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Monday, July 25, 2011


Derek Sivers is a very lucky guy. Back when the internet was young and indie musicians were looking for a way to harness the power of the web in favor of their music, Sivers came up with CDBaby – a web site that was set up specifically, and exclusively, for independent musicians to sell their recorded music. A working musician at the time, he taught himself computer code and built a company that he eventually sold for $22 million.

Along the way he turned down deals for participation by major record labels, made mistake that cost him something like $3 million dollars (the money went to his father by default) and he became an internet hero. Now he has written a book titled Anything You Want.

(NOTE: By way of full disclosure, my music and storytelling (sales benefit the Delaware Riverkeeper Network) projects can be found on Likewise, a couple months ago Derek contacted me with the great news that, out of the tens of thousands of indie artists on CDBaby, he was asking his favorite artists to include a song in digital download format as part of the book, and he offered a licensing fee to use this music. My song Universal Hat from Café Lysistrata, which I recorded with the New York Ukulele Ensemble while still writing the show, is now part of Sivers' book.)

Anything You Want, much of it reprints of his blog posts, is part history, part advice. It is not a self help book, by any stretch; though someone looking to help themselves in business might want to read it as an antidote to some of the other biz advice out there. For sure, this book should be required reading in every MBA course.    

Sivers built his company without a business plan. When venture capitalists contacted him about making his business bigger, he told them he wished it would get smaller. According to his recollections, he was reluctant about everything but making the site work for musicians.When he sold the company, he founded a trust and eventually all the money will go to music education.

The book is short – 80 something pages – and a quick read. There are no exercises or practices to follow to achieve success. (What a relief! If I ever read another book telling me to write down my goals, it may be time to gag myself with a crystal.)

Here’s my only quibble: Sivers now always writes about making his music in the past tense.  

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