Have you ever wondered how you can better negotiate contracts in the music business? This article will give you some pointers.
1. Due Diligence: Do your research on the person and/or company you are thinking of entering into a contract with. Are they honest, ethical and do they have a good reputation? You can have the greatest contract in the world, but if the other side is dishonest, they can breach it.
2. Rapport: Try to establish a rapport with the other side so they are comfortable negotiating with you. Perhaps you have something in common, like a hobby or mutual acquaintance that you can mention. Or maybe your research has shown that you like a certain artist the other side has some connection to. For instance, “I see you used to manage Tom Petty, who is one of my favorite artists.” Humor can also be useful to make people comfortable. I know I appreciate someone with a good sense of humor.
3. Know What You Are Talking About: You must read and understand the entire proposed contract, the surrounding circumstances and whatever could be relevant to the negotiation. Do your homework!
4. Observation: You should observe the other side for clues as to how you should proceed. For instance, tone of voice, if they appear nervous, their reaction to what you are saying and body language.
5. Compensation: Of course, compensation is usually one of the most important provisions in a contract. But you should also consider other things. If a proposed contract does not offer much money, perhaps it could help your career because of the exposure it will give you.
6. Anxiety: Some people are not comfortable negotiating. Maybe you just do not like confrontation. One way to reduce anxiety is to have someone else (an attorney, manager, or agent, for instance) negotiate for you.
7. Try and Make it a Win-Win: People often think that every negotiation has to have a winner and a loser. Instead, try and make it so the other side does not feel as if they have lost. Be considerate and polite. Be willing to compromise. Usually one side does not get everything they want. Often the parties end up compromising and each party feels okay, although not completely satisfied. Think of creative solutions if you reach an impasse. Sometimes taking a break from the negotiations can be a good idea.
8. Deadlines: Some people like to impose deadlines on a negotiation. This can put pressure on the other side. If you know you cannot meet a deadline, let the other person know. In any event, if you say you will get back to the other side in five days about a proposal, you should do it.
9. Anger or Bullying Tactics: People have different styles. Some people use anger as a negotiating tool. It may work sometimes, but can also be counter-productive. If you end up in a shouting match, consider taking a break from negotiations.
10. Be Reasonable: Understand what is standard to ask for under the circumstances. Otherwise, you may end up demanding unreasonable provisions.
GLENN LITWAK is a veteran entertainment attorney based in Santa Monica, CA. He has represented platinum-selling recording artists, Grammy-winning music producers, hit songwriters, management and production companies, music publishers and independent record labels. Glenn is also a frequent speaker at music industry conferences around the country, such as South by Southwest and the Billboard Music in Film and TV Conference. Email Litwak at [email protected] or visit glennlitwak.com.
This column is a brief discussion of the topic and does not constitute legal advice.