The Art of Negotiating Music Deals

Through the last 20 years, I have encountered negotiations in just about every aspect of my professional career . Negotiating is how we move forward with every business relationship from accepting a job to selling a product to entering contract based relationships. I have experienced some bad negotiations but I have been a part of some incredibly positive negotiations. One really important thing that I learned from some of the best negotiators in the music business is that every successful deal needs to feel like a win win for both parties. If either party takes everything without giving, then the deal starts off on the wrong foot. Once the deal is done, it needs to move forward in a positive way in order to produce great things. I have seen many business relationships produce poor results due to negativity that lingers when one party feels like the other gave nothing in negotiating the deal.

The first thing one should determine when negotiating a deal is “Do you really want to be in a deal with the company or individual you are negotiating with?”  If so, then prepare yourself for the reality that you will most likely not get every single thing you are asking for in a deal. And actually that’s okay. It’s how great business relationships are formed every day. Determine the things that are the most important and be willing to move on the things that are less important. Too many times, I have seen new people in the music business jump into a deal negotiation expecting to get everything they are looking for. They get advice from outside parties who have war stories from past deals they regret. It’s easy for those outside advisers to throw in their opinions as they aren’t actually in the negotiation and they have no vested interest in whether the deal happens or not. When an experienced negotiator ends up negotiating with a party, who only wants to take with no give, it can actually become insulting. The experienced party becomes frustrated realizing that they are dealing with an amateur or unreasonable negotiator and the deal heads south very quickly. Who wants to enter a deal with someone who always has to have it their way? That’s not a partnership and it should throw up red flags about what to expect from therelationship in the future.

I have seen artist lose their one shot at a label deal because they thought they had enough leverage to demand everything others told them they should have in the deal. My advise to artists is really simple and the same as I mentioned earlier. Ask yourself one simple question “Do I without a doubt want to be in a business relationship with the person or company I am negotiating with?” If the answer to that question is yes, then take off the boxing gloves and negotiate a win win deal. Yes, legend has it that labels, managers and publishing companies are out to take advantage of artists. However, I think that is really becoming a thing of the past with the access we have to information via the internet. You have countless ways to do your due diligence in this day and age. Google them, talk to others that have been in business with them and you will find more than enough evidence of what to expect from the relationship. There are still bad guys out there and you should absolutely have an attorney involved to make sure you are getting “fair market value” but honestly until you have put some points on the board you shouldn’t expect to get the same deal as U2 or Madonna. That will come when it’s time to renegotiate and if things go well you will have the opportunity to renegotiate!

Now go sieze the day! Negotiate some win win deals and watch things move faster in a more positive way for your career!