An Interview With Derek Sivers – Founder of CD Baby.com

derek sivers.jpg Derek Sivers is a man with ideas.  Derek’s ideas are included with the best since the inception of the Internet within the music industry.  He’s a guy known for creating a great idea and then executing that idea immediately and successfully.  Most notable is the success of CD Baby.com which Derek started simply as an outlet for his band to sell their self produced CD directly to their fans over the Internet.  Soon friends would asked Derek to sell their CD’s on his band’s site as well which allowed the idea to spin and grow into a viral success for all independent artists.  But CD Baby did not stop at just physical sales and eventually extended the brand into HostBaby, a service which allows artists to create their own band website in a quick and affordable manner with help from the trusted CD Baby.  Since then, CD Baby has embraced digital sales and has negotiated an exclusive arrangement with Amazon.com to sell its customer’s mp3′s through the e-commerce giants’ online mp3 store platform. 

  Derek created CD Baby to help pave his way towards success not only as an independent musician but as a man on a mission determined to prove that innovation can come from anyone motivated enough to believe that independent thinkers have ideas that everyone can benefit from.  The train of thought that arrives at these kind of idea’s stem from
a person’s intense desire to succeed and to rebel against the things
around you that are in the way of achieving your goals.
Derek Sivers has since sold CD Baby for 22 million dollars.


So what idea’s has Derek been working on since the sale and what has
motivated him in his post success?  We will be discussing what there is
to do when you have all the free time you can handle and we will take a
look at his future projects that are in the “works” called Muckwork and
Songwork

MF – You often like to give advice to artists on ways to communicate
with their fans. Have you ever seen something that was very wrong in
your initial assessments but was then shocked at how well it turned out?

DS – We only pay attention to what surprises us.  Counter-intuitive
lessons
are the best teacher.  If you hear, “This band worked really hard in
the traditional way and got successful,” you don’t even pay attention.
But if you hear, “This band told all their fans not to come to their
next gig, and because of that it was their biggest gig ever,” – then
you really pay attention.

Recently I heard of a band who doubled their merchandise sales at their gigs
by telling the audience to pay whatever they want – even nothing.  
That was a nice surprise.

MF – When I’ve explained what Songwork is to people, they often ask if
the evaluators would be able to analyze their songwriting accurately by
only having the immediate influences contained in the songs at their
disposal and not their full repertoire. How do you get around that?

DS – Songwork should never be about making the song the way the teacher
wants it to be.  It’s the teacher’s job to ask the songwriter
questions, and help them see other options or techniques.  The
songwriter still decides whether to incorporate some of those ideas
into a song revision or not. Kind of like coaching: it’s the coach’s
job to help you be a better version of yourself.  Not to make you like
them.

MF – Many people have written about time being the new gatekeeper in
the music business and about artists having the time/motivation to
promote their music. If Muckwork becomes successful wouldn’t the
gatekeeper change from procuring time to procuring funds to afford
services like Muckwork?

muck-work-logo1.jpg
DS – Nah. I think Muckwork will only be a service for people with more money
than time. There will always be plenty of people with more time than
money. I’ll always do everything I can to help people for free, by
writing my advice, or building some free tools they can use.  But for
those with more money than time, they can toss their dirty work to
Muckwork.

MF – I read in an interview how you described your motivation and your
drive as being fierce and rebellious and that your goal was to avoid
living a mediocre, unproductive hum drum life. By channeling all this
energy into your music as a performer, you extended the approach by
selling your bands CD in an alternative manner.  This sparked the
creation and success of CD Baby. Is your drive and motivation still as
strong today as it was before the success of CD Baby and do you still feel rebellious of your
surroundings now that you have reached the goal of obtaining a
comfortable and productive life?
 

cdBaby.jpgDS – No. I’m definitely not as motivated. I was really maniacally driven for
the last 20 years. These days I’m just playful. Sometimes I think I’d
be happy just living a silent anonymous life, reading books from now
on. But there are too many things I still want to make.

MF – What drives you and motivates you today in your post success life?  

DS – Making things that I think should exist. (Muckwork, Songwork, and
other upcoming sites.) Learning.  I’m fascinated by social psychology. 
And women.

MF – Do you feel that you have reached your goal to not live a boring
life and did you intend to get where you are now by any means necessary?

DS – Yeah, I not only reached but surpassed all my goals years ago.
 Everything after that has just been a nice surprise.  My life is
definitely not boring.  Or, more specifically, my life is whatever I
want it to be, anytime.  That’s exciting as hell, and definitely just
what I wanted.

MF – What about reaching your original goals as a musician?

DS – Goals change.  It’s good to be honest with yourself when they do.
 Being a professional musician was my goal from age 14 to 29, and I did
it, in a way.  Haven’t had a job since 1992. Bought a house with the
money I made gigging.  I was a full-time professional musician. But
after 15 years of that one single goal, it became more exciting to
learn something new.

MF – What is the biggest misconception in the music industry today?

DS – Getting discovered.  Getting signed.  Unfortunately American Idol
really perpetuates that myth.  A lot of musicians don’t understand that
record labels are sinking like the Titanic, and the remaining employees
are terrified for their jobs, and not taking any chances.

MF – What’s one of the biggest mistakes that artists make in their careers?

DS – Waiting to get discovered or signed.  :-)

MF – I saw an interview that you did with Tim Westergren, founder of
Pandora and some of his staff. Are you working on putting together a
documentary film and how far along are you with this project and what is
it about?

DS – I was going to keep doing lots of interviews like that – as described at http://sivers.org/doc
but honestly there hasn’t been that much interest, so I think I’ll let that project drop.

For more information on Derek Sivers check out:    http://sivers.org/

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