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Let's talk about copyrights and usage rights. Are they really necessary?!




So you'd like to understand better how rates for voice-overs work and how they are calculated exactly.


Before I start my novel about rates, I'll tell you what information I need to make a correct quote quickly. This will immediately make it clear why it is so difficult to have 1 fixed rate ready for all projects. Every project is different, so every quote is different.


In order to be able to give you a correct estimate, I need at least the following information from you:

  • script or preliminary script. Specify at least the number of words in your script or the how many minutes your project is

  • how will you use my audio? In a commercial, e-learning, web video,..?

  • will you advertise your project? Online ads on Facebook/Youtube? Advertising on radio or television? Will your project only be used on your client's website and social media?

  • the length of your project. (e.g. 30 or 60 second commercial? a 1 minute or 15 minute web video? …)

  • your customer's name: Is this a campaign for a multi-national such as Coca-Cola or is it an small boutique shop selling soap in a rural town? This way I can estimate how many "ears" your project will hear. (You can read more about why this is necessary in this blog).

So, let's chat about those rates and fees!

Few voice actors and voice-overs post their rates on their website. So annoying, right? Can't they just post their fees and be done with it?


I try to be as transparent as possible with my rates so that you immediately know where you stand


Speed is one of my keywords and assets, so I think you should also be able to find out what I charge for a voice-over recording quickly.


But… it's not that easy to give one rate for my voice-over work. Btw, if you don't feel like reading the info below, don't worry. Send me an email with as much information as possible about your project and I'll be happy to make you a quote.


Would you like to understand how voice-over rates are calculated? Hold on tight, here we go!


The voice-over market is divided into separate rate structures for web videos, explainers, IVR, e-learning, commercials, instructional videos, etc. This is standard for the voice-over world. Unions in the US, UK, Germany and many other countries calculate this way, so to be able to make transparent comparisons between different votes, it is strongly recommended to adopt this structure.


Fees generally depend on a number of points:

  • the medium on which the recording will be used (radio/tv/ non-paid online / paid online)

  • the range: how many “eyes” will see the project? (Is the video B2B or B2C? Will this be a major advertising campaign throughout Belgium or is the recording just for the people in your accounting department?)

  • the size of the project: is it an e-learning of 20 000 words? Is it 1 or 6 commercials of 10, 20, 30 or even 60 seconds? Is it one 60 second commercial and four 15 second cutdowns? Are there tag-ons and billboards?

  • the complexity of the script. This is certainly important in e-learning. Is there a lot of jargon in the script? Are specific words used because this is an eLearning for the medical sector? Are there technical words that have to be looked up by the voice actor? It helps if the script is very well prepared with pronunciation tips. Possibly with audio examples or links to the pronunciation on forvo.com or youtube.com. Be sure to check out the handy tool youglish.com for submitting pronunciation tips!

Explainers, IVR (telephone systems) and e-learning each have their own rate structure. More about that in a moment. Most other projects are divided into a “recordingfee or BSF” and “usage”.


Basic Studio Fee


The recording fee or “Basic Studio Fee” (BSF) is the hourly rate for recording the text. The following is included in the BSF: Record your script and possibly adapt your script “on the fly” to the spoken language. Cleaning up and editing the recording (remove breaths, eliminate mouth noises, do any audio post-processing and add processing, possibly record on time code or image, ...). My BSF is 300 euro ($350) an hour. I do not charge VAT as I am based in the US.


At least 1 hour of BSF is charged regardless of the length of the script. The number of words in a script is not always related to the rate. Some scripts are complicated, contain formulas, jargon, etc. This requires extra time to look up the correct pronunciation and is included in the BSF.


For some clients and projects, the BSF is all that needs to be charged, no usage rights are added. Generally, voice actors don't charge usage rights for the following projects:


  • e-learning: is calculated per word. Usually 0.20 euros per word, with a minimum of 1000 words/200 euros. The rate here also logically depends on the “level of difficulty” of the project. That 0.20 euros per word includes editing and splitting up to 30 files.

  • IVR or voice mail: send me your script and I will be happy to make you a quote

  • Explainers, product videos and web videos if they are not going to be advertised. If you are going to advertise (also called "paid media", "pushed", "paid digital", preroll,...) this video via e.g. Facebook Ads, Twitters Ads, Instagram Ads, Youtube Ads,… then usage will be added.

Usage fees or “usage fees”


Usage, licensing, buy-out,… all different words that are used interchangeably but they mean the same thing: the right to use the voice of the voice-over in your project. The usage is added to the recording fee.


But.. why are they needed now? The voice actor keeps ownership of his voice (recording), even if he records your script. The voice actor only gives the customer the right to use his or her voice in a specific project. The customer does not own or become the owner of the audio recording of the voice-over.


You can't just cut the voice recording into pieces and use it in other projects.


To better understand how this works, it is best to look at the music sector where the same principle is applied. Would you like to use Bruce Springsteen's music in your feature film, web video, commercial,…? Then you will have to ask The Boss (via his record company and manager) if that is allowed.


He decides and lets you know how much he wants for this. You can buy the right to use 1 specific song in 1 specific project. You can't just use his music in any project or wherever you want.


Would you like to play his record at a party? Then you also have to pay a licensing.


I know! It is complicated. If you this still isn't all very clear yet, or would are you interested in more information? Hugh Edwards, the CEO of Gravy For The Brain explains it better than me. See the video at: https://www.gravyforthebrain.com/voiceover-licensing-a-guide-for-hirers/


I'm always open to discuss usage and licensing, but by default usage is granted per 12 months. Regardless of whether you are going to advertise for 1 week, 3 months or exactly 12 months.


Buying out the usage in perpetuity, is that possible?


Sometimes customers ask if we can agree on a fee whereby the voice-over relinquishes the right of use, unlimited in time, for all media throughout the universe. This way the customer can advertise his project wherever he wants and for as long as he wants.


To be clear, voice recordings that are not used in advertisements do not require licensing. Usage fees are only due when you actively advertise your project, when you pay to put your project before the eyes of people.


In reality


We'll talk about the legality of "in perpetuity" in a moment, but first a bit of practicality. My 20 years of experience as a voice actor has taught me that customers don't really want or need unlimited usage rights.


In most cases, commercials, web videos, product videos, etc. are advertised for about 3 years and a maximum of 5 years. After that, the footage will be outdated. The montage is out of style. The product has been updated. The target audience has changed. The communication strategy has changed, etc.


If after 3 years, you or your customer still would like to continue advertising, we can simply extend the license with another 1, 3, 5 or … years.


In addition, as a voice actor, I cannot give you full rights in perpetuity since my income consists mainly of recording voice overs for commercials. If I allow usage in perpetuity, I can no longer record commercials exclusively for competitors of this company, brand, product,.... Ever. (Btw, this is also the reason why I cannot license my voice for AI unless I have full control over the AI model. Voice actors need to have control over their own voice.


To compensate for this loss of income, the voice actor would have to charge a very high amount for that unlimited use. This is not realistic. That is why I always suggest buying the advertising rights for 3 years if the customer wants to advertise for a longer time.


The law


In addition to the practical considerations, there is also The Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances which entered into force on April 28, 2020.



You can find more info in English here, on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beijing_Treaty_on_Audiovisual_Performances


In short, the treaty says that singers, musicians, dancers and actors (and therefore also voice actors) own the rights to their live and recorded performances. Including the right to reproduction, distribution, rental, and making available. The performer has "... the right to receive royalties or equitable remuneration for any use of the performance, as provided for under this Treaty..." This means that voice actors have the right to license their work.


So. That was quite a something! You've made it all the way to the end of this explanation. Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of why usage and licensing is needed to be granted for voice recordings.


Send me an email so I can give you a quote. serge@sergedemarre.com







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