Imagine having your voice – the unique vocal nuances, intonations, and emotions which
make you sound like you and no one else – replicated without your consent. It’s an
unsettling reality I’ve now faced twice. And this has also happened to countless other voice
talent around the world – some of it by developers harvesting material they find online
without permission and using it to train voice models; some of it, believe it or not, by our
own existing clients in what’s becoming known as “theft by Terms of Service”.
In this second scenario, contract terms were altered in pre-emptive strikes years before the
current AI technology existed or the reality of what was about to become possible was
apparent to anyone outside the AI bubble. These clients – production houses, voice
directories and online casting sites among them – all sneakily altered their Terms of Service
with voice talent to enable them to repurpose years’ worth of existing recordings already in
their libraries for the same end result: undercutting, or cutting out entirely, the very people
who’d helped build those businesses in the first place.
I’ve been left pondering the implications of it all. Aside from the cruel irony that people’s
stolen voices are now being used to undercut their own offerings – risking putting many of
talent out of business – it’s about the loss of human authenticity that a genuine voiceover
artist brings to the table. And that’s a real issue for content creators.
Good voiceover is about infusing scripts with emotions, connecting with the audience, and
creating an immersive experience. A seasoned voice artist meticulously tailors their delivery
to match the brand’s identity and the intended audience, ensuring that each word, each
line, each carefully constructed thought resonates authentically. The subtle nuances that
convey empathy, excitement, or urgency are the hallmark of human voiceovers – nuances
that an AI, no matter how advanced, struggles to replicate.
While tech has made astonishing strides in mimicking human speech, it lacks the emotional
depth and warmth that come naturally to humans. The spontaneous adaptations that
human voice talent make, based on client feedback during a live session or changing project
requirements, are something AI can’t replicate. Moreover, the creative interpretation and
improvisation that a human artist brings to the recording studio are irreplaceable elements
that elevate the final product. Yes: you could spend hours tweaking the output of the AI
voice in software to inject some of what’s missing – a little lift here, a bit more emotion
there. But really, where’s the fun and creativity in that? (And ultimately, do you want to be a
creative or a programmer?)
Read: How much does it costs to Hire a Professional Voiceover Artist. Where we explain the breakdown of costs and the importance of usage.
Every human voice is also unique, reflecting a tapestry of cultural backgrounds, regional
accents, and personal experiences. This diversity is a treasure trove that enriches
storytelling and fosters inclusivity. AI voice offerings tend to generalise and homogenize
voices. The loss of these distinctive qualities can dilute the authenticity and relatability of
I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that it’s also noisier than ever out there, so establishing
a genuine connection with your listener is paramount. A human voiceover artist has the
ability to build rapport with listeners through the nuances of their voice. Whether they
realise why or not, most people will “tune out” of an AI voiceover after a couple of minutes
as repeated patterns of prosody, limited vocal range and lack of emotion lead to a lack of
connection. I’m already hearing stories of clients coming back to the same voice talent
they’ve used in the past, saying that the AI voices didn’t work for them. But depending on
your project, that could end up being an unwise detour and a costly distraction in itself…
Don’t get me wrong: AI voice synthesis doesn’t need to be a threat to human voiceover
artists. There are certainly places where AI voices can be a real boon to production, like
creating an entire morning newspaper in audio form on a daily basis or creating dozens of
slightly different versions of something for different audiences in a very limited time frame.
And ultimately, like any technology, it’s up to us humans to decide how best to use it. We
just need to be careful about throwing out what already works in favour of something that
seems like a good idea just because it’s… cheaper.
When you’re choosing a voice for your next project, remember that authenticity remains
the bedrock of effective communication. AI-generated voices may offer convenience, but
they lack the soulful essence that makes human voiceovers resonate with audiences. Those
intangible qualities – the raw emotions, the empathetic inflections, and the spontaneity –
are what set human voices apart.
When I played my stolen voice samples to people I knew and asked them what they
thought, the responses ranged from “It sounds like you, but you sound like you’ve had a
stroke” to “it’s like a version of you that just isn’t a very good voiceover”. I’d invite you to
consider what first impression that might create for your own audience – because you only
get to make one first impression. For now, at least, in an era dominated by technological
advancements, it’s clear that the human touch remains the true gold standard in the
Listen to Mike's Voiceover Demos...
At Great British Voices, we put in significant efforts to prevent the inappropriate use of our talents’ voices for AI applications. And while we appreciate that AI can be beneficial in certain production scenarios, replacing human voices entirely with AI, loses all authenticity in effective communication and lack the emotional qualities that set human voices apart. To hire a professional voiceover artist, contact the team at Great British Voices today! +44 1753 439 289