Can You Get By With 1,000 True Fans?
Tuesday April 15th 2008, 12:47 pm
Filed under: Fan relations

Came across a couple of interesting articles recently.

The first, by Kevin Kelly, is entitled 1,000 True Fans. In a nutshell, the idea is if you can cultivate a relatively modest number of “True Fans” you can make a comfortable living in music (or any form of the arts) without ever having to hit the Big Time — which, let’s face it, doesn’t happen for too many people.

Kevin makes it clear there’s nothing magic about the number 1,000 — you might be able to make it with as few as 500, or it might take 1,500 (or even a few more).

But the point is, you don’t need to try to attract millions, or even tens of thousands, of fans. The kinds of numbers he’s talking about are very do-able.

The key is, these have to be True Fans. Not casual fans who will download a track or two, maybe buy a CD, and put you out of their minds. No, to quote the article, True Fans are different:

A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can’t wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.

And it’s not just about putting stuff out and waiting for these True Fans to snap it up. You have to work the crowd. Be willing to get down in there and interact directly with these fans. It’s all about building relationships with these fans.

If you’re not willing or able for some reason to do that, you need to have someone else — a manager, a fan club president, a publicist, etc. — who will handle the direct interaction and nurture the fan relationships.

There are some comments on this article from doubters. People who don’t think it’s possible to make a living with only 1,000 (or fewer) fans. Frankly, it looks to me as though most of them are missing the point. They’re writing off the idea without even trying it. They aren’t thinking in terms of True Fans. Yeah, for sure you won’t be able to make it with only that many casual fans, but True Fans? Oh, yeah.

Look, for a long time, I was a True Fan of a musician. I literally traveled thousands of miles a year to see him perform all across the country. I bought every solo CD he released, T-shirts, posters, promo photos and every CD released by his bands (past and present). I scoured eBay for out of print releases on vinyl and various bits of memorabilia. I even designed, maintained and SEO’d his band’s website, managed fan e-mail and handled online publicity requests on his behalf — for free.

Between what I bought from him and the value of the services I provided at no charge, I made (and saved) him thousands of dollars a year.

Now, imagine that extended by 999 other True Fans. Imagine this small army buying your CDs and merchandise, bringing their friends to your shows and encouraging those friends to buy CDs and merchandise. Imagine them bugging the booking agents at local venues to book your show, starting fansites and fan blogs on the web, and writing glowing reviews of your music on CDBaby, MySpace and anywhere else they can find to post them.

Oh, yeah, 1,000 True Fans could very well be just enough.

(Next time: some ideas for how to connect with these fans online)

Article copyright © by Diane M. Aull. All Rights Reserved.

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