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Q&A with Derek Sivers

Professional musician, founder of CD Baby

I'm Derek Sivers. I was a professional musician for most of my life, the ringleader/MC of a circus for 10 years, founded a music distribution company called CD Baby and ran it for 10 years.  Now I'm more of a writer/speaker/programmer kinda guy, speaking at TED, writing books, and programming the projects you see at


Two Lenovo Thinkpads.  An old T400 and a newer W520.  One in the office, one at home.  They're synced clones of eachother, so if one breaks or is stolen, I'm fine.  I highly recommend this approach to everyone, if you can afford it.  It's such a massive relief to not have to worry about your digital life, or even your day's work, disappearing.  I've had a hard drive die a couple times, and it was so nice to just walk over to the other laptop and carry on working, letting the other laptop fix up and re-install from scratch in the background.


Arch Linux.  I'm kindof old-school.  I got way into computers back in 1981, before there was a mouse, and I still prefer to do everything on the command line.  Firefox, xterm, xpdf, mplayer, and Anki are the only applications I use.  Anki I use for learning anything from frameworks to French.  I do all my writing and programming in Vim.  I never look to the newest thing, but prefer those technologies that have stood the test of time.  They often have a little learning curve, but a huge payoff once you get to know them.

As for programming, PostgreSQL, Ruby, Nginx, JavaScript.  The usual.  Learning AngularJS now.  Thinking of switching my laptop from Linux to FreeBSD 10.  We'll see.

Dream setup

I don't wish for much.  I don't blame my tools for my lack of productivity.  I see others have done so much more than me with so much less, so I can't ever fool myself into thinking it's the tools' fault.

I wish there was a great VoIP client on the command line, so I didn't need a phone or Skype.


Talking with musicians.  Hearing about the problems they're having.  Wanting to help them thrive.