Venture Voice – interviews with entrepreneurs

Entertaining Entrepreneurship

VV Show #19 – Derek Sivers of CD Baby

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Many would-be tech titans dream day and night about how their hot new idea will change the world. Derek Sivers just wanted to have his independent band’s CDs sold over the Web. No one would do it, so he built his own music store. CD Baby now generates $25 million a year in revenue and is the single largest digital distributor of music in the world according to Napster. And he did it without a dime in venture capital. Derek holds true to some very basic beliefs in business and a desire to keep revolutionizing the music industry.


Show notes:

1:30 Career as a musician and the birth of CD Baby

  • Studied at Berklee College of Music.
  • Got a job at Warner Brothers in New York City.
  • ‘Was working inside the music industry just enough to know I didn’t like that side of things.’
  • ‘I was in a circus for 10 years.’

9:00 The importance of automation

10:30 Advice for starting a business

  • ‘Just give yourself a 10 day deadline, and just launch it’ with almost no features.’

11:45 Training for business in the circus

  • ‘It was actually really good training that I had a boss that was just an idiot.’
  • ‘I’m usually the least slacker-like one in the crowd.’

15:00 Rebellion

  • ‘CD Baby is a total rebellion against the traditional world of distribution.’

18:30 Building a business in an unconventional way

  • ‘The joke is that CD Baby is run with all the corporate formality of Bob and Jimmy’s tackle shop in Key Largo.’

20:30 Is building a business easy?

24:15 Company size

  • About $25 million in revenue by 50 employees.

24:40 Steve Jobs encounter

  • Integrated CD Baby with iTunes.

28:00 Competition

  • ‘The cool thing is we’re friends with them all.’
  • Mentions friendly competitor IODA.
  • Loves the book Good to Great by Jim Collins.

34:15 No investors

  • ‘During the dot com days you kind of had to whack ’em [investors] off with a stick.’

40:40 Working with musicians

43:30 Location

  • Started business in Woodstock, NY.
  • ‘I was up in the mountains with a 56k modem.’
  • ‘I was about to pick San Francisco until I realized what it cost.’
  • Moved to Portland, OR.

45:45 Rebelling

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