It can feel a little daunting to be faced with your first fee negotiation. The prospect of entering what can seem like a bargaining process might be intimidating, and you might initially feel uncomfortable negotiating on your own behalf. We’d like to show you that negotiating your fee is actually not that difficult – once you’ve done a certain amount of preparation and research – and can actually feel empowering, even fun.
There are plenty of different ways to negotiate, but two of the most important factors in achieving your goals are good preparation and making sure you stay true to your natural style of communicating.
Here our guidelines for successful deal-making
Do your research
This is the most important part of the process. When agreeing a fee with an orchestra, festival or venue, no matter how important they are, what counts is gathering information, before you start the negotiation process. Having key information means being better placed to achieve the results you want. It means knowing your fee level, knowing what others who are in a position similar to yourself have received, and knowing what your employer is prepared to pay.
Questions to ask yourself:
- What fee do I deserve, based on my experience and skills? Be realistic. Don’t undersell or oversell yourself, but research to find out what someone with your level of experience can expect to receive. This means asking around.
- What have others in a comparable position to my own received? If you can’t find anyone to compare yourself with, what have others, perhaps with more experience, received? Again, this means using your network to source information. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and think creatively about who you could ask.
- If you find yourself in the position of having to make a fee suggestion, start with a realistic figure, based on your research, then add on a little — you will have to come down a bit in the negotiation process anyway. If you have to make concessions, make sure you agree to them by securing other gains, like travel and accommodation.
Find your own style
Don’t change your communication style just because you are in a negotiation process. Be yourself — this will make you flexible and you’ll achieve better results. As you become a bet-ter negotiator, your personal negotiation tone and style will become increasingly clear, and you will feel more and more comfortable with it.
Don’t feel pressurised into conforming to the other party’s negotiation style. Stick to your own way of communicating, listen carefully to the other party to pick up information about their priorities, and keep asking questions.
Know what your bottom line is
The single most important factor in the fee negotiation process is getting hold of information. The more information you can gather about the different fee structures in your in-dustry, the better placed you will be to get the fee you deserve. Information-gathering can feel like a chore, but it’s really worth doing. Whenever you acquire new information, write it down for future reference.
Once you have enough information, you will be able to judge what the lowest offer is that you are prepared to accept. This is called knowing your own bottom line. Have this figure in your mind throughout the negotiation process from the very beginning – once you’ve made it clear to yourself how far you’re prepared to go, it will be easier for you to negotiate natu-rally and take risks.
Would you like to know more about this topic?
LEAD!, working in close collaboration with Music Mentor, offer workshops on negotiation, tailored especially to the classical music industry. They are led by industry professionals who have many years of concrete experience in the field, and who have been on every side of the negotiation table, as agents and as top administrators of orchestras and other cultural institutions. In the spirit of information-sharing, we are keen to share our knowledge and every aspect of our experience with you. Click here to find out where our next project will be.
Don’t have the time to commit to a whole project?
You can choose to be an individual client, set up a single session with us, or select an advice package especially tailored to your specific needs. We have discounts for students and artists who are just starting out. Click here to see which package is the best one for you.
Have a specific question?
If you have a specific question about negotiating your fee as a freelance musician or conductor, get in touch with us for a free 15-minute session. Click here to see how to contact us.