Q It Up – The RAP Network Speaks: "How does your station handle talent fees?"

by Sterling Tarrant

I have lots of responses this month, so let's get right to it.

This month's question is: How does your station or your market handle talent fees? How much do you charge? First of all, my station charges a $35 talent fee that goes to the talent (minus taxes) and a $7 dub fee that the station retains for all our productions that go out of house. To see if this was comparable in my market, I called Pete May, Production Director of KKCS in Colorado Springs: The policy is that the station invoices the client and the talent fee is derived out of that. It will always be a $35 dub fee and the station retains $5 out of that. Clients have known for a number of years now that when dubs come out of here, a $35 charge will go along with that. We haven't really had a lot of clients object to it because it's been in effect for so long. I think the biggest problem getting talent fees recognized is that it has been so nebulous at many operations. The most important element is to have management back you up on it and to be comparable with what other stations in your market are charging.

Last time I looked, Colorado Springs was market #108. A small market. If you're in market 100+, let me know what you charge. I'll report on it next month. To move on up to medium markets let's go to Charlie Walker, Creative Manager of WKDF-FM/WGFX-FM in Nashville, TN: Anything that goes out of the station that has a station voice on it, that talent is expecting to get some money out of it and pretty much everyone cuts their own deal. I would say that the prices range anywhere from $50 to $100 for VOs. Doesn't matter on length. If it's a VO for TV, we're gonna tack on another $25 to $50. We have recently started charging for copywriting. We're one of about five stations in the market that charges a copywriting fee for station-originated copy that goes out of the building. If someone says they just need the copy and we fax it to them, it's $25 that goes to whoever wrote it. What usually happens is whoever voiced the copy gets his talent fee and whoever wrote it gets his talent fee. The station encourages us to free-lance because that way we're not always screaming about wanting a raise.

Randy Marx, Production Director at WKRQ-FM in Cincinnati, OH: Talent fees? Well, first we beat the salespeople into submission. Then they beat the clients into submission and then...no, I'm just kidding. We used to charge a talent fee based on copy, based on talent, and that got kind of confusing. So what we do now is charge a flat rate for production that goes out of house. If it's a direct, non-agency account, they're subject to a one-time talent fee for that production. Our talent fee is $100 a spot. We split it up between whoever is responsible for writing it, voicing it, producing it. Depending on how many people had a part in it, we hold court and decide who gets what.

Matt Rawlings, WFMS-FM and "The Bear," Indianapolis, IN: If a spot from our station plays on another station, the jock who voiced it gets $75 for a sixty and $40 for a thirty. Other than that, for voice talents in the market, I would guess, based on people I've talked to, that they get around $100 for a sixty.

Moving into the larger markets, let's go to Jim Mulvaney, Production Manager of WBBM-AM in Chicago, IL. When I first talked to Jim he was waiting for his union steward from AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Actors) to come in and voice a spot. Jim had had quite a few questions to ask of him to provide some clarification on talent fees in Chicago, but he was able to offer this: We only have certain people we can use. For instance, I needed just a line from a pretend business person, and I couldn't just grab somebody from the office to do it. They have to be AFTRA members. Right there, that adds a bit of difficulty. We have five people and myself on staff who are AFTRA members, and my contract won't let me do full sixties or thirties, just tags. And, I believe, I get extra for doing character voices. All that has to be built into the salesperson's presentation.

For another look at working with unions and talent fees, let's ask Bill Schultz at WYNY-FM, New York City, NY: Basically the radio station itself doesn't get too involved with talent fees. It's something the jocks do on an individual basis. They're all members of AFTRA, and if they were going to voice a spot here and send it to another station, I think the minimum AFTRA session fee right now is $229 plus some nominal fee like $1.87 per station it's going to run on. I think that gives them a six-month cycle and then, if it continues to run, there's a new session fee of $229. Now that's the minimum according to AFTRA that they're supposed to charge. They can, and they generally do, charge a little more than that. It's something that the jocks are willing to work with sales on, depending on what the budget is for the client. If it's a really huge client, they're gonna look to get paid well for what they're doing. If it is a small client and they like the commercial and it's going to be played elsewhere, usually the DJ will work out some sort of deal with the salesperson based on the client's needs.

Tony Lawrence, Director of Creative Services at KPLX-FM/KLIF-AM in Dallas, TX: We're a right to work state, so you have a lot of people who come here and work for union scale and yet the individual radio or television stations are not union. So you have to pick a little niche and go for it. For instance, if a spot is running on our station alone, there is no charge. If it runs somewhere else, the charge starts in. And, if you go to a recording studio and record a spot to go somewhere else, then you make your own deal. I wouldn't want to quote KPLX's rate because we use the individual person's (the talent's) rate. If somebody comes in and wants to rent a studio and have an announcer and have something sent out, then we charge studio time for the company and then a producer's fee, a talent fee, and a writer's fee. It's such a wide variance, and since it's non-union, we don't go with a scale.

Ronn Lipkin, Production Director of KLSX-FM/KRLA-AM in Los Angeles, CA: Talent fees for our jocks for appearances range from $500 minimum up to $1250 for a more big name jock to make even a brief appearance at an opening. We don't have a lot of instances of our spots going out, and thus not a lot of talent fees in that regard. In fact I have never had that happen here. My partner and I have produced spots that have appeared on other stations, but we've done that through an agency or through like a "Universal Amphitheater." For instance, we've produced a concert spot for the market and then we get paid our going rate. It's around $500 for a spot with a few updates and $20 a dub. Then, if we have to go back and make a substantial copy change, we might charge them half that rate again. That's for doing all the production. We don't have an agency that represents us, we just deal directly with the client or their director of marketing.

To close, if you are in one of these markets and have a different situation, call, fax, or e-mail me so that I can report your results next month. I'd also like to hear from you guys or gals who don't get the luxury of talent fees. Call anytime at 719/531-9696 or fax 719/531-9697. My e-mail addresses are Q it up @ aol.com or starrant @ mail.Usa.net. I leave you with this quote from Ben Franklin, specifically for Production Directors: If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing. If you follow that, you're sure to get talent fees.