In this interview with TechBullion, CEO of Voices David Ciccarell, tells us about the Voices audio marketplace and reasons why AI will not threaten the future of audio.
Please tell us more about yourself?
My name is David Ciccarelli, the CEO and Co-Founder of Voices. As a trained audio engineer turned entrepreneur, I’m applying a lifelong interest in sound to a business that my wife and I founded in 2005. Now, with our team of nearly 150 employees, we serve a community of over 3 million registered users in 160 countries.
What is Voices and what inspired you to start this business?
Voices is an online marketplace that connects business clients with professional voice talent. As a freelancer marketplace, we differentiate ourselves from generalist marketplaces like Upwork and Fiverr by focusing on audio content creators. Don’t get me wrong, we admire what these companies have created and their global operations are impressive. Still, we find that many of our customers appreciate a bespoke experience designed around the act of listening.
After graduating from an audio engineering program, I opened a small recording studio and got my name in the local newspaper. Stephanie, my wife and co-founder, is a classically trained singer and came into the studio to record her singing repertoire. Because of the newspaper article, other small businesses reached out and asked if I knew of a female voice talent who could record some radio commercials and phone system greetings. Having just met Stephanie, we collaborated on those projects, eventually forming a business partnership.
The website that initially promoted my recording studio was re-launched to showcase a few dozen voice talent that we formed relationships with in those early years.
From the beginning, we wanted to create an online community. To do so, we built a business that’s based on shared success. Our business only succeeds if we can help voice talent grow their careers by landing well paying voice over jobs.
Today, our mission is to positively impact the world through the power of the human voice. It’s really the voices of our talent who tell the stories of brands and organizations, educating and entertaining audiences around the world.
What problems was the advertising industry facing before now, how is Voices helping solve these problems. Is Voices the future of audio?
Let’s face it, the world is awash in videos on social media and online video ads. Attention spans are reduced down to 15-second Instagram Reels, 6-sec TikTok videos or 6-sec pre-roll ads on YouTube. Marketers have saturated the eyes and are moving on to the ears.
Many of us are looking for a different experience. This is especially true for the 30% of the general population who learns best by listening.
Audio content, either professionally recorded or performed live, is common in podcasts, which is a refreshing change.
Could you enlighten us on why AI is not to be chosen for audio content?
While AI voices have improved over the years, their use is limited to short sound-bites, recordings that are 10 seconds or less. These sound bites are typically navigational such as turn-by-turn directions or instructions in an elevator or on a subway.
In our research, we’ve found that people want to hear from people that sound like them. This is why advertisers hire actors and voice talent who sound like the target audience.
What defines the sound of the demographic? It could be geographic in which case language, accent, and regionalisms come into play. The voice also ages with time, so if you’re trying to reach a mature audience, then hire a voice actor in the age 50+ group.
Beyond demographics, aspirational qualities of the brand, and by extension their advertising and the spokespeople who represent the brand, can be identified. Visually, seeing iconography associated with the American Dream (think white picket fence, and a two-storey home with a manicured green) are commonplace. Audibly, we may hear a voice actor who sounds like the guy or gal next door.
At Voices, we’ve coined this vocal archetype as the “approachable expert,” the friend who is trustworthy, believable and yet approachable. You never feel silly asking them a question but rather, they are generous with their knowledge and are a source of news, movie reviews and always knows about the latest technology.
The approachable expert is a style that can be performed best by a professional voice actor.
Having witnessed the evolution of the audio industry, how big is this market and how is AI impacting the audio industry specifically?
Since the advent of modern technology, people have been engaging with computers; from typing to tapping to talking. Today, we find ourselves both listening to audio content, but also speaking to our computers and mobile phones more than ever before.
The voice synthesis market is valued at $14.8B, made up of digital assistants and voice applications covering both the development of the software as well as the distribution of the software that’s ultimately sold in app stores and other commercial platforms.
- The voice synthesis market is valued at $14.8 B a year, and industry estimates project it will grow at 16% until 2020.
- Digital assistants ($10.9 B) represent the largest space in the voice synthesis market and range from assistants on commercial devices to advances in automated customer service.
- The computer voice market ($1.4 B) is primarily driven by voice-to-text applications, and soon will be a differentiating factor in the highly competitive hardware and software markets
- Healthcare ($1.8 B) requires complex medical transcription software and offers vast opportunities in the vocal damage and treatment adherence markets.
Could you give us a walkthrough of the services on Voices marketplace, how hiring freelancers for audio production works and what clients should pay attention to?
Voices works in over 100 authentic languages with in-market talent in over 160 countries. This enables us to meet the requirements of localization, regional accents and dialects to not only convey your message but the emotion of your content.
To get started, sign-up free and then post a job. By filling out the job posting form, you’ll let us know what you’re looking for. You can pick the language, accent, gender and age of the talent as well the role you’d like them to perform and style of performance.
We invite only the most qualified talent who then reply to your job with a 30-second audition, a brief proposal for why you should pick them and the quote for how much they are charging to do the work.
Prices range from $100 to $10,000 depending on the size and scope of the project, however most short projects (1-2 pages or script or under 5 minutes of recorded audio) land around $500.
Next is the fun part, listening to talent auditioning for you. Once you’ve found the best voice for your project, simply click “hire” and you can pay for the work with a credit card online.
The talent will complete the work and often turn it around in 24-48 hours, delivering you broadcast-quality audio files that you can use for your company or campaign.
About the voice over and voice actors on the marketplace, what qualities should we expect, and how does it work?
The voice actors on Voices.com are quite talented, lending their voices for projects from national advertising campaigns to documentaries, movie trailers and online videos promoting every product imaginable.
Voice talent are actors, meaning they are flexible and versatile. Many have an acting or on-stage background and can become the character that the script calls for.
My suggestion is to give clear artistic direction and guidance for how to approach the script, share information about the audience they are speaking to and help with pronouncing names or uncommon terms. The more detail you provide, the better auditions you’ll receive and ultimately, the better the finished product.
Popularized during the pandemic, many voice actors now offer live-directed sessions. These sessions are video conferences that allow you to listen in while your script is being recorded. This affords you the opportunity to provide guidance on how you want the voice performed or make last-minute changes, which hopefully are few.
How does Voices benefit music artists and what kind of musical skills and services can we find on the platform?
Music and other audio production services are two of our newest creative service categories. We’ve found that freelancers on Voices.com are multi-faceted and are often skilled in areas beyond just voice over. Many have a musical background as there are parallels between signing and speaking. Our idea is to feature these skills and make it easy for clients to listen to singers and other musicians they may want to hire for music composition.
Translation services have become very innovative and popular online, what makes the Voices translation services special?
Since eLearning projects and corporate training videos are often multilingual and need both the script translated and voiced into a number of languages, translation was a natural extension to the marketplace.
On Voices.com, you can find independent translators as well as voice talent who can translate and provide the voice over. Having a local person from the region be the same person to translate and do the voice over is what makes hiring on Voices special.
What do we expect in the future from this industry? As both audio and AI continue to evolve, will AI have the same effect on audio as it has on other creative industries?
As both audio and AI continue to evolve, there is no question that there will be an interplay between the two. However, as shown from our industry analysis and historical trends, it is unlikely that AI will have the same effect on audio as it has on other creative industries.
What are you currently working on and what is next on your roadmap? Do you have any available opportunities for investors and partners at Voices?
We’re on an ambitious mission to create the definitive destination for all things voice. Creating new ways for talent to be discovered and easier ways for clients to hire voice talent, audio producers, and translators continue to keep us on our toes.
For those interested in partnering with us or exploring a collaboration, I’d encourage you to reach out to discuss how we can work together.