In the ever-changing landscape of entertainment, artists and producers find themselves increasingly submerged in the complex world of business. With streaming on the rise, talent has become a commodity. So how do content creators negotiate deals that won’t end up selling them short?
Ammon Lyle, has worked at Amazon in Content Acquisition and Development for Audible, and for Disney in Content Strategy as Manager of Disney+ and Deal Analysis. He has some valuable insight for those looking to turn talent into a profit. Here are three ways to merge creativity with business prowess:
1. Know Your Rights
This may seem like an obvious suggestion, but content rights – especially in entertainment – are no walk in the park. The elements to consider are almost infinite. However, this is also an advantage: “You can carve out an unlimited amount of rights and sell them as long as you copyright your creations on copyright.gov. It takes 15 minutes.,” says Lyle. For instance, the rights can be compartmentalized into smaller and smaller territories, including individual countries, to expand the distribution and selling options. Other elements are the contract term, media type, and languages.
As with any agreement, the terms are tedious but also costly – and sometimes deadly – to ignore.
2. Dilate Your Distribution
With streaming on the rise, producers are not always guaranteed an option to participate in the profits. While the various roles required to produce a show or film can generate revenue through royalties and participations (payments to participants in a production), known collectively as ‘backend contingent compensation,’ buying out talent is becoming all too common. For instance, a streaming service can make a one-time purchase of a show’s entire intellectual property, eliminating royalties and continual compensation to the creators. While this can also be a bad deal for the buyer if the total revenue is less than the sellout price, creators must know how to protect themselves and their content.
Knowing how to distribute content is almost as important as knowing how to create it. To strengthen your bargaining power as a creator, Lyle says, “find value in creating competition amongst your distributors.” In other words, make deals with multiple distributors non-exclusively, if possible. This is standard practice for almost any business. For instance, an author won’t sell many copies if they only distributed their book through an obscure bookstore in Nebraska; rather, by utilizing multiple platforms, both digitally and physically, they can present their product to as many people as possible.
3. Find the right Business Partners
As with a court proceeding (unless you’re Theodore Roosevelt), creators also need representation to help them find opportunities to increase their revenues and negotiate their deals. This could be an agent, manager, lawyer or all three. Some top talent agencies are the Creative Artists Agency (CAA), WME (William Morris Endeavor), ICM Partners, the United Talent Agency (UTA), and Verve. According to Lyle, representation is essential to negotiating agreements and expanding distributions. “The most efficient way to generate multiple offers is through having an agent,” he says. “Having an agent can really help bolster your value in any marketplace.”
Agents and managers for a creator are like your best friends at a party: They can introduce you to new people, bolster your social confidence, and ultimately expand your influence. As Lyle says, effective distribution boils down to “knowing who can bring your content in front of the right people.”
Capitalizing on creativity comes down to two essential steps: finding the right people and asking the right questions. Before shaking hands, the creator must fully understand the rights of their production or product and how they can be broken down and categorized to negotiate as many deals as possible. Remember, God is in the details. See Veristrat for more on IP valuations.