“Okay, so I’ll trade you my purple monopoly for your green monopoly.”
“What?! No! That’s a terrible idea.”
“Fine, I’ll throw in $10 and a Get Out of Jail Free card.”
“Still no! This is insulting. In what world, would you assume I would say ‘yes’ to that deal? No, really, explain yourself…”
Yesterday, I wrote, “you can’t negotiate until you have something with which to negotiate.” Then I realized, maybe we should be talking about negotiating. We recognize a shoddy monopoly deal when it presents itself. We see that the deal will not help us win the game. Isn’t it mystifying that when we are negotiating in our own long game we cannot see a bum deal for what it truly is?
Your 29 Days to Diva Day 28 Challenge is to Make a Good Deal.
In our business, we get to be on both sides of the negotiating table regularly. Until we are all abiding by union wages, we will have an opportunity to negotiate a contract. I wouldn’t be doing my job appropriately if I didn’t advocate for us changing negative processes. Talking about money doesn’t have to feel loathsome, if we are doing it in an open, honest way. Therein lie all the issues, huh?
For Divas Accepting Contracts
Getting a contract offer is such a heady thing we often want to immediately say “yes.” We have finally been offered something that we want to do that we forget to, or more likely, are afraid to negotiate. So, we end up leaving value on the table.
There’s a phrase in negotiating called “escalation of commitment” that you can readily see in car-buying and performance contracts. You’ve taken the test drive, you’ve begun to imagine your life in that new car, and now you have definitely invested time and energy into the process. Our singer version of escalation of commitment shows up in the form of the time we’ve invested to audition for the gig and the dreaded chorus of “oh, what are you in right now” that haunts us. You do not have to say “yes” to every opportunity.
So, first, you need to know what your most necessary value is currently in your career. Do you have a “get off the couch” number? (I’ve featured the formula for how I found mine in previous seasons of 29 Days to Diva. Want access to that post? Get in touch!) If you find out that you will not be able to earn your number from this gig, ask if they can offer other perks you need per your Diva Audit. Will they be able to provide recordings, photos, video, or confirm critics/reviewers for the performance? Be creative to get what you need that will also be mutually beneficial for them. This is a strong positioning point if you are newly entering the business and don’t feel like you have a lot with which to negotiate.
Second, you need to know the market. You do not want to put an anchor or request to the director and have them return with, “in what world did you think that would be appropriate?” So, in a tight-lipped field that doesn’t often publish the fees, how will you find out? Do some research on YAPtracker. Look at fees that are listed. Ask your singing team. “What is an appropriate fee for this amount of work at this level of the profession?” If a company is decidedly community theatre, you will not be able to suddenly negotiate them into a high number. You will want to discover the zone of possible agreement — what seems likely with which you can also live.
Finally, always remember: “A generous, loving ‘no’ to the project does not sever the relationship.” That type of ‘no’ is really a ‘yes’ to yourself and the bigger goals and sustainable business you have.
Some phrases to try when negotiating:
- Making Proposals
- How do you feel about…
- Do you think you could consider…
- Would it be possible…
- Responding to Suggestions
- From where I stand, a better solution might be…
- Considering that, I would like to suggest…
- Now that you mention it…
- That’s a fair suggestion.
- I think we can both agree that…
- I understand where you’re coming from; however,
- I’m afraid that doesn’t work for me.
- I had something a little different in mind.
- How flexible can you be?
- I’m ready to sign that, if you can…
- Would you be willing to make a compromise?
- I’m sorry, I have to respectfully decline.
- I’m afraid I cannot agree to that.
- I’m not interested at this time, but I hope that we can work together in the future.
- I believe we have an agreement!
- I can only agree with you there.
- I accept!
For Divas Offering Contracts
I wanted to make sure to add this section because we need to talk about our personal responsibility for offering positive contracts. You are an integral part of the arts economy. You have resources, not just monetarily, that you are putting into the system. Don’t be a cheap skate! Spend on what you love. You love good performers. Make sure that your budget reflects that. You also want to attract talent to your projects/organization and one way to do that is to pay them appropriately.
Know your budget and the experience you are able to offer to other musicians. What are you expecting from them? Are you willing to pay for that expertise? If you know that you have an inflexible budget, make that clear ahead of time. Then, figure out what you could also offer that might sweeten the deal for the ideal performers/collaborators. Offer fair deals; but, do not be offended if musicians try to negotiate. Use any of the phrases above to help keep the relationship positive.
If you are a gatekeeper in a position of power, you are likely more skilled at negotiating than your counterpart. Remember that you can choose how to respond to them. You can help them make better choices in the future; or, put them off from your company or the field in general.
For Both Parties
Actively listen to each party and consider their perspective and needs. You can explain your position, but you do not have to be defensive. Finally, no need to negotiate just to negotiate. Know your own goal before you ever enter the discussion. If you’ve met or exceeded your goal from the beginning, do not chase the negotiation. You’ll get another chance. Believe me.
If we can commit to standing up for ourselves as well as offering fair contracts in negotiations, we can create more opportunities.
How Far Will You Go?
Share your triumphs with the Sybaritic Singer Facebook community! Be it #29DaystoDiva or any of the other theme months we have coming up this year, I hope you will like, leave a comment, or share with your friends.