Before you decide to license your voice to an artificial intelligence (AI) technology company, there are many important considerations. Especially given that AI speech technology is evolving rapidly over days rather than years. Singer Holly Herndon warns artists against ending up like Ariel and losing control of their unique voice.
Digital voice work includes word narration for text-to-speech, synthesized voices and AI voice dubbing. All of these applications are part of a rapidly evolving field that could soon impact the rights of artists, from singers to voice actors, narrators and everyone else in the audio industry. To get proper compensation for using your voice, you need to be aware of how things are going.
Licensing digital voices and using voices for AI is still in its infancy as technology advances. With just a few minutes of audio, the AI can accurately recreate a voice—a challenge for anyone engaged in voice editing. A great example of this is the highlighting of the Sónar festival in Barcelona from 2022. Artist Mat Dryhurst stepped up to the microphone but what came out was his wife’s lilting voice, Holly Herndon. As pitchfork puts “When Dryhurst chuckled, the sound was unmistakably her own, high and clear as a bell – and, as far as anyone could hear, not an electronic trick, but as seemingly real as the sound of a human larynx can get.”
The performance was part of Herndon’s demonstration of Holly+, an AI that uses neural networks to swap one sound for another. Doing that means you could potentially get Holly to say anything, perfect deepfakes, and narrate audiobooks without the artist actually having anything to contribute. So, before you set out to strike a deal with an AI tech company like Grimes’, you should stop and think about your business and what it takes to compete and thrive.
There are typically two types of fees for language work in the industry. Session fees cover the time spent recording the script, while usage fees take into account how long the client will benefit from the recording. Session fees can vary greatly from artist to artist depending on the hourly rate. But usage fees Here you should be careful.
The usage fee is a payment that depends on how the customer wants to use the work. Stay away from contracts that say language work is “perpetual,” meaning “forever.” You may come with a hefty reward up front (much like Ursula’s promise to Ariel), but you lose control over how and where your voice is used. When determining usage fees for voice recordings, local, regional or national broadcast considerations should be taken into account, whether the voice work will be used internally or externally and the size of the company’s anticipated audience.
Make sure any terms you sign clearly state where your voice will be used, for how long, and if your audio files will be put to any other use to restore your digital voice. The human voice from Siri, Susan Bennett, inadvertently sold her voice to Apple and became a voice that millions of people listen to every day for no additional compensation. Don’t be a poor unfortunate soul like Susan Bennett.