How many True Fans do you have?

How do you make a living as an artist? In the old mass-culture model you needed a distribution and marketing engine that could fire up on your behalf to reach as many people as possible. Sell a million albums and if your take after the record company, agents and managers get their share is a buck or two, you’re doing pretty well.

In the new economy, how many fans do you need to make a living? If you can produce and distribute your own work, Kevin Kelly suggests, all you need is 1000 true fans.

Instead of trying to reach the narrow and
unlikely peaks of platinum hits, bestseller blockbusters, and celebrity
status, they can aim for direct connection with 1,000 True Fans. It’s a
much saner destination to hope for. You make a living instead of a
fortune. You are surrounded not by fad and fashionable infatuation, but
by True Fans. And you are much more likely to actually arrive there.

Assume conservatively that your True Fans will each spend one day’s
wages per year in support of what you do. That “one-day-wage” is an
average, because of course your truest fans will spend a lot more than
that.  Let’s peg that per diem each True Fan spends at $100 per
year. If you have 1,000 fans that sums up to $100,000 per year, which
minus some modest expenses, is a living for most folks.

One thousand is a feasible number. You could count to 1,000. If you
added one fan a day, it would take only three years. True Fanship is
doable. Pleasing a True Fan is pleasurable, and invigorating. It rewards
the artist to remain true, to focus on the unique aspects of their
work, the qualities that True Fans appreciate.

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  1. says

    Finding 1,000 fans can take 3-5 years… and there is such a thing as "fan turnover" … The best fan is one that is an ambassador, helping you cultivate and nurture new fans. In the art collecting world of craft we are seeing our fans moving into retirement homes…. not a good thing if you make large sculpture. And the higher the price of your work, the longer it takes (proportionately) to find each and every fan. Right now I'm seeing a lot of artists suffering through this economy because they abandoned their "production" line in favor of working only on the one-of-a-kind objects that sell for 3,000+ …Many are returning to production as a way to leverage their brand to help sell the higher end work. Twenty years ago you couldn't do it that way… but the walls of elitism are tumbling down… and reality is setting in. A successful artist has several types of income, and several types of work.

  2. says

    We are using this approach in my band, Sir Thomas, to assist in the funding of our next album. Those who donate $100 towards it get exclusive performance opportunities and their name and photo on the final artwork! We are going with 100 True Fans and first heard of this great idea through the fantastic Ariel Hyatt! Fans have a choice of who they support and the more that you can offer them on a personal level, the more ‘true’ they will be!

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