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Memoirs of Composer Chance Thomas

Chapter 18 - Sneak Peek Excerpt


Let’s pause this story for an instructive sidebar about negotiation. In any business deal, no one ever gets what they deserve. Each side only gets what they negotiate. A sense of fairness may be part of the negotiation, but you can never count on it. 

Very early in my career, I discovered a book entitled, You Can Have Anything You Want: But You Have To Do More Than Ask. Studying that negotiating book became a game changer for me, opening my eyes to a transformative way of thinking about transactions. The more I practiced the principles in that book, the more frequently I could extract favorable outcomes from my business dealings. 

Next, I read another negotiation book called, Getting To Yes. This was a more substantial academic work on the subject. It deepened my understanding of the psychological motivations which underpin people’s tendencies, especially when forced into difficult corners. Some of those insights have been helpful in allowing me to think around counterpart’s objections, often well before they revealed them.

Finally, I studied a third book, Never Split the Difference, written by a successful FBI negotiator. Its contents gave me several new and additional practical tools for my negotiating toolkit. All of them have proven helpful.   

I’ll go out on a limb and say that no other business skill will impact your bottom line as much as the skill of negotiation. I highly recommend investing as much effort as possible into studying and practicing negotiation in all aspects of your career. 

The three books cited above are excellent resources. There is also a chapter in my textbook which specifically addresses negotiating video game music contracts – creative fees, copyrights, licenses, package deals, deliverables, schedules, approvals, revisions, expenses, indemnification, payment methods, additional compensation, performing rights, ancillary usages, scripting your negotiation, etc. This is valuable and immediately actionable information for video game composers. You might consider checking out each of these books from your local library, or adding them to your permanent reference collection.   

Now let’s return to the story of my negotiation with EA’s Vance Cook and see how things played out.   

This was a delicate time, because I was far from the only fish in the sea. Although the interviewing teams had preferred me among the finalists, at this early stage of the game there was minimal investment of time, energy, or emotion in my candidacy. I needed to step very carefully in order to preserve any initial trust and build this budding relationship. But I also needed to lean EA gently towards meeting the objectives which were important to me.   

Here were my two sticking points:   

First, we were at least $15,000 apart on salary terms. I wanted more money than they had budgeted for the position. And it was important to me that I try negotiating to capture some or all of that difference. 

Second, EA Games prohibited employees from working on any games besides their own. I had built up too many valuable clients in the video game industry to simply walk away from them. Besides, Craig Alexander and I were already talking about a new music score for LOTRO’s expansion, Mines of Moria. Composing that score would be a dream gig for me. Somehow, I needed to obtain an exemption from EA to continue scoring video games as a side hustle.