Derek Sivers

It’s just people!

Let’s start with the biggest, most important, and the most surprising point:

All those years I was trying to get famous, it felt like the music industry was this giant mysterious machine.

I’d submit my music to showcases, and the machine would choose everyone else.

I’d try to contact record labels, and the machine wouldn’t let me past the virtual front gate.

I’d send my music to media outlets, and the machine would just make it disappear.

What a heartless machine it was. It felt like it was a complex puzzle, that if I was smart enough, I could figure out.

But then, at age 20, I got a job inside the machine. It was a minimum wage job running the music library at Warner/Chappell Music Publishing in New York City. (And wait until you hear the story of how I got the job! That’s a great lesson in itself. But I’ll get to that soon.)

Now I was given all-access. I was treated as an insider, invited to all events, talking with rock stars and their managers, watching how deals get made, how people get in, and how they get kicked out.

The big epiphany came just a few weeks into the job when I had to call Virgin Records to get a copy of a new album. They put me on the phone with Stacy, who ran promotions out of Virgin’s New York office. She was super-friendly, and we were joking around on the phone, so we decided to meet up for lunch. We met, and she was a bubbly 22-year-old that was a huge music fan, majored in media studies at NYU, got this job as an intern, climbed the ranks a bit, and was now in charge of promotion.

That’s when it hit me:

This whole music industry? This giant mysterious machine? It’s not a machine! It’s just people!

More specifically, it’s mostly young people like Stacy, who have a lot in common with us musicians, and are totally cool and approachable.

So it’s not heartless. We just need to understand what it’s like to be one of those people that work inside of it.