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Everything you need to know about usage fees

Revised: September 2021

So, everything is set for your next voiceover project – your script is written, you’ve selected the perfect voice artist, and you’re ready to go. Except, hold on, what’s the one thing you’ve forgotten to consider? Usage fees.

Often a confusing subject that can cause unnecessary stress, usage fees are extra charges that can be added to the price of a voiceover recording, depending on how the recording will be used.

To help, we’ve put together this simple guide that will tell you anything and everything you need to know about usage and the extra fees that come along with it.

What are usage fees?

When paying for a voiceover recording, alongside the standard recording fee, you may also have to pay usage fees. Whether you do or don’t have to pay these fees, and how much, will depend on how you plan on using the voice recording, where it will be used, and how long for.

Usage fees are a charge paid to the voice artist, depending on whether their voice is going to be used to help generate profit. Also known as buy-out fees, usage fees are effectively a licensing agreement between client and voice artist.

If you have commissioned a voice recording for use solely within your own organisation, for example a staff training film, then usage fees may not apply. Whereas if a recording is commissioned for use in the public domain, there will usually be usage fees payable to the artist.

How do I know if I have to pay them?

Put simply, if the voiceover is going to help generate profit, then usage fees will apply. If the viewer has paid to see or hear the content, or someone has paid to steer the viewer towards the content, then you can expect to pay usage fees.

Recordings that are solely for internal company usage, like explainers and corporate videos, as well as recordings for IVR, educational videos, and events, are unlikely to incur usage fees, as no one is paying to listen to the content, or being paid to direct viewers toward it.

Considering where the recording will be used is also an important factor. If, for example, your required voiceover is explaining the services your company provides for a video to feature on your website’s homepage, then no usage fees will apply. This is because, although it’s somewhat promoting your company’s services, the viewer has already found their way to your website, so the recording isn’t pointing them towards anything.

Of course, if you plan on also using the recording elsewhere, like within sponsored social media content, the rules and considerations regarding usage fees will differ.

Recordings for projects like radio and TV ads, DVDs, sponsored social media content, online TV programmes, and video games will all incur usage fees. When considering recordings for TV and radio ads, the channel or station the voice will be featured on will affect the usage fee, as well as the expected ratings and period of time the recording will be used for.

When it comes to online and sponsored content, fees can be negotiated depending on the size of the target audience and, again, the length of time the voiceover will be used.

Our approach to usage fees

Here at Matinée, we like to be as transparent as possible when it comes to costings, including usage fees. We aim to provide great value to our clients, as well as a fair rate to our voice talent.

When enquiring about a project, including as much detail as possible about how the recording will be used will allow our team to provide the most accurate quote. Knowing what the recording will be used for, where it will be heard, and how long for will help us give precise information when it comes to usage fees. For more help with getting the most out of your quote from us, have a read of our simple guide.

At Matinée, we quote for usage fees based on the industry standards set by voice artist unions. Of course, as we mentioned, these costs will always vary depending on how you plan to use the recording, which is why it’s best to include as much detail as possible when enquiring about a quote.

So, if you need help with your next voiceover project, or simply have a few more questions about usage, why not get in touch with us today? From assisting you with the decision of which voice artist to choose, to helping you understand usage fees, our expert team are ready to offer guidance every step of the way. 

Call us on +44 (0) 118 958 4934

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