What is a buyout?
Buyouts are common in non-union voice over work, yet many voice actors are confused & fear them. What does it mean, and how does it affect job rates? A buyout is when a voiceover client pays you a usage fee for a certain period of time. Sometimes that period of time is forever, or in perpetuity. A full buyout is in perpetuity. A rebuy is an agreement to use a spot for an additional period of time. With this option, they have to pay you again. Learn more about usage fees here.
"Buyouts terrify voice actors. They're worried that their career will be ruined if they accept a buyout, which is not always true!" - Tom
Broadcast vs. Non-Broadcast Buyouts
Non-broadcast content is often long-form, internal, or unfit for commercial use. When booking these jobs, I assume that the content will live on the company's website, shared on social media profiles, or used internally. I fold usage into my quoted rate and don't sweat a full buyout in perpetuity because it will most likely not conflict with other jobs I take.
Broadcast buyouts can be trickier. Voice seekers offering a full buyout for a broadcast project can lead to conflicts with future work in similar markets. If you lend your voice to a client in perpetuity, that could do long-term damage to your voiceover career.
When you book a voice over gig, put the length of the usage in your calendar to be sure don't encounter conflicts of interest.
At the end of a buyout period, reach out to the clients for a potential rebuy or extension of the buyout period. It's an easy way to reconnect with a client & gain extra passive income.
Understand the usage before agreeing to buyouts. They are not always bad!
When in doubt, run from broadcast buyouts.
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Tom Dheere is the VO Strategist, a voice over business & marketing coach and demo producer since 2011. He is also a voice actor with over 25 years of experience who has narrated just about every type of voiceover you can think of. When not voicing or talking about voicing, he produces the sci-fi comic book Agent 1.22.