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1000 True Fans

Post #1146 • March 24, 2008, 1:50 PM • 15 Comments

Kevin Kelly (via Andrew):

A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author - in other words, anyone producing works of art - needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.

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.

To get this, you'll need to read up on the Long Tail.





March 24, 2008, 2:37 PM

Hey Franklin,

I read Anderson's book last year. I avoided going into a side business that seemed tempting (lucrative even), but numbingly boring--consisting mainly of picking up a million little dribs and drabs of business that aren't worth the publishing world's time to deal with.

Still, maybe this was in the back of my mind as I've started making work again after a year long hiatus. This time, I'm making more stuff quicker and cheaper. I want my work to end up in more hands than it did before. I want it not to be so precious frankly. That's where I am now anyway.

OTOH, you apparently really only need 1 true fan if his name is Saatchi.



March 24, 2008, 2:53 PM

I have less than 5 true fans... should I give up altogether?



March 24, 2008, 3:37 PM

According to the definition above you only need one true fan regardless of name.


Marc Country

March 24, 2008, 5:41 PM

Would you settle for 10 blue fans, instead?


Chris Rywalt

March 24, 2008, 5:47 PM

I've said before -- I'm not sure where -- that we're on our way to becoming each others' audience. That is, for example: I have some friends who are musicians. I go to see them play when I can. When I display art, they come to see me. We all go see our dancer friends when they dance. And so on.

I read somewhere that each person knows about a villageful of people. That is, everyone knows about 150-200 people, no matter how large or small the community they live in. Kurt Vonnegut once wrote that Nature, to help humans survive, provided each village with some people who could sing, some who could dance, some who could tell stories, and so on. In Vonnegut's world, most of us are destined to be unfulfilled because in modern society, each person who would've been a village treasure -- for their art, say -- is thrown into daily competition with the best in the world -- Picasso or Matisse, say.

Vonnegut's story has an unhappy ending. I see the return of the happy ending, as we each become the audience and the performer for our own virtual villages.



March 24, 2008, 7:28 PM

Sounds like a sugar daddy or a stalker.

Cory Doctorow gives away almost all his writing in podcasts and pdf forms - he's written that these days the danger isn't being plagiarized, it's being ignored. The more he gives away, the more "real" books he ends up selling.

Franklin, you give away The Moon Fell On Me - if you had started off selling them as a booklet I doubt I would have seen them, but since you've given them away Ive seen them and I recommend them to lots of people. Your glory increases! The trick is to turn that into rent and dinner.

Cinque, I agree with your tactics. I'm giving away little books left and right. Doctorow likens this to a drug dealer - get them hooked. Or at least interested.



March 24, 2008, 7:43 PM

Where's the mugs and the hats?!



March 25, 2008, 6:06 AM


That's right, the first hit is always free...



March 25, 2008, 11:04 AM

I have acquired a few true fan in my life time. Right now i am a true fan of Barack Obama. I think that if people research what their candidate is them we can come up with a few good solution to getting Hillary Clinton out of the race.

Not to mix art with politics. You can see my website




March 25, 2008, 11:07 AM




March 25, 2008, 4:22 PM

Good luck with that, Millard. Mrs. Clinton didn't put up with pathological philandering to let a little thing like decorum cramp her style now. As long as there's the slightest glimmer of hope that she might pull it off, by hook or by crook, she's staying in the race.



March 26, 2008, 7:08 AM

Something like this is being talked about in the context of comics and webcomics:

Ted Rall, Rich Stevens, others debate webcomic impact on cartooning


some more.



March 26, 2008, 7:17 AM

Cinque: Hey man! Good to hear from you.

Ahab: I'd do mugs and hats if more people had been interested in the t-shirts. I didn't exactly take a bath on that - the buy-in was affordable enough - but it lost money by a wide margin.

Wwc: Thanks for the links. The comics people have a refreshing take on all this. I think aspiring to have one's work in the museum is stultifying in a way - the comics people just want readers, and they come up with ways to make that happen. If the visual art people just wanted viewers, or even collectors, we could end up with a whole different model for what we do.



March 26, 2008, 9:13 AM

Gary Sullivan talks about this on his blog "elsewhere", but substitutes the poetry world for the art world. The comics folks have more readers but the poets have more institutional support. There are more comics folks teaching now, but there still isn't an official "Artist Laureate" government position. That's a good thing - it would probably end up being Thomas Kinkade, THE PAINTER OF LIGHT™. Now THAT's a non-gallery, non-museum model for you.



March 26, 2008, 9:51 AM

I forget where I saw it, but I read a panel discussion last year in which comics artists were lamenting the low level of institutional support, and inside I was thinking, Nooo!



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