5 Tips for Successful Negotiations

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If you are in showbiz everything is negotiable.  A successful negotiation is when all sides leave the table happy and eager to return to do business with one another again.  Here are our top 5 tips for making sure your negotiations run smoothly.

1. Know Your Price in Advance

Performers: You are not putting a price tag on yourself; you are putting a price on your numbers.  Thinking this way will help you to not take negotiations personally and allow you more versatility.  Your signature numbers or those with large props or a lot of supplies should cost more than your smaller numbers that have less preparation required.  Creating a new number should cost more than booking an existing one, and travel out of town should cost more than performing locally.  Price out a range that you think is fair for each of your numbers, and each possible scenario, this way you have a starting point and aren’t going in blind.  Going in blind leaves you at the mercy of the producer.

Producers: Know your budget for a show in advance.  Know the costs of everything from the venue and security to the advertising.   Come up with a firm number you have for talent.  Then take that number and decide how to use it.  How many performers do you want?  Are headliners paid more?  Once you have priced out each slot in the show you are ready to start contacting performers and negotiating.

2. Keep Your Contact Professional

Texting is a completely inefficient and unprofessional form of communication for a proper dialogue.  Always conduct negotiations by phone or email.  If you conduct by phone initially, follow up with a summary email of your conversation so everyone is on the same page.

Never mix a business call with a pleasure call.  Many times we are working with our friends in this industry.  Never start a conversation with dinner plans, gossip, or current events, and then try to transition into a business call.  That is an old salesman trick to get people off of their game, because it is hard to be firm with a friend, and hard to switch gears from casual to business.    Always open with the business conversation.

3. Collect Information First- Resist the Urge to Answer on the Fly

Collect all the information first.  What numbers are being requested?  Is there a theme to the show?  What is call time?  Is there a proper dressing room?  What’s the venue?

As a producer, you can quote your budget for the numbers you are requesting, and as a performer you can name your price (see #1), but the minute you realize your numbers don’t match, back up.  It is perfectly fine for either side to say, “I’ll have to think about it.  Can you give me a day to get back to you?”  If the answer is no, and one side or the other cannot wait a day, it’s probably a situation worth passing on, as anything worth doing is worth doing right.  Do remember to respond by the deadline you set.

4. Always Negotiate with Long Term Gain/Relationship in Mind

Remember that the goal of a successful negotiation is that both sides leave happy and eager to work together again.  Never burn a bridge over $20.  It’s fine to stick to your guns, but always be respectful, and leave the door open for contact about the next opportunity.  You may see eye to eye the next go around.

5. Consider other avenues of payment

Maybe you’re not meeting eye to eye on hard money amounts, so what about throwing other things into the mix?  A trade works when both parties benefit equally.  Maybe the producer is also a fabulous costumer and you need a new shimmy belt.  Maybe the producer can set up a workshop for you at their dance studio or hook you up with another space in town.  All of these have value and should be considered.  Avoid accepting trades that don’t actually benefit you.  Remember 99% of the time, “It will be great publicity” is a lie.  All you publicize is that you work for free.

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