Taylor Swift’s Lesson for Procurement Professionals

Spend Matters welcomes this guest article by Vengat Narayanasamy of GEP.

Most of us are aware that Apple Music is offering a three-month trial to anyone who signs up for the streaming service. Apple negotiated numerous agreements with music companies to provide this service, and in the agreement it was mentioned that the artists and music companies would not get paid for the music streamed during this trial period. As anyone would imagine, Apple had a leverage to get away with it; however, Taylor Swift decided to call it out in an online letter this summer titled, “To Apple, Love Taylor.”

In a surprising response, in less than 24 hours, Apple’s Vice President Eddy Cue announced on Twitter, “We hear you @taylorswift13 and indie artists. Love, Apple.” Apple reversed its policy, saying it would be paying the artists and music companies in the trial period as well.

I consider it as a huge win for Taylor and music industry against a $750 billion giant.

Taylor Swift, in the first few lines of her letter, indicated that she means business — speaks about her interests, position, respect for Apple and most importantly that she is advocating for the entire music community and it is not about just her.

We call this as “precious 180” in the art and science world of negotiations. We are aware that the attention span of individuals is very low and that in the first 180 seconds we should try and communicate the key messages of the meeting crisply — in a typical negotiation meeting that will be your current situation, interests, past/future relationship with the opposite party and your expectations from this meeting and beyond.

Moving ahead, Taylor speaks about the significant contribution made by Apple to the digital music industry and just rightly so, singles out this instant (artists going unpaid for three months) in question. Going a step ahead, Taylor appreciates the idea of Apple’s effort on live streaming and what it means to the music industry and at the same time without mincing words she clearly states her interests and expectations in detail: “Apple...has the money to pay artists, writers and producers for the 3 month trial period.”

Further, she supports her interests and expectations with valid reasoning — three months, a quarter of a year, is a long time to go unpaid, especially for the new artists. By mentioning “We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation,” she makes her interests and expectations sound reasonable and not hostile.

Lastly, it is important for you to know what it would take for you to walk away without a deal, which is what we call the Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA). In general, it is good to keep your BATNA to yourself, however, here Taylor effectively conveys her BATNA (which is continue to do what she does — live events and use of other mediums — without an agreement with Apple) and further opens up the Zone Of Possible Agreement (ZOPA). By conveying her BATNA, Taylor expresses her willingness to explore the possible alternates, thereby increasing the chance to a mutually benefited agreement.

For more interesting thinking on procurement, visit the GEP Knowledge Portal.

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First Voice

  1. Peter Smith:

    I really like this article – well spotted to see this as an excellent example of clever negotiation. There is an aspect of power you don’t really cover though – the same letter would not have carried weight from Hippo Campus, for instance (look them up – they’re great). Swift has some power because of her position, following, etc.
    You might also give credit for the BATNA concept to the Harvard Negotiation Project – Fischer and Ury from Harvard first wrote about it in “Getting to Yes” which remains the best basic book on negotiation.

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