Derek Sivers

Use the internet, not just companies.


I’ve been online since 1994, and seen so many companies come and go.

In the year 2000, the place to be was Every musician would keep all of their music and fans there. A few years later, it was gone — shut down — all music and fan lists deleted.

In 2005, it was MySpace. Again, musicians kept all of their music, photos, and fans there. A few years later, it was gone. Not shut down, but basically moot. There was no way to communicate with all of those people, because you didn’t have their direct contact info — you only had their MySpace inbox, which nobody checked anymore.

As I’m writing this now in 2018, it’s Facebook, YouTube, and Spotify. Just like with and MySpace, people act like these websites are everything, and keep all of their music, photos, and fans there. By the time you read this, they might be gone.

Don’t depend on a company. They come and go. Think long-term. You’re going to be creating stuff, making fans, and building relationships for the rest of your life — much longer than these companies will last.

So have your own website. Instead of sending your fans to some company’s site, send them to yours. Get everyone’s direct contact information so you don’t have to go through a company to reach them.

Your website should be the definitive place to get everything you create. If you put your stuff on some company’s site, have it be secondary — a copy of the stuff that’s already on your site. That way you can use the popular networks without depending on them.

Only rely on open standards that aren’t owned by any company — like email and the web.

Email skills:

Go into your email settings, and make sure you have a signature. You need this because you’re going to be emailing people who have no idea who or where you are! Give them some context. Your signature should say who, what, and where, with a URL or two. For example:

Maya Danubé, fragrant jazz bass clarinet, New York City  (917)611-5310
Watch & listen:
Friend me, baby:

When you email people, write a descriptive subject. Never “hey” or “booking”. Try “Available June 6 for showcase?” or “introduction to photographer”. This is considerate. Now when your email is one of hundreds in an inbox, it will say exactly what is contained inside.

Make it as short as possible. The shorter your email, the more likely it will get a response. Be direct. Five sentences is ideal. If your email is too long, they are likely to procrastinate, and never get back to it.

Use short paragraphs. Leave plenty of space. Reading a screen is different from reading a book.

Web skills:

Know how to update your website. Don’t depend on someone else to do this for you. Know how to add new songs or videos, and how to make any changes.

Know your URLs. Telling someone to go search for you is like telling them to look up your phone number. Instead, know your exact URLs (,, so you can give it to people directly. If you don’t, they’ll probably never bother to go search for you.

Know how to make an MP3. Give it a good filename like YOUR_NAME-Song_Title.mp3 (not mix7.mp3) Don’t use spaces in the filename. Edit the ID3 tags to put your full name and URL in the info, so whoever has this MP3 knows who it is and how to find you.

Sorry if these sound too basic to you. But you’d be surprised by how many people don’t know these skills, and so are silently handicapped when interacting with the world.