Back in the 1990’s I was a semi-frustrated independent musician. (Redundant, I know.) Like everyone else in my circle, I was chasing that elusive dream of being signed by a major label and achieving the most coveted thing any recording artist could hope for – distribution. It’s sometimes hard to imagine that just ten or twelve short years ago getting your music into the hands of fans was next to impossible for anyone but those on the top tier of the industry, but short of hopping in a van and driving a few thousand miles per week to sell CD’s out of the trunk, there weren’t many options.
Then a friend told me about this new website called CD Baby. They were apparently – to my shock – offering independent musicians the ability to sell CD’s online. My heart was warmed. I immediately signed up and experienced – for the first time – the thrill of selling a CD to someone who wasn’t slipping me a ten dollar bill in the back parking lot of a seedy club. I was born again.
CD Baby was the accidental invention of Derek Sivers, a fellow full-time musician who was looking for a way to sell his own music online. Once his friends heard about his efforts, they asked to get in on the deal. Soon Derek had dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of musicians taking advantage of his service. CD Baby became a phenomenon in the independent music scene.
This past week I was thrilled to receive a copy of Derek’s new book, published through The Domino Project, called Anything You Want. I ripped open the package and burned through the book in about an hour. Wow. Really. Derek shares some of the principles (and anti-principles) he learned and applied during his time as an accidental entrepreneur and how to grow a business without losing your soul.
A few of the highlights:
– How he developed a business model that had only two numbers, and how that created an easily understood product offering for customers.
– How he learned a valuable $3.3 million lesson by not reading paperwork. (Ouch!)
– How he reluctantly learned to give his job away and empower his employees to make decisions.
– How CD Baby learned to keep the customer at the center of the story, and how that led to remarkable growth.
Also not to be missed is the brilliant “I miss the mob…” story. I won’t ruin it for you, but you can see it in animated form on the book’s Amazon page.
All in all, Anything You Want is a quick and dense read that will cause any entrepreneur to question whether unnecessary complexity is creeping into their business. I had several internal “pings” while reading and many action steps based on Derek’s experience. Having experienced CD Baby as a customer, it’s also illuminating to hear how many of the decisions that made my experiences so enjoyable came to be. While not directly applicable to every situation, there are a ton of principles in the book that will cause you to think twice about your business and where it’s headed.
[FTC Disclosure – I received a review copy of Anything You Want from The Domino Project, but all thoughts about the book are my own. There was no guarantee of a review. Also, some of the links on this page are affiliate links, meaning that we earn a percentage of the sale if you click the link and make a purchase.]