Joss Delage

Derek Sivers - Founder of CD Baby

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Hello all,

I am in the process of reading blogs & listening to podcasts around technology entrepreneurs. It's kind of fascinating & enriching.

One of those entrepreneurs is Derek Sivers. He is a musician who created a site & company to sell his own CDs. This was called CD Baby and it became over 10 years the largest seller of independently produced music in the US. He sold the company a few months ago and is now starting a new company.

His blog recently featured an interview that is very revealing of his nature (my highlights in bold):

Derek:

(...) for ten years I had my priorities wrong. I would say that exercise was important to me but then I’d just end up checking email or getting distracted all day and each night, you know, nighttime would roll around and I hadn’t done any exercise and I’d say, “I’ll do it tomorrow.” Ten years of that got me in pretty bad shape. So I wanted to make sure it stays top priority and comes before checking email or before returning phone calls. So, yeah, I do programming for four hours. Exercise for a couple hours. Then do some creative writing, and then I plug in my Ethernet and start checking email. I try to even keep that limited to a couple hours and then go out with friends for dinner or for the evening.

Alex:

That answers my question, yeah. Also, I wanted to know how you define success and if you see yourself as a successful person.

Derek:

I think success is doing what you set out to do or what makes you happy. No, not what you set out to do because that could change. I think success is being happy. Right? Because, even say if you are a Donald Trump that your definition of success is you need to make a billion dollars, then that’s what makes you happy. But I mean really happiness is the ultimate goal. If somebody else has the goal of they want to be a great first grade teacher. Or they want to be even just a good first grade teacher and see their kids, you know, finishing the year, learning a lot more than they did when they came in. And if that’s what makes you happy, then I guess you are successful if you are doing that. So I like the idea of just everybody has their own definition of success which just leads me to think that it’s just about what makes them happy.

(...)

Alex: So you’re obviously a big music guy. I understand that you’ve been a pro musician since the age of 18? So what about music inspires you?

Derek: It’s the act of creation. I’ve never been a huge music fan. A lot of people start out as music fans. They love music so much they wait in line overnight for tickets. They drive hours to go see their favorite band play. Whatever. I’ve never been like that.

Anyway... I recommend his blog, you can find a transcript of the interview here: http://sivers.org/ppdp

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I have found some great music through CD Baby. It is an excellent website. Didn't know it was under "new management".

theDML2112

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I have to bring this thread up and mention a few quotes from his blog. In bold are my own emphases:

Talk he gave to the incoming class of music students at the Berklee College of Music:

http://sivers.org/berklee

#1 : Focus. Disconnect. Do not be distracted.

(...)

You're surrounded by cool tempting people, hanging out casually, telling you to relax.

But the casual ones end up having casual talent and merely casual lives.

Looking back, my only Berklee classmates that got successful were the ones who were fiercely focused, determined, and undistractable.

(...)

#2 : Do not accept their speed limit.

You don't get extreme results without extreme actions.

Berklee classes set a pace the average student can keep.

If you want to be above average, you must push yourself to do more than required.

(...)

I graduated Berklee in 2-and-a-half years.

Do not accept their speed limit.

Blow away expectations.

#3 : Nobody will teach you anything. You have to teach yourself.

(...)

Berklee is like a library.

Everything you need to know is here for the taking.

It's the best possible environment for you to master your music.

But nobody will teach you anything. You have to teach yourself.

(...)

#6 : When done, be valuable.

While you're here, stay locked in the shed.

Enjoy this wonderful isolation, with no responsibility but to improve yourself.

But when you leave here, head to the business aisle of the bookstore and start reading a book a week about entrepreneurial things like marketing.

Never underestimate the importance of making money making music.

Let go of any weird taboos you have about it.

Money is nothing more than neutral proof that you're adding value to people's lives.

Making sure you're making money is just a way of making sure you're doing something of value to others.

Why I gave away my company to charity:

http://sivers.org/trust

When I decided to sell my company in 2008, I already had enough.

I live simply. I hate waste and excess. I have a good apartment, a good laptop, and a few other basics. But the less I own, the happier I am. The lack of possessions gives me the priceless freedom to live anywhere anytime.

(...)

So I didn't need or even want the money from the sale of the company. I just wanted to make sure I had enough for a simple comfortable life. The rest should go to music education, since that's what made such a difference in my life.

(...)

It's not that I'm altruistic. I'm sacrificing nothing. I've just learned what makes me happy. And doing it this way made me the happiest.

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I have to bring this thread up and mention a few quotes from his blog.

Brilliant post, thank you so much. Have forwarded to most of my close friends.

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I have not read the blog, but the two quotes and the highlighted parts are contradictory. Mr. Sivers states that he is not altruistic, but in his earlier statements he states that "Money is nothing more than neutral proof that you're adding value to people's lives." Although adding value might be considered a secondary value, it is not the primary value that should be sought. If other peoples value judgements are the most important why charge money at all. So, he might claim that he is not an altruist, but his other statements and actions seem to tell a different story.

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I have not read the blog, but the two quotes and the highlighted parts are contradictory. Mr. Sivers states that he is not altruistic, but in his earlier statements he states that "Money is nothing more than neutral proof that you're adding value to people's lives." Although adding value might be considered a secondary value, it is not the primary value that should be sought. If other peoples value judgements are the most important why charge money at all. So, he might claim that he is not an altruist, but his other statements and actions seem to tell a different story.

Ray - I'm re-reading what you wrote but I'm still having trouble understanding what you try to say. Could you rephrase it?

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I have not read the blog, but the two quotes and the highlighted parts are contradictory. Mr. Sivers states that he is not altruistic, but in his earlier statements he states that "Money is nothing more than neutral proof that you're adding value to people's lives." Although adding value might be considered a secondary value, it is not the primary value that should be sought. If other peoples value judgements are the most important why charge money at all. So, he might claim that he is not an altruist, but his other statements and actions seem to tell a different story.

If you want money from others, you had better add value to their lives. This is fair exchange.

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I have not read the blog, but the two quotes and the highlighted parts are contradictory. Mr. Sivers states that he is not altruistic, but in his earlier statements he states that "Money is nothing more than neutral proof that you're adding value to people's lives." Although adding value might be considered a secondary value, it is not the primary value that should be sought. If other peoples value judgements are the most important why charge money at all. So, he might claim that he is not an altruist, but his other statements and actions seem to tell a different story.

If you want money from others, you had better add value to their lives. This is fair exchange.

No, you trade value for value as Capitalism is based on the trader prinicipal. Or in other words, mutual trade for mutual benefit. I am not in business to serve anyone, I am in the business of trading values. I create valuable products because that is what is demanded by capitalism if I want to keep trading those values for someone else's values. So money is not primarily some "neutral proof" that one is creating values for others, money is primarily a demonstration that the individual doing the creating is being productive in the enhancement of their life of which a secondary benefit can be the enhancement of others. But to put the primary goal of being in business as the enhancement of values of someone else is altruistic and hence why most psuedo-capitalist claim that the free market is so wonderdful because it serves the desires of the majority. That is why I am not fundamentally for "free markets," I am fundamentally for Capitalism. The one idea states that business is good if it serves society, the other states it is good because it serves the individual of which society might gain a secondary benefit.

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I have not read the blog, but the two quotes and the highlighted parts are contradictory. Mr. Sivers states that he is not altruistic, but in his earlier statements he states that "Money is nothing more than neutral proof that you're adding value to people's lives." Although adding value might be considered a secondary value, it is not the primary value that should be sought. If other peoples value judgements are the most important why charge money at all. So, he might claim that he is not an altruist, but his other statements and actions seem to tell a different story.

If you want money from others, you had better add value to their lives. This is fair exchange.

No, you trade value for value as Capitalism is based on the trader prinicipal. Or in other words, mutual trade for mutual benefit. I am not in business to serve anyone, I am in the business of trading values. I create valuable products because that is what is demanded by capitalism if I want to keep trading those values for someone else's values. So money is not primarily some "neutral proof" that one is creating values for others, money is primarily a demonstration that the individual doing the creating is being productive in the enhancement of their life of which a secondary benefit can be the enhancement of others. But to put the primary goal of being in business as the enhancement of values of someone else is altruistic and hence why most psuedo-capitalist claim that the free market is so wonderdful because it serves the desires of the majority. That is why I am not fundamentally for "free markets," I am fundamentally for Capitalism. The one idea states that business is good if it serves society, the other states it is good because it serves the individual of which society might gain a secondary benefit.

Ray is exactly right, and notice that one never hears "free marketers" make their statement in reverse. That is, they don't say, "If you want value from others, you had better add money to their lives". Why not? Because "money" is the root of all evil, not on a morally equal footing with "value".

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No, you trade value for value as Capitalism is based on the trader prinicipal. Or in other words, mutual trade for mutual benefit. I am not in business to serve anyone, I am in the business of trading values. I create valuable products because that is what is demanded by capitalism if I want to keep trading those values for someone else's values. So money is not primarily some "neutral proof" that one is creating values for others, money is primarily a demonstration that the individual doing the creating is being productive in the enhancement of their life of which a secondary benefit can be the enhancement of others. But to put the primary goal of being in business as the enhancement of values of someone else is altruistic and hence why most psuedo-capitalist claim that the free market is so wonderdful because it serves the desires of the majority. That is why I am not fundamentally for "free markets," I am fundamentally for Capitalism. The one idea states that business is good if it serves society, the other states it is good because it serves the individual of which society might gain a secondary benefit.

Interesting, never heard it worded like that (free markets as an altruistic ideal). For me free markets have always been the framework via which the idea of capitalism could be implemented.

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...But to put the primary goal of being in business as the enhancement of values of someone else is altruistic and hence why most psuedo-capitalist claim that the free market is so wonderdful because it serves the desires of the majority. That is why I am not fundamentally for "free markets," I am fundamentally for Capitalism. The one idea states that business is good if it serves society, the other states it is good because it serves the individual of which society might gain a secondary benefit.

Interesting, never heard it worded like that (free markets as an altruistic ideal). For me free markets have always been the framework via which the idea of capitalism could be implemented.

I don't agree with this statement. I personally don't care if someone else is extolling the values I provide to society through my work -- that's their perogative. If someone asks me, I tell them I'm doing what I do to achieve my own values. In most cases, that necessarily involves providing value to "others," but the "others" I'm talking about are those who pay (as you say, Ray, providing value for value). It is compulsion that Altruists promote. Lower-case altruists promote it by guilt-mongering, upper-case Altruists promote it by confiscation, by compulsory service, by "incentivizing" through tax strategies, regulation, etc. That is not a "free" market. I am fundamentally for "free markets" because I'm fundamentally for Capitalism. The pseudo-capitalists can say whatever Utilitarian baloney they want to rationalize why free markets are Good, according to them, but, as soon as they mandate that economic activity will serve society, that's when the market ceases to be free.

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CDBaby has been my main web vendor since 1998. They were the first and remain the best way for independent artists to represent themselves worldwide in the marketplace. They built partnerships with multiple online digital delivery music services well before anyone else. This means I only have to deal with one vendor (CDBaby) and as a result all of my music is automatically available via iTunes, Rhapsody, etc.

Derek is a brilliant man. He has flaws to be sure. But I admire him for his virtues, which are plentiful. :D

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