Derek Sivers – Founder of CD Baby and Author of “Anything You Want”

Derek Sivers is best known as the founder of CD Baby. A professional musician (and circus clown) since 1987, Derek started CD Baby by accident in 1998 when he was selling his own CD on his website, and friends asked if he could sell theirs, too. CD Baby was the largest seller of independent music on the web, with over $100M in sales for over 150,000 musician clients. After he won the 2003 World Technology Award, Esquire Magazine’s annual “Best and Brightest“ cover story said, “Derek Sivers is changing the way music is bought and sold… one of the last music-business folk heroes.” In 2008, Derek sold CD Baby to focus on his new ventures to benefit musicians, including his new company MuckWork where teams of efficient assistants help musicians do their “uncreative dirty work”. His current projects and writings are all at

[box type=”note”]Also, please check out Derek’s first book which he literally just published today. We read the book and highly recommend it. [/box]

What are you working on right now?

Resetting the operating system in my head. Replacing old thoughts and habits with new ones. Aiming for a longer-scope philosophical approach, instead of the quick reactionary. Lots of reading, learning, studying, memorizing, and writing about the wisdom from some great books.

Along with that, I spend a few hours a day studying Mandarin and Ruby – two languages I want to use a lot more.

What does your typical day look like?

Wake at 6. Study my flashcards in Anki to help me memorize Ruby and Mandarin. Emails for a couple hours. Write for a couple hours. Manage some projects on Elance and oDesk. Meet some people here in Singapore. Hang with my wife until she falls asleep. Then read and study for a few hours until I fall asleep.

3 trends that excite you?

Trends don’t excite me. I’m thinking very long-term lately. I’m 41 now, and quite focused on what will make me happy on my death-bed (hopefully in another 50 years or so). Trends are moot.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Shut off distractions. Get offline. Turn off your phone. Be unreachable. Give them your full attention, and they’ll jump to life.

What inspires you?


What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?

Delegate, but don’t abdicate. Learn to delegate, not micro-manage. But keep control to make sure things are going as they should. Trust, but verify.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Furniture tourism. People go to Bali to find furniture-makers in little villages, buy the furniture directly from the maker for incredibly cheap, and have it shipped back to their home. Right now everyone is doing it ad-hoc, but a company could manage the whole process, advertising to new home-owners that they can take a week’s vacation in Bali to furnish their new home, and come out saving money. Once it runs well in Bali, it can be repeated in Africa, South America, Southeast Asia, etc.

What do you read every day, and why?

My Anki flashcards, because I really want to memorize Mandarin, Ruby, and the wisdom from some great books.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?

There’s no one book for everyone. Please see my recommended book list at where I write a rating, summary, and detailed notes for every book I’ve read in the last few years. They’re sorted with the best at the top, so start there.

What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?

I only use two things all day: Terminal and Firefox, in that order. Terminal is just the raw unix-style plain-text command-line thing on Linux. That’s where I do all my thinking, writing, reading, planning, organizing, emailing, etc. Since it’s plain text, there are no distractions. It’s a wonderful reminder that it’s the words themselves that matter.

Three people we should follow on Twitter, and why?

Turn off Twitter and focus on what really matters. Don’t listen to chatter.

Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?

Me at 100, but do it soon. I’d like to gets some tips from my future self.

When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it.

Seven years ago when a Hungarian woman told me the most amazing joke. (Sorry I don’t remember it.)