I met Derek Sivers on (at the beginning of) the worldwide web. He was an early adopter of communication/technology (also) and I stumbled upon the site of what seemed to be a band. I had searched for “music”—I forget (and always wonder) how many (how few!) sites were found by that (which?) search engine, using (version 1.0? of) the Mosaic browser, back then, but I visited them ALL. I wasn’t even sure what I was doing, “clicking” the underlined words, but of course now every child weaves many elaborate virtual trails, jumping from computer to who-knows-where-the-next-computer-is. I discovered a “cross between The Beatles and James Brown;” where “peanut butter meets Pez.” The sound samples (that I downloaded onto my work PC [which had a network card], put on a diskette, and played on my work Mac [which had a sound card]) were fun and funky!
Derek had made hitme.net [it’s no longer up] for (the “band”) Hit Me, and the (multimedia) CD called “Greatest Hits, Vol. 17.” This recording was a very talented young man (Derek) doing his original songs on guitar, bass, piano, voice, with some help from a drummer [where is Rodney now?] and a female singer [where is Christine now?]. Having studied at Berklee College of Music, he knew how to record on a multi-track machine, and got the results mixed, mastered, and mass-produced. It had art, a bar-code, and shrink-wrapping, and so it looked like a “real” “grown-up” (professional) (major label) music CD.
Anyway, I wrote (e-mail) to him, and we corresponded; there was only a hiatus when I got cut from my tech. job and had to organize a PC for home use. Now it’s 1995…? [And my hot new machine was a Pentium 1 (with 2 MB [sic] of RAM?!) (I paid extra for the Pentium 90 over the 75 and a second meg of RAM)!]
By then, I had moved from NY to NJ, but went to visit him at his home in Astoria, Queens. He was shy. [Aside: his apartment-mate (what was her name/where is she now?) was not—she kept luring me into her room to watch Jah Wobble videos—my first exposure to one of my now favorite artists!]
Well, we kept in touch, and when he put a band together to play (something like) what was on the recording, I helped out. Roadie and publicity and “merch.” I became “Director of Promotions” for Neko Records. But—even though everyone loved the music—few CDs sold. How to move the product, when people are searching their pockets to find just enough cash for one more beer…?
Derek made a page on his website, organized a credit card banking account, and we went off to the likes of the Philadelphia Music Conference (PMC), NACA (convention of concert bookers for colleges) in Boston, and CMJ in NYC. “No cash right now? No problem: buy it on the web, later, when you’re home!” [For those who didn’t know, right away, I would describe the ubiquitous AOL diskettes with which you could get many free hours, on your dial-up modem…] What a concept…
Then other bands asked if he would make pages for them. Which he did. And then CD Baby was born. It was “The Best Little Record Store on the Web.”
And it really took off, fast, “Selling Indie CDs to the World.” So he bought a house & barn in Woodstock, NY, for the boxes and boxes of CDs that artists sent him, as the entrance fee was nominal; they could set their own price; Derek paid them regularly, if they (did their own marketing to drive visits to his site, and) made sales, etc. This was before MP3s/digital downloads, of course.
Sometimes it was “The Cutest Little Record Store on the Web.” The volume (of space required, and of mailings) increased greatly, and after a while, he bought a big warehouse in Portland, OR. Right near the airport, it made “shipping” very easy. His one NY “order fulfillment clerk from NY moved with him, and eventually became the COO of the whole operation (with Derek learning more about and doing all of the computer programming)! (Where is John, now… Tahiti?!)
Well, I forgot what (and how many) other titles Derek gave me, rotating in the stack of biz cards, but here are several that I have found. The email address is (only recently!) gone, the street address is gone, my old phone number is gone, and Derek sold the company for a lot of money! He invested the proceeds in a trust fund for musicians, and lives on the interest. He’s traveled a lot, studied many things, gotten married and is currently in Singapore. Still creative, still good, still interesting, still searching, still sharing…
Oh, wow: funny (cosmic)…
this (via Instagram, on Facebook) in, today,
just as I’m writing this post!
UPdate on 7/29/15
Just found the card for Neko!
(I never liked the formatting that DS did, with the [(jammed-up) area code on my] phone number. (Note the old area code for north NJ.) (This was my phone number in Montclair, before I moved to West Orange [and had to change it].) (This was my old e-mail address before I changed it to email@example.com.)
Note his (fun) phone number: 1-800-HIT-ME-69 ! Note “Hit Me” was the “band” from “Hit Media Inc.”
This was Derek’s apartment, where I first went to meet him, at a party he had. (Before he moved to Woodstock.) I brought the “Man of Many Hats” (one of his titles) a hat, on our first encounter. It said “Fire Warden, World Trade Center.” (|- (
UPdate on 10/25/16
Just took a selfie in a (now) vintage shirt! With an iron-on, it was one of only several prototypes! Knowing how many times Derek has moved, this might be the only one left in existence!