that recorded the speech units initially.
TTS is quickly advancing in ways that make it more and more human-like. Engineers have been able to make the technology incorporate more human voice characteristics, adjust pronunciation to fit with a region, and add emphasis to words. The technology has also improved in being able to wait for a reply when asking for a response and also do synthetic edits to fix recording errors. Needless to say, all of these continued improvements might have voiceover artists feeling a little uncertain about their future.
How does TTS potentially affect your voiceover career?
There are several concerns that the voice industry has as it relates to text-to-speech technology becoming more advanced. One of the first concerns is related to royalties. Royalties are what help voice artists continue to get a consistent flow of income after they’ve completed a project. One of the questions related to TTS is whether those royalties will count if your voice is being used to make synthetic speech. The current consensus is that you likely won’t get any royalties for the ongoing use of your voice. Instead, you may only get a one-time large payment for the initial recording sessions.
In addition to the potential of losing royalties, the rates for TTS projects are declining as well. Previous recording sessions could pay upwards of $50K. Now, because the technology is advancing to require less recording time, the pay for these projects is getting lower. Beyond the payment for these projects, you might lose control of where and how your voice gets used. Your pre-recorded voice can be arranged by TTS technology to make any kind of message a company or business may want. As a result, your voice may be used to create messages that you don’t approve of.
Lastly, a major concern for voiceover artists is being limited from doing future projects. A company may decide they want to buy out your voice. If you agree to let them buy out your voice, you could be restricted from using your voice to do voiceover jobs for other companies. While all of these concerns have some validity, there’s reason to have optimism about the voiceover industry moving forward.
How do you quote for TTS jobs?
You should first be aware that TTS is still limited in what it can do. It can’t generate spontaneous human emotions and different vocal techniques like voice artists can do. It’s because of these limitations that businesses still need us, and we have the ability to leverage our power to make sure that we’re adequately supported for our work. It’s all about how you quote your rate. You should only allow your client to use your voice on their technology for a certain period of time. When that time is up, they can have the option to renew if they want to keep using your voice. You should never allow any client to use your voice in perpetuity. In layman’s terms, that means a client can use your voice for all time in whatever way they desire, and they will not have to pay you for future use. It’s important that voice artists avoid signing these kinds of deals because that will continue to open the door for AI voices to replace the industry entirely.
AI Technology is not going anywhere. Text-to-speech is only going to continue to develop and advance in a way that makes it better able to mimic the full range of the human voice. While these advancements will present some frustrations to us as voiceover artists, we have to find a way to work with the AI technologies instead of complaining about them. Remember your value as a voice artist. We have to make sure that for every project we agree to, we’re always adequately protected and compensated for the unique abilities that we provide to our clients.
TTS and Voiceover by Kate Marcin