Derek Sivers

from the book “Your Music and People”:

Rock stars have a boss?


I was 20 years old. I had just moved to New York City. And I was working inside the music industry.

I ran the music library at Warner/Chappell. It was a huge room, near the executives’ offices, and I had it all to myself.

Rock stars would come into my room before or after their meetings, to wait or relax. Because I was just some nobody working in the library, they would often speak candidly.

What surprised me was this: These rock stars’ biggest complaints were about the things they were forced to do, or not allowed to do! Things like, “I think the album is perfect and finished, but the label says they don’t hear a hit, so they’re making me co-write.” Or, “I wanted to make a video with this director I admire, but the label won’t let me.”

I had always assumed that rock stars were the top of the food chain. It was weird to realize they have a boss! But that’s the trade-off when you sign away your rights.

The independent music revolution was so exciting because thousands of musicians were realizing that they didn’t need to sign these kinds of deals anymore. They didn’t need labels, distributors, publishers, or anything else to get their music to the public.

But years later, I still hear people making that trade-off. Giving up their rights and serving a company, in hopes of a greater reward.

But you only have a boss if you choose to! Nobody is making you serve these masters.

Of course, if you don’t want a boss, then everything is up to you. Less promotion, but more freedom. Less help, but keeping all your rights. Riding the back roads, not the highway. Serving no one but yourself.

Never forget you have the choice.