Manage for Success: Negotiating, Newsletter #123, June 2012

"Manage for Success" is a free occasional newsletter for record label executives who want to operate their companies efficiently and successfully. It's published by Keith Holzman of Solutions Unlimited, a management consultant, troubleshooter, and trusted advisor, and is based on his many years as a senior executive in the music industry.

Copyright 2012 by Keith Holzman, Solutions Unlimited. All rights reserved.


During the course of an average year most music executives will do a considerable amount of negotiating. This might be for artist contracts, distributor and supplier agreements, and even day-to-day interaction with employees.

Part of the art of negotiation is preparedness -- simply doing your homework. Know with whom you're going to negotiate, have a strategy and goals in mind, and know how far you're willing to go with the deal. This could be the amount you're willing to pay or spend, a not-to-exceed amount, what you might be willing to settle for, or what you might be willing to walk away from.

Start a discussion by watching and listening carefully to the other party. In a face-to-face discussion it's possible to read the other party's body language for clues. In a phone conversion where you can’t see the other party, listen carefully to his or her tone of voice for speech patterns or possible clues. Are there "tells" (what gamblers look for) that may reveal or give away some clue as to how the opposite party is dealing? Try to get to know your opponent's strengths and weaknesses. Also, look for his or her reactions to you and what you're saying.

Then, start discussing the terms or "points" of a possible agreement. They could be the dollar amount you're prepared to offer or spend, the scope of work to be done or the length of the term of a contract, quantities of goods or services, a delivery schedule, or royalty terms.


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Then start working out the details of each of the deal points, perhaps taking the easy matters first. These are the ones where there are points of commonality with few substantive problems.

Then when you've ironed out the easy parts, start dealing with matters where there may be some contention. Be prepared to give and take, giving your opposite party certain things that she might really need to have. You might save the most difficult parts to last, assuming along the way, that you think that completion of a deal is likely to occur. You may also be prepared to split the difference if you're not that far from what you really want.

Try to treat your opposing party in a friendly and non-combative manner. Be fair by working toward a solution that both sides can live with, and can even feel happy about. This should ideally be a win-win situation for both parties.

In sum, the best kind of negotiation is one where both parties feel they've been treated fairly. This way, subsequent work together can be fruitful and non-adversarial -- and it's particularly important in making deals with artists and their representatives.

Until next time,
Keith Holzman -- Solutions Unlimited
Helping Record Labels Manage for Success.


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Copyright 2012 by Keith Holzman, Solutions Unlimited. All rights reserved.