In the ever-changing landscape of entertainment, performers and producers are increasingly immersed 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 cut them short in the end?
Ammon Lyle has worked at Amazon in content acquisition and development for Audible, and at Disney in content strategy as manager of Disney+ and Deal Analysis. He has valuable insights for those looking to turn talent into profit. Here are three ways to combine 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 acquire an unlimited number of rights and sell them as long as you copyright your creations at copyright.gov. It takes 15 minutes,” Lyle says. For example, the rights can be split into smaller and smaller territories, including individual countries, to expand distribution and sales capabilities. Other elements include contract duration, media type and languages.
As with any agreement, the terms are annoying, but also costly – and sometimes deadly – to ignore.
2. Increase your distribution
With streaming on the rise, producers don’t always have the guarantee that they can participate in the profits. While the various roles needed to produce a show or movie can generate revenue through royalties and participations (payments to participants in a production), collectively known as back-end contingent compensation, buying out talent is becoming all too common . For example, a streaming service might make a one-time purchase of a show’s entire intellectual property, eliminating royalties and ongoing fees to creators. While this can also be a bad deal for the buyer if the total revenue is less than the sold-out price, creators need to 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 maker, Lyle says, “find value in creating competition among your distributors.” In other words, if possible, make non-exclusive deals with multiple distributors. This is standard practice for almost every business. For example, an author will not sell many copies if he distributes his book only through an obscure bookstore in Nebraska; by using multiple platforms, both digital and physical, they can present their product to as many people as possible.
3. Find the right business partners
Like those in legal proceedings (unless you’re Theodore Roosevelt), creators need representation to help them find opportunities to increase revenue and negotiate their deals. This can be an agent, manager, lawyer or all three. Some of the top talent agencies include the Creative Artists Agency (CAA), WME (William Morris Endeavour), ICM Partners, the United Talent Agency (UTA), and Verve. According to Lyle, representation is essential for negotiating agreements and expanding distributions. “The most efficient way to generate multiple offers is to have an agent,” he says. “Having an agent can really help increase your value in any market.”
Agents and managers for a creator are like your best friends at a party: they can introduce you to new people, boost your social confidence, and ultimately increase your influence. As Lyle says, effective distribution comes down to “knowing who can get your content to the right people.”
Harnessing creativity comes down to two essential steps: finding the right people and asking the right questions. Before shaking hands, the creator should fully understand the rights of their production or product and how to break them down and categorize them in order to close as many deals as possible. Remember that God is in the details. For more information about IP ratings, see Veristrat.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not Inc.com’s.
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