Rate Guide: Tape Syncs
This guide is part of AIR's work on rates. AIR’s rate guides are designed to ensure that shows, programs and outlets can set realistic budgets and that everyone in the industry has access to current information on prevailing rates and expectations. Independent audio professionals are always free to set their own rates when negotiating with a prospective client.
Calls for tape syncs are always welcome on AIR's Tape Sync forum. AIR members can post to the forum by emailing [email protected]. You can also make sure you’re subscribed to email alerts when a new tape sync is posted by checking your Account Settings under “Email Notifications”.
COVID-19 Note: As new information about SARS-CoV-2 and the Delta variant emerges, we recommend that producers and recordists consult the CDC and local health authorities for current information about preventing the spread of COVID-19. Our COVID-19 resource page has some suggestions for reducing risk while recording. (August 2021)
In 2021, calls for tape syncs began to return and the minimum base rate for a publicly posted tape sync was typically between $150 and $200 plus mileage for the first hour, and $50-100 for each additional hour. Clients should expect to pay more for situations that require multiple mics, additional preparation, or unusual expertise.
Expectations about how additional hours will be billed should be agreed on in advance.
Many tape syncs are negotiated privately. Experienced recordists, who often work with a single outlet, told us that their standard rate is closer to $200 for the first hour.
Travel: Most syncers expect that mileage will be reimbursed based on IRS standard rates. Exceptions and expectations should be clearly communicated in advance. Syncers who will need to travel by train or taxi, or who expect to drive more than 15-20 miles for the sync, should make sure the client knows to budget for that fare or mileage. Clients should expect to pay for travel time, and local syncers should clearly communicate anticipated travel during negotiations.
Cancellations: When an independent audio professional commits to record an interview on a particular date it is very likely that they will turn down other work to keep that commitment. A 100% kill fee is customary if a sync is cancelled within 24 hours of the appointed time. Some independents require 72 or 48 hours notice for cancellation. Expectations about cancellations and kill fees should be clearly agreed when the sync is scheduled.
Credit: AIR believes that everyone should be credited for their contribution to a show or segment. In practice, tape syncers are rarely credited on air. If complete credits are included on an accompanying web piece, “recording assistance provided by …” is common language.
What's a tape sync?
When a host or producer can't be in the same room as the subject of an interview, they commonly hire a second producer who can be in the room with the subject to record the subject's side of the interview.
Katie Mingle's 2014 guide to Getting Good Tape (Sync) is a solid introduction to tape syncs.
Best Practices for Syncs
AIR’s own Erin McGregor recommends dedicating a section of your portfolio to your tape sync kit and experience so that you can quickly point prospective clients to it. Most experienced tape syncers have a few standard points that they include in any introductory email and a few questions they always ask:
- Details of your kit and recording experience
- Location and travel radius
- Cancellation policy
- Questions: How quickly will the recording need to be sent? (Same day is customary but in some cases a client will need the syncer to find a way to send the recording immediately after the interview wraps up)
Keep in mind that the client probably doesn’t know your area -- if they were local they wouldn’t need a sync -- so you will need to make sure they know what your travel cost is going to look like.
AIR’s rate guides are living documents and we’re always looking for ways to make them more clear. If you have questions about this guide, don’t hesitate to reach out to [email protected]. If you’d like to see the questions that guided our focus group conversations as we prepared this resource, and offer your own thoughts, find them in our Tape Sync feedback document.
AIR's work on rates
AIR is actively developing a series of guides designed to help independent producers set fair and reasonable rates, and to help everyone create accurate and realistic budgets. We want to hear from you.
This guide was posted in August 2021 and has not been updated since it was posted. Our hope as an organization is that AIR can keep these rate guides up to date but if you're reading this and it is more than a year old, you may need to adjust to reflect changes in the cost of work and living.