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.
Media Fragmentation Will Demand More and More Voice Over Professionals
50 years ago most people in the United States had limited choices to get their information: four nationwide TV networks, a dozen radio stations, and a couple of newspapers in their town. Today, the number of options is almost unlimited for any given person: hundreds of cable networks, millions of online videos, hundreds of radio stations (AM, FM, satellite, HD, Internet), millions of podcasts, and millions of online newspapers and blogs. 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.
Home Studios Will Be the Norm
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 overs 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).
Technology-Savvy Talents Will Prevail
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 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 at 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.
Business Skills Will Become More Important than Voice Skills
Having a good voice will always continue to be important, but in a few years a voice over professional will only succeed if they have basic skills in marketing, sales, billing, accounting, 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.
Less Millionaires and a Market of Industrious Professionals
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 overs could be full-time professionals. Those that were full-time professionals were making the big bucks. In the future less 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.
Hourly Rates will Replace "National", "Regional", and "Local" Rates
When the media was not fragmented as it was in the past, 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.
Union Jobs Will Be Less Common
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, how in most cases, dealing contracts under existing unions to hire voice overs professionals doesn't make logistical sense. It won't be long before almost all of the current signatories realize that as well.
Will existing unions adapt to the changes on the voice over industry 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 relation between voice over professionals and their clients is moving away from being an employee-to-business relation and is becoming 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.
Voice Over Talents Won't Be Replaced by Automated Text-to-Speech Software
No, at least, during several decades to come. Although advances in this area have been impressive, has a long way to go before voice seekers may 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 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.
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 widely different? Let us know! Post your comments below!
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