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Who gets to be the voice inside your meditation app?

is a Mashable series that explores the intersection of meditation practice and technology. Because even in the time of coronavirus, March doesn’t have to be madness.

Get yourself into a comfortable position. Bring your attention to your breath. 

Whose voice did you hear these words in? If you use meditation apps on the regular, you’ve got a particular person in your mind right now. 

Whether your chosen app is helmed by one signature voice or offers up to 10,000, voice is an important element of a meditation app. The voice becomes your link to developing mindfulness, your intimate guide to building tactical tools to help you navigate life’s ups and downs, and the key to you actually returning the next day for another session. They start your morning, bring you clarity in your most vulnerable moments, and even lull you to sleep , with the dulcet tones of Harry Styles willing you to the land of nod… wait, Harry Styles? How did he get in here?

There’s significant power and strategy behind the voice within your meditation app, as major players in the mindfulness space find their own voices in an industry that relies on having a distinct one.

The voice you probably already know

Undeniably, one of the most recognisable voices in the mindfulness industry today belongs to Headspace’s Andy Puddicombe. 

A meditation and mindfulness expert, Tibetan Buddhist monk, trained circus performer, and co-founder of Headspace, Puddicombe has recorded the majority of guided sessions for the popular app. Rival app Calm has a similar signature voice in its head of mindfulness, Tamara Levitt.

Puddicombe’s voice is so familiar to users that when people meet him IRL it always goes the same way. People assume he knows them, and that they know him, because he’s in their ears giving instructions — to take a deep breath and enjoy the feeling of having nothing to do — for 10 to 20 minutes a day.

“I think Andy’s voice was a sort of underrated asset for the brand from the beginning,” says Headspace‘s head of content, William Fowler.  “Andy’s from Bristol but he has a kind of accentless sort of quality to his voice. In America, a lot of people think he’s Australian…they can’t really place him. So, he has an oddly neutral voice but still he manages to express a kindness and approachability. That is key for the relationship people develop with him as a teacher.” 

You can see Puddicombe at work in this guided meditation with The Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon, in which he shifts from casual chat to a two-minute guided meditation with the audience:

In 2019, following requests from users for a female voice, Headspace made the move to broaden the app’s vocal pool to include that of Eve Lewis Prieto, the company’s director of meditation. “A lot of people prefer Eve now,” says Fowler. “We’re starting to see more equitable balance in terms of usage. Because Andy’s the founder, more of the content exists in his voice. Eve is catching up with him, and in terms of her popularity when users choose a voice, she’s hot on his heels.”

Prieto had worked with Headspace since 2013, having joined the company with an interest in meditation as a tool for managing anxiety. After a rigorous recruitment process, Fowler says Prieto tested better than other candidates they’d reached out to, as she understood…

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