Lady Gaga's former manager shares the key to getting what you want in a negotiation

Troy Carter, Lady Gaga's former manager
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Troy Carter, Lady Gaga's former manager

Troy Carter's dream was to be a rapper. He dropped out of West Philadelphia High School in 1990 to start a rap group with two of his best friends.

"We called ourselves 2 Too Many because we only had enough money for one of us," Carter tells Guy Raz on the NPR podcast, "How I Built This." The teenagers managed to get face-time with actor and producer Will Smith and play him a demo tape. They even got signed to Smith's label, but it didn't take long for Carter to realize he'd rather be a manager than a musician.

As a manager, Carter's first big client was rapper Eve Jeffers, and he's now widely known for discovering Lady Gaga and propelling her to stardom with almost no resources. When Carter came across Lady Gaga's music, he was close to bankruptcy.

Lady Gaga performing at the 2017 Super Bowl
Kevin Mazur/WireImage
Lady Gaga performing at the 2017 Super Bowl

The master dealmaker tells Raz the key to negotiation is your ability to "read the room" and to figure out exactly what the other side wants.

Carter, who now runs his own talent management company Atom Factory, credits much of his success to what he calls his "West Philly spidey senses."

He tells Raz:

When you have to negotiate for survival and you have to know how to read rooms and you have to know who the bad guys in the rooms are — who has the gun in their pocket, who's just going to brandish it and who's going to actually pull the trigger. So I think that's just a natural instinct that comes with coming from where I come from. Being able to take that tool into negotiations — on reading people and reading rooms and reading circumstances — I think is very, very important.

Troy Carter at the offices of Atom Factory, which he founded in 2010
Ann Johansson | Getty Images
Troy Carter at the offices of Atom Factory, which he founded in 2010

Whether you have West Philly spidey senses or not, when you walk into any room to make a deal, you should be clear on two things, Carter says: "What's important for that person on the other side of the table and what's important for the client" — or, if you're not managing anyone, what's important for you.

"And a lot of times, it's not conflicting," Carter notes, "so both sides can kind of get what they want out of it."

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