1000 True Fans Theory

While speaking with Samuel Howard Spink, NYU Clinical Assistant Professor in Steinhardt’s Music Business Program [interview to come], I was introduced to Kevin Kelly’s 1000 True Fans Theory.

The theory: to subsist as an artist, you only needs 1000 True Fans to spend $100 a year on your work (and that gets you a modest $100,000 salary).

I am suggesting there is a home for creatives in between poverty and stardom. Somewhere lower than stratospheric bestsellerdom, but higher than the obscurity of the long tail.

Who’s a True Fan? “Someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce,” writes Kelly.

The best relationship that can be made between the artist and the True Fan is a direct one: they buy CDs off your website, the come to your shows advertised on your blogs and Facebook pages, etc. And the reward of this close relationship (other than the monetary)?

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.

Technology has enabled this new form of fandom to occur. Before, to make a living off of one’s work, artists had to follow the long tail model where a hit was necessary to take off and survive as a celebrity. Instead, with the 1000 True Fans model, a livelihood can be made off of a craft.

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.

Kelly lists examples of similar models and their success stories. Using Fundable,  a artists can use fan support to create their craft  via digital, or “micro-patronage”.

Fundable is a web-based enterprise which allows anyone to raise a fixed amount of money for a project, while reassuring the backers the project will happen. Fundable withholds the money until the full amount is collected. They return the money if the minimum is not reached.

In 1999 John Kelsey and Bruce Schneier created what they called Street Performer Protocol. According to this model, an artist uses his/her fans to fun their art.

In 2004 author Lawrence Watt-Evans used this model to publish his newest novel. He asked his True Fans to collectively pay $100 per month. When he got $100 he posted the next chapter of the novel. The entire book was published online for his True Fans, and then later in paper for all his fans. He is now writing a second novel this way.

Some downsides to the Theory? The 1000 True Fans Theory only holds for solo artists. So, as the number of band members or artists increases, so does the fan-to-artist proportion.

Photo courtesy of CC Chapman on Flickr.com.


About Samantha

Samantha Tilipman, 19. NYU double major in Journalism and Psychology.
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2 Responses to 1000 True Fans Theory

  1. Pingback: Fan-Tan « Brooklyn Beats City Sounds

  2. Pingback: NYU Music Business professor on the new business « Brooklyn Beats City Sounds

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