Sunday, August 24, 2014

Negotiation and Deal-Making: The Course in Review

In my original Mastery Journal Timeline post, I stated that my original goal for the Negotiation and Deal-Making course was: “To make sure that both artist and publisher are satisfied with the financial outcome of a contract. To avoid litigation from the onset.” To accomplish this, I would utilize the following tactics:

1.     Understand the Artist’s motivation: monetary or artistic?
2.     Protect those artists with extreme talent but minimal business experience.
3.     Continue to pursue a “deal” for my own company and learn from that experience.

The focus of the course is the concept of principled negotiation, developed by three professors at the Harvard Negotiation Project, and outlined in the book “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In.” (Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 2011). To summarize, in a principled negotiation, a wise, efficient, amicable agreement is reached by focusing on the merits of a situation, rather than on positional bargaining or inflexible bottom-line stances.

The book gives a detailed list of steps for reaching that desired agreement. Related to my stated tactics for the course, here are a few of the most relevant:

1.     “Focus on interests, not positions.” If I am to understand a particular artist’s motivation, than I must understand his or her underlying interests. Why is the artist pursuing a publishing agreement? Our instructor cautioned us not to make assumptions about the answer like “because he wants to be rich,” or “because she wants to be famous.” It could very well be that the artist is pursuing a publishing deal because he or she wants to utilize music as a platform to raise awareness for a particular cause. As a negotiator, you would never know that unless you ask, and you might very well lose the deal if you do not appeal to that interest.
2.     “Insist on using objective criteria.” If my stated tactic is to protect talented artists with minimal business experience, the best way to do that is to use objective criteria – relevant data. Some artists might be so passionate about their underlying interests, or their cause, that they would throw caution to the wind in pursuit of a deal and accept a sub-par agreement. If you were the publisher, you might initially think that makes a better deal for you. However, in the end, you will probably be viewed as an unscrupulous negotiator that preys on the inexperienced. Your reputation will decline, and your business will suffer.
3.     “Separate the people from the problem.” My third stated tactic is an all-encompassing one, and is difficult to address as my business model evolves over the course of this MSEB program. Initially, I thought it would be rational to combine both my interests as an artist with my interests as a publisher / producer. However, a former client of mine said this to me recently: “You will not be a successful producer until you can separate yourself from your client’s music.” As much as I hate to admit it, he was right.

As a producer, I get aggravated when an artist who has “written” a song cannot play it from start to finish, or for that matter has not even completed the song before the recording process begins. That is simply laziness and lack of rehearsal, and as an artist, I would never put a producer in that position. In fact, I would be embarrassed if I did.  In “separating the people from the problem,” the negotiator has to include him or herself as one of those people. That leads me to my final point.

The second of the three texts included in this course, “Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate,” goes into detail about how to apply emotions during the negotiation process. (Fisher & Shapiro, 2005). The central theme is that every person that negotiates has five core concerns. To help me memorize them, I created the acronym AAASR, representing: appreciation, affiliation, autonomy, status, and role.

During the negotiation process, it is critical to understand the other party’s five core concerns and how you might address them in order to achieve mutual benefit. However, here is the kicker: you also have to understand yours.

The entire negotiation process can be boiled down to a quadrant: Do both parties understand what they need tangibly and emotionally to establish a mutually beneficial agreement?

Good Deal
Bad Deal
Bad Deal
Bad Deal


Fisher, R., Ury, W., & Patton, B. (2011). Getting To Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

Fisher, R. & Shapiro, D.L. (2005). Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

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