1,000 True Fans Theory


1,000 True Fans Theory
Peer-to-peer networks, bittorrent, email and other forms of file sharing have many asking how an artist can make any money when the content they’ve created can be so easily pirated?

The RIAA is trying to address this issue by the suing the bejesus out of college kids and grandparents for using Kazaa, the MPAA is suing the creators of DVD rippers and indie video game makers are having a heck of time getting wider distribution.

Kevin Kelly, a founder of Wired, suggests one solution for content creators to keep some of the profit. His idea is called “1,000 True Fans.” The idea goes like this,

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.

If you think about it, 1,000 True Fans isn’t that unrealistic. With the growth of internet usage expanding almost exponentially each year, potential exists for growing an even larger fan base. If each of those 1,000 True Fans spent a paltry $100 US a year on artist produced and distributed music, art, media, whatever, that’s $100,000 a each year. This idea works well for solo artists and will need some tweaking for a band, but it’s not an unrealistic goal.

Trent Reznor, of Nine Inch Nails, has tested this approach with his release of the album Ghost in March and The Slip in May. His success in selling directly to his fans has allowed him to bypass the traditional big label model. Also, the prostitue involved with Eliot Spitzer made over a million dollars over night selling singles she created on the site Amie.st (of course this isn’t quite the norm for this approach).

Spinning this idea for non-profit world, I can bet Idealist has 1,000 True Fans. The question for us and for other non-profits is how we can leverage a devoted community, how do we nurture it and with what content? The problem for most non-profits isn’t content creation or distribution, but a lack of a larger following, limited two-way communication and a failure of creativity.

Scott was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Georgetown, Guyana from '03-'05 with the World Wildlife Fund. He helped to co-found FROG in 2007.

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