[by Gail Mooney]
If you have ventured into video production, no doubt you will need to negotiate rights with other artists. You may need to license still and/or motion imagery as well as music for a project you are working on. Regardless, if you are negotiating with an artist directly or with their rep, or working with a stock house, the best advice I can give you is to “negotiate in good faith”.
Most of us have heard that expression, “negotiate in good faith”, but what exactly does that mean? I won’t cite the legal definition here, but for me it means that I strive to reach an agreement that is perceived as fair by both parties. If both parties hope to work with one another again, both sides must feel that they aren’t being taken advantage of in a lopsided deal. This became very clear to me when working on a project that required me to license quite a few historic photographs. In the process, I realized that my own stock photo agent (who represents many of my still images) had the best selection of historic images that I needed in order to complete my project.
I contacted the sales rep at the stock photo agency and represented myself as a buyer because that was my role in this particular transaction. Even though I was also a content provider to the agency, it had nothing to do with the purpose of my call. I quickly realized that my insights coming from the perspective of a content provider were very valuable. I was in a unique position of having an understanding of both sides of the negotiating table. The sales agent quoted a fairly high price for each image, so high in fact that in doing some quick calculations I realized that I didn’t have the budget to license the 50 images that I needed. Purely on reflex, I blurted out “I’m also a content provider with this agency and I have to say that I haven’t seen prices this high for image sales on my statements in a long time”. Within a heartbeat, the sales agent slashed the licensing fees by more than half. As a producer, I was delighted. As a content provider, I thought, this was not the way I want a sales rep negotiating fees on my behalf.
Negotiating in “good faith” with individual artists becomes even more critical when building a team for a project where you’ll be working together in collaboration. If you are fair to your team, they’ll work hard and give you 100%. If they feel that you are taking advantage of them, expect less in return. In the long run, it pays to be fair.
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