Derek Sivers : This is My Best Advice For My Fellow Musicians

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This is my best advice for my fellow musicians, about how to call attention to your music.

A quick bit of background, so you know where I’m coming from:

I started making a living as a musician in 1988, while I was at Berklee College of Music. I got my first paying job playing guitar at a pig show in Vermont. I joined a circus for 10 years. Moved to New York City, and worked at Warner Brothers Music. Played guitar for Ryuichi Sakamoto – (sold-out 10,000 seat auditoriums at the age of 22! whoo-hoo!). Quit my last day job in 1992, and vowed to make a living making music. Produced people’s records. Played on people’s records. Ran a recording studio. Composed music for TV. Put together a band that got into the well-paying college market. Performed over 1000 shows as the front-man. Learned how to entertain a crowd. I was pretty successful at it. I actually bought a house with the money I made from my music.

In 1997, I built a website to sell my CD. It was so expensive to get a credit card merchant account and build a shopping cart, that, when I was done, a few of my musician friends asked if I could sell their CD on my website, too. (Since I had already done all the work.) I did it as a favor, but soon it became so popular, just by word-of-mouth, that I gave it its own domain name :

Like a first-time parent, something in my head switched : I had spent my whole life so far putting all my energy into ME. MY music. Me me me me. But now, with CD Baby, I wanted to tell other musicians everything I had learned. I wanted to help them have their “day in the sun” – to make a living making their music. I cared more about their music than mine.

So – I’ve thrown myself into CD Baby completely, ever since. It’s been amazing to watch as many CD Baby artists who used to send me boxes of 10-30 CDs have gone on to huge worldwide multi-platinum success. It’s been even MORE amazing to watch the THOUSANDS of musicians who are happier than ever, making money making their own music, without having to sign their life and copyrights over to a big corporation.

So – my advice here is a combination of my advice from my own experience, and my advice from watching the experiences of other successful musicians.

I never intended to sell my advice. I just want musicians to succeed. So – feel free to pass this around to anyone. Email it to your friends. Paste it into your blog or bulletin board.

Derek Sivers
Founder – CD Baby

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