My Favourite Quotes from "Your Music and Your People"

I got so much enjoyment out of "Hell Yeah Or No" that I decided to read Derek Sivers' other book "Your Music and Your People".

At first glance, the book isn't really for me: it's a treatise on how to market yourself in the music business. However it's written in this terse and delightfully-to-the-point Sivers style. And really, most of the lessons generalize to any kind of marketing, which we all need from time to time.

Boxing this into "marketing" also doesn't seem to cut it. Some of the lessons are much more broadly applicable.

Maybe it's because I haven't really thought much about marketing before, but I excerpted a lot of this one. Just like last time, titles are chapter titles, and what follows are quotes (mostly) and paraphrases from that chapter. Sometimes the chapter title is enough!


Business is creative

But turning off your creativity—trying to play it safe—is the worst thing you could do. Just like with music.

This is only a test. See what happens

It’s actually impossible to fail if your only mission was to see what happens!

Restrictions will set you free

Make mystery : make people wonder

Don’t be so plain or obvious that there’s nothing left to wonder. But don’t be so cryptic that they give up.

Once people start wondering, they can’t stand not knowing.

"Marketing" just means being considerate

Marketing means listening for what people need, and creating something surprisingly tailored for them.

Marketing means getting to know people, making a deeper connection, and keeping in touch.

Constantly ask what they really want

Touch as many of their senses as you can

The more senses you touch in someone, the more they’ll remember you.

Life is like high school

You can approach this strategically, as if you were a new kid going to a new school, with a goal to be popular. It sounds shallow, but it works.

Be who they want to be. In your role as a musician, it’s actually considerate!

But people want someone to look up to. Someone who’s not of their normal boring world. Someone who’s being who they wish they could be, if they had the courage.

Get personal

People send business to people they like.

Even if it starts professional, get personal as soon as possible. Be a friend. That’s how things are done.

Always think how you can help someone

Ask them what’s the hardest part about their job.

Don’t be afraid to ask for favors

People like doing favors!

By making them feel important, connected, and needed, you’ll be doing them a favor, too.

Small gifts go a long way

Get presents for the people you’ve met that are probably under-appreciated.

Persistence is polite

But in the business world, it’s the opposite. If you don’t keep trying, you’re a loser!

If someone doesn’t get back to you, it probably wasn’t intentional. Everyone is busy, and their situation has nothing to do with you.

Repeatedly follow-up to show you care

Pedestals prevent friendships

How to get through the gates?

Get someone with access to the inside to promote you.

Have someone work the inside of the industry

Get specific!

Call the destination, and ask for directions

We know where we want to be, but we don’t know how to get there.

Work backwards. Just contact someone who’s there, and ask how to get there.

Flip it in your favor

The old saying, "It’s all who you know," used to feel so defeating.

[after he bought pizza for a hungry music exec visiting school] For the next two years, he took my calls and gave me all kinds of advice about the music business.

Everything that seems depressing can beflipped to work in my favor.

Every deal that’s bad for someone is good for someone else. So instead of moaning about the bad side, you can take the good side.

A curious answer to the most common question

["What kind of music do you do?" - but works for other questions too]

With one interesting phrase to describe your music, you can make total strangers wonder about you.

Make people curious in one sentence.

Without a good reason, they won’t bother

(checking your music, business, ...)

When they ask what kind of music you do, they’re actively hoping you’ll give them a reason to care.

If you don’t give them a reason in that very moment, the opportunity is gone.

Don’t know how to describe your music?

Ask people how they would describe. Look at the description / reviews of other music.

When you’ve got one you like, try it out on people. See if their face lights up. See if they get curious.

Use the tricks that worked on you

Ask yourself why a certain headline or photo or article caught your attention.

Proudly exclude most people

Loudly reject 99%. It signals who you are. When someone in your target 1% hears you proudly excluding the rest, they’ll be drawn to you.

Well-rounded doesn’t cut

Only problem is, if you’re well-rounded, you can’t cut through anything. You need to be sharply defined, like a knife.

Look at the long careers of David Bowie, Miles Davis, Madonna, Prince, Joni Mitchell, or Paul Simon. Each went through sharply-defined phases, treating each album as a project with a narrow focus.

Do this every year or two, and you will have a wide variety in the long run.

Doing the opposite of everyone is valuable

It’s supply and demand. The more people do something, the less valuable it is.

Everyone else is multi-tasking. So it’s more valuable to single-task. Everyone else is hyper-connected. So it’s more valuable to disconnect.

Don’t try to beat them at their game. Play a completely different game. Be radically opposite. Don’t be associated with them in any way. Be so different that people don’t even think to compare you.

Selling music by solving a specific need

People search harder for the obscure

Fans of the obscure niches search harder for it. Make sure they canfind you. You want the passionate fans of your niche, not the casual fans of mainstream.

Why you need a database

(for tracking people)

Stay in touch with hundreds of people

[This chapter include a short description of a system for keeping in touch with people.]

Most people are so bad at keeping in touch that they will really appreciate you doing it.

Meet three new people every week

If we assume your music is great, and you are a likeable person that people enjoy helping, I’ll make this prediction: The number of people you meet will determine your success.

Keep in touch

The difference between success and failure can be as simple as keeping in touch.

Every breakthrough comes from someone you know

Take some of that searching time, and spend it on keeping in touch with your existing contacts.

Put your fans to work

Include everyone in your success

(that helped you get there or treated you well)

How to attend a conference

Trade contact info within a few minutes of meeting.

Send them a message immediately, connecting the digital you to the physical you.

Before the conference, come up with one interesting sentence that says what you do—including a curious bit that will make them ask a follow-up question. For example: “Bassist of the Crunchy Frogs—the worst punk bluegrass band ever. We’re headlining the showcase tonight. Our singer is a pirate.”

Real business is done in the follow-up, not the conference itself.

The best time to get down to business is when they’re alone, back at their office, a week or two after the conference, and can give you their full one-on-one attention.

Don’t be a mosquito

Learn what they love. Learn what they want. Figure out what you can do for them.

Valuable to others, or only you?

But money only comes from doing something valuable to others.

  1. Focus on making your music more valuable to others.
  2. Stop expecting it to be valuable to others.

Emphasize meaning over price

It changes the request from a commercial pitch to an emotional connection.

Some people like to pay. Let them

When you’re offering something for free, don’t forget that there are lots of people that like to pay! Appeal to this side of people, giving them a reason to pay that feels good.

The higher the price, the more they value it

So it’s considerate to charge more for your work. People will appreciate it more, and get better results.

Are fans telling friends? If not, don’t promote

Don’t promote until people can take action

Move to the big city

Living in the big city, and being where everything is happening, will help your career the most.

Detailed dreams blind you to new means

Are you at the starting line or the finish line?

For some artists, releasing their music is like the starting line in a race. The gun goes off! They work it! They spend hours a day pushing, promoting, and selling—reaching new people by any means necessary.

Ignore advice that drains you

Compass in your gut

Whatever excites you, go do it. Whatever drains you, stop doing it.

But nothing is worth losing your enthusiasm. Nothing!

There’s almost nothing that you must do.