Musicians Are Natural Entrepreneurs

By applying skills they acquired as musicians, Berklee alumni are founding successful companies that have empowered thousands of independent artists.

Sivers grew his business with a personal touch. Musicians still talk about the amusing e-mail messages they receive when their music sells on the site. In 2004, after being approached by Steve Jobs, CD Baby became a digital music distributor. Sivers sold the company to Disc Makers in 2008 for $22 million, and placed his interest in a trust for music education—not bad for a business started by accident.

These days, Sivers is “in the shed, head down, and programming a bunch of new services that I hope are useful to musicians, and normal people too.” His advice for musicians managing their careers: “Forget everything and remember that it’s just real people. There’s no such thing as a crowd. It’s just individuals. Talk to them. Treat them as unique individuals. Treat them as your friend, not your customer. Find out what they want and like. Speak with them exactly like you speak with your best friend. There should be no difference.”

On creating value, Sivers says, “Follow the money. Do what pays you! We put a lot of cultural baggage on money. But really, it’s quite a neutral indicator that you’re adding value to people’s lives. Go for the paying gigs. Aim to make money from the things you create. By constantly focusing on this, you’re focusing on being valuable.

“The definition of the starving artist is someone who’s creating things that are very valuable to him, but not valuable to others. Focus on being valuable to others and on making money with music.”

Winning organizations are fast, agile, and tenacious.

They are focused on what moves the needle.

The Lean Entrepreneur

The Complete Solution

No business plan survives first contact with customers.

—The Startup Owner’s Manual, Steve Blank

Nimbit is a direct-to fan commerce and marketing platform created in 2002 by Patrick Faucher ’93 in a spare bedroom. Faucher had been through the first dot-com boom-bust cycle as the director of engineering at Stumpworld Systems, where he built websites for such artists as Aerosmith, Phish, and the Rolling Stones.

“Rather than do this as a boutique business for the big guys,” Faucher says, “I wanted to make a platform for everybody. I wanted a place where you could build your website, have a fan mailing list, do all the stuff you needed to do. That was the idea behind Nimbit back then, and it still is to a large extent today.”

A mile down the road from Faucher’s house, Phil Antoniades ’88 a drummer and serial entrepreneur, was growing his own company, Artist Development Associates, which provided fulfillment and management services to touring bands and musicians. In 2004 the two companies merged and became the Nimbit of today. As they have gained a deeper understanding of artists’ real needs, the company has iterated its platform many times and is currently rebuilding from the ground up.

Nimbit offers artists a flexible, transportable storefront designed for creating unique, personalized experiences for the artist’s audience. This could include selling music, promoting shows, crowd funding, and special fan packages. The platform is designed with the flexibility to manage these campaigns on an ongoing basis.

“I worked with singer/songwriters in the ’90s and discovered that there was this world under the radar,” Antoniades says. “I learned that if you know your fans and you work with them, you can make a real business out of it. Most people have X amount of time devoted to furthering their career. They need to know what to do, how to do it efficiently, and what the results are. I’m a believer in the complete solution. We are working on turning Nimbit from a set of direct-to-fan tools into something that motivates an artist and keeps them engaged. We ask our artists to engage their fans, and we have to engage our artists.”