With all the glamour surrounding Hollywood, it's easy to forget that the entertainment industry is, arguably, the most entrepreneurial of all. Whether it's negotiating for a song, a TV show or a multinational media conglomerate, players in "the industry" are always making deals. Here are some great insights from a few seasoned and accomplished practitioners of the art:
Ask the experts. "Get yourself an advisor who knows something about the business, its economics and the players-be it an agent, an attorney, a banker or a CPA. Otherwise, you may get taken for a ride." This advice, from David Davis, senior vice president in Los Angeles of the entertainment division of investment bank Houlihan, Lokey, Howard & Zukin, applies across the board, whatever the deal, whatever the industry. No deal-maker needs to go it alone. Negotiation is a team sport, and the complementary skills of a well-chosen set of professionals are among the best predictors of success at the bargaining table.
"Get yourself an advisor who knows something about the business, its economics and the players. Otherwise, you may get taken for a ride."
Timing is everything. Encino, California, entertainment attorney Gary Greenberg feels that "the key to deal-making is to strike while the iron is hot. Don't overnegotiate, especially if the deal is for a newcomer. Get your client in the game so they can prove themselves and improve their bargaining position for other deals and possible renegotiation down the line." This is solid big-picture thinking. Sometimes, negotiating too hard can spoil momentum, alienate potential allies and jeopardize golden opportunities. If you're sensitive to your long-term goals, you'll know when an easy manner will serve you best.
Watch your ego. Mark Goldstein is senior vice president of business and legal affairs at Warner Bros. Records in Burbank, California. He says, "The two most important precepts with respect to getting a deal made are, in my mind: 1) You can make any deal happen if you can get past caring about who gets the credit for getting the deal done, and 2) the key to getting a deal done is letting the other side feel that the solution is their idea." Certainly, for a deal-maker to transcend his or her own ego and self-interest takes unusual maturity. But, after all, negotiators do work for a greater good-the closing of a deal that is supposed to benefit everyone.
For less-philosophical counsel, consider the advice of legendary Hollywood deal-maker Swifty Lazar: "In a deal, you give and take. You compromise. Then you grab the cash and catch the next train out of town."
And, of course, there's always Groucho Marx: "These are my principles. If you don't like them, I have others!"
- Houlihan, Lokey, Howard & Zukin
- Warner Bros. Records