Derek Sivers

Entrepreneur, programmer, avid student of life. I make useful things, and share what I learn.

What it would be like to open up ALL aspects of CD Baby

Had an interesting conversation with an ex about what makes you feel loved.

Turns out we had quite opposite definitions.

Mine was feeling transparent.  Holding nothing back.  Revealing everything, faults and all, and still feeling accepted.

Later, I was thinking about CD Baby and how fun it's been to open up and show our numbers. (See a history of this, below.)

Then I was thinking about collaboration, Wikipedia and all that.  How the collective intelligence of the world is always better than what you've got in-house.

Combine those two thoughts, and I'm imagining what it would be like to open up ALL aspects of CD Baby:
* show not just our sales numbers, but ALL numbers, including expenses, salaries, income, taxes and everything else
* (clients' and customers' info would be show only collectively not individually, for obvious privacy reasons)
* if a paper supplier sees what we're paying for our mailers and knows they can beat it, they can contact us to let us know
* show performance numbers, such as # of CDs shipped per-day, emails answered per-person, # of albums added each day
* post audio of our company meetings on the site for all to hear
* open all of our internal knowledge-base, form-letters, etc
* encourage suggestions on how we could be running things better
* open the PHP source code that runs the site
* allow any webdesigners to make their own CSS skin for the site
* encourage corrections to anything on the site. spelling fixes in artist bios, etc.

I like this for a few reasons:
* keeps us on your toes by encouraging competition
* reminds us that the real value here is in our relationships with the musicians.  anyone can take our PHP source code and make "another CD Baby", but not anyone can win the trust and relationships we've built one at a time over the last 10 years.
* makes us double-check our internal decisions against public scrutiny.   (we already always do this, but this would emphasize it even more)
* shows everyone we've got nothing to hide.  that we really are trustable.  (hey - was there any doubt?)
* gets others involved.  allow anyone to buy shares in the company, so they can have a vested interest in our success.
* makes it easier to get our financials to our accountant  :-)  (“just go to the site. it's all there.”)
* it's contrarian.

What are the downsides?
* big security risk if my PHP code has bugs that can be exploited to get customer/client data
* pain in the ass, having to hear the world's opinions on every internal thing every day.

Any benefits or downsides I'm missing?

A walk down CD Baby numbers-posting memory lane...

2002-01-03 = 3147 checks for $69,050.13 last week!

2002-01-13 = CD Baby Has Paid Over $1 MILLION to Musicians for CDs sold

2002-06-04 = CD Baby Sales - doubled again!

2002-10-24 = CD Baby has now paid $2 MILLION to musicians

2003-03-11 = CD Baby pays out $3 million to musicians. Sales doubling. 

2003-08-12 = $4 Million Paid to Musicians. Sales keep growing.

2004-01-13 = CD Baby sales doubling. Over $6 million paid to musicians. 

2004-02-16 = CD Baby passes $10 MILLION in CDs sold 

2004-03-30 = Over $7 million paid to musicians. That's $100,000 a week.


2006-01-03 = CD Baby pays $429,023 to artists for THIS WEEK alone 

2006-02-08 = CD Baby CD sales chart through 2005

2006-06-06 = Biggest one-week CD Baby payout ever : $1,046,317

2007-09-04 = Sales numbers at CD Baby

2007-09-07 = How much each Digital Retailer has paid (+ %)