High-budget scripted podcasts are a relatively new and burgeoning business in the United States, and as writers of scripted podcasts we are in a unique position to set the standards of an industry from the beginning. We have therefore started organizing with the Writers Guild of America, East.
As large companies funnel more and more money towards scripted podcasts, we believe that the writers who make those podcasts possible should receive fair compensation, pension and health benefits, and credit for their work. We also believe in the power of shared information. As production companies look to the independent community for the next big hit, we want to be sure that scripted podcast writers at all levels know their worth in advance of any negotiations. Equally, we are committed to the diversity of audio fiction writers: this medium has long been one in which diverse voices are able to tell their own stories, and we will work to preserve this richness as the industry grows.
We invite you to get involved and:
about who we are, why we’re organizing, and the benefits of working under a Guild contract;
and how you can get involved;
Learn more about how to advocate for yourself and what to ask for in a contract negotiation;
We are writers of scripted podcasts who are organizing with the Writers Guild of America, East. We are Guild members and non-members; we write everything from high-budget audio fiction produced or financed by large companies to small-budget indie podcasts that we produce ourselves; and we come from all corners of the creative community: the film and television industry, the theater, the literary world, and beyond.
We are committed to centering BIPOC and other underrepresented writers in our organizing, and to making sure that our events are welcoming and safe spaces.
The landscape of audio fiction changed enormously in the last several years: it is of increasing interest not only to large entertainment companies, but also to some of the biggest tech companies in the world. In the face of this enormous sea-change, we are organizing to ensure that writers are treated well and equitably. Writers of high-budget audio fiction should be compensated fairly; should receive high-quality health and retirement benefits for their work; and should receive credit for – and rights to – their work, as well as its derivative material. They should be free from discrimination in their work and compensation, and the scripted podcast industry should be one in which a diversity of voices are given a platform to tell their own stories.
The Writers Guild of America, East, AFL-CIO (WGAE) is a labor union representing thousands of writers who write and create content for motion pictures, television, news, and digital media. Since 1954, the Guild has negotiated and administered contracts that protect the creative and economic rights of its members. It is because of decades of organizing and solidarity that writers of film and television have been able to secure strong contracts that provide high-quality benefits, minimum terms for compensation, and creative rights – and it is through organizing and solidarity that writers of scripted podcasts will win these rights and benefits, too.
Scripted podcasts are covered on an individual basis under the New Media Agreement (a sideletter to the Guild’s master contract, the Minimum Basic Agreement). By signing the Guild’s New Media Agreement, the company employing you agrees to the following:
Fair and Timely Payment
While your writing fee is negotiated directly between you and the show’s producer, the WGA’s Minimum Basic Agreement provides that you must be paid within seven days of delivery of literary material. The Guild can enforce any outstanding payments on your behalf, and can impose late penalties if necessary.
Pension and Health Benefits
All Guild signatory companies must make contributions on your behalf to the Producer-Writers Guild of America Pension Plan and the Writers Guild-Industry Health Fund. If you are paid more than $39,858 over four quarters for writing work covered by Guild contracts, you qualify for one year of high-quality, affordable health benefits (including both individual and family coverage). You can find more information about health and pension benefits here
The company must follow WGA rules and guidelines in assigning writing credits. The Guild provides a forum for all participating writers to advocate to receive credit when they believe credit is warranted.
The WGA’s Minimum Basic Agreement provides separated rights to the creator of any original new media project. These separated rights will protect your writing credit and trigger passive payments if your scripted podcast winds up becoming a film or television series. For more information, please contact Director of Contract Enforcement Geoff Betts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When the majority of writers ask that their projects be Guild-covered, the individual action of requesting coverage becomes a collective one. That’s why, in order to organize this growing freelance industry, we need every writer negotiating with a large production company to ask for Guild coverage on their project. Through this collective action, and by getting more and more podcasts covered individually over time, we can put real pressure on production companies to improve standards and conditions in our industry. With new writers coming into the podcast space every day, it is critical that we spread the word about this effort early and often so that all writers know they should ask for Guild coverage in their negotiations.
Spread the word about the organizing effort — and share this website — with other writers, and follow us on Twitter.
Sign up to join our listserv. We will be sending out information about events, mixers, and organizing/industry news, and you can use the listserv to connect with other writers and ask questions.
If you have an audio fiction writing credit, for a third-party funded or self-produced show, add your name to our Scripted Audio Writers Database to share your work and be connected to potential collaborators and producers.
Tell us about your experience writing scripted podcasts by contacting Guild Organizer Dana Trentalange at email@example.com. The more information the Guild has on the industry, the better able we will be to help writers navigate it. The conversation and its content will be kept strictly confidential.
Our goal is not to interfere with writers’ ability to write and/or produce low- or no-budget podcasts (not least because many of us write and produce indie projects!).
However, covering high-budget scripted podcasts still affects indie creators. While large platforms and production companies initially looked to film, television, theater, and the literary world for new writers, they are increasingly approaching indie audio fiction writers about their work. Writers are often alone in these negotiations with powerful corporations, agencies, and networks, and as a result, they may end up accepting terms and conditions that are well below the industry standard – or that are wholly disadvantageous to the writer.
The Writers Guild of America, East and the WGA Audio Alliance are resources to all writers, whether they’re Guild members or not. If you are negotiating a deal and have questions about standards, or if you want someone to review your contract, please contact Guild Organizer Dana Trentalange at firstname.lastname@example.org. The conversation and its content will be kept strictly confidential.
In the film and television industry, the Guild is fighting to achieve pay and opportunity equity for writers, and to secure hiring and retention transparency from the companies employing them. Because the industry is densely unionized, the Guild has the ability to bargain directly with companies to achieve these goals; our aim is to build the union density necessary to make collective demands of the audio industry, as well. In the meantime, we commit to sharing information with the goal of undercutting pay disparity; to showcasing BIPOC writers in our events and panels; to utilizing our platform to highlight the work of BIPOC creators, networks, and organizing efforts; and to learning from the experiences of current and aspiring writers from underrepresented communities.
We have created a database of writers of audio fiction designed to be shared with writers looking for collaborators, with showrunners, and with production companies. Our goal is to connect writers to new projects and work and, specifically, to highlight those among us whose voices are traditionally underrepresented – BIPOC writers, LGBTQ+ writers, veterans, and disabled writers.
You are welcome to add your own entry to the form if you have an audio fiction writing credit for a third-party funded or indie show. Please note that the database is designed for writers who have already written audio fiction, and that your contact information will be available to anyone viewing the database. If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, please contact Guild Organizer Dana Trentalange at email@example.com.
Covering a podcast is low-cost, as there are no minimum terms or residuals for scripted audio; and it is simple, as there are no complicated working rules in a Guild contract for scripted podcasts. Your obligations as a producer center around following WGA credit rules, paying the writer in a timely manner, recognizing the writer’s creative rights, and making pension and health contributions.
Becoming a signatory to the Guild contract is an easy process. Please contact Director of Contract Enforcement and Credits Geoff Betts at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive the signatory application and submit it along with a draft of the writer’s contract.
As a signatory company, you will also be able to register your company on the WGA Staffing & Development Platform and can use the platform to connect with WGA members, set up general meetings, and share information about open writing assignments.
The scripted podcast industry is still finding its sea legs as large platforms determine how best to monetize and profit from this increasingly popular medium. In that goal they depend on smaller production companies to produce the content they need to attract listeners, subscribers, and advertisers. If your production company is working with a larger platform, then lending your voice and advocating for the writers you employ will have a huge impact on the writers’ ability to get Guild coverage. This will not only benefit the writers, but will also make your company a more attractive one to work with.
Yes. If you are a freelance writer hired to write a nonfiction podcast, your podcast can be covered under the New Media Agreement.
If you are not a freelance writer, but rather are full- or part-time staff working at a podcast company, you can also organize with the Guild. Writer-producers at several podcast companies, including Gimlet, The Ringer, and Parcast, have formed staff unions with the Writers Guild of America, East. To talk about organizing your company, please reach out to WGAE Organizer Dana Trentalange at email@example.com for more information.
If you’re not sure whether your podcast can be Guild-covered, please contact WGAE Organizer Dana Trentalange at firstname.lastname@example.org. The conversation and its content will be kept strictly confidential.
We hope to draw conclusions on what is standard – to the extent that anything is standard in this new and evolving industry – so that writers know what to expect from and negotiate for in their deals.
The WGA Audio Alliance aims to strengthen the professional landscape for writers and creators of audio fiction, and to foster peer support and collaboration in the community. We welcome writers of all professional standings, without regard to race, gender identity or expression, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age, religion, national origin, or professional status, and we expect all Audio Alliance members to foster a safe, nurturing, and encouraging environment for all backgrounds and identities.
Respect for other members is the default. While we welcome a range of viewpoints and experiences, we absolutely require that opinions be expressed with respect for other members of this community. We are committed to creating spaces and events that are free of harassment, whether those spaces are in-person or virtual (e.g., via email, Zoom, Twitter, etc.). We do not tolerate harassment based on race, gender identity or expression, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age, religion, national origin, or professional status.
If you encounter harassment either directly or indirectly because of your involvement with the WGA Audio Alliance and you bring that incident or concern to our attention, we will respond promptly to your inquiry, and will believe—not second-guess or doubt—the incident or concern that you bring forward.
The following resources are available to address any of your concerns:
The WGA Audio Alliance was featured in a special episode of Radio Drama Revival, one of the internet’s longest running anthology audio drama shows, with the goal of showcasing the diversity and vitality of modern audio fiction. Members of the Audio Alliance and WGA East Executive Director Lowell Peterson discuss how the Alliance helps to provide resources for audio fiction creators.
The Art of Audio Fiction panel on October 26, 2020
In the inaugural WGA Audio Alliance event, Gabriel Urbina leads Dania Ramos, Meghan Fitzmartin, and Lauren Shippen in a discussion of the creative joys and challenges of writing for audio. Panelists share the lessons they have learned and the mistakes they have made, and discuss how their experiences in other mediums – playwrighting, screenwriting, and producing — have impacted their writing for audio. WGAE Executive Director Lowell Peterson and WGA Audio Alliance members discuss organizing efforts in the scripted podcast industry, as well.
As part of our efforts to explore this new world, we’ve released “The OnWriting Guide to Crafting Scripted Podcasts” – a two-part podcast project that explores the industry of scripted podcasts.
In Part One, we hear from LIMETOWN co-creator Zack Akers, HOMECOMING producer Alicia Van Couvering, and Writers Guild of America, East executive director Lowell Peterson about the industry’s business side: what the market looks like, how to break in, and how to protect yourself once you’re there. Learn more & listen to Part One.
In Part Two, Zack and Alicia – along with writers Danielle Trussoni (CRYPTO-Z) and River Donaghey (AMERICAN AFTERLIFE) – take a deep dive into the creative side of the industry – from recruiting talent, to necessary skillsets, to creative satisfactions, and beyond. Learn more & listen to Part Two.
In Part Three, Geri is joined by three guests—Lissette Alvarez, Matt Klinman, and Lowell Peterson—to talk about the WGA Audio Alliance and the group’s aims to establish and improve the standards and rights for writers in the scripted podcast industry. Learn more & listen to Part Three.
Read about the current state of the scripted podcast industry – and the podcast industry in general:
On Scripted Podcasts
How to Audio Drama: a weekly column at Discover Pods that provides in depth, step-by-step processes on audio fiction creation, as well as a once-monthly advice column.