The continuing discussion of talent fees strikes me deeply at heart. John Pellegrini's suggestions of offering incentives to the sales department is a sound approach. As he mentions, while there is no specific union for Production Directors, your readers should know that A.F.T.R.A. (the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) does represent radio station and network staffs as well as freelance performers.
In a number of markets there are A.F.T.R.A. freelance talents who offer creative packages to radio stations with non-union air staffs. These packages include concept, copywriting, voice and production. An A.F.T.R.A.-sanctioned contract exists between the performer and the radio station, stipulating the cost of the package and the terms of payment.
The current A.F.T.R.A. scale for small market radio spots is $112.65, plus 12.5% pension and welfare, plus standard payroll deductions. Medium and large market radio rates start at $163.30 to which a number of units is added ($2.70 per unit) depending on the size of the market (two for Baltimore, four for DC, six for Boston, etc.).
In addition, as an A.F.T.R.A. member, I have worked on-staff at non-union stations. In that situation, it was understood that my work could not be sent across town or out of the market without paying the freelance spot rate. While becoming a freelance member of A.F.T.R.A. may not appeal to everyone, doing so may provide you with an "official reason" as to why you must be paid.
I invite any RAP reader to call me with any questions about the finer points of these arrangements (410) 889-6201. If I don't know the answer, I can find someone who does. Keep up the good work. RAP offers a uniquely invaluable forum for radio production people. We appreciate your efforts on our behalf.
Ty Ford, T/S/F
I'd like to assume an "I can top that" posture and share my own "no talent fee" story. Ordinarily, we charge for spots that are played on other stations and most clients have no problem with our rate. However, one person not only got away with not paying this fee, but in getting "production house" service from me completely free.
A couple of years ago I received a stack of brochures from a prospective client in a nearby town who was considering a buy on our 1,000 watt AM station, and possibly a small buy on our larger FM. My job was to write five demo scripts, produce them, and play them over the phone for the client's approval. After several weeks of phone tag and four different versions of the spots, each slightly different due to the "sounds great, you're getting closer, but try this..." response, a cassette was sent off and we settled in to wait for a buy.
Well, no buy came, and the whole thing was chalked up to live and learn. We more or less forgot about it...until about a year later. Our AE learned from the GM of the station in the client's town that they were running a schedule that consisted of my spots! It seems the client decided to buy her hometown station and innocently (?) said, "Oh, here's a cassette of some spots you can use." My reaction? I wanted to bill her for the spots, sue her, and write nasty things about her on seedy restroom walls! Unfortunately, I was voted down, along with our AE, by our station management, and I didn't want to risk billing her on my own for fear of creating a black mark on my employment record here.
While we're all very thankful when we do receive a talent fee, over the past several years, our Production Director and I, and members of our on-air staff, have experienced the disappointment of being refused a fee because the AE didn't inform the client of it beforehand. We've also been paid out of another station's AE's own pocket a time or two, which we certainly appreciate! However, the above incident has left, and always will leave, the proverbial bad taste in my mouth when I think about how what we produce can sometimes be misused, innocently or not, under the guise of "added value."
Thanks for letting me share my experience. If one of my production/continuity peers can avoid being taken due to this story, it'll be gratifying. Thanks again.
Jon E. Hale, Continuity Director
WHOK Inc., Lancaster, Ohio