Should voice over fees be paid by media or execution?

Imagine you have a script with a voice over to be recorded and this same voice over is going to run in six different versions of the commercial for the same brand or product on a national campaign for 12 months. How much is the voice over talent fee?

Interestingly, according to the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) Award for voiceover talent it depends on the medium. You see, if those six versions are radio then the cost is $360. But if the same voice over recording is applied to six 30-second television commercials the cost is six times $650 or $3,900.

The medium determines the fee

Beyond geography and term, the MEAA Commercial Voiceover Award makes a very clear distinction between television/cinema and radio. Television and cinema voice over fees are calculated by product, per hour, per medium per track. Radio voice over fees, on the other hand, are calculated per product per hour up to six tracks per hour.

To record one 30 second voice over for radio, to be use for 12 months nationally, the talent is paid $360. To use that same voice over on a television commercial the talent is paid $650.

To use the same voice over on five more radio commercials (a total of six) the talent is paid no more money. To use the same voice over on five more television and cinema commercials the voice over is paid five more fees of $650 each.

More anomalies in the award

As radio is paid by the hour or recording, there is no loadings for the length of the commercial. Therefore if you can record six 30-second ads, or six 60-second commercials or six 90-second radio commercials in the hour you still only pay the $360. Television and radio on the other hand are paid by track and therefore if you record one 90 second script in an hour you pay $750. But if you record six 15-second scripts in an hour you pay $3,900.

Why the difference? No matter what the media, the expertise and ability of the voice over talent is the same. The payment is based on an hourly rate of work in radio and based on an hour rate with a multiple for executions on television and cinema.

Within the existing Award, there is a loading on the television and cinema rate per hour ($650) over the radio rate ($300) of more than 100% to compensate for any apparent difference in level of exposure. But even this is arguable as the media buy is not even considered in this equation.

The only consistency in the approach to voice over fees is the application of an additional fee no matter is the voice over is for radio or television if the execution is used on the internet. But again, why is it twice as expensive from a talent point of view to put a radio commercial on the internet than a cinema commercial?

The impact on advertisers

Imagine you are a retail advertiser with stores throughout the country and you had 24 different messages to run nationally. If you advertised on radio the talent fee would be 4 times $300 for the 24 voice over recordings or $1,200. To then use those same recordings on 24 different television commercials would cost $15,600. Why does it not cost 4 times $650 or $2,600 for television? After all the talent has done no extra work and they are certainly adequately compensated for the additional media exposure.

A classic example of this is government advertising where, because of the Australian Broadcasting Act, all government advertising needs to have a voice over at the end declaring the authority by which the message is delivered. With the current election, you are more than aware of the type “Written and authorised by ….”. If that line is recorded by a voice over talent and used on six radio commercials then the cost is $300 nationally. If it is used on six television spots it is the $3,900. Make you wonder if the Act was drafted to make voice over actor rich or the award was drafted to take advantage of the Act?

Keep it simple stupid

The Award structure for radio is simple and easy and fair because it is not based on executions but on media and hours of work. If a voice over talent can record six scripts in an hour or one script in an hour, what does it matter to their fee if those scripts are used in the one media, for an agreed duration in an agreed geography? Why does the Award treat television and cinema differently?

In a world that is also increasingly digital and online, why is there a flat additional fee for the internet? After all, internet formats do not conveniently conform to the duration disciplines of 15 second, 30 second, 45 second seen on television. So what fee do you pay if you want to record a voice over for an internet video of 33 seconds? I am sure the MEAA would argue it is $700 for a 45 second TV commercial (as the duration is greater than 30 seconds) plus the 100% loading making the fee $1,400.

To find out more, click here to access the November issue of Compliance Review, a new monthly publication for anyone who employs performers in the advertising, marketing and entertainment industries.

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About Darren Woolley

Darren is considered a thought leader on all aspects of marketing management. A Problem Solver, Negotiator, Founder & Global CEO of TrinityP3 - Marketing Management Consultants, founding member of the Marketing FIRST Forum and Author. He is also a Past-Chair of the Australian Marketing Institute, Ex-Medical Scientist and Ex-Creative Director. And in his spare time he sleeps. Darren's Bio Here Email: darren@trinityp3.com
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One Response to Should voice over fees be paid by media or execution?

  1. Jay Cuttes says:

    Great article! I would surmise that the reason radio ads are at an hourly rate versus a per work rate for television and cinema, is due to the fact that radio is far less profitable than the other two forms of media and therefore the talent is taking what it can get, an hourly rate. This is accepted because they want and need the work, but it has nothing to do with what they can bring to the table or the effort they have to put into creating the work. If radio could charge the advertising dollars for their time that television and cinema did, then I imagine that the representatives for these performers would insist on the same per work rate that tv and film get.

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