Negotiation Without Being A Jerk

Derek is an MBA in entrepreneurship, painter, and bassist for Onward We March, a local progressive metal band. He teaches business skills to artists and writes weekly music business advice for his blog Derek Thinks Music. Got a business question about your art? Shoot him an email at

Whether it be predicting how much merch to purchasechoosing whether to book a larger or smaller venue for your release show, or what time you tell everyone to load-in, how you manage the expectations of everyone involved can be the difference between resounding sucess and abject failure.

I’m continually reminded of how all-encompassing this concept truely is.

Managing expectations is when you EXPLICITY outline the criteria to be used to evaluate an experience and the how everyone involved wants issues handled. This is why getting written contracts are so importantA contract serves as a visual aid outlining the expectations of all parties involved so everyone is crystal clear on what exactly to do.

Learn to manage expectations and you too will live a life of opulence like Big Bear

Until you’ve worked with someone a couple times, you need to be painfully clear with how you want the deal to go. Not to the point of being patronizing (“and you’ll play the guitar with your hands, correct?”), but the more work you put in up-front about your requirements, the easier your life will be when money starts to change hands.

Van Halen added a now famous clause hidden deep in their contracts that the band must be served M&Ms with all the brown ones removed. They added this clause not to be capricous rockstars, but to verify that the venue thorougly read through the contract. David Lee Roth explained that a venue not matching the expectations of the contract could lead to their road crew having to deal with life-threatening safety oversights.

Last year I was going over show details for my heavy-metal band Onward We March with a venue we booked a show at, only to find out that they “didn’t want any of that screaming stuff” for the show.

No. Can. Do.

Not matching expectations can ruin your credibility, stall your marketing, or even cause your band to collapse.

When people aren’t sure exactly what you want/offer, they fill in the gaps with their best guesses.

Your goal with managing expectations is to minimize hearing phrases like, “Oh you guys wanted a sound check? Sorry, we don’t have time for it. Didn’t think you’d want one because our last band didn’t care.”


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