The Philosophies of Work: A Conversation with Derek Sivers of CD Baby 71 Comments
Derek Sivers is a stud. I thought I’d share the conversation we had at SF MusicTech Summit. Dozens of topics covered include:
- Testing asssumptions vs. cheating
- PR and reaching out to unreachables
- Micro-testing ideas and products: from The 4-Hour Workweek to Trent Reznor
- Personal outsourcing for creatives
- Filling the void and creating meaning outside of the inbox and office
Derek is a programmer who lost his stage fright by doing more than 1,000 gigs as a circus ring leader. He is also the musician who started CD Baby, the world’s largest online music store for independent musicians. Here are some current numbers:
- 242,846 artists sell their music at CD Baby
- 4,574,622 CDs sold online to customers
- $83,590,381 paid directly to the artists
With more than 2 million digitized tracks under management, CD Baby is also the largest provider of independent music for iTunes… and it all started as a hobby.
How does it work now that it’s enormous? From Derek’s blog:
When I was the owner and president of CD Baby, it ran without me, and I hardly spent 4 hours on it in the last 6 months. It’s wonderful.
Here are a few snippets from our conversation…
Seth Godin, one of my favorite marketing authors, wrote this essay once about “cheating”, saying, “HBO is cheating because they’ve got bigger budgets and don’t need commercials. JetBlue is cheating because they don’t have union workers. Aren’t there things you can do in your business where you can cheat?” It doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It’s just finding an advantage… Finding a shortcut.
On 80/20 Elimination and Micro-testing:
There are ways that you can examine and start to pare out the things that don’t work with pervasive group think. [snip] Analyze your time consumption. Try RescueTime [which logs both on- and offline computer use] or MeeTimer. Identify where your time is spent and identify the 20% of activities that are consuming 80% of your time.
Once you have that list ask yourself what would happen if, say in a 48 hour period, you eliminated x or did the opposite of x?
Most people avoid certain actions because they view changes as permanent. If you make a change, can you go back to doing it like you did before? You can always reclaim your current state in most cases. If I quit my job in industry x to test my artistic abilities in a different industry, worst case scenario, can I go back to my previous industry? Yes. Recognize that you can test-drive and micro-test things over brief periods of time. You can usually reclaim the workaholism that you currently experience if you so decide to go back to it.
On PR and Cold Calling:
When I was promoting my own music years ago, I decided I wanted to be in Rolling Stone magazine. So I bought a Rolling Stone and looked in the tiny fine print on page 6 where they publish their contact info. I knew that if I asked Rolling Stone which publicists they like, then I’d know which publicists could get me into Rolling Stone. But before calling the main number, I thought, “Hmm… I want to get through to the editorial department, so I don’t want to sound like a novice. I’ll bet if I sound like the people who do this all the time, they’ll patch me right through.” So I called up and the receptionist said, “Rolling Stone,” and I said in my best weary impatient voice, “Editorial, please,” and she patched me right through. Once on with the guy in editorial, I just politely asked, “I’m not promoting anything today, just calling from a label that’s looking for a new publicist. Wondering – which ones would you recommend?” The guy was quite nice and gave me a few names. I thanked him and now I had my specific road map for how to get in Rolling Stone!
See the entire conversation on video above or read the entire transcript on Derek’s blog.
Odds and Ends: More Interviews, France Ends 35-Hour Workweek, Utah Goes to 4 Days per Week
Here is another of my recent favorite interviews, this with Change Nation.
Associated Press: Utah and more states go to 4-day workweek
Posted on August 8th, 2008