Books Business Music

Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur

Author: Derek Sivers

My Rating: 5/5

Summary: A well written business manifesto written by the founder of CDBaby.

My Takeaways

Derek Sivers accidentally started a business and purposely tried to keep it small

When you make a business, you make a little universe where you get to control the laws. This is your utopia. 

When you make it a dream come true for yourself. You make it true for everyone 

When you’re on to a revolution it will feel like uncommon sense. 

Success come from persistently improving and inventing, not from what’s persistently doing what’s not working. 

Do everything for your customers. 

Starting small puts 100% of your energy into actually solving real problems. 

Build your business for thousands of small customers, not big customers that control you. 

Don’t be afraid to exclude people. 

There are infinite plans (music singing example)

Write clear emails to avoid thousands of confused replies. 

It’s often the tiny little details that make customers tell their friends about your business, such as the funny email. 

Add a fun human touch to how you operate your business (pizza and squid example)

Know what makes you happy. As CD Baby got bigger, Derek’s stories got less happy. 

Don’t try to please an invisible jury. 

Books Business Music

The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory

Book cover image for The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory by John Seabrook.
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Author: John Seabrook

My recommendation: 4/5


Extremely well written book that documents the history of pop music and how it has changed over time. The author dives into the science of how hit songs have been written and highlights who the key players are in the music industry to make it happen. I also enjoyed learning the history of famous pop artists like Rihanna, Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears.

My Takeaways

  • Sweden had a unique underground music scene where DJs would mix American songs with heavy rhythm with smooth European melodies. 
  • Denniz Pop was a well known Swedish DJ who was instrumental in helping craft the modern day commercial radio pop songs because of his unique way he made melodies fit the beat as well as his style in altering the English language. 
  • His first hit was with the band Ace of Base in the early 90’s.
  • The book briefly highlights the history of male harmony music and gives background as to how boy bands were crafted in the late 80s and early 90s – specifically talking about how Lou Pearlman formed the Backstreet Boys to appeal to the masses. 
  • A musical act is a small entrepreneurial business. Making a hit requires a lot of different services that not all bands can provide for themselves. 
  • There have only been a few hit song factories in the modern music era because of changing tastes as well as changing dynamics between the artists writers and producers. 
  • The Telecommunications Act of 1996 deregulated the radio industry leading to mass consolidation of radio stations with radio programming driven by market research, rather than curated playlists by local DJs and tastemakers. 
  • The Pop Cycle: Pure pop music gathers the largest audience, but then music tastes change to extremes, and then switch back to pop music. 
  • The Swedish pop writers made a mass exodus to Los Angeles, CA
  • Greg Zapokean created a ratings product called “Hit Predictor” that many record labels and radio stations used to test if a song was a hit. They would remix a song to its essence and then test it with new listeners. 
  • “Hit Song Science”, a term trademarked by music entrepreneur Mike McCready, was a computer-based method of hit prediction that purported to analyze the acoustic properties and underlying mathematical patterns in a new song, and compare them to those of past hits.
  • Manufactured music that is designed to be authentic is called K-pop and popular in Korea.
  • The songwriters who produced ‘Umbrella’ for Rihanna have a background in wiring music jingles – which helped them crank out songs for many other famous artists. 
  • Radio and the record industry have a complimentary yet adversarial relationship. 
  • By the mid 2000s, the “track and hook” method of writing songs was the most popular.
  • The track and hook method lends itself to a more manufactured music way of writing the music by mass producing songs in batches and gathering the best melodies. It allows for more specialization, which makes it more of an assembly line process. Similar to how a TV show is written. 
  • The hooks in a piece of music are farmed out to individuals. 
  • Music production comes first, then the “topliner” lyrics over the music track.
  • “Topliners” are the melodic writers in a track and hook songwriting process and rarely cross over into headliners. 
  • On average, people listen to a song for 7 seconds before they change the radio. So the songs today are written with hooks in each section. 
  • Because ticket revenue is the main source of income from artists, recording has to adopt to their schedule in the middle of tours. 
  • Artists don’t write their own songs, by and large. This makes it easier for labels to control them in the production of their hits. The writers, for their part, already share songwriting credit with a half dozen or so other writers, because of the way song production has been “industrialized” since the early 1990s. 
  • A songwriter’s music revenue is now being threatened by services like Spotify, because the music labels are keeping more of the money for themselves.
  • When we know what’s coming next in a tune, we lean forward when listening, imagining the next bit before it actually comes. This kind of listening ahead builds a sense of participation with the music.” The songs in heavy rotation are “executing our volition after the fact.” The imagined participation encouraged by familiar music is experienced by many people as highly pleasurable, since it mimics a kind of social communion.