Winning through negotiation

I recently had an experience with negotiation, the point of which might help you.

Last month my Mac email was acting up and doing things that I couldn’t fix myself. A guy was recommended to me who specialized in fixing all things Mac, so I called him over to my studio. After an hour and a half he had actually made my email worse (unusable) but along the way had showed me a couple things relative to my calendar and another Exchange account for my business. On the whole, was I better off? Maybe, but now I had to fix my email (I ended up doing a clean install of El Capitan).

A few days later I received a bill from the guy for the full 90 minutes of his consulting. I wrote him back, and explained that because my mail was now unusable, I didn’t think I should be charged for the full time he was here. I told him I was willing to pay him for an hour.

Later that day I received an angry email response stating that he never negotiates his rates and to “just forget the whole thing”.

So, how are you as a negotiator – either on the giving or receiving end? My experience has shown that many musicians tend to be unwilling negotiators. Perhaps they feel as does my Mac consultant that negotiation cheapens their product. Perhaps negotiating is beneath them. Perhaps they are afraid of it because they don’t know how?

Here are a few tips for negotiating:

  1. Don’t be afraid of it. You’re not being mean. You’re simply working out terms on an arrangement that will be mutually agreeable. If people take offense (as with Mac consultant), it’s their problem, not yours.
  2. Be fair. Negotiation is not for taking advantage of people. In the above story, I was not trying to cheat him out of money. I was trying to reach an agreement that was fair for the value I received.
  3. Try to see what a win would be for them. A good negotiation leaves both sides feeling like they won. Yes, you are primarily focused on your interests, but to be successful, you must keep in mind what would feel like a win for the other person.
  4. Look for low/no cost concessions. I always like to find something that has little to no cost to me that I can throw into the deal. Whatever that is, it has to feel like a value to the other side, but if you look, there’s often something you can offer that is a value to them that doesn’t cost you much.  That can often be something as simple as the promise for future business.
  5. Just do it. You will probably be surprised at how often you can negotiate things like simple purchases. I negotiated on a few of the recent Christmas gifts I purchased and got additional things thrown in. I’m not suggesting you negotiate with the cashier at Walmart, but rather look for opportunities with people who can make decisions to lower price or add value to your arrangement.

How good are you in negotiating for gigs or other things related to your music? One good book I would recommend to you is Getting to Yes. It might be enough to at least get you thinking about the possibilities. Let me know if you have thoughts on the subject or questions related to the skill of negotiating.


  1. Darylynn on January 2, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    I was a contactor, I always was willing to pay off an unhappy customer, or forego payment in total. But word of mouth was important to me. I wanted to be able to truthfully say that I tried to fix it. But I never charged for job not completed.

  2. Michael Lake on January 2, 2016 at 12:39 pm

    And that’s the smart way to run a business. People don’t realize that their number one asset is their reputation.

  3. Barry Nulph on February 11, 2016 at 5:41 pm

    I guess thst’s why God let us invent agents.
    Negotiating can be not only fun, but empowering.
    If someone won’t meet you half way, do you really want to work with them?

  4. Barry Nulph on February 11, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    I guess that’s why God let us invent agents.
    Negotiating can be not only fun, but empowering.
    If someone won’t meet you half way, do you really want to work with them?

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