What are the main terms regarding voice over rates that I should know?

When negotiating the recording and payment details with a client, these are the terms you should both be acquainted with and understand.

Market: Markets can be broken up into local, regional, national, and international depending on what station or stations they’re broadcast on and what medium is involved, i.e., radio, television, etc.

Buy-out: A flat rate paid only once that “buys” the rights to use your voice. In other words, they own the work outright and for as long as they choose to use it. 

Monthly retainer: An agreement between you and the client according to which the client pays a set amount each month to compensate you for ongoing work. The rate should be based on the average amount of work per month. We strongly encourage you to set a maximum amount of work the client can expect from you every month at that fixed rate.

Pick-ups: Pick-ups are recordings that take place after the main voice-over session has been concluded and thought to be completed. The possibility of changes and the number of pick-ups allowed should be negotiated before the initial recording to avoid any chance of exploitation. 

Per hour: Charging an hourly rate based on the length of time you spend in the studio.

Per project: Charging a flat rate for a script, regardless of the time spent in the studio.

Per session: Charging a flat rate for the recording session (the time you spend in the studio) regardless of the number of projects recorded.

Per spot: Charging a flat rate for each commercial spot, regardless of the time spent in the studio.

Residuals: Additional compensation for a commercial, above and beyond the initial payment, based on the number of times a spot is broadcast. Residuals are usually only applicable to Union commercials.

Scratch track: A temporary recording that is a ‘place-holder’ for the final voice-over. Not usually recorded at ‘broadcast quality.’ Production facilities tend to use scratch tracks to assist them with timing when designing TV/video/flash presentations.

Session: The usually fixed period of time allocated to a specific recording that will be spent in the recording studio on any given day. If you leave the studio and return on a different day, even if you continue working on the same project, it’s a new ‘session.’

Union rates: When you’re a member of a voice actors’ union, they advise and promote minimum set rates depending on the project’s scope and where it will be broadcast.

For more information, check out our community-vetted and curated list of voice over resources on The Booth, like our collection of free messaging templates that you can save and use from our client communications checklist.

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