TGM 08: Why You Should Be Your Own Patron and How to Adapt to a Constantly Changing Industry with Derek Webb

Derek Webb has been one of my favorite musicians for as long as I can remember. He’s always managed to release albums that spoke to exactly whatever stage of life I was in at the time.

After a 20-year career, and dozens of albums (as a solo artist and with Caedmon’s Call), Derek has decided to move more into the business side of the music industry as the President of NoiseTrade, a company he founded in 2006.

We recorded this interview in person in Nashville a few months ago and I was amazed by how so many of his thoughts and experiences as a signer and songwriter applied to my life as an entrepreneur and online content maker.

I have to admit, I was a bit star-struck during this interview and just sat back and let Derek do the talking. Which, as it turns out, was a good thing because he has so many great things to say about business, the struggle, and what it takes to make it.

Here are some of my favorite bits from the show:

On Career, Seasons and Success

“You’re not owed a career. It is incumbent upon artists, even great, talented artists, to also be smart and to also be tenacious and adaptive, and if you’re not you’re … you’re probably not going to make it”

“It used to be that the enemy was scarcity. Now the problem is obscurity.”

“20 years ago in the music business there was the professional class and the amateurs and there was no in-between. There was only one marketing plan and that was swim up stream into the head of the sales curve. But then suddenly, everybody could make records, everybody could distribute records … So, there’s finally a middle class. There’s finally a blue color living to be made as an artist. You’re not making a million dollars, you’re not a household name, but you can make a great living playing music. You just have to take it seriously and work hard.”

“If what you want is fame and fortune, that was never really real in the first place.”

On Change

“Achtung Baby is the sound of four men chopping down the Joshua Tree” ~ Bono

“I love the idea, honestly, of 20 years on the music business being a footnote to a new season of entrepreneurial work for me.”

On Audience Building and Compromise

“I’m not trying to say anything to anybody. I don’t have any kind of agenda that way, because it constrains the art. Like for me to say, ‘I’m going try to so this to that group’, well now I’ve already put these narrow guardrails around and how can I now trust my creative instincts?”

“There’s nothing worse than being famous for something you don’t like. I’d rather fail at trusting my instincts completely than succeed at compromising them.”

“The job of any artist is to look at the world and tell us what you see.”

“If the only choice is to start making compromises on the actual art, in order to sell more records and draw more people to me, that’s just a line a couldn’t cross.”

On Being Your Own Patron

“I want to keep making records that I want to make and if I can’t make living from it, then I have to figure out something else to do, I have to figure out how to subsidize my own work.”

“I subsidize my ability to continue making the kind of records I want to make and not have to put the burden of making a living on it.”

As always, I had a great time talking to Derek. Enjoy the show!

Show Notes

  • Min 24:44: Why trust and attention are the most important currency.
  • Min 50: How do you decide what to do next in your career?
  • Min 69:35: What do you do when the only way to make a living from the thing you love is to compromise?
  • Min 73: How to speak to a diverse audience.
  • Min 82: Why you should be your own patron.

Bits & Bytes Mentioned in the Show

More About Derek


Published by Adam Clark on December 29, 2014

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