AIR established a national standard for freelance rates in 2002 that has been adopted across the public radio industry. In 2012, following this model, we worked with the Public Radio News Directors Association (PRNDI) to publish a rate schedule for indies working with local stations. More recently, we’ve successfully negotiated with major national outlets to increase rates across the board, and we undertook a study with the Independent Television Service (ITVS) comparing revenues of independent filmmakers and radio producers.
In response to calls from freelance producers and commissioning editors, programs, and networks in the AIR ecosystem, we’re presenting a basic rate guide for podcasting and a standard template agreement for audio freelancers and podcasters, both of which follow established best practices. Some producers — most notably, Curtis Fox — caught the early wave of podcasting in the mid-2000s, creating revenue streams by producing audio to enhance publication platforms (ex. working with The Economist, The New Yorker, and The Poetry Foundation). The business models now emerging are different and, while still evolving, call for structure. AIR is assembling an advisory group to vet our published standards and rates.
A principal (and exciting) difference in the landscape is that ambitious podcast producers are cultivating audiences that not only listen avidly, but also are willing to put money down to help support their favorites. There are promising opportunities for indies to generate funds outside the subsidized public radio economy via crowdsourcing platforms, live performance, or direct solicitation from their core group of listeners. Some are further aggregating these micro-audiences into networks to attract advertising revenue.
The demand for high-quality, independently produced work has increased. There is a migration of public media talent to for-profit entities across the board — from stations, the networks, and independents. The line between for-profit and nonprofit is blurring. Producers moving into this new space must cultivate a new expertise — for example, in negotiation, and in understanding licensing and insurance requirements.
AIR provides support for producers exploring the new territory. We’ll announce a new Entrepreneurial Fellowship opportunity later this year, convene webinars, provide peer-to-peer mentorships, and promote the work of other organizations that are investigating the viability and emerging standards of the podcasting field.
The value of the work of independents is, however, platform-agnostic. We advocate the same established standards for podcasts that we have for broadcast: negotiation in good faith, transparency, and the shared understanding that each party is interested in the same outcome: work of the highest calibre. We advocate for payment based on the complexity of the assignment and a producer’s level of experience — not by an outdated, pay-per-minute-of-the-final-mix approach.
This guide is intended for outlets commissioning independent work, and for producers negotiating compensation for original work they’re hired to create. We focus mainly on commissioned segments, both those exclusive to podcast distribution as well as work commissioned for broadcast and redistributed in podcast format. As producers are being commissioned to produce podcast pilots, the guide provides basic parameters for negotiating a fair rate.
In addition to the rates schedule we are publishing today, and our basic contract template for freelancers and podcasting outfits, we suggest that both parties consult our Code of Fair Practices and Term Sheet for Negotiation, which are standard in the industry.
Finally, AIR’s Pitch Page is a resource for those interested in contacting commissioning organizations. We anticipate our list of podcasting outlets will grow, and we invite you to contribute names and details for those not listed in our directory by filling out a short form at bit.ly/PitchPageListing.