1000 True Fans Theory for Rock Stars
Kevin Kelly wrote an essay about the 1000 True Fans Theory in 2008 that was revised recently for the book “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferriss. The premise is quite simple and it applies to anyone that is in the creative industry.
Just because you choose to be creative doesn’t mean you took a vow of poverty!
When we think of today’s Rock Stars, we often think of the big names, those who have millions of adoring fans. So how does one go from playing gigs at the local bar to filling stadiums with crazed fans? If that is what you want, you can stop reading, because that is not the purpose of this article. Superstars are one in a million. They live large, but they also live under a microscope, constantly scrutinized and followed by paparazzi.
Suppose you are starting out or have been at it a while, but it is still a side gig for you. How do you manage to make a living doing what you love?
How Does The Theory Work?
The theory stipulates that all you need is 1000 true fans to make a living with your art. Now that doesn’t seem as daunting as millions of fans! But what is a true fan? A true fan is someone almost obsessed with you, but in a good way. They will go out of their way to see your shows, buy your limited edition works and pretty much anything you put out there.
If you have 1000 of these super fans, who can net you $100 each per year, you are making $100,000 per year. Not too shabby. The math can work in different ways. If what you produce can net you $200 per true fan, then you only need 500. If you are in a band and need to split the pot (of money, not the herb), then you simply adjust the equation, and you are now several people building this true fan base.
The beauty is that this top tier fan base will float you financially, but there is still a long tail of regular fans that will also support you.
Now let’s look at the modern landscape of the music business. If you were in a band, in the past, you would want to sign a record deal and sell hundreds of thousands of records, to get your little cut. If you were a photographer or artist, you would exhibit your creations in galleries and give away a good portion of your sale for that honor. While these avenues still exist, many are finding that keeping control of their creation and being independent can now be more beneficial than going the traditional route.
For a musician, you have different avenues to make money. You tour, which depending on your lifestyle, may make you money. You have your music which you can put on various platforms like Apple Music, Spotify and others. You can sell CDs/Vinyl at your shows, along with your merchandise. Speaking of merchandise, can we get a little creative? Pretty much all I see is t-shirts, hoodies, hats, buttons, stickers, etc. We will address this in another article. These are the standard ways to pay the bills, which allows you to keep creating.
Remember that when it comes to those true fans, there is effort to find and nurture them. It all comes down to connections. At various levels of success, you will find different ways to connect with potential true fans. The opening band will often hover around the merch booth, which allows them to meet people, sign some merchandise and connect. This might be hard if you are a talented introvert, but getting out of your comfort zone has great benefits. These seemingly small interactions go a long way in building loyalty. These fans will most likely tell their friend, and exponentially, your recognition will grow organically.
Many headlining bands will take some time to meet the fans that linger long after others have left. You know of course that these are rating high on the true fan scale. I remember one night, Henry Rollins stayed beside his tour bus to greet each and every fan that was waiting for him. He took their questions, signed whatever he was given and took pictures. Not everyone has the stamina of Henry, but it’s clear that everyone that night felt connected to Henri. At a certain point, this doesn’t scale well, you simply can’t meet everyone.
Social Media can be an effective tool to reach the masses, but you need to have a strategy. Just like a road trip, you need a destination, or else you are just driving around aimlessly. The goal is to make personal connections with an impersonal tool. Seems like a tall order, but it’s easier than you think. How much effort is it to like a comment from a fan? Think of how they would feel, after putting something in your feed, and knowing that it was read and appreciated. Loyalty points went up by 1. Do this enough time and your fan levels up to a true fan.
Rock Star Today aims at helping you keep being creative. Some artists are incredible entrepreneurs, while others just want to create art. There is no wrong answer, both avenues are great, but what we will focus on is how to handle the business side of your art in such a way that you can live off it and thrive.
The music industry has changed so much that what worked even a few years ago, doesn’t anymore. The same is true for other creative endeavors. The Internet has given everyone a voice, but not all voices are as good as yours, right? How do you stand out from the crowd? How do you learn the ropes of business when all you want to do is create art?
“It’s good to learn from your mistakes. It’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes.” Warren Buffett
The Rock Star Today Podcast will feature artists who can share the secret to their success and share their failures. By learning how others fail will help you avoid those same pitfalls and allow you to succeed.
“You can’t Read the label if you are inside the jar!”
We will also get advice from entrepreneurs who have no connection to this industry, but have an outsider’s perspective. When an industry has gone stale, you need that other perspective to truly innovate.
Join us on this journey. Podcast coming soon. We are looking for bands & entrepreneurs to interview for the show. If you want to participate, let us know.