Interview with Derek Sivers (CD Baby); February 2007

Isnīt it quite mean for instant-made TV-superstar-musicians that only the deeper meaning of the word "independent" - hanging out in unsound rehearsal rooms for many years with "trial and error" as the only coach - seems to lead to higher spheres of musical identity. (The well known producer Bob Ezrin stated recently that hit parades and major labels will pass away very quickly. In this manner "mainstream" becomes "maelstrom"!!!) The art of music doesnīt have to be "artificial" any longer - authenticity is the keyword! Derek Sivers, prophet of authenticity, master of understatement and founder of the CD-distribution CD BABY established his internet-stage for the independent music scene ten years ago. A visit on is a blessing for every music lover: sale or return, attractive prices, a huge assortment of CDs you canīt get elsewhere...

ragazzi: "At what age did you get infected by the very special virus called music?"
Derek: "I started playing when I was 7 years old, and never stopped."
ragazzi: "Which instrument(s) do you play? Do you have time to play these instrument(s) actually?"
Derek: "Guitar, piano, bass, and lots of electronics. I like to say I play the speakers, since what really matters to me is whatever sound comes out of the speakers, and in to someone's ears."
ragazzi: "When and how did you get "pregnant" concerning the idea of CD Baby? Was it only your baby? - the so called immaculate conception of music?"
Derek: "I started CD Baby in 1997 as a way to sell my own CD. At first it was not a store - it was just my band's website. But then other musicians asked if I could help sell their CDs, so I did."
ragazzi: "What are the advantages for bands selling their CDs through CD Baby in comparison to a record deal?"
Derek: "When you sign a record deal, you do not own your music! You have given your baby up for adoption. At CD Baby, we are just distribution. We never own your music. You are always the boss. We work for you."
ragazzi: "By the way, I discovered that you sell CDs of some record companies for example Lion Music - isn`t that inconsistent a little?"
Derek: "CD Baby is meant only for musicians to use. But a few small record labels have chosen to use it anyway."
ragazzi: "What are the advantages for customers buying their CDs via CD Baby in comparison to other record stores?"
Derek: "None. Maybe we will make you laugh. Mostly we are the only place to buy CDs that we sell."
ragazzi: "How would you define "success"?"
Derek: "Happiness. Doing what you want to do."
ragazzi: "Whatīs the secret of your success then?"
Derek: "Freedom. No boss. Not answering to bigger companies. No investors."
ragazzi: "Are you an altruistic philanthropist? In other words: How can you afford to give that much money to "your" musicians?"
Derek: "I'm a hippie capitalist. First, I always want to do what's best for the world. But I find a way to make at least a small profit doing it. I'm not trying to be rich."
ragazzi: "Do you select the CDs you sell at CD Baby on your own? Do you select them alone or are you assisted by some of your employees?"
Derek: "We don't select! We take everything. That's important. I decided, when I started CD Baby, to not judge other people's music. Even if I hate it, we will sell it, because maybe someone somewhere loves it. Some of my favourite albums never sell. Some of our top-sellers are not very good. Who am I to decide?"
ragazzi: "You probably listen to music all day long - isn`t that a "musical overkill"? Do you listen to music in your free time at all or do you prefer silence (respectively the sounds of nature)?"
Derek: "Hahaha... Even worse: I have music in my head ALWAYS, even if it's not playing! Even when I want silence, there is a song in there. Ragazzi, can you make it stop?"
ragazzi: "A close friend of mine told me that you even sell worship CDs - do you have a Christian background?"
Derek: "No. We just sell anything the musicians want us to sell. We are a service for musicians. That is all."
ragazzi: "How many employees do you actually have and can they work independently?"
Derek: "We have 80 people working here. About 50 in the warehouse, 20 in customer-service, and 10 in other jobs. They do their work without me. I'm not a very good boss. I moved away for 4 years, and when I came back, the business was much bigger than when I left."
ragazzi: "How would you describe your way of personnel management?"
Derek: "None. Chaos. Luck. Hahaha..."
ragazzi: "Do you place any advertisement?"
Derek: "No. I never advertise. Friends tell friends about CD Baby, that is all."
ragazzi: "On your website one can read that you use no Microsoft products, so your declaration of independence seems to be "catholic". Is there a special attitude behind your concept?"
Derek: "No - I just like Linux. It's a different way of working. With Microsoft (and even some Apple) products, you drag pictures with your mouse and click on things to make a website. For me, I started with an empty page, and typed out all the code myself. I never bought any software. I just learned PHP, SQL, Apache, Ruby, Rails, and everything else from books."
ragazzi: "Are there still any countries from which you havenīt received any orders yet?"
Derek: "Afghanistan. Cuba. (No USA business allowed until Castro dies.) Antarctica."
ragazzi: "Are there more bands or more solo interpreters among the musicians who want you to sell their CDs?"
Derek: "It's about even. Many many solo musicians. I don't like it when people call all music "bands". Only half are bands. The other half are individual solo musicians."
ragazzi: "Who is responsible for the very functional CD Baby-website?"
Derek: "Me! Thank you!"
ragazzi: "Which plans do you have for the future? Are there still any goals you haven`t reached yet? (Selling CDs to the Martians for example.)"
Derek: "Those Martians never have credit cards. No seriously - CD Baby is here for the musicians. Whatever the musicians need us to do, we will do. Some day we will probably help musicians do promotion, or booking shows, or designing websites, or whatever they need. Independent musicians need more love. We love them."