As someone who makes a living with their voice, this scares the SH*T out of me. Gee, you think anything will go wrong?

Let’s start with this premise: Just because we have the technology to do something doesn’t mean we should do it. For example, there’s a lot about artificial intelligence that’s very cool. But AI could also be the death of us.

An American company called Veritone has just introduced a new “service” they called MARVEL.ai. This tech–which they called “Voice-as-a-service” solution for celebrities, brands, and media companies–creates “hyper-realistic” recorded voice performances. All it needs is a sample of someone’s voice and they and they can make that synthetic say anything. It can read a script and narrate a program, newscast, or any other voiceover using that fake voice.

Wow. What could possibly go wrong? We already have issues.

(1) Bev Standing, a Canadian voiceover artist, is suing TikTok because someone used the platform’s text-to-speech feature to mimic her voice without her permission. How is this legal?

(2) Anyone remember “Denise” from 2011? She cost only $200 to fire up. That was only the tip of the iceberg. Today, radio groups are already replacing live announcers with AI. Gee, way to suck the humanity out of broadcasting.

(3) Think deep fakes are bad now? This will lead to a whole new era of disinformation, libel, and slander.

Vertione defends their leap into this technology, citing podcasting. From RAIN: “[MARVEL.ai offers] immediate translation into many different dialects and languages — podcasting, for example. With Crime Junkie for example, which our agency side Veritone One works with, it is no longer a random person’s voice if it gets translated into Spanish or French. It maintains brand equity.”

Yes, they have protocols and security measures in place to prevent abuse and deep fakes, but what about how legitimate businesses will use this technology to put people who use their voices to make a living?

I am not optimistic about how this will turn out.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

3 thoughts on “As someone who makes a living with their voice, this scares the SH*T out of me. Gee, you think anything will go wrong?

  • May 20, 2021 at 9:25 am
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    Alan,

    You are concerned about technology being able to mimic your voice because that’s all you are: a voice.

    People hate “Suits” for a reason: they have no soul, no original thoughts, no ideas, no morals or ethics. They simply agree with higher up, happy to be “cogs in the machine” or “YES people”.

    Voices on the radio are virtually indistinguishable from one another. The same approved “spontaneous and engaging” banter is heard on all stations, in all markets. When a voice on Toronto radio sounds the same as a voice on Detroit radio who sounds the same as a voice on Calgary radio and their “topics” are the same, you have a MUCH bigger problem than the “sound” of the voice.

    Face the facts: McVoice has been the norm on commercial radio for a VERY long time now, and whether the words are said by a computer or a human being is of little significance to listeners and more importantly the Corporation’s BOTTOM LINE.

    Create original content and offer more than a “Voice” reading press releases.

    Oh yeah, one more thing: Remember that piece you did recently telling aspiring artists to “buzz off”? I thought it was a very creative way to plug Dave Grohl using Malcolm McLaren shock tactics. It might be a good idea for you to take your own “advice” at this point though.

    gp

    Reply
  • May 20, 2021 at 9:46 am
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    Dude’s been the “Hal” of Canadian radio for decades and now suddenly he’s worried about being replaced by a computer.

    To translate that into Alannis:

    “It’s like rain on your wedding day.”

    Reply
  • May 20, 2021 at 9:48 pm
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    With this technology, we the listener might never now if Alan has been replaced. It is troubling how tech now could be used to lead us a long.

    Reply

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