CD Baby founder on Finding That One Song For You To Cover

James Althucher: Let me ask you this.  Right now, we supposedly have this Long Tail, where everyone can sell 50 albums a month, no matter how bad you are or where you land in the Long Tail.  But what’s happened in reality is that Amazon has actually — or Apple — has created our choices for us.  Oh, if you like this, you might then like this.  And if you’re not in their algorithm, you’re actually further down on the long tail.  This kind of democracy of choice has actually created less choice in a way.

Derek Sivers: Yeah, because it’s like how are you going to find that artist number 1.5 million that’s buried in there that Apple isn’t recommending to you.

Right.  And so how does an artist now overcome that?

“Boom!  That’s a great song to go do a cover version of.”

Sivers:  Good question.  It’s — it changes the techniques.  So for example, sorry this is just one little quirk, one little hack, but it worked really well.  Some of my best sellers at CD Baby were the ones that did one cover song on their album of a song that had never been covered before.   So you can go to iTunes and use their search engine and do a little research for all of your favorite songs, right, and then when you find one that only has one version of it —

Whatever it may be, I can’t really think of an example right now, because any example I would give would be one that already has lots of covers.  But say, think back through the songs you love.  You find one, and the only search result is the original recording.

Boom!  That’s a great song to go do a cover version of.  Because now, in the future — you do a cover version of it and you get it up on iTunes — and anyone searching on that song in the future will only have two versions.  The original, and yours.

And they’ll say, ‘wow, who is this one?’  And, I found many time that this gets people in the whole artist.

So here’s a specific example.  An artist named Melissa Rebronja from Toronto, did a cover version of ‘Wonderwall’ by Oasis.  So she did a cover version of that, and it was — you know — track 9 of her full album of other songs that didn’t sound like that.  But her whole album sold really well, because that’s how people found her in the mix.  They were searching for ‘Wonderwall,’ found Oasis and — who’s this?  Melissa Rebronja.

So there are things like that.  The rules change.  Because that would not have been the case twenty years ago.  You wouldn’t walk into a physical record store and say, ‘show me every album that has a version of ‘Wonderwall’ on it.”