Payment to and for radio and podcast guests

By Jen SeyderhelmRadioinfo writer, editor and podcaster.

With the launch of Taylor Swift’s new album The Tortured Poets Society and the phenomenal success of the recent Eras tour, I wonder if you’d realised that she didn’t do a single radio or television interview in Australia before, during or up to today?

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Pink did across both, including providing a beautiful moment for a little girl called Lillian Harris through Brisbane’s B105’s breakfast team of Stav, Abby and Matt.

Despite this Taylor is still getting healthy promotion across the Nova and Hit networks. Free publicity so her fans will listen to the release on the radio.

Can you think of any other modern example of this?

Modern radio is a mixed bag for the promotion of artists. I’ve received ‘please play this music’ emails and media releases from genres outside what our station would ever play showing a distinct lack of research. Big name artist’s management might request listenership numbers and demographics, a specific song by their artist played, verbal ties into an upcoming gig and more before agreeing to any interview, over the phone or otherwise.

In the days when a radio station sponsored a concert then the interviews for that station, and other promotional pop ups would be built into a contract. Now if that concert is advertised on radio payment for the ads might be in part concert tickets or a breakfast interview with the act.

Sometimes smaller artists trying to make a name for themselves might contact the station themselves and be very prepared to come in whenever, and however, for free, to get a moment on air. But because advertising pays bills and wages, that so rarely happens now for anyone unless they’ve become a viral sensation for something.

I have no issues with any of the above as they all are about a pecking order plus the quote about taking care of how you treat people when they or you are on the way up or it can come back to bite you later is still true. It applies to Pink who has always acted to keep Australian fans and media onside, and to Taylor who has now transcended any need for that.

Next Monday the Bruce Lehrmann defamation case heads back to court to work out who is paying what. I imagine I don’t need to explain to most of you reading about the ongoing story. I mention it because of the alleged activities, and rent paid, that Lehrmann was able to obtain from the Seven Network in the lead up to a two-part interview he did late last year.

All media outlets want the scoop on the good and bad happening in the world. What are the payments associated with obtaining such scoops?

I just want to pivot to podcasts now and ask the same question. Are you, or your podcast (or radio) network, paying your headline guests for their time, professional skills or contribution to building your own brand?

Many of you are creating your audio products voluntarily as a labour of love and will hope guests will contribute for free, like you are. But what about those of you who are paid for your podcasts? Are you also paying your guests? If not, why not? And if the answer is sometimes, why?

An answer to this might be that some guests refuse or are unable to accept payment or payment in kind. Fair enough. I have a humorous story about a politician involved in a podcast panel discussion who had me fill out two pages of paperwork because I gave them tea as a thank you gift. It all must be declared apparently.

Recent examples of Australian podcasts with high profile guests are It’s a Lot with Abbie Chatfield talking to former Australian of the Year Grace Tame. The Imperfects caught up with Wisden’s leading cricketer in the world Pat Cummins. Somehow Related, which just moved to 9Podcasts feature the who’s who of Australian comedy. Overseas the SmartLess boys spoke to Jon Bon Jovi this week and recently the very reluctant to talk about money Larry David.

I think there is an assumption with radio interviews, and most podcasts, that you won’t get paid as a guest. But as more and more professional, business and influencer audio products emerge why, if you are there to bring an audience or demonstrate expertise on a topic, wouldn’t you be?

I recently got the below message on LinkedIn:

Not sure if this would be of interest. We have a podcast that goes out to the business world and are always looking for great guests… By any chance do you serve or have a business network?”

What an unusual request of a total stranger. Effectively to me it’s similar to professional photographers who get offered wedding day opportunities for free for the ‘exposure’ it offers.

Alongside the Fair Pay for Radio Play debate playing out I think that we will increasingly see, in the radio and podcast industries, high profile and professional guests refusing interviews opportunities as the value is not worth the time.

What you are then left with devalues your own product.

Now I’m off to check out The Tortured Poets Department. On Facebook alone it already has 360K likes and more 100K shares after an hour. She doesn’t need to pay for radio exposure anymore. That power, in this musical artist, business woman and influencer, is a new benchmark for paid and unpaid collaborations between these industries going forward.



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