Your August interview with Scott Statham was quite interesting reading. In fact, a couple of us around here had been discussing that very same problem earlier before we got the mail!
Unfortunately, Scott's not alone in the world of underpaid production markets. The situation he described is exactly what's going on in Rockford. A handful of stations seem to provide the majority of dubs, and clients play us all against each other in a pick-and-choose prod-and-pony show and sometimes don't even come through with a buy for ANY station. No talent fees, no dub fees, no out-of-market charges. And here, too, the same excuses: "Station W doesn't charge. Why should I pay you when they'll do it free?" "We can't start charging; we'll lose control of the account!" ...etc., etc.. And the famous, "You're right, but will never happen."
Our proximity to Chicago has also been used as an excuse. According to this line of thinking, "Well, if I'm gonna have to pay, I might as well splurge and get a big city tape." These clients seem to think nothing of paying Chicago's going rates, but cringe at the very thought of shelling out even $5 to the Rockford talent who voices all their local radio advertising. Throw in the fact that many times they'll even use their radio spot as the audio for their TV buy (another courtesy dub, of course), and it all adds up to one giant slap in the face. Talk about added value!
It's very frustrating. All the TVs charge. Many of the agencies charge. And there are some very talented people -- on the voice end and on the producer end -- who are well worth the money and deserve to be compensated.
Hopefully, though, we may be taking steps in the right direction. The GMs in the market have had several meetings lately to establish a radio broadcaster's association. For the first time in a long time, everyone's coming to the table to work together on projects like this. There are other stations within our company (Mid-West Family) that have successfully instituted production charges, and I've been sharing and gathering information from them. And for the past year, our GM, GSM, PD, and I have been outlining a plan that will allow us to introduce some very basic charges to the market.
The key seems to be the right support materials: a colorful brochure that shows off your strong points and piques the client's interest, a definitive price list that details all costs, a good, creative sales piece that illustrates the value to the client, testimonials from satisfied customers, and, of course, the killer demo that leaves 'em speechless! Your sales team will be caught in the middle, and it's important to give them everything they need to sell your production and convince the client that it's a worthwhile investment. Having sales role-play their presentations before you put the charges into effect may also help prepare them for pitching it on the streets. And when you set your charges, realize that while it would be wonderful to have your rates be comparable to other markets your size, you just might need to start a little lower and slowly work your way up to find what your market will bear.
We're still a few months away from giving it a go. It'll be interesting to see what happens. To Scott and others in our situation, hang in there. Keep making those contacts and doing your research, and don't give up -- it's a whole new market to tap into, and eventually someone WILL do it, so it might as well be us!
Kathy Morgan, Production Manager
WKMQ/WNTA, Rockford, IL
...Just want to add my "Amen" to the articles and responses in August's and September's issues regarding talent fees. It has always been a difficult issue to bring up to management AND a challenging one to discuss while staying "clear headed." My two cents worth: Production is included as part of the sales deal for YOUR OWN STATION only. Once your production goes outside of the station, there should be fees involved, unless you have made a prior agreement to let your production leave the building for other stations gratis.
Furthermore, PRODUCTION ADDS VALUE. Let no one tell you otherwise. Case in point: our competitor attempted to "replicate" one of our ads. It was part of a FIVE YEAR campaign that originated here at WYMG. The ad itself, needless to say, was a far cry from our original production. The client, we found out, was furious because he didn't even approve their ad which had factual and creative errors. Result: it is our production that's keeping him on OUR station and happy! I think that's worth some coin in OUR pockets!
I'm sure many others have even better stories to relate. Just thought I'd drop a line to get this issue off my chest as well! Love the mag. Keep up the most excellent publication! (Hello to John Pellegrini at 'KLQ, Ranger Bob at Sunny FM, and all the others who take my phone calls!!!)
K.J. Anthony, Productionaholic Director
WYMG-FM, Springfield, IL
After reading the interview with Scott Statham, I just had to write in with my opinion and limited advice.
First of all, I have not worked in the Lexington market, so I certainly don't plan on advising Scott to follow the advice of someone who has not produced work in his particular market. But, I must insist that Scott gather together with the other Production Directors in his market and raise the question about "no talent fees" for outside production. This is very self-defeating. Suggest that they all contemplate the idea of making some "extra, above the call of duty" monies. You are hired to produce commercials for your particular station or station combo. No one else. The newspapers in your market would charge for typesetting or artwork if it were to be released in a competing newspaper or magazine. The TV stations don't produce video commercials for other TV stations without compensation. Check with them. You are only cutting your own throat with this kind of thinking.
It is not considered to be "big city" thinking at all. Production is considered to be a viable product that has value. If you de-value your product, you have nothing. People will treat you the way you allow them to treat you. Sit down with your GM and feel him/her out for their sensitivity to this subject. The GMs that I have worked for have always been very supportive of this attitude. If they will go to bat for you, then they can break the ice and show support for you to get the ball rolling.
If everyone in your market holds firm, then you will be able to realize some extra, well-earned money. Those that don't will soon feel the pinch because they will have to do ALL the extra "free" work that you all play, and get no compensation for their effort while you get yours. Believe me, it will finally come back around and pay-off. BE FIRM and COMMITTED.
You also expressed interest in free-lance work. You're cutting yourself off at the knees with this attitude. I have had enough free-lance work over the years to justify starting my own production company several years ago. It now accounts for over 50% of my income.
Scott, you sound extremely talented, and I have no interest in having three stations under my command. One is enough with all that I do, thank you. Just remember: your mind, your hands, your insight, your imagination, and ultimately, your creativity are your value to your employer. Always give at least 115% and "they" will always be happy. Just don't "give" it away for nothing. That will come back to haunt you forever.
Johnny George, Owner, HOTSPOTS!
Production Director, WKLR-FM, Indianapolis, IN