As we think about values in the political arena for this approaching November, how so how about some plain-old Values for the Music Industry? If getting ahead, making money, and becoming famous is all you’re about then this article and, indeed, the music business is no place for you. Music is fundamentally about art, its connection to humanity, and the connections it fosters between people.
Selling this art is the business of music – and we can see how well that’s been going lately. The music business, if it is to be reformed, improved and resurrected needs to ground itself in its core value once again. A good place to start is with the values of its practitioners.
As I write this article I believe there is a particularly nasty PR stunt being perpetrated by a notable and vocal attorney, who I will not name. He is known for being iconoclastic and publishes an email newsletter, like I do, and a blog. At present he is writing a scathing series about CDBaby.com. He is way off the mark in his facts, but more importantly, he is serving no purpose other than his own self-aggrandizement.
As you probably know, CDBaby.com was founded by Derek Sivers in the late 90s as a portal for independent artists to sell their CDs to fans. Since it’s inception, CDBaby.com has sold millions of copies of CDs and provided revenue to artists in multiple millions. The service expanded mid-2000s to include aggregation to download sites like iTunes Music Store. CDBaby.com truly paved the way for many of its competitors; many of whose CEO were quoted in this attorney’s article. CDBaby.com has recently been sold to DiscMakers amid some controversy about Sivers’ management style.
It is despicable that this attorney is using Sivers’ retirement and the grumblings of a few former employees to make hay. His criticisms have ranged from issues of management style: this multimillion dollar business that thrived during the worst history of the music business was somehow started and run by a “too hands-off” boss; to the business model which, now as time has past, might seem in need of updating.
None of these issues merit Sivers’ public flogging Whatever Sivers has accomplished should not be diminished by the sale of the company or its circumstances, nor by the march of time and expectations. It is now up to DiscMakers to move forward, bring value, and satisfy their customers.
So what to make of the muck-raking? This is the key point. There is no good in intentionally harming the reputation of a good person, there is no good in tearing down another’s accomplishments. There is even less good in trying to build yourself up by raking up this muck. This attorney’s rant, in the thin guise of “education”, is really vituperrious and damaging. It has no place in our world.
It is my contention that constructive actions build careers better. It also helps to reverse the public sentiment that our business is all about sharks. If we want Artists to trust us as practitioners of art and business, we have to behave well and be supportive of each other. If we want music consumers to support our livelihood by purchasing our hard work, we need to give them every reason to remember that we are people, that our work matters, and their support matters.