(2008-03-17) Kelly1000 Fans

Kevin Kelly says a creator/artist (writer, musician, etc.) needs 1000 True Fan-s. A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce... To raise your sales out of the flatline of the Long Tail you need to connect with your True Fans directly... But the point of this strategy is to say that you don't need a hit to survive... Not every artist is cut out, or willing, to be a nurturer of fans. Many musicians just want to play music, or photographers just want to shoot, or painters paint, and they temperamentally don't want to deal with fans, especially True Fans. For these creatives, they need a mediator, a manager, a handler, an agent, a galleryist - someone to manage their fans. Nonetheless, they can still aim for the same middle destination of 1,000 True Fans. They are just working in a duet. Lots of excellent links. (Business Models For Information, Famous For Fifteen People)

David Rothman and John Scalzi are skeptical.

Apr21 update: Kevin Kelly reprints the detailed story from musician Robert Rich.

Apr27 update: Kevin Kelly notes the similar thinking of Brian Austin Whitney. He also says that Jaron Lanier has been seriously looking for a musician who has built a career this way. See the comments for nominations.

Apr31: Hugh MacLeod says Take it from me: If you want to build yourself a Web 2.0 "global MicroBrand", you're better off having a product that costs a lot of money.

May05: relevant Mark Kostabi bits (from 2006): The best new customer is the repeat customer. If someone is a good customer (and in my case it's mostly dealers who buy paintings in quantities of 10 to 100 at a time), I do everything possible to keep that customer coming back... A dealer should not have a stable of artists; an artist should have a stable of dealers... I make genuinely desirable work. I know it's desirable because I constantly ask for FeedBack, both casually (from my friends and studio visitors) and formally (by conducting official surveys, via e-mail) to find out which are the most successful paintings. And I use that feedback to inform my next brushstroke... Also, I make oil paintings on canvas. I don't mess around selling color photos guaranteed to soon fade, or black-and-white photos that can be instantaneously mass-produced and all have the same surface... I listen to my audience. I don't pander to them but I am in dialogue with them. I can sell a painting with an anti-gun theme to an NRA member, or an anti-smoking painting to a devout smoker, not because they agree with my message, but because they understand it. There's Dialogue. Dialogue sells.

Jul'2009: KickStarter gives some thoughts and stats. From the beginning, we’ve encouraged creators to tap into their networks as much as possible: there’s clearly a desire from audiences for greater interaction, more access, a more intimate relationship. Twitter has demonstrated that. And so what Kickstarter does is answer the next part of that question: once you have your 10 or 100 or 1,000 or even 1,000,000 True Fans, what comes next? You allow them a seat at the table. You invite them to become your patrons. You give them an opportunity to have an impact and it’s not just your story anymore, it’s theirs too. And that’s the kind of success that lasts.


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