I recently finished reading Derek Sivers’ newest book “Anything You Want” (which is awesome, by the way, and you should totally buy it).
For those of you who don’t know, Derek Sivers is the man who brought the world CD Baby and revolutionised the way music was distributed - through CD Baby, independent musicians were enabled to sell their music online without the assistance of a major label.
Sivers’ book shares words of wisdom in good business sense and practice, and how CD Baby was born and became so successful. The simple version of this is that (although he attributes it to a chance discovery), he simply found a solution to a problem that was helpful to so many musicians.
As a result, Sivers eventually sold CD Baby for a cool $22million in 2008. Not bad for someone who initially set up CD Baby as a “hobby”…
Could there be a more perfect success story? “Stumbling” across the solution to a problem that could benefit so many musicians and making millions from it? Although Sivers himself insists it was never financially-driven, there’s no denying the genius, and I’m sure he’s not complaining about being a multi-millionaire now.
The CD “Siblings”
Since CD Baby started, there have been so many other distribution businesses using a similar model spring up. We now have a wide selection of options to distribute our music as independent musicians.
Subsequently, other distribution models such as BandCamp’s “pay what you want” have come along, again changing how music is distributed.
We no longer have an issue of “how can I distribute my music?”. It’s now “what’s the best way?”.
Spoiled for choice
We also have a plethora of social networks offering us amazing resources to network, engage and share our music. We have many business offering us templates to build our own band websites. We have tools galore that connect all our online resources together to make our lives easier for updating and sharing.
We have resources to claim royalties on our behalf from venues, websites that bring gig submission opportunities to us, businesses that specialise in finding indie music to sync with TV and film opportunities.
It seems like almost every foreseeable problem a musician has in being a self-sufficient business has been solved by one solution or another. We’re just unfortunate enough to need to choose between our options.
The burning question
Are we now, as musicians, so empowered to be independent that there are no more problems to solve with CD Baby-esque solutions? Has the independent music scene’s innovative improvement-movement now plateaued? Have the opportunities for more CD Baby ventures all but passed?
Or conversely, are we currently in a state of transition - solving problems but making more and missing the point? Are we actually in a worse position now because of all our available options? Do we need another Derek Sivers to change the way things are done, and is there something burning out there that needs fixed?
Rich Gordon blogs at RG Musician.