:60 Fair Quote

by | Sep 9, 2008 | Compensation | 5 comments

Details. Rules. Protocols.

I know there must be order to things…especially when it comes to being paid for earnest work.

But honestly, the formulas are kinda confusing sometimes.  I'm fascinated by it all, which is why, when I see a cogent, knowledgeable answer to what appears to be a fairly simple question…I feel like passing it along.  Which is what I'm doing.  "Below the Fold" so-to-speak.  Read on:

An online VO forum subscriber poses the following question:
What is fair quote to voice a sixty second national spot.

The answer comes from seasoned Voice-Actor and voice/acting coach Bettye Zoeller:

1. Always inquire of AFTRA or SAG either by phone or online where there
are rate sheets or ask a union actor in your area what a union fee for
your job might be and then try to get as close as possible to that fee.
2. Your question is not fully explained. is the voiceover spot TV,
radio, or both? TV should pay more than radio, and if it's both, it
should pay even more.
3. Where is it running? If it is running nationally including NYC and
LA you are talking big bucks. NYC radio alone should pay you about
$2000 for thirteen weeks and LA just about the same. If it's a national
by definition but does not run in huge cities, only the medium to
smaller ones, then you're talking lesser money.
4. If you're starting to do nationals, you need to be booking those
with a voiceover agent's advice and help! As I've said here so often
(and as I teach to all my students) voice talents should have agents
who book them and handle the large vo jobs. It's fine to book yourself,
but you are missing the big money without an agent and doing
advertising agency work!
5. If you're doing nationals, join AFTRA so you can get your residuals!
Get paid every thirteen weeks! And also, get pension and health paid
into your account so that someday you have a pension and free health
insurance and dental and life and all the other union benefits.
6. If it's a career for you in voiceovers, start thinking long term about these things.
7. Whomever is wanting you to do a national vo job without residuals
and with a low one-time fee is really getting a sweet deal from you!


Thanks Bettye…. that explains a lot!





CourVO Newsletter


  1. Brian Haymond

    PREACH IT!!!!!!!!!! Now we are talking! Great stuff.
    (CourVO says: Yee-ha!)

  2. Larry Maizlish - Voices On Call

    Well said Betty. The very first question a talent should ask is: “where will this run?” I am surprised at how sometimes talents who deal with us do not ask this question. It is important to know this piece of information. Otherwise, how do you know if the rate you are receiving is a good deal, bad deal, or somewhere in between.
    (CourVO adds: Thanks, Larry, for confirming a basic tenet of determining your worth)

  3. Richard "DarkspARCS" Nelson

    I have got to wonder about the union aspect of this whole affair. I mean really, the number one feature recommended was, quote:” 1. Always inquire of AFTRA or SAG either by phone or online where there are rate sheets or ask a union actor in your area what a union fee for your job might be and then try to get as close as possible to that fee.”

    If you find yourself negotiating contracts with someone outside of the union, it’s because that entity is seeking to exploit talent at the cost of the talent, in order to put more money into an already filled pocket.

    True, unions are corrupt, have too many back doors in some areas, and also, are guilty of embargoing their own people if the guidelines are breached. However, it is the unions who maintain a relatively just method of compensation for it’s members from these entities, and it’s these unions who have powerful legal means in enforcing these policies.

    It’s these same unions who have attornies who represent you in negotiations, so that you, as their talent representative, can sleep at night knowing your contract won’t have hidden clauses that undermine your worth, or the value you receive in return for your hard work…

    So, is being a member of the union really as bad thing? Yes… and No.

    Let me just state that the union is all about protecting it’s interests. Calling them up to discover rates as prescribed by their internal negotiations is laughable, as that information is proprietary to the operations of that union. Their not going to give outside talent any in roads towards their trade secrets, just so a non union talent can then market themselves at a slightly lower rate in order to take work away from their members.

    Independent organizations however may have the info a non union talent might be looking for, such as Gamasutra (of which I am a member of), the IGDA (true, this is a gaming organization, but their articles on gaming VO can be quite relevant), or even Indie Club.

    It all boils down to, the reason why you’re in negotiations with an entity outside of the union, is because that entity doesn’t want to pay for the costs associated with union negotiations, which include such aspects as the location the talent will be playing, the time allotment for that play, etc…

    True, if you instead defer the negotiations to a talent rep or even talent attorney, you’ll definitely get a better deal… and will have saved yourself once again from having to pay union dues, or having to wonder if the union is undercutting you when it comes to royalties.

    The waters are alive and well, filled with both life preservers, as well as hungry sharks. Choosing to keep a life preserver around may actually be what inevitably gets you paid, keeping you afloat in an economy that has all but sunk down to the bottom under the water. Unions are one of those life preservers, it appears.

    A good attorney is another.

    Just be prepared to get fleeced either way… It’s how the industry works in a pecking ordered society…

    • CourVO


      You’re overflowing my comment box!….Wow, you’ve got a treasure-trove of knowledge in this area. I can’t wait to pick your brain. Thanks for being such an instantly-loyal blog reader, and now — contributor of value to all who read your great responses.


      Dave Courvoisier

      • Richard "DarkspARCS" Nelson

        lol, well, I don’t know how things work on paper, because the ideas of great men seem to always get adjusted somehow to fit a certain agenda that benefits a small group of people, interestingly, the same group who seem to always be the ones who end up with the priviledge and the profit.

        Independents such as myself get skipped over because I’m not well known or established, because the agendas of these few I’m talking about doesn’t include me, because I’m just another competative entity looking for establishment, which the few continue to deny because if I establish acceptance that would mean them losing the money that normally was thrown their way because it now has been thrown my way…

        And they can’t have that, now can they?…

        Today’s market is litterally saturated with hungry talent, who got the education and the tools and now want to discover establishment, like myself, but soon discover that establishment isn’t something earned, or provided as a reward for excellence in performance, but instead is granted, once again, by the few who have hedged the industry against competative achievement.

        Sadly, unions are a big part of this rejection, because they themselves exert their willingness to control market share to continue to line their pockets with both membership dues along with under the table kick backs from commercial corporations and production houses alike.

        What this means to most is that somehow, they have to come up with the money to join, come up with the money to get represented, come up with the money to feed themselves and thier families while sitting on lists B through D awaiting their call and one day getting their 15 seconds of show time…

        Then it’s back to the bench… *sigh*… because you’re not part of the ‘IN’ group. Most who go this route get discouraged and quit soon after… Others try to stick it out, but never really seem to satisfactorilly get to be at the top of their game.

        For me, the biggest upset I face on a daily basis is that I know my work is top notch, commended and recommended by the community, even appreciated by the ones who are writers and developers for the big entities… But when it comes to the big entities bringing me into the fold it always boils down to a lack of establishment, as well as legal representation… most won’t even discuss business with you directly, but demand an attorney to represent you.


        So most everything you’ve been saying and posting in your blog is spot on Dave, so it’s almost a natural instinct to become an instantly-loyal blogster here lol! >^.^<

        One thing however, that I'll never get used to is watching TV, or a movie… and hearing my work being used. It's one of the reasons why I don't watch TV anymore (except for watching Channel 8 News that is! lol). Fair use copyright laws have placed heavy restrictions on the copyrighting of sound effects, mandating that the only way a sound effect can find some protection is if it is included in a library of effects… thus the library as a work of art is then permissable to be added to the copyright database.

        Try going to court however, to demand just compensation for someone's infringement on that library, when it's just as easy for them to claim they recorded it themselves. Stale mate….

        Acceptance of their infidelity is the only way to continue smiling in my case. They do it, they're gonna do it, and they're going to get away with it. This is where the genius decides to learn their game, and play it along with them. I've gotten more than one comment thrown my way pertaining to my response to their activity, lol… interestingly as a statement made by them showing appreciation for my creativity…

        The people who make the entertainment industry what it is, I swear, are aliens from another planet… I'm just here to show them how it's done lol!



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