by Sterling Tarrant
From last month, I received a few more replies to the talent fee inquiries.
Ron Harper at WWMG in Charlotte, N.C. E-mailed me this: Our charges in Charlotte are $75/talent, $20/copy, $5/dub, and $1/cassette. Haven't had any problems yet. That's still a little below the going rate here for commercials. If it's a trade-out account, the station makes it good. There's a real clique in Charlotte in the VO field anyway, and a lot of spots are being done in the studios. I do most of my outside work OUTSIDE the market.
And Craig Jackman from CHEZ-106 in Ottawa, Ontario, sent this fax: When I first started here at CHEZ, we were the only station in the market to charge talent fees. They were in the range of $100, which was split equally between the station, the writer, the producer, and the talent. This was not per spot, but per session--if we did three spots with a couple of updates each, that all fit under one session. Since we are in a market of 800,000 served by eighteen radio stations, you can imagine that the competition is intense. With all the competition, naturally, other stations would do anything to get the business and began whoring themselves by doing all production for free, selling spots at thirty percent of rate card and eliminating talent fees. Naturally, we were forced to follow. So, now nobody in the market charges talent fees. The only talents who get a little extra cake on the side make the deals themselves or through the agents. If a client wants to use the CHEZ-FM Creative/Production services, he has to book time on the station. Once we have a contract, the client can then use the same creative wherever he/she needs. If the client wants to use our services but not book time on the station, then we would charge talent fees, which would be in excess of the original $100. Of course, that doesn't happen much. Actually, that has never happened, though clients have asked...about once per year.
At close to five p.m. on a Monday, the news came down. Our company had sold three of our stations, including the one I work at. I thought to myself, here's one of those situations you know you're going to have to go through once in your broadcast career. What do I do? Well, before I start packing up my office into piles of my stuff and piles of the station's stuff (I sure am gonna miss that Yamaha NS-10M tweeter I use as a paperweight), I figured I'd ask some of the RAP Veterans what they did when they found out their station was sold. So this month, in commemoration of my dearly departing Q96, the Q is, "What did you do when you found out your station was sold?"
Johnny George, owner of "Hotspots" and Assistant Program Director of WNAP, Indianapolis: Most of the experiences I have had have been pleasant and positive. When I was first working at WTLC, there was a reorganization where the President sold the company to his Vice President--no real change there. Then, when I was at WZPL, there was a positive change when the owner, George Johns, sold it to Booth American. Then, close to the end of my tenure there, Booth was getting ready to sell it to Secret (or Great American at the time) and there was a massive firing to clear out some of the liabilities. That would probably have been the most negative experience I had. I was sitting on the sidelines for probably six weeks and, quite frankly, I was busier when I was looking for a gig than when I was actually working. That's when I built the "Hotspots" studio. I keep telling people who seem down on their luck that, doggone it, it's not gonna happen unless it was supposed to, and something good is going to come from this.
Johnny then told me he went to work for WKLR (now WNAP) which was owned by Sconnix, which was then bought by Emmis. He says, Emmis is "like a breath of fresh air." He continues: With a lot of the deregulation going on, I know there will be some big faceless companies coming along grabbing something just for the sake of grabbing it, and a lot of people will get lost in the shuffle. But I think the quality people are gonna come out better for it, and the people who aren't meant to be there will find jobs elsewhere.
One final thought that Johnny had: When a company starts building an empire in a market with two or more stations, they often think that they can cut people because of duplication. Sometimes, though, it takes more people to do duopolies and triopolies and quadopolies. But that's something that is severely overlooked in this business right now.
Next, Jean Hetherington, Production Director of KVOO AM/FM and Kick 99 in Tulsa, OK had this to offer: I've been on the side being sold and the side doing the buying. In both situations, the change can cause a lot of uneasiness, and you're always wondering who's gonna get the ax. You always start buttoning up and shaping up your act and looking for areas where they might find fault with you. The first thing I did was go and talk to the people who were in my same position with the new company to find out what their plans were and what I should start planning. I was fortunate that the new owners expressed an interest in keeping me on. The whole thing is that if you keep on doing a good job on a daily basis, there's always a place for good people to go. Those people always seem to land on their feet. You fall back on the people you know and trust for consolation and reassurance during those times of uneasiness. Too bad we can't pull together like that in our daily business dealings with one another. All those tensions of the station disappear when you're the guys on the "other side."
Here's what The Real Bob James, Creative Services/Production Director of WMIL and WOKY in Milwaukee, WI had to say: So often radio people get their sense of self-worth from where they work. And when something "bad" like a sale or loss of a job comes down, they get so depressed or so destroyed over it. I understand that; I feel it myself. I've been in radio so long (and had so much therapy) that I no longer associate my job with who I am. So even though you may lose your job, the skills and the abilities and the heart and the mind of what you do remains intact. The way the whole industry is going with less and less air staff and more and more computers and production people...good creative writers and production people are always going to find work. They really are needed.
The end is often another beginning. We get so close to things that it's hard to lose them, and the longer you're in radio, the more losses you're gonna have to deal with. So what I do is take pen and paper and I'll write down "I feel sad because...there's a format change," or "I feel afraid...because I may not have work next week," or "I feel like I'll never find a job again or be able to feed my family." Literally, write all these feelings down, then fold that paper up and put it in your briefcase or something. Then, go and wash your hands. It's a very symbolic gesture. So help me God, you will feel better. It's like magic. It may not happen immediately, but when you're able to place into words feelings that you have in your heart and in your head, it helps you deal with it. So try the old Bob James method.
So, if you find yourself in this situation, hopefully these suggestions will help you as much as they have helped me. I am fortunate that my company still retains two of its stations and its Satellite Network (which pays my paycheck). So my job remains, but it will be changed. For instance, I will not be producing local commercials for Colorado Springs unless a new agreement is made with the new owners of Q96. Will I like that? I don't know. I will still head up a Creative Services Department under a reorganized and stronger company, but I will miss doing all the zany local stuff. I have four months to see what's going to happen. I'll keep you posted.