It’s Okay to Have Emotions During the Negotiation Phase
The words “Fuck You” is a very common phrase in this business. It’s usually used when an individual has reached their limit when dealing with another individual and this business is full of individuals with their own quarks and personalities. Those personalities can sometimes clash when it comes to negotiating publishing splits, production credits, or just a fee for work. I’m here to tell you that not only is it common for people be emotional during the process of negotiating who gets what, but it’s okay to feel this way.
One of the most uncomfortable conversations I’ve ever had was when I had to tell an artist that the amount of my contribution to their single was not properly reflected in the songwriter and mechanical royalty splits that was drafted up. Of course he gave me push back because it would mean he would be getting less money on the back end. His tone suddenly became cold and he leaned back into his chair almost as though he was searching for where he could pinpoint that I was trying to cheat him out of his money. He disagreed and stated that he would be continuing on with the splits. At this moment, I became upset. I didn’t yell, tell him he was a cheapskate, or curse at him but I did exhibit some emotions during the conversation. “You don’t ask someone to work overtime and expect them not to get paid” I said now talking with my hands to make my point. We both agreed that we should probably get off the line before things really got heated. Later on that week he gave me a call and told me that he understood where I was coming from and that we could meet in the middle. When I asked him what changed his mind he said it was because he understood how I felt. New splits drafted up, song submitted, everyone’s happy.
What I took from that situation, one of many that I can not speak on, wasn’t so much I spoke about things from my perspective it was that I didn’t back down. In retrospect, I don’t know if me saying “You don’t ask someone to work overtime and expect them not to get paid” would have the same effect if I was totally calm. In fact, I think it would’ve done the opposite. I’m not promoting you should get into a shouting match every time you need to negotiate splits. What I’m saying is that expressing your perspective with a bit of color can really help you get your point across. It’s not uncommon, and almost an aphorism, to hear that a chair was thrown during a meeting between two parties. Editor’s Note: I have thrown a chair and I didn’t get compensated for my services being that the company went bankrupt the next month. This would be a prime example of showing too much emotion. Having emotions is normal, but you want to gauge the situation as well as how you’re coming across. Sometimes it’s not the words that affect you but how they are being said. One thing that’s helped me in these times is just pausing and asking the person to clarify. In my experience when this happens 9/10 I totally took what the person said out of context. Also, dealing with people from the east coast has taught to me to have thick skin as people are very direct and blunt.
Go into your negations with an open mind and be willing to hear the other side. Sometimes there are pieces of the puzzle missing and overlooked context as to why the person is saying what they’re saying. Your job is to meet in the middle all the while expressing what you feel you deserve. Every request should have a clear cut ‘why.’ Simple saying, because I feel I deserve that won’t get the job done. In fact, it may get you laughed at.
You get what you negotiate, not what you deserve.