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Your Music and People

Your Music and People by Derek Sivers

Read in October 2020

"Assume nobody is going to help you. If someone does, then it gets even better."

Byte-size stories from Derek Sivers' experience in the music industry.

It's a great guide for finding a niche, building an audience, being resourceful, and expanding the network by developing valuable relationships with people.


Marketing is the final extension of your art. How you communicate, make it available and all the stories you tell are as much as valuable as creating it. The way you present your art and what people know about it completely changes how they perceive it.

Restrictions will set you free. In case you feel uninspired or unmotivated, try to set some restrictions for your creation.

Story of Captain T's, UFO music, and confidential demo: One musician friend of Derek. They prepare a package that says CONFIDENTIAL, DO NOT OPEN, and send it to the radio stations of universities. 375/500 of them played the album.

Establishing an authentic way of communication based on your style and making them wonder about you is a perfect way to attract fans.


Marketing just means being considerate. It's not about shouting people to listen to your music or use your product. It means making yourself easily noticeable to the people who are looking for you.

The essence of marketing is understanding the point of view of other people. It might be hard to let go of your ego and get off the stage, but you must stop focusing on yourself to achieve empathy.

Constantly ask what your audience really wants, and hear their problems. Understand their expectations.

Considerate communication: be as succinct as you can. Respect people's time.

Don't try to sound big. Be realistic; prove that you are a real person.

Life is like high school. It's about popularity and being cool. But you can choose who you want to be and be with people you want to be.


Always think how you can help someone. Ask about the hardest part of their job and complaints. There's always a favor you can do. Give, give, give, and sometimes you receive!

Don't be afraid to ask for favors. Maybe they'll help you instead of watching TV. By making them feel important, you are helping them as well!

Small gifts go a long way. Give them to under-appreciated people. They deserve to know they are doing great.

Persistence is polite. Not giving up might be good advice, but empathize with people if you don't get a reply. Don't talk behind their back. Everyone is busy. You are not the center of the universe.

Don't put anyone up on the pedestal. People do business with people they like. Establishing a friendly relationship is more helpful than being terrified of who they are.


Be a competent novice, not an expert. If you sense you are becoming an expert, figure out what you love more. You can do anything, but you can't do everything.

Rejection therapy is an excellent way to overcome the fear of rejection by getting rejected every day.


Impress people with how little you spend. Saying you need a certain expensive tool is a form of avoiding work. Being resourceful shows you can survive.

You can't act on a vague goal. Be specific on what you want. When you don't know the next step, you feel lost and procrastinate.

  • Write down everything you know. Include every detail and your philosophy.
  • Break details into specific ingredients.
  • Research what you don't know.
  • Turn your findings into actions.

A good plan wins no matter what happens.

Assume nobody is going to help you. No investors, no heritage, no lottery. It's all up to you. You can't wait because there is nobody to wait. When someone does help you, that would make it better.

Be prepared for two scenarios.

The first one depends on nobody but you. There are no lucky breaks. Develop your skills, build your reputation, be small but sustainable.

Second one makes use of the industry to build a good team, pursue deals and find investors.

Prepare for either path, you will win any case.

Extreme results come from extreme actions. You can't do what everyone else does. Normal people live a normal life. Find what you love, and let it kill you.

Every depressing situation may arise an opportunity. Hungry guy from music industry comes to Derek's university for a seminar. Derek orders a pizza to the classroom. They became friends after.


  • Be succinct.
  • Make people curious.
  • Speak everyday language, don't use weird artsy words.
  • Use tricks and phrases that worked on you.
  • "Hillbilly Flamenco"

Proudly exclude most people. Blockbuster hits are dead, aim for the niche. Make bold statemens like "if you like Katty Perry, don't listen to this!". They will wonder, and listen.


Do the opposite. If everyone is hyper connected, it's more valuable to disconnect.

Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when the others are fearful.

— Warren Buffett


Keep a database of people, what they do, where they live, when was your last contact. Stay in touch. Keep the communication personalized.

  • A: 3 weeks
  • B: 2 months
  • C: 6 months
  • D: 12 months

Find out what they are doing. Be unselfish and caring. Help them away, show appreciation.

Every breakthrough comes from someone you know. Meet new people, stay in touch.

Include everyone in your success. Return the favors. You are not pulled to success by destiny. You are lifted by the people around you.


Pour your personality and philosophy into the way you do business.

Derek's pricing for a gig, 2000$/h for an hour, 1500$/h for two hours. "You pay me to get there, I enjoy the rest!"

Some people like to pay. Even if you are operating on a free-pricing plan, let people who want to contribute with their money.

Charging: overpricing may motivate people to pay more attention.

**Don't promote until people can take action. **

Are fans telling friends? If no, then keep working.

If yes, don't promote till they can't take action. Otherwise it's a waste of their attention.


Move to the big city. Possibilities on the internet are great, but living in New York and Los Angeles helped Derek. It shows you are in the game.