Spotify Buys an AI Voice Simulation Startup


PodMov Daily: Tuesday, June 14

Episode 665: Testing, One Two-sday

Spotify Buys an AI Voice Simulation Startup

Spotify’s latest acquisition is Sonantic, a London-based startup that uses AI to create realistic-sounding, simulated voices from text. It’s known for bringing actor Val Kilmer’s voice ‘back to life’ onscreen after damage from throat cancer treatment. Last summer, Kilmer called the recreation “masterful.”

How will Spotify incorporate these “compelling, nuanced, and stunningly realistic” imitation humans? In a blog post, the company says the tech will be used to further personalize its platform. The only example given was that it could be used to detail recommendations while listeners aren’t looking at their screens. 

With text-to-speech and voice cloning tools like Overdub on the market, Spotify may eventually offer podcasters a similar feature. For now, as the announcement repeats five times, this is all about creating new “experiences.” It also mentions fostering a “deeper connection” with listeners, which is a bit spooky for AI.

If you’re curious about the wild side of synthetic voices, read this interview with Twenty Thousand Hertz creator Dallas Taylor. He digs into the tech, its applications, and cloning his own voice for the episode “Deepfake Dallas.”

Is Video Unnecessary or Essential? It’s Both.

Highly produced video is far from essential for most podcasts, says Podcode founder Mark Steadman. He sees it as more of a marketing tool for shows at scale – those with large audiences and larger budgets. Audio creators aren’t ‘short-order cooks’ that have to reimagine their content on a dime.

His reasoning is that short, attention-grabbing video is fundamentally different from longform audio, and that it doesn’t fit into listeners’ lives and routines the same way. Go for it if it interests you, Steadman writes. “But don’t feel you have to chase it, just because some industry person told you it’s ‘the future.’”

On that note, Evo Terra recently suggested podcasters shift away from ‘Do I need a video component?’ to ‘What’s stopping me from having one?’ Though they disagree, both creators are on the same page. Steadman’s answer to that second question describes how he likes to podcast, and that’s enough.

The same goes for ‘industry’ views on programmatic ads and paid subscriptions. Terra is a strong advocate for both, but above all encourages creators to consider what works for them. Whether you feels misaligned with a dominant trend or can’t wait to hop on board, you’re in brilliant company.

The Ramsey Show: 1 Billion Downloads and Counting

Out of 2 million podcasts, only a handful have reached the 1 billion download mark. Last year, The Ramsey Show became the fourth ever to earn the title. For 29 years on the air, financial expert Dave Ramsey has helped dedicated listeners navigate money and life. 

Each week, his impactful advice is trusted by millions and counting. “We’re teachers at the core,” said Brian Mayfield, Executive VP of Ramsey Network. “We’ve never seen anything grow the way the podcast world has grown, so we see tremendous opportunity there to continue to increase our audience.” 

Since The Ramsey Show began 15 years ago, callers have paid off a calculated $500 million. Ready for practical answers to the questions that matter most? Listen and follow wherever you get your podcasts.

Courage does not always roar. Valor does not always shine.

Here's what else is going on:

  • Sounds legit: The newly formed Safety Advisory Council at Spotify will provide third-party input on hate speech, disinformation, extremism, and the like. According to the company’s head of trust and safety, the council was not formed in reaction to “any particular creator or situation.” 
  • Cruise control: “How to Be a Good Podcast Guest” from Radio Boot Camp is this Thursday, June 16. NPR editor and producer Jennifer Vanasco will dig into pre-interview questions to ask, how to prepare (prep can often backfire), and how to sound relaxed and natural. $100 registration.

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