Entertainment Magazine

Contract Negotiations... What YOU Should Know!

Posted on the 26 July 2011 by Caliburns @CaliBurns12
Negotiating is something that we do each day in our lives. From early in our childhood, we learn to negotiate with our parents to get what we want, with our friends to trade us their Lunchables, etc. Negotiations get more intense, and important, as we get older. This is especially true in the case of negotiating contracts. Artists need to be aware of what they're signing; as well as what they will gain and/or lose from signing the contract.
Contract Negotiations... what YOU should know!
Casanova Williams runs his own independent label, Society Entertainment, and has been in numerous negotiations dealing with contracts. I had the pleasure of interviewing him and this is what he had to say!
Has anyone ever tried to use a sneaky tactic with you in a contract?
Of course! Everyone is trying to see how he or she can get the most for nothing. I had people change the document before we signed it in hopes I didn’t see the percentage change, had people have their friends act like lawyers to scare more money or more control for the artist, and countless other situations. When dealing with contracts, I see that people will pull anything.
What are some words of advice you would give an artist in regards to contracts?
Read your contract, READ READ READ. Then when you’re done have a lawyer read it and then a friend read it. Make sure you understand every line because once you sign, there usually is no renegotiation. So understand that if you become successful, that contract stays the same. Most labels will not give you more percentage because you’re making more money. They will give you an advance but that’s money you owe back the label.
What’s the toughest negation you’ve ever been involved in?
It was over my rock band, The Shoreline. At the time we approached them, they were performing at the House of Blues to a packed house. As a label we had never worked with a rock band before and financially we were still in the red. They were already touring, selling cd’s, selling merchandise, and had a lot going on. So it took about three months to sign them. We had to come up with money and resources that would compliment the group. The sacrifice was worth it, because to date, they are our most successful, money-making group.
If you have a piece of information you know you can use as leverage, do you use that in the beginning, middle, or end of the negotiation? At specific time? Why?
It all depends on the artist and how bad you want them on the label. If its an artist you want to sign right away because you have great opportunities coming up, you may want to pull out your ace fast, but if you just trying to feel the artist out to see if they are a good fit to the label, then you may wait. An example is I was talking to this artist who was supposedly signed to a management company but he wasn’t happy. So when he told me the company’s name I looked them up and found out they were not a real company. (no INC, LLC, certification) So, that information I held on to until I was sure I was going to sign him. Once I knew he would be a great artist, and he was almost begging me to sign him and helped him out his situation, I told him about his contract not being valid and he signed immediately.
Have emotions ever gotten in the way of completing a deal? How do you separate your emotions during negotiations?
No. To be in this business you have to know how to separate the two. Yes, naturally you will have your personal feelings about artists, and sometimes be hurt by things that may happen, but you always have to know the difference between an emotional decision and a business one. I tend to come up with two choices for every decision; one is personal and the other is business. So I understand the difference and I always go with the business. But having those two choices help me to place things in perspective.
Do you change your approach in negotiations depending on who it is you are dealing with? Why or why not?
You have to. Some people are just about the facts and numbers and others are about the social aspect of the business. So a person who is about the social aspect is really caring about numbers and stuff like that. They are the people you have to take out and show a good time and the people about the numbers you have to show them how those number benefit them.
What’s the hardest part about negotiating contracts?
Getting people to understand what they are signing. Because for some reason I see that artist really don’t take the proper time to understand their contract. Instead they let their lawyer or a friend tells them if it’s a good contract or they just don’t care and sign it. Because it’s always my experience those artists tend to think their contract isn’t good or they didn’t know what was in there when money and success starts. Then there is a divide with the label and the artist.
Anything else you would like to share?
Both the labels and artists need to understand that a good contract is a contract that everyone wins. Sometime it’s hard to come to that because everyone thinks everyone is trying to get over on the other. So all parties involved go in defensive and a lot of times great opportunities are missed.

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