Does The Math On 1,000 True Fans Add Up?

from the john-scalzi-doesn't-think-so dept

Last week, when I wrote about Kevin Kelly's concept of content creators building up 1,000 True Fans, I was pretty careful to focus mainly on the concept of "True Fans" rather than the 1,000 number. Author John Scalzi (who we were also just talking about for his results in giving away ebooks) has taken Kelly to task, suggesting that when you do the math, the numbers don't add up. It's a good read, though I don't think it actually takes anything away from the entire concept of focusing on your "True Fans." Also, perhaps I misread Kelly's piece, but I don't think he meant to say that building up 1,000 True Fans is easy (the main point that Scalzi rebuts). Kelly also puts in plenty of caveats at the end of his piece, noting that you have to adjust the concept depending on the situation, and it certainly doesn't apply to everyone. In the end, I think both pieces make sense - and perhaps Kelly was a bit over eager in setting the number at 1,000. However, the key point that Kelly makes stands: if you connect with fans in a real and meaningful way, it may take time, but you can start to put together business models that will allow you to support yourself, without having to go the traditional route where only the top of the top can actually make a living. That's still quite different than how the world was just a short while ago.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Nick (profile), Mar 14th, 2008 @ 11:15am

    Mike,
    When you put it this way, it reminds me of the bad assumption people make, what Guy Kawasaki calls Chines Math: If you can capture just 1% of the Chines market, you have made it becuase China is so huge!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    JGM, Mar 14th, 2008 @ 11:26am

    On the subject

    Great interview on Fresh Air yesterday with Eliot Van Buskirk (Wired writer) on alternative structures for music distribution.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=88145070

    Seems to me the traditional labels are like bitter old people who know they are dying but are determined to make everyone around them as miserable as possible while they go.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Hellsvilla, Mar 14th, 2008 @ 11:26am

    The Long Tail

    The long tail works in both directions.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Martin Edic, Mar 14th, 2008 @ 11:43am

    If you look at network theory, I think the thousand fans KK is referring to are what are known as Hubs or Connectors. This is the ideal base because they are influencers with their own growing networks that they spread their interests out to. Rather than suggesting that a True Fan is a person who spends $100 on their object of fandom, think about them as people who will generate that $100 through their influence on others.
    I almost totally disagree with Scalzi's post not because he is wrong, but because he is too centric to genre fandom and he ignores the fact that KK is talking averages. If I buy 20 radiohead songs and attend two concerts in a year I probably spend $300. You only need 330 of me to have your 1000 fans. But consider this: I'm not going to those concerts alone and my friends are going to be 'forced' to listen to some my musical preferences...and some will convert.
    This is not new. I was in a band, pre-Internet, and we built a loyal fan following, in our town, of over 500 fans who bought music, attended shows and brought friends. This was accomplished with posters, PR and word of mouth. If you can't find 1000 true fans with the tools we have today you might want to question your product.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Mar 14th, 2008 @ 12:41pm

    Re:

    If you look at network theory, I think the thousand fans KK is referring to are what are known as Hubs or Connectors. This is the ideal base because they are influencers with their own growing networks that they spread their interests out to.

    Martin, excellent point. That's a really good way of thinking about it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    So what, Mar 14th, 2008 @ 1:11pm

    It could work...

    ...if there wree no expenses, and you were the only member in your band. Divide your earns from your 1k fans and you all of sudden have a whole lot less money. Maybe you need 1k fans per band member. You have a band of 5 members all of sudden you are just making a liveable wage.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Alimas, Mar 14th, 2008 @ 1:18pm

    Re:

    Way to nail it down.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Kiba, Mar 14th, 2008 @ 2:58pm

    The Benefactor System?

    In the past, we used to have a system in which wealthy patrons sponsor artists for doing art.

    Now what if we update the system?

    We can have a system in which large amount of people continuously donate X amount of money every month to an artist and most of it will go to you(Let say 95% of donation goes to you, and the rest to middlemen handling the transaction as an example). With this system, it is automatic. You subscribe and forget it. All you need to do is continuously get a paycheck so you can pay a small portion to an artist/programmer/whoever.

    What these artists will do is to continuously produce arts, or programmers producing games, etc.

    With a massive audience, the need to pay to support an artist. For example, if you want 3,000 each month($36,000 each year), you would need something like 4,000 people donating 1 dollars every month(taking into account that they need to pay the middleman)

    In fact, this is a business model used by a programmer named Jason Rohrer. He may not makes livable income by average standard but he show the potential of this model. You can see his donation page here.

    The best part about this system is that the over-head is low and automatic and get better as the scale of operation grows. As the number of fans grow and subscribe, the amount needed to sustain an artist/programmer/writer per fan lowered. Eventually it may be possible to support an artist with a mere $12 per year, leaving you more money to support other artists.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2008 @ 3:02pm

    1,000 seems workable. If I get 1,000 people to spend $50-$100 dollars a year on my stuff, which isn't unreasonable, I've got a perfectly fine livable wage. Obviously, a band with five members will need more, but that doesn't mean the idea is wrong.

    I've got three fans, or two, depending on my girlfriend's mood.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Mar 14th, 2008 @ 5:34pm

    Long-standing example

    Has anyone mentioned the Grateful Dead? A group which has never had a hit single, or much radio airplay, or much of what is conventionally described as "commercial success". They're happy for their fans to record their concerts and pass the recordings around. And yet they've managed to make a comfortable living from their music for over four decades.

    If that doesn't count as a sustainable business model, I don't know what does.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Gary Storm, Mar 16th, 2008 @ 4:31pm

    Sellaband is proof this works

    Some of the artists on Sellaband.com (like Bulletproof Messenger) have exceeded the 1000 fans (who invested to allow them to record a pro album), so it is possible to have 1000 fans.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    ROG, Mar 17th, 2008 @ 8:16pm

    Actually, it's 2000 fans

    Mike Peters, lead singer of the rock group The Alarm, is an almost perfect example of KK's hypothesis. He has a huge backlist of songs from a career that started in 1981 and peaked a few years after. Since then he's built up and maintained a fanatically loyal but not particularly large fan base. They have a gathering every year in North Wales. It costs about $100 to attend (less when the US dollar was stronger)and last year 2000 fans turned up. It seems to work for him.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This