Not long ago a potential client asked me to record a scratch track for her project.  It’s a request I hear from time to time that generally requires a handful of emails to sort out.   When I see the term scratch track in an email subject line, I start to feel itchy because I’m never sure exactly what I’m being asked to do.

Let’s clarify the difference between a scratch track and an audition.

Scratch Track

To quote my colleague Tom Dheere:

Scratch tracks are used as a placeholder to assist in the timing of a video so the producer knows how much time they have to display certain visuals. Sometimes it’s recorded by the producer, sometimes it’s someone in the office who is good with pronunciation, often it’s the sound engineer or maybe an intern.

Tom’s definition is right on.  But I would add that you can also hire a professional voice actor to record a scratch track and when that happens the scratch track becomes a paid gig for the voice talent.

In my experience when I’ve been asked for a scratch track, I’m actually being asked to submit an audition.


An audition is a job interview.  I would never expect to be paid for a job interview.

A scratch track, on the other hand, is a paid assignment.The producer may attach my audition to a video-in-progress so they can evaluate how I sound against their visuals and present me as an option to their client.  That happens all the time and my hope is that my performance gets chosen and I’ll be hired for the job and then I’ll get paid.

That’s it.    SCRATCH TRACK: Paid gig.    AUDITION:  Job Interview.

It’s important to understand the difference so you and your voice talent are on the same page.  Great performances start with clear communication.

One more thing…

JV Martin.  I can’t write an article about scratch tracks without mentioning JV Martin. JV is a top documentary voice talent.  If you watch documentaries on TV, you’ve heard his voice.   But before he became a top voice talent JV worked as a documentary producer, writer, and director.   And guess what?  He recorded scratch tracks.  Lots of them.  That’s what brought him to the attention of the production executives and the rest…is history.  You can learn more about JV Martin here.


Click HERE to read Tom Dheere’s full article about Scratch Tracks

How much should you expect to pay for a ‘scratch track’ from a professional voice actor?  That’s a great question.  It varies.   Tom discusses that as well in this article on VoiceoverXtra.