The Brag Media
Opinion January 16, 2024

The Big Lesson Michael Taylor Taught Me About Deal-Making

The Big Lesson Michael Taylor Taught Me About Deal-Making

Like much of the music industry, I was extremely saddened to learn that Michael Taylor, the former managing director of Universal Music Australia, had lost his battle with cancer.

Back when I was a young, inexperienced artist manager, Michael was the first major label executive I worked with.

At the time, I was managing an Australian rapper, Chance Waters, who was highly sought-after by the record companies; he was churning out hit-after-hit and was on the main stage at all the major music festivals.

Chance Waters

Chance Waters

Michael Taylor won the deal to sign Chance Waters to Island Records after a long, competitive negotiation process.

However, mid-negotiation, Michael offered me a piece of advice that, at the time, I dismissed as a tactical play. He told me, “Just because you can get everything out of a deal doesn’t mean you should.”

He stressed the importance of leaving enough in the deal for the other party to also win and make money.

In my youthful zeal and inexperience, I brushed off this advice. I believed it was about securing the most lucrative deal for my artist at every opportunity. And so, I pushed hard, clinching an incredible deal for my artist with Island Records, which meant that Island would only make money if everything went absolutely right.

But it didn’t. Chance Waters quit music at the peak of his powers, not even releasing the amazing, fully finished album we recorded in Paris.

Undeterred and ignoring Michael’s advice, I applied the same aggressive tactics in my next major label negotiation with Sony Music for the pop band I was managing, Little Sea.

Again, I left no room for the label to even get close to recouping their investment unless everything went perfectly. History repeated itself; the band disbanded in a year, and the deal was an expensive commercial failure for Sony.

My relationship never recovered with Sony after that; Denis Handlin hated me till the day he was fired.

When I launched The Brag Media back in 2017,  the major labels wouldn’t work with us, but Michael did. Even after the commercial failure I had with him, our relationship never soured.

The first significant label campaigns were booked through The Brag Media because of Michael Taylor’s support, and it’s something I’ll never forget. It was an extremely challenging time for our business and Michael Taylor was the only one from the majors supporting us.

It meant the world.

Michael’s advice, which I once perceived as a tactic, now resonates profoundly. In business, fostering long-term relationships based on mutual respect and shared success is crucial, not only for your success as a business operator or artist manager but also for your artists’ success.

Getting the best possible deal at the detriment of your partner might be a short-term win for your artist, but if your partner is not making money from the deal, they won’t want to keep doing business with you or go the extra mile.

That would be bad for your artist.

The short-term win in a deal may cost you in the long term unless everything goes perfectly right in your artist’s career, which it rarely does.

Today, as I negotiate deals for my business, myself, or the artists I represent, I stand firm on my non-negotiables to ensure my party gets our fair maximum value and protections but remain flexible on other terms, ensuring the other party has a fair chance of a great commercial outcome from our deal.

Good partnerships begin well before there is ink on the contract. They are built on mutual benefit and respect, where each party aids in the other’s success.

Michael Taylor’s advice was not just a lesson in negotiations but in building sustainable, productive relationships in the music industry. It’s a lesson I carry with me in every deal, a tribute to a man who understood that the true art of business lies in winning and creating wins for everyone involved.

RIP, Michael. Thank-you for supporting me from the start of my career.


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