Derek Sivers: The Power of Enthusiasm and the Journey of Derek Sivers in Growing CD Baby

Derek Sivers, the founder of CD Baby, shares his experience of growing the company with Joe Glover. In this blog post, we will explore key points from their conversation, focusing on the importance of enthusiasm, finding one’s journey, and sweating the small stuff. Finding the Journey You Really Want to Go On: Derek Sivers believes […]
derek sivers

Derek Sivers, the founder of CD Baby, shares his experience of growing the company with Joe Glover. In this blog post, we will explore key points from their conversation, focusing on the importance of enthusiasm, finding one’s journey, and sweating the small stuff.

Table of Contents

Finding the Journey You Really Want to Go On:

Derek Sivers believes that enthusiasm is precious, and it provides the energy needed to accomplish great things. If you find yourself unhappy in your current situation, it might be time to explore a different path. Sometimes, the most efficient or optimized choice isn’t the one that brings happiness.

Deliberately Rebelling Against Conformity:

Derek has always been a non-conformist. He believes that embracing your individuality and authenticity helps in creating a unique path that brings fulfilment and success.

Money Matters, But It Isn’t Everything:

Derek believes that money becomes less important once you have enough. Instead, he advises focusing on creating value, serving others, and finding a balance between work and life.

Different Approaches to Life:

Derek’s book, How to Live, highlights the idea that there are various ways to approach life, like instruments in a band. Combining different perspectives and experiences can lead to a richer, more fulfilling life.

Serving Others and Creating Value:

Derek founded CD Baby with a mission to serve musicians. He believes that by forgetting about yourself and focusing on others, you will be rewarded both personally and financially.

The Importance of Company Culture:

Derek learned from his experience with CD Baby and Host Baby that a smaller, focused team can be equally profitable and enjoyable as a larger one. Maintaining a positive and outward-focused company culture is crucial for success.

Sweating the Small Stuff:

Derek believes that attention to detail, especially in public-facing aspects, can significantly impact how a company is perceived. These little things can set you apart from competitors and create memorable experiences for customers.

Customer Service Matters:

Derek thinks that every high-level executive should occasionally work in customer service to stay connected with the concerns and complaints of their customers. This helps in maintaining a customer-centric approach and improving the overall experience.

Wrapping up

Derek Sivers’ journey with CD Baby demonstrates the importance of enthusiasm, authenticity, and a focus on serving others. By paying attention to the small details and maintaining a customer-centric approach, businesses can create memorable experiences and achieve success.


Joe Glover (00:00:00):

And with that in mind, I should ask the first one, which is that I watched a talk that you did at the World Domination Summit from a few years ago, and you called it, I think you called it on your website, the favorite talk that you’ve ever done. And one of the points that you made on it was about finding the journey that you really want to go on. And I found that a really interesting thing because I think there’s comes so much self-awareness from that point and so much introspection. And I was curious about how you started to identify what the journey was that you wanted to go on, either in business or in life in general.

Derek Sivers (00:01:29):

I think there are two ways. First, you just notice internally what excites you and what drains you. Even just thinking about it, there’s some ideas that when you hear them, you say, Ooh, oh wow, yeah, that sounds funny. You feel yourself getting charged up just with the idea of something. And then of course there are other ideas that you can just feel them draining your soul away. The funny thing is that that’s separate from whether somebody can argue that it is a smart thing to do or not. So sometimes the smart thing to do is something that just makes you sad. Thinking about it, you think, yeah, I probably should do a lot of social media marketing or whatever it may be, and you think,


And so I think you need to pay attention to that feeling in yourself of what excites you and what drains you, and you should use that as a compass because besides time, I think time, we can have ways of compressing time and being more efficient and delegating. But enthusiasm is precious. Enthusiasm gives you the energy that makes you want to get up and do these things. So I use that as an indicator too. So in enthusiasm embodies itself in how you have your energy for the day. So if you find yourself just hating going into work each day, well, this is kind of a clue that you’ve chosen the non-optimal strategy for yourself, and you should look at doing things a different way, even if others might say it’s not as smart. I do a lot of things that are very inefficient and maybe not the smartest, most optimized thing to do, but they make me happy.


So that’s why I do them. Okay. So number one is the initial thinking of the idea and noticing in yourself that gaining or draining of energy. And then number two is just trying them out. Small tests things. You can just try things without too much commitment, but just say, I’m going to try this to see what happens. Because very often the reality of doing something is very different than the theory, the idea just in theory. So you just have to go try things. So to answer your question, of course I’ve been steered by just ideas that excited me and doing them and avoiding ideas that drained me. But then also I just try lots of things nice and I abandon ship quickly if I feel that this isn’t working for me.

Joe Glover (00:04:29):

I love that. Have you always been as enthusiastic about enthusiasm as your answer? Just it’s So to give an example then, I wrote only a couple of days ago about my experience at school, which was almost a bit of tall poppy syndrome, where you would walk in and if you showed any enthusiasm for something, you were almost lambasted. You were almost sort of slated because you stood out one way or another. And so certainly in the British system, I, I’ll be far more likely to say, I’m not clever than I am clever. And I’ll be far more likely to say, oh, that’s nothing, rather than bloody hell, I love this. Is that something that’s always been natural within you to be enthusiastic about enthusiasm or has that been a skill that you’ve learned over the course of time?

Derek Sivers (00:05:22):

Joe, I’m so glad you asked this. I had never realized this before, that my decision to choose enthusiasm is actually rebellion because

Joe Glover (00:05:37):


Derek Sivers (00:05:38):

I know England is more known for that, but everywhere has an aspect of that, especially in high school where it’s not cool to be happy. I’ve always deliberately rebelled against that. When I went to Berkeley School of Music in Boston, that was my college, that was my university. Everybody was wearing black in Boston. So when I arrived there and I saw everybody wearing black, it was one of the only times in my life I went out and deliberately bought clothes. I went out and bought all white clothes. I found white jeans and a white jacket. Everybody was dying, their hair black. So I actually dyed, I had light brown hair at the time. I dyed my hair purple on one side and red on the other, and I was just deliberately rebelling against this Moy conformity.

Joe Glover (00:06:34):


Derek Sivers (00:06:35):

So same thing with energy. When I walk into a room, say like a conference, and everybody’s sitting in the back, I go, I’m sitting in the front row. I do it rebellious. I think, you know, talk about marketing. I think I’ve always thought of this as differentiation. Did I pronounce it right? Differentiation?

Joe Glover (00:07:01):

Yeah. Yeah. Good.

Derek Sivers (00:07:02):

Yeah, good. Oh, thank you. So I do that on a day-to-day level of choosing. If everybody’s doing a, then I’ll do Zed. I try to do the opposite of everybody else as a rule, just because it also seems like it balances out the energy. And I’m not saying this in any new agey way. I just mean if you walk into a room in everybody’s moy, I feel it’s almost like my duty to be the opposite. But on the other hand, if I walk into a room and everybody’s being zany and crazy, I feel it’s almost my duty to do the opposite, which is why I never attended a burning man. I think it would just make me depressed.

Joe Glover (00:07:49):

I know I can really relate. There’s almost perhaps, perhaps it’s not the same as rebellion. I think I’ve got something in me, which is I hate being told what to do. And so the worst part in music concert for me is when the artist tells you to put your hands up. And I’m like, no. Yes. I’m not putting my hands up, me

Derek Sivers (00:08:17):

Keep going as a musician. For years I made my living touring and putting on concerts, right? And so it was part of my job since I had a funk band and I was the lead singer, part of my job was to say, all right, everybody get up. And there was this one time at a university gig in, I think it was Vermont, that the whole room got up. But there was one guy that just refused, sorry, I dunno if you could say, I’m crossing my arms in this defiant kind of like, and he was sitting in his chair and everybody was like, come on Jeff, get up, get up. And he was just sitting there going. And the funny thing is, from the stage, I actually called him out. I was like, dude, I like you. I like that. I know that my job here is to get everybody to dance, but I like that this dude is defying my orders. Thank you for doing that. I still remember that guy. That’s funny.

Joe Glover (00:09:10):

I will have fun. How I want to have fun, I think. Yeah, I love that. And I love that. You can appreciate that too. No, I think that’s very thoughtful of you. So that’s really interesting. And so without means to characterize a lifetime in a career, is it one of rebellion in general? It feels like that’s a theme coming out. It’s build a company, it’s part of it, give it a charity, et cetera. One example, but there are many is an

Derek Sivers (00:09:43):

Interest. Yeah, I think it’s rebellion mixed with that thing I said about balancing out nice what others are doing, and also the differentiation. That’s maybe a little bit of feeling like your life has value. If you’re not doing the same thing as everybody else, if you’re doing the same thing as everybody else, then what are you doing? We don’t need somebody else to do the same thing as everybody else. That’s not needed. What’s needed is somebody to do something that everybody isn’t doing.

Joe Glover (00:10:12):

Hang on. I love that. I love that. Thank you Derek. That’s a great way to start. What a lovely, lovely thing. I appreciate your thoughtfulness. Well,

Derek Sivers (00:10:21):

Thanks for the question. I never connected those two things when you talked about the fitting in. Everybody’s doing this, the tall poppy. Yeah, I’d never connected those things before.

Joe Glover (00:10:30):

It’s a lot. It’s a lot. So your story feels like as much as we speak about conformity, I think something that you do very well as an observation from the outside in is you listen, and I’m going to speak in a business context here, because the foundation of the CD baby story is one where you did a thing and then people started coming up to you and saying, can you do this thing for me? And then over the course of time momentum built and so on and so forth, I love that listening. But something I observe is that sometimes it’s hard to listen to the good ideas versus the bad ideas. Sometimes it’s difficult to say, you know what? I appreciate you coming to me with this thing, Mr. Or Mrs. Customer, but I’m going to continue doing the thing my way because that’s the business that I want to build. So reflecting on the CD baby journey or indeed a wider life spent listening to folks, how do you pick out the good ideas versus the bad ideas when people come to you with them?

Derek Sivers (00:11:50):

I think I use the same measure as the thing we talked about a few minutes ago of whether the idea excites me or drains me. For example, with CD Baby, I had a idea proposed to me, not even by a customer, but by my VP saying, we’ve got this huge warehouse and we’re shipping CDs from independent musicians. He said, I looked into it and dude, we could make a ton of money by warehousing and shipping porn DVDs


Because this is back in that day of DVDs. And it’s like, no, absolutely not. It’s just like, but come on, we could give it a different brand name. We could just hide the fact. Nobody would know it’s us. I’m like, no, I have no interest in doing that. I would not want to put forth any single minute of my effort to do that. I just have no interest. I don’t care how many millions it might make. That doesn’t excite me. And same thing with ideas that would come from customers. Somebody would say, you know what you should do, you should do such and such. I’d say, okay, thank you. Usually I just thank them in the moment. I only thank them. I don’t argue against it, I just thank them for their time and consideration in going out of their way to take their time to tell me.


I think it’s very thoughtful and considerate, and I appreciate it. So I just thank them for their time. Then usually I just see how the idea sits in my head because there have been some times that in the moment the idea doesn’t strike me, but then the next day I think, oh, actually that idea that somebody said yesterday could be really exciting. This could work. Yeah, this could be fun. So I think you can hear between the lines the exciting, fun, interesting. These are the real measures. I have always thought of money as the side effect. The money is the odometer on your car. It’s not the point of what you’re doing. It’s a side effect of you traveling and going where you want to go.

Joe Glover (00:14:10):

Hang on. I couldn’t agree more. I couldn’t agree more. I was listening to your interview with a guy Kawasaki yesterday, and so the first thing to point out is you are the king of nuance. I think you are the king of living, a world of both, which is one of the biggest realizations I’ve had in my own life. You know, can be both happy and carry sadness. You can be both for and against something and so on and so forth. And so it’s with that knowledge in mind that I asked this question, which is when you were speaking with a guy, you were speaking about parenthood and there was a perception, there was a quote in there. It wasn’t a quote, it was a paraphrase where you mentioned an ambition to essentially earn money while you were young, to enable you to be a present parent when you were older. And with that thought in mind and balancing that against your perception of money is a byproduct of your business, it’s a byproduct of you having fun. How do you balance those two things in your mind? I guess the question is, were you driven by money but also not driven by money, or was there a balance which existed at different points in your life and so on and so forth?

Derek Sivers (00:15:36):

I was driven by money more at the beginning when little amounts would make a big difference. Interesting. When I only had a few thousand dollars to my name, and if I could negotiate an additional $500 out of, say, as a musician booking my band to do gigs at universities, if I could talk them up from say, 800 to $1,200, that felt like a major win. So I would read books on negotiation and books on sales techniques and books on marketing so that I could learn how to make a few thousand dollars more. And at that time, the money made a big difference and I really felt it.


Which is funny, I shouldn’t name names, but twice I’ve gotten into conversations with famous musicians, household names, and two different musicians. And I have reminisced about how exciting it is in the early days when you make your first thousand dollars making music, or you get your first gig for $10,000 or something, and how exciting that is. And then after a while it’s like, all right, well there’s, there’s a million in the bank and I won’t even notice if I get another a thousand or not. And both of the musicians separately, this is two conversations, two years apart, said that they really kind of miss that early excitement because now it’s like, well, been there, done that. So I think for me, yes, money early on was an exciting thing. And after I hit a certain point, I just have a strong sense of the word enough that once there’s enough in the bank, well then what are you doing?


Yeah, instead of money, you think of tea or something. It’s like, I have enough tea. How hard am I going to work to go get more tea? What would I even do with more tea? I have more tea than I can drink. Why do I want more tea in the closet? There’s enough. And so if you saw somebody that had 700 boxes of tea and told you that they were going to work really hard to go get some more tea, you’d think, I think you have a problem. So I do feel that way about money when I see people working really hard to make more money when they already have enough. So yes, my answer is both at different times in life. See, that gets into the metaphor of how to live as instruments in the orchestra. We don’t need to go there now, but my most recent book before Instagram,


My most recent book is called How to Live. And in it, there are 27 chapters. Each one disagreeing with all the others because it says, this is how to live. That’s how to live. And one of them, for example, is Get Rich, but the chapter says, no, this is just straight up how to live. You should get rich. This is how to live. But then the next chapter is, here’s how to live, do nothing, do nothing at all. Kind of very Buddhist, just like the way to live is to do nothing. But the end of the book shows an orchestra seating chart with 27 instruments in the orchestra, and that’s all it shows with no explanation. The metaphor is meant to be that kind of like music. We use the different approaches to life at different times in our life. The clarinet does not play the entire time for every piece of music.


Neither does the french horn, but at different times you bring in the french horn for a bit and then let it rest. You bring in the clarinet and it does its thing and then it stops. And then later you might combine the flute with the viola at the same time. So the different approaches to life focusing on money verus versus focusing on your new baby, it’s not either or. You can combine them at or you can bring them in at different times to make them your primary focus. And then at other times you can combine them for a while and then let them take a solo.

Joe Glover (00:20:37):

I love that. Thank you. That’s really beautiful. Where are you now in your orchestra?

Derek Sivers (00:20:46):

Oh, I thought you meant physically standard in this recording booth.

Joe Glover (00:20:49):

Yeah, just the real divergence. Yes. For asking. Yeah.

Derek Sivers (00:20:53):

Where am I now? Let me think. I really just have two focuses right now. It’s writing, specifically writing my next book, which I’m almost done with. It’s called Useful Not True. And I’m so excited about it. It’s been a fascination of mine for 10 years, and I’m finally writing about something that I’ve thought a lot about for a lot of years. And so it feels good to hone my thoughts and try to describe them


And parenting, or rather just being with my boy, he’s 11 now, which is a different thing because now it’s like we’re best friends, we’re best friends, but I’m still an influence on him. We hang out a lot. We spend a lot of time together talking about everything. It’s amazing. After a certain age, all filters are off. I even had to sneak him in to see the new John Wick four, because he had already seen and loved John Wick one, two, and three. But it has one of those ratings where absolutely no one under 16 is admitted, not even with a parent. Nice. But the movie came out, we wanted to see it. I bought the ticket and they stationed a guard at the door. No, so that nobody understands. So we actually had to hide around the corner and wait until the movie had begun. And so the guard left the door, and then I snuck him in quickly. And I’m just saying that as a little example of realizing that after a certain age, all the filters are off, we can talk about anything, right? He asks me about sex, he asks me about relationships. He asks me about alcohol, everything. And we just talk openly about everything, and it’s a great relationship. So yeah, that’s a major part of my life. And writing my life is very simple right now.

Joe Glover (00:22:50):

That’s incredible. That’s really, really lovely. That’s a cool dad move sort of thinking then it’s the type of thing you’ll remember. So

Derek Sivers (00:22:58):

It was an adventure. Actually. They wouldn’t give me the tickets UN until I showed them. I bought the tickets online and I had to go to get the tickets with it, showed my QR code. They said, okay, I need to see both people that are here. I said, oh, well, my friend’s outside. They said, I need to see your friend before I can give you the ticket. So I had to go outside and get some dude from South Africa that was walking by. I was like, Hey, can I borrow you for a second? So he came in, they gave me my tickets, I said, thanks. And he, that’s incredible. He’s problem. He said, I saw it earlier today. It was a good movie. So then, yeah, my kid waited outside until I, yeah. Anyway, it was a fun adventure. Yes.

Joe Glover (00:23:33):

I love that. So good. So one of my observations about parenting as we’re on the topic, but I’m, I’m going to move this into a business place because we’re here for the listeners. That’s

Derek Sivers (00:23:48):

What people are expecting you.

Joe Glover (00:23:53):

So one of my observations about parenting to your point, is that I feel like I’m living for my daughter. I feel like there’s four words that changed my life, which is it’s not about you. Those four words change my life and I try my best to live my life in that way, acknowledging that there is nuance where it is precisely about you as well in the business world. However it is interesting. So there was an analogy that you used yesterday on Guy Kawasaki’s podcast, which was describing someone who was a concert pianist, I think he was. And originally he went for a thousand to one. So he used to perform to a thousand people at once. And he was like, no, no, no, this isn’t good. And so then he started to one-to-one, which was like he started recording. And so people could enjoy his music on a one-to-one basis.


And eventually he realized that it was a zero to one basis. In fact, the thing that wasn’t important was him. The thing that was important was the music. And I think in your experience of business, it strikes me that you spent a lot of time not really worrying about yourself as part of the process. You tended to worry about your customers through your listening skills. But I wondered whether that was true because I wondered whether you viewed your experience of CD Baby and your part of it as you being an important part of it, or whether you were completely unimportant and you were just the conduit for the business’s growth, the customers and so on and so forth. Or if it was anyone else in that process, whether there would’ve been a different outcome.

Derek Sivers (00:25:49):

I saw myself as being in service to the musicians. I didn’t think of the business as a separate thing at all. It was me serving the musicians and then it was a system. I built the musicians, but I never did what was best for the business because to me, that was just the system that existed for their sake. So that would be really perverted incentives to do what was best for the system that existed just to serve them. So it was always doing what was best for the musicians. A really telling moment was when I was on stage at a once and somebody asked a provocative question about PayPal saying, what if every musician just used PayPal from now on and didn’t use CD baby anymore? What would you do then? How would you defend yourself against that? And I said, oh, well, I wouldn’t, if everybody used PayPal, I would just shut down CD baby and just get on with my life.


This thing only exists because musicians need it. If musicians didn’t need it, I would shut it down. Why the hell would I do something to benefit my system if it’s adversarial against the musicians? That would be perverted incentives. So yeah, that’s how I thought about it. But if it seems weird or if I seem like I’m being goody two shoes, altruistically generous, you need to understand that I had just come out of 15 years of focusing on me, me, me. So from the age of 14 to 29, my entire focus in life was on my music, getting my music out to the world, my thoughts through those speakers, my ideas into your eardrums, it was all me. So after 15 years of that, at the age of 29 when I accidentally started CD Baby, I kind of went, ah, it’s nice to just serve others. So maybe that’s, no, not, maybe that was the DNA that created that creature. So CD Baby, that was its birth. Yeah, that was its dna.

Joe Glover (00:28:32):

I love

Derek Sivers (00:28:32):

That. And so I think I’ve also just kept that first because now that I felt not just the joy, but the reward. See, I think, I don’t know what, I’ve never studied Daoism, but I’m going to use the term recklessly. To me, the Dow of business is if you forget about yourself and just completely serve others, you will be rewarded. You’ll be handsomely rewarded because people are happy to open up their wallets and pay for something when they can tell that you’re doing it for them.

Joe Glover (00:29:09):

Yeah, bang on. I love that. Thank you. That’s really instructive and useful. And I think weirdly, it makes, it’s almost common sense, but well, in fact, your talk at World Domination Sense, some of it was uncommon sense. So I think that probably sums it up quite neatly. You have this way of making things sound so simple. I dunno whether that’s your gift or whether that’s just how your mind works, but when you get to an 85 person company, if there’s one thing that people are, it’s messy. And that’s tough. Was it? Well, so I can either ask, was it that simple? Or there’s another question, which is, how can we avoid over complicating business?

Derek Sivers (00:30:04):

Oof. Yeah. The less people, the better.

Joe Glover (00:30:08):


Derek Sivers (00:30:09):

Step one.


I did not having 85 people working for me, that was painful. In fact, it took me years to recover from that. It was traumatizing. I ran from it, and I hid for years after that because of the bad experience I had trying to look after 85 people and their wellbeing and their happiness and all of that. So the funny thing is, so I had two businesses. We talk about one and we never talk about the other. Yeah, because it wasn’t as exciting. So there was CIE Baby, which had 85 people, but then there was Host Baby, which was just four people. And the funny thing is CIE Baby was famous, but Host Baby was actually equally profitable. Those four people in one room that I adored, we ran a web hosting business for musicians that was making between two to 4 million US dollars a year.


And so was CD Baby. So CD Baby had 85 employees in a big team and a big warehouse. Net profits, two to 4 million a year. Host Baby was four people in a room, chill, happy, fun doing web hosting. Also made two to 4 million a year. I don’t tell stories about Host Baby, but it actually made me happier. Well, yeah, I should say maybe equally happy CD baby. I did enjoy the public appreciation of it. I liked the social reward, but Host Baby, it was just such a joy to run because it was only four people. And those four people, they all loved each other and I loved them and they loved me. And we were just a happy little group doing web hosting for musicians, and it was a simple business and the musicians loved it, and you just go into work happy every day. Whereas, yeah, CD Baby with the 85 people in the drama turned into like, Ugh.


Oh God, all right, here we go. Employee health benefits compensation. Like, okay, Jeff wants a new title. Mary wants to bring her dog to work. Veronica insists that fluorescent lighting is hurting her head and needs a different kind of lighting. Oh my God. It was every day. I just felt like I, near the end, I was spending most of my energy trying to keep my 85 happy, whereas from Zero People up till about 50 people, it felt like the focus was outwards towards the musicians. All of us came into work each day on a mission to serve the musicians. And after about 50 people, I won’t blame it just on the sheer head count, but the internal culture accidentally got corrupted and it focused inwards, and it just seemed like everybody was coming to work every day just to, yeah, I don’t know, angrily try to improve their work life somehow. And they, it’s, they were forgetting that they were musicians and that’s why we’re here. But yeah, hearing myself say this out loud, I think that was, it wasn’t just because of the headcount. I probably shouldn’t correlate those two things with that correlation. Causation. I probably shouldn’t blame the headcount for that internal change of culture. It probably had something to do with it, but not entirely.

Joe Glover (00:33:48):

Okay. And you are very welcome to not answer this question, but I would be remiss to ask if you had your time again, based on that answer, would there be anything that you would do differently?

Derek Sivers (00:34:04):

Oh yeah. I would’ve sold CIE Baby Sooner and found a way to keep Host Baby. I actually tried to keep Host Baby interesting. I would’ve happily just run Host Baby for years. Unfortunately, because of the name, the purchasing company said, sorry, there’s no way.

Joe Glover (00:34:19):


Derek Sivers (00:34:20):

All of your host baby clients are CD baby customers. There’s just no way that you can keep that business and sell this one. I went, yeah, you’re right. And it was good for me to just slough off the whole thing and just walk away. But if I had to do it all over again, actually, if I had to do it all over again, and my advice to anyone listening is to make sure that you not only love the people you work with, but that you love the people you’re serving. I’ve been thinking about how it would feel to become a millionaire doing something like an all night vaping shop where I don’t think I would like those customers that would come in at 3:00 AM looking for a quick vape. They probably wouldn’t be my friends, so I probably wouldn’t enjoy serving them. So I think you can use this as a compass to find the people that you enjoy serving


And find the people that you enjoy being with and prioritize that over profit, or whether you’re in the smartest possible industry, you could be in extremely happy. Say if you love bicycles and you love steel frames and bicycle parts and you really nerd out on that, you would be much happier making a high-end steel bicycle artisan made handcrafted bicycle. Even if you only sell a few per month, you’d be much happier because you’d be around people that you love that have the same nerdy fascination as you, and you’d be selling to customers from around the world that can appreciate the fact that you’ve nerded out on your steel frame bicycle. You just be happier, even if somebody could argue that you could make more money starting a social network or something. Bad example. But you know what I mean?

Joe Glover (00:36:33):

I’m a vaping shop, so

Derek Sivers (00:36:35):

Yes. Yeah, you could make more money doing your all night vaping job.

Joe Glover (00:36:39):

I do. I love that you used the word love, but also just to summarize a few points here, got love. The people that you work with, we’ve got love the people you do it for. We’ve got the concept of enough got find the things that give you energy and find the things that drain you. I, all of this is really golden and very much appreciated and often understated I think, for its importance. So thank you for sharing all of these points because that they’re gratefully received and very refreshing, and it’s one of the reasons why I find you so inspiring. So thank you for sharing all of these. Thank you. So far.


You’ve given some examples of sweating the small stuff that you don’t necessarily enjoy. So the fluorescent lights, the pension policies or whatever it may be, but something you’re really well known for is sweating small stuff such as email confirmations and so on and so forth where you perhaps I’m connecting dots that don’t necessarily need to be connected here, but there’s almost an act to rebellion against the rubbish, the rubbish order confirmations. How much of sweating the small stuff do you feel was important for your success as a company? Was it the small stuff that accumulated to the big stuff or was it a big mission that everyone got on board with one by one?

Derek Sivers (00:38:30):

I think the small stuff,


If public facing can be very important because it determines how you’re perceived. Little things like the email confirmation or a quirky logo or a funny little slogan underneath your company name or the difference in a sentence or two in your marketing copy that’s kind, irreverent and wacky instead of standard come completely changes how people see you. Kind of like if you were to show up and meet a stranger for the first time and you’ve got a streak of dyed purple hair, that one little thing, you choosing to dye a streak of your hair purple completely changes how somebody would see you. Even if everything about you was conventional in every other way, but you had a streak of purple hair, they’d say, okay, something is something’s up here. And they would remember you what was with that dude, with the streak of purple hair. And I think it’s the same thing with the little things we do, especially that are public facing, because I’m thinking as a programmer, there are hundreds of little things I do behind the scenes that nobody ever sees, and I just do them for my own pleasure. I didn’t have to do them. Nobody knows they’re there. They don’t make a difference to answer your question, but the public facing ones do,

Joe Glover (00:40:23):

And how so on the basis of that is fun important as part of your service? So for example, you sort of speak there as an example of something nobody will ever see, but presumably will impact your mood and how you approach work and so on

Derek Sivers (00:40:44):

And so

Joe Glover (00:40:44):

Forth. And so presumably fun sort of comes into this one way or another.

Derek Sivers (00:40:51):

Well, I don’t want to give the impression that it’s just fun. Maybe because I’m talking about my old company as an example. That was just a record store. We just sold music. So in that case, yes, but now let’s use a different one. Okay, here’s a tiny UI thing that I love when I log into, the credit card processing service, and I do the two factor authentication. So I have the app on my phone, I think it’s called Ravo, that does the two generated keys. And so it says, enter your two A code. So I pull up the app, I type in the six digits, and Stripe has this thing that first digits are in huge, giant, 60 pixel font. And when I type in the sixth digit, it automatically submits it. It isn’t that I have to type in six digits and then submit.


They made it so once you type in the sixth, it submits maybe because they know that you’ve probably got one hand holding a phone or something like that. And I’ve always really appreciated that move. I was like, wow, that’s always a little joy when I log into Stripe and I don’t have to hit return or a click after those six digits. That to me is a, let’s say a different example to make clear that we’re not just talking about being silly or fun. Yeah, Stripe put attention into that detail, their visual design. They use a relatively small font, but somehow it’s just right and you can see everything and their visual design is perfect when you’re logging into that portal to see your monthly stuff. I appreciate the effort they put into that little things that are another example. So yeah, in my wacky silly example, I said the streak of purple hair. It can also be somebody that shows up to a meeting wearing really nice Chelsea boots instead of sneakers. And you notice these things, you go, wow, dude cares. Yeah, sorry, that just sounded like a line from a big Lebowski. Dude cares. Dude cares,

Joe Glover (00:43:04):

Dude cares. But it speaks to thoughtfulness, and I guess it depends on the context, but it’s also about caring, right?

Derek Sivers (00:43:12):

Right. Or so again, we’ll go back to the fictional steel bike artisan. There might be things that somebody does, maybe they’re, they’re parts that need to be shipped with the bicycle that need to come separately that aren’t attached to the bike when the bike is sent to you, and maybe those parts would come in a wooden box instead of just the bare standard plastic wrap in the cardboard box, and you’d get it and you’d go like, damn, they didn’t need to do that. But that extra $4 makes this whole ceremony of receiving my bicycle even more special. So it’s again, the public facing things, the little details really matter because they shape the subconscious impression that people have of you, which then shapes how often people go tell their friends about you because it’s all part of that wholehearted in appreciation of what you do.

Joe Glover (00:44:15):

A hundred percent. A hundred percent. That brings me on nicely to the next question, which is about follower by follower, because it seems like, so another long question here, but I’m going to give some context. So the best piece of advice that I ever got I’ve ever received is from my dad who said, don’t give advice, share experiences or opinions. And that’s something that stuck with me in the sense that I spend most of my time sharing experiences or opinions because that’s what people really want rather than advice. I rarely say What you need to do is dot, dot, dot. And it strikes me that through a lot of your talks and interviews that you’ve done, over the course of time, people have said, what do you need to do? And then you’ve gone, well, I did this. And so that’s a sharing of an experience more than anything.


Nonetheless, acknowledging that something that I’ve seen you advocate in the past and attribute possibly part of the success of the business. Two, was a follower by follow up approach, which was that one by one people told each other one by one, the company grew one by one. You got more artists on the platform, one by one, more people bought from you. Is that true to your experience, or have I missed something there? Because I wasn’t sure whether that was kind of the entirety of your marketing strategy or whether that was which I see an word immediate rise, smile at, or was there bits there which I was missing, which were a little bit more grand, attempts to gain more customers in big chunks?

Derek Sivers (00:46:07):

So for the first part on advice, advice is difficult


Because it takes more than a single question in a single answer to give people advice. If I am in Budapest and a stranger, a voice comes in from the ether and I don’t know where they are, and they’re saying, how do I get to you? How do I get where you are? I think, well, I don’t know where you are. I don’t know what vehicle you’re using. I don’t know what your budget is to get here. I don’t. Yeah, so I don’t know North Pole, south Pole. Are you in China? Where are you? You going to walk? You going to fly? I don’t know. So when people ask for advice, especially when it’s presented as a simple question and answer like an email. Here’s my question. Yeah, what advice would you give me? People really do ask that generically, I get emails from strangers, just an email from J 39 7 8 2 at Gmail. Hi, what advice would you give a 30 year old go to bed? Okay, so, so thanks for saying that about advice, because I do find that I don’t really want to tell other people what to do. I’m tell you what I did and see what you make out of it. Use it only your unique situation. Absolutely. Okay. So now completely different subject, the one by one marketing approach.


For the most part, yes. I always made a point of thinking of everybody as individuals. I don’t believe there’s hardly such a thing as a crowd. A crowd is just a bunch of individuals, and I’d rather think of them as individuals. Instead of thinking of trying to get a crowd or trying to get a million users. That’s an unhealthy way to think about them. So maybe I also just find it less rewarding to think of


A million people as a single thing. I find it more rewarding to think of unique individuals, and that’s why I do things. Keep an open inbox and ask people to email me and ask people to introduce themselves and tell me something about you. Don’t just get on my mailing list. Okay, great there. Now you’re on my mailing list. That means nothing to me. On the other hand, if you introduce yourself and say, hi, I’m an accountant to Nairobi, Kenya, and I moved here from Dubai and such and such, and I heard you on this podcast and now I want to be on your list. Now that means something to me. Now it’s humanized my inbox a little more. So yes, I probably chose a more one to one at a time, one by one marketing approach because it meant more to me. But let me think. That said, I would do things to try to get many, many musicians to know about CIE Baby or join CIE baby. I would attend many conferences back in the day to reach as many musicians as possible in one day at a music conference that thousands were attending, or at least hundreds.


I did run some advertising actually for a couple years CD Baby had the back cover of the most popular music industry magazine in Los Angeles that every musician read. We had the back cover for a couple years, and I think that helped. So I wasn’t refusing to get quantities of people, but I did always just try to think them as individuals because it was more heartwarming.

Joe Glover (00:50:35):

So good. Thank you. Thank you. I find that, again, very refreshing. One person is a human, A million people is a statistic. Yes. So I really relate to that thought process, but I have to say that even at the stage we are with growing our community, which is a community based activity, sometimes when you say there’s 40,000 people around the world who attend Marketing Meter prevents and so on and so forth, it’s easy to forget. Well not forget, but think of the 40,000 number sometimes more often than you do the one number. So yeah, I find that really useful and refreshing, and I hope the folks listening in today are getting an awful lot from that. But I know that I did, so I appreciate that. And so very much,

Derek Sivers (00:51:38):

It’s a reason why I think every sea-level executive should occasionally work a day in customer service where they can hear the concerns and complaints of people ideally on the phone. I think it’s unfortunate that right now we’re in a cultural swing away from talking on the phone. Can

Joe Glover (00:52:04):

Agree, man,

Derek Sivers (00:52:06):

I don’t think it’s a permanent change. As less people text and use voice recognition more, I think it might just end up just being easier to just click the button that connects you directly to another person that’s using the voice. It’s just more direct. But it was so helpful to always do lots of customer service interaction and hear real people with real problems telling me their hopes and complaints and frustrations to always keep your finger on that. Never just look at the numbers, okay, how many users we got. So I do think that every person in every department, at every job of the company should work in customer service occasionally to hear those things and keep their finger on the pulse of what people want. And as a visceral reminder that these are real people here that are using your service or product to solve a problem,

Joe Glover (00:53:10):

Bang on, bang on. Ah, you’re warming. You’re warming my heart in a really helpful way. So thank you. A slight divergence of divergence, divergence of questioning here, but I know you’ve just come back from India and you seem to enjoy it. And I read that you were in meetings from sort of nine o’clock till 10 o’clock at night or something like that. Yeah. So I dunno whether these were business meetings. No, I guess the first question is were they No,

Derek Sivers (00:53:42):

No, not at all. I business. I was just there to make friends.

Joe Glover (00:53:45):

That’s so lovely. That’s so lovely. I was going to ask, so I’m going to remove the business context from this and just head into a broader context, which is what did you learn while you were out there that you’ve taken back into your life? Now you, you’re back in New Zealand?

Derek Sivers (00:54:07):

Back into my life, I don’t think I have an answer for that, but I was there to learn about India. I was there to learn about people in India. I was there to learn about those specific 50 people that I met with. I learned a lot about India, and let’s not forget the phrase developing world, if we don’t mind using that phrase. Some people do. It’s a nice reminder that things are changing fast in places like that. Things might not be changing very fast in Germany or in Australia or in America. And I don’t mean just tech, but I mean just culturally. Whereas in India, like, oh my God, if you haven’t been there in even 10 years, things are so different from 10 years ago. If you were just there 10 years ago when the trains were all dilapidated and everybody was using crumbly little rpy paper notes to pay for things, you just come back 10 years later and the trains are super nice.


They’re as nice as anything in Europe, and everybody’s just doing electronic payments with QR codes, just everybody, every little vendor selling papayas on the side of the street as a QR code, and everybody just pays with the QR code. The government has mandated direct bank toback transfers for no fee. So every bank sends money to every other bank for absolutely no fees. So you can sell things for 5 cents and use bank transfers to pay for them, and everybody does. I love it. Visa, MasterCard doesn’t get a single roofie of that. And what else? Yeah, they have a digital ID card now that’s made, it’s not mandatory, but it’s recommended because it has a lot of benefits if any villager anywhere goes down to their local police station, just so some kind of proof of who they are. They’re issued, it’s called the ADHA card, A D H A R, adha, that’s a government digital id.


And once you have that, all of the K Y C know your customer stuff that the banks usually have to do for every single customer that would used to make it half an hour of processing and onboarding to give a new customer a bank account. All that stuff is automatic now because the government has basically taken care of the K Y C already. So if you have your local Adhar card, your government ID card, you can just go to any India Bank online, just type in your thing, beep, and get an instant bank account. And thanks to that, literally millions of people that didn’t have bank accounts a few years ago now have them. And that’s how every seller of anything can have the QR code that goes directly to their bank account. Whereas before, they couldn’t get a bank account or it was just too hard or they didn’t have time.


So things like that have happened just in the last six years even. And it’s just so exciting and so cool. And Bangalore in particular impressed the hell out of me. I went there intending to check out a few different places equally, but in Bangalore, I was so impressed. It feels like the new San Francisco, so many people are moving there from all around India because it’s the best quality of life. It’s where all the smart people are. It’s where all the cool stuff is going on, not just tech, but even artistically. Musicians are moving there and artists are moving there and writers are moving there just because that’s where it’s all happening. And because the quality of life is so good now, the money made in Bangalore is staying in Bangalore. Whereas maybe 20 years ago, people used to make a million dollars and then move to London to raise their kids in a better quality of life. Now they’re staying there. And so the schools are better, the art scenes better, which then improves the quality of life even more. I dunno, it’s really exciting. Bangalore, if it weren’t for my wonderful boy who I adore here, who needs to be in New Zealand because that’s where his mother is, if it weren’t for that, I just wanted to stay in Bangalore. It’s such a cool place.

Joe Glover (00:58:28):

That’s awesome. It is something that I don’t think it’s enough conversation about in a way. Certainly within, and maybe I’m showing myself that more than anything, but within my circles that I interact with, I think it’s such an exciting opportunity, almost such an exciting country. And I, I’m not sure how many people have their eyes open to that. So it’s really exciting to hear you speak about that and get excited by it. Your whole body language just opens up when you speak about, I love that excitement. So that’s really, really cool. You are very, very kind in that You didn’t put a time limit on today, but I’ve actually only really got one big question left, which is that it was 5,548 days since the transaction for CD Baby went through, which is a decent amount of time. And with that thought in mind, I’m going to keep it so general, but what’s your biggest reflection since, what would be the three things that you’ve learned in the past 5,548 days that we could leave with the marketing? We took community one way, or not necessarily marketing, but I feel like you’ve got so much to give and one hour 10 hours is never going to be enough to spend with you. So if there were a few little nuggets or even just one, what

Derek Sivers (01:00:10):

I’ll do one for now, because it encompasses other implications, which is I think a lot of people feel, I’m good at this game, therefore I should keep playing. But I want to propose that it can be very rewarding to say, I’m good at this game, therefore I should stop playing. Use the metaphor of board games, video games, whatever it is. Once you win the game, you should stop playing. So when it comes to marketing and money, I’m not saying everyone should stop, but everyone should consider that they don’t need to keep playing once they’ve won the game.

Joe Glover (01:01:04):

Nice, nice. I love that. It opens up another question, which is, how do you know when you’ve won?

Derek Sivers (01:01:13):

That’s just your own definition. See, my definition of success is that you achieved what you set out to do. It has nothing to do with external measures. What anybody else thinks doesn’t matter at all. The numbers in a bank account do not matter at all. Yeah, my definition, success is only just you set out to do something difficult and you achieved it. That’s success. So everybody gets to make their own definition of whether they’ve won the game.

Joe Glover (01:01:47):

I love that. That’s such a great note. Note to end on. Derek, you’re just a gorgeous human being, so thank you.

Derek Sivers (01:01:56):

Thanks Joe.


You’re just the lighting, but hey, yeah, anybody listening to this, if you can’t tell, I really enjoy meeting people. So go to my website, go to and introduce yourself, email me, say hello.

Joe Glover (01:02:14):

Hang on. And I can speak from personal experience over a number of years that Derek is fabulous at getting back to people.

Derek Sivers (01:02:23):

Joe and I have been emailing for I think eight years. That sound about right, 2015 I think. Maybe

Joe Glover (01:02:28):

Something like that. Yeah, it’s a really lovely thing for us to go full circle on this. So I appreciate you giving up your time as well because it, it’s no small thing. I know that there’s many, many people who would treasure an hour with you as I have. So I appreciate it. Thanks, Jeff. With all that said, let’s close out the podcast and say thank you very much, Derek. I appreciate you.

Derek Sivers (01:02:51):

Thank you too. See ya. Cheers.