Derek Sivers

It’s just people inside the machine!

2000-01-02

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 gate.

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

What a heartless machine! It felt like 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.

Now I was given all-access. I was treated as an insider and invited to all events. I talked with rock stars and their managers. I watched how people got in and how deals get made.

The big epiphany came just a few weeks into the job.

I had to call a major record label to get a copy of a new album. They put me on the phone with Stacy, who ran promotions out of their New York office. She was super-friendly, joking around on the phone, so we decided to meet up for lunch. She was a bubbly 24-year-old that was a huge music fan, had a degree in media studies, got this job as an intern, climbed the ranks a bit, and was now in charge of promotion.

And that’s when it hit me:

This whole music industry — this giant mysterious machine — is 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 them.

Once I connected with them as people — getting to know them and assuming they mean well — the machine started working for me.