This morning I sold my entire stake in DFTBA Records.
Hank and I started DFTBA in my bedroom in November 2008. We both made music, as did many of our YouTube friends, and we saw the need for a record label that catered to these online musicians.
The idea was simple enough: manufacture CDs for people like Dave Days and bands like Driftless Pony Club, get them into the iTunes store, and pay them a fair royalty on those sales. DFTBA Records was attractive to YouTube musicians not only because many of them were our friends and trusted the brand we were building, but also because we were able to offer our artists better deals, more promotion, and bigger royalty shares than they could get from other places.
Why could DFTBA Records do what its competitors could not? Because we started small. Let’s be honest, there’s not a lot of overhead when you’re running a business out of your bedroom.
Fast forward almost six years. We now have over 100 artists (including musicians, authors, designers, comedians, card game makers, vloggers, educators, and charities), operate out of a 5,000 sq ft warehouse, and have a staff of over 10 employees working with us. We’ve shipped hundreds of thousands of individual orders all around the world. DFTBA is no longer the little company that could; we are now the company that did.
So, why sell?
Okay, so, not to sound cheesy, but, I feel like my work here is done. I’m an ideas guy, a creative guy. I’m not a businessman.
Before DFTBA I didn’t know what P&L sheets were, or what a COO did. I’d never received a K-1 before, and had never used the initialism EOB in my life (it means “end of business”, as in, “can you get this to me by EOB?”). When you’re a new small company, that’s okay! You’ll figure that business stuff out later; right now it’s just important to do cool stuff.
However, that’s not the kind of leader DFTBA needs today. DFTBA needs business people to run the business, and I’ve always been an ideas guy.
Over the last few years I’ve seen so many people leave prominent positions at exciting companies like YouTube to start their own businesses, or to go work for other new start-ups. With every announcement I asked myself “wha… why? Why would you leave freakin’ Company X, they’re so cool!?”
I get it now. For some people, that initial launch and problem-solving and growth are the exciting parts, not the sustaining that inevitably follows.
So I’m encouraging DFTBA to find the right leader for their growing business needs, and I hope that new leader takes DFTBA into another six year run of doubling growth year over year.
I hope that in another six years the DFTBA warehouse is 15,000 sq ft and staffed with a crew of 20 employees. I wish nothing but the best for my friends Hank and John, and all of the artists who work with DFTBA, some of who have become great personal friends of mine.
The services DFTBA offers are still very important in so many people’s lives:
The fans who need the support system of an online community because they don’t have one in their local community
The designer who is putting herself through college by making incredible shirts or posters
The musician who would not have landed on the iTunes charts without DFTBA’s support and promotion
Please continue to support all of these amazing people, as I’ve seen you do time and time again over the last five and a half years.
That was one of the first questions John asked me when we started this discussion a few months ago. Selling my stake in DFTBA Records means I could take an early retirement, but that’s never been my modus operandi. I need to create.
So I’ll continue to focus on my original music and the remixes I produce for other artists. I’ll continue to design cool stuff, and continue my webmaster work for various authors including John Green and E. Lockhart. I’m not going to stop collaborating with Hank, John, or anyone else on the DFTBA team just because I am no longer directly involved in DFTBA Records. I’ve also got some new projects that I’m excited to have time to develop. The first big one will be The Caulden Road’s first full-length album.
And of course I’m proud to continue to be an artist on DFTBA’s roster. DFTBA sells my shirts and music and some of my various other merch.
I may no longer be a co-owner or the President of DFTBA, but I will always be the co-founder. DFTBA is still the awesome thing it is today because I had an idea, and Hank had the guts to take a chance on my idea with his time and money. DFTBA has changed my life, just as it has for thousands of people who shared their work, shared their ideas, or met their friends and significant others through this community.
A few years into the project, when we brought John on as a partner, he changed my life as well. He changed how I think about the way I spend my time and how I invest my time in others, and helped me to appreciate the time others invest in me.
Thank you all for the time you’ve invested in me, and for sharing DFTBA Records with me as we grew our business. I couldn’t have asked for a better five-and-a-half year run. <3