The voice over industry has changed dramatically since I first picked up the microphone in the 1990s, and it continues to evolve every year. Keeping up with the changes is essential for voice actors who want to remain successful in the business, and it’s equally important for voice talent seekers and buyers intent on producing projects that continue to have an impact.
Five voice over trends for 2018 particularly caught my attention as I was researching this topic on the internet, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on them below.
Different languages gaining ground, but English still most popular language for voiceover.
More VO jobs are opening up for specific accents, dialects and different languages. The demand for English with an Australian accent rose by 22 percent since last year, while Spanish is the greatest in-demand, non-English language for voice over work.
Growth in demand for accents:
- 22 percent: English with Australian accent
- 12 percent: English with British accent
- 11 percent: Spanish, Latin American
- 3 percent: French, Canadian
Even though the demand is rising for different accents, dialects and languages, English remains the top language for voice over work. If you want to get even more specific, the greatest demand is for North American English with no distinct accent.
One reason behind the rising demand for other languages and accents is the desire for companies to portray a hyper-local feel. Regional advertising in the American South, for instance, may connect more keenly with a Southern audience if the speaker has a Southern accent.
The rise may also be linked to the amount of content being produced in non-English speaking countries to teach English to school children. Voice seekers from other parts of the world can hire voice over talent to help create a myriad of learning apps, programs, toys, games and other projects geared toward teaching English to the world.
- What this means for voice actors: Actors with different accents and native languages may benefit from extra work in those categories, although voice training is still an important part of the industry. Being able to remove all traces of any accent is still essential for many jobs.
- What this means for voice talent buyers: In English-speaking areas, standard, North American English remains the mainstay. Choosing a specific accent or dialect may connect more soundly with a specific community, but it can also limit the effectiveness of your project for the wider audience.
For voice actors, making an emotional connection is top priority.
No matter how logical you may think your decision to purchase a new item may be, your emotions are what drive you to buy. Savvy marketers have been capitalizing on this fact by focusing on making an emotional connection with the audience, whether it’s with print, images or voice overs.
Videos and ad campaigns are increasingly being designed to engage and communicate with the audience, rather than simply talk at them. Most auditions these days are going for a voice that sounds real and authentic, or “not like a professional voice over actor.”
- What this means for voice actors: New voice over talent getting into the business can have an advantage here, as they may not have developed certain habits, like perfect pronunciation or energetic deliveries that used to be more mainstream. Although voices are becoming much more laid back and authentic, developing a real sound that can also cut through with a messages isn’t always as easy as it may seem.
- What this means for voice talent buyers: While an authentic voice is one part of the equation for making an emotional connection, it’s not the only part. Seeking out voice talent with a background in acting can be a bonus when looking to make a meaningful connection with the audience. Plus, hiring a voice actor who can offer a variety of vocal styles will give you more options in the recording session, and in post.
Budget is no longer the voice over bottom line.
Voice seekers are looking beyond the budget when it comes to hiring voice talent. The ability to make an emotional connection tops the list of what they’re looking for, followed by four other factors that are more important than budget.
Clients are looking for voice talent who can:
- Add personality
- Match the brand voice
- Reflect the sound of target market
- Sound aspirational to the target market
- What this means for voice actors: Having the lowest rates won’t necessarily snag you the highest number of gigs. The factors listed above, as well as things like professionalism, quality production methods and experience, can matter more than extremely low rates.
- What this means for voice talent buyers: Voice seekers who continue to make the budget their bottom line may be missing out on important factors competitors are seeking. Being aware of the way voice over work is typically priced can also be a plus. Pricing can vary drastically for Broadcast audio, depending on usage, and number and size of markets, and for non-broadcast audio, usage is also a determining rate factor and fees can often be calculated by either word count, hours worked, or finished audio minutes.
Voice talent agents, unions and established rates can still work as a guideline, but in recent times, it’s more like the Wild West, where anything goes. Supply and demand play a role, and the buyer should always beware of cut-rate talent and sites. You do generally get what you pay for.
The actual age of voice artists doesn’t matter, as long as they can tailor their voice to align with the age group the client is targeting. And the vast majority of clients are targeting audiences in the Gen X and millennial generations. A rundown on the percentage of projects targeting different age groups shows:
- 54 percent: Gen X
- 39 percent: Millennials
- 4 percent: Gen Z
- 2 percent: Baby Boomers
- 1 percent: Great Generation
- What this means for voice actors: If you can train your voice to align with different age groups, you’ll have more opportunities for work. And there appears to be a lot of work for those with voices aligned with Gen X and Millennials. Those same age groups are also largely at the helm when it comes to making hiring decisions for voice over talent. Voice talent of any age group who can relate to these generations on a business level will likewise have an advantage.
- What this means for voice talent buyers: While a voice that resonates with the target audience is important, so are other factors that go far beyond the sound. Look for a well-rounded professional for best results, regardless of the age group that professional may be in.
Real voices still beat out robotic voices.
Even though voice-activated virtual assistants and technology continue to become more commonplace, people are not as gung-ho about using virtual voices. A notable 93 percent of folks who responded to an annual survey pegged the human voice as more powerful than a robotic voice.
- What this means for voice actors: You don’t have to fret about losing your job to machines, at least not yet. For me, that’s fabulous news. I wouldn’t mind staying relevant for another decade or so, and hopefully we won’t fall into the world of AI and computer everything prior to that. Voice actors may also see opportunities to work on projects related to AI and computerized voices. I was recently part of a few projects for text-to-speech, and it’s an interesting phenomenon to see play out.
- What this means for voice talent buyers: Real people provide the human touch – and emotional connection – that robots simply can’t produce… At least not yet. Hiring a real person for voice over work also comes with additional perks, such as enjoying guidance from his or her expertise and making your own mutual meaningful connections.
Keeping these trends in mind while seeking your next voice over talent or running your voice over business can help you stay ahead of the crowd. Just don’t get too comfortable with any amendments you make to accommodate them. As with any industry in this rapidly changing world, we can all expect the voice over arena to continue to evolve for years to come.