HOWTO Earn an artist's living in the 21st century: 1000 True Fans

Kevin Kelly's just posted "1000 True Fans," a business plan for all kinds of creators in the twenty first century:

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...

Assume conservatively that your True Fans will each spend one day's wages per year in support of what you do. That "one-day-wage" is an average, because of course your truest fans will spend a lot more than that. Let's peg that per diem each True Fan spends at $100 per year. If you have 1,000 fans that sums up to $100,000 per year, which minus some modest expenses, is a living for most folks.

One thousand is a feasible number. You could count to 1,000. If you added one fan a day, it would take only three years. True Fanship is doable. Pleasing a True Fan is pleasurable, and invigorating. It rewards the artist to remain true, to focus on the unique aspects of their work, the qualities that True Fans appreciate.

Link (via Waxy)

91

  1. I thought that you spent your days reclining on a pink silk pillow like a pampered housecat.

  2. oh that, that was relative to a Bangladeshi bricklayer. I actually live in a refrigerator box under the overpass. Fortunately, the house on the corner hasn’t secured his wifi. I pass the time surfing and helping my neighbour paint on his socks.

    1. 100 grand minus postage, handling, sales tax, agent fees, manufacturing costs, materials, touring costs, the sound guy’s fee, studio time and payment processing might just be a living.

  3. one thousand fans… all I need now is talent, ability,motivation, intellect, a work ethic, charm,seed capital,bridge financing, a few angels, an inheritance and the use of the old barn for the weekend.

  4. I actually live in a refrigerator box

    We have more in common than I ever dreamed. Is it a SubZero, at least?

  5. Dragonfrog: Jeez, I know. I couldn’t imagine anything less than $450k a year. I’ve made that since I was 19. Silk pillows feel coarse and scratchy to me now.

  6. Given that the median US family income recently was $43,389, $100,000 sounds great to most people. But how much do publishers and record companies get from the true fans? Assume 10% for the rough calculations, and that income doesn’t look so good.

  7. Never could make it out,I think the label is in Korean. I have much of the original styro though. I’m thinking of a modest addition this spring. The Duck Man over two boxes is looking pallid and coughing a lot – if I move fast I could get his shopping cart AND tarp. Ah, the giddy pace of the competitive life!

  8. It is a good article. But it calls for artists who love managing their tribes, to use Seth Godin’s phrase.

  9. “mns sm mdst xpnss” ?

    Myb f y r wrtr, cld s hw mdst my b n djctv t dscrb yr xpnss, bt mst rt tks mny t mk r t th vry mnmm lrg ddctn f tm whn y r crtng nd NT gttng pd.

    S…dn’t qt yr dy jb!

  10. “In the Big Rock Candy Mountains, there’s a land that’s fair and bright,
    The handouts grow on bushes and you sleep out every night
    Where the boxcars all are empty and the sun shines every day
    On the birds and the bees and the cigarete trees,
    The lemonade springs where the bluebird sings
    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains”

  11. “If you have 1,000 fans that sums up to $100,000 per year, which minus some modest expenses, is a living for most folks.”

    uhhh… yeah.

    I hope you were being sarcastic with your airy “for most folks,” considering the median income per individual U.S. household member in 2006 was only $26,036.

    http://tinyurl.com/3xl93u

  12. If you aspire to such grandeur as eating five portions of fresh fruits and vegetables every day or paying health insurance premiums, you’d better make close to $100K.

  13. Ths ln rkd m bt t.

    “Plsng Tr Fn s plsrbl, nd nvgrtng. ”

    S fcs n bng nc nd plsng nd crnk t cps nd t-shrts tht yr tr fns wll scrf p.
    f thy stp byng yr jnk, nvgrt yrslf nd try nd fnd t wht thy rlly wnt nd tss yr rt ds t th wndw nd bttr p yr 1000 sckrs.

  14. so Antinous, did you ever hear of the race of carnivorous monkeys living under Greenwich Village?

  15. If you want to be strict, a true artist wouldn’t care about having fans at all. He or she would create art solely for art’s sake.

  16. If there are 250 working days a year, and each true fan pays you a days’ wage, then it looks like you’d only need 250 true fans to earn the same wage they do.

    Does that make you feel better, Antinous?

  17. It does kinda sorta work. I’ve seen it work in an online forum, where most of the participants pitched in to help one of the participants self-publish and distribute a book of his stories. And it wasn’t even 1000 true fans – more like 100.

    That’s the business model I’m going for as a musician. I’m far from having 1000 true fans yet, but there are a few folks out there who would buy my next CD or collection of sheetmusic sight unseen – or for that matter, even pay for me to come and give a concert. And why shouldn’t I be nice to those folks and make them happy by playing for them? They’re not demanding that I make T-shirts or stickers for them, or that I change the kind of music I play – they just want me to do what I’m already doing. Sounds like a pretty sweet arrangement to me.

  18. Oh, I’m in favor of artists making oodles of money. I was just referring to #24’s allergy to fan milk. I love milking my fans.

  19. Well I wish I had me one million dollars
    Oh, one million to call my own
    I would raise me, and say, “grow for me baby”
    Raise me a tobacco farm

    Take a walk, Take a walk, Junco Partner

    Well, when I had me a great deal of money
    Yeah, I had mighty good things all over town
    Now I ain’t got no more money
    All of my good friends they’re putting me down

    So now I gotta pawn my ratchet and pistol
    Yeah I’m gonna pawn my watch and chain
    I would have pawned my sweet Gabriella
    But the smart girl she wouldn’t sign her name

  20. how much actually gets to you after all the middle men take their cut of what the “True fan” pays for your goods or services? you’re going to need an awful lot more than 1000 “True fans”…

  21. I can’t think of an instance when I’ve spent $100 on one individual artist’s work in one year, so I’m not sure I can relate to a “true fan.” Then there is the need for the artist to gear her work toward enough products each year to keep the truefan interested. I guess these would be t-shirts for musicians and visual artists, signed special editions and chapbooks for writers, in addition to primary works like actual music and literary works.

    5000 good fans at $15 – $20 (net) a year for $75-$100K a year sounds good.

  22. A great example of this thinking in practice is Nine Inch Nails’ new album, released in a sliding scale of fan-dom:

    * free download of high-quality mp3s of the 1st 1/4 of the album (9 tracks), including cover art, beautifully illustrated booklet pdf
    * $5: digital download of the entire album in a variety of formats, plus the above.
    * $10: entire album on 2 CDs plus all of the above
    * $75: limited edition: all of the above plus multitracks for remixing. and Blue-Ray Disc of audio. And a ohoto booklet (the photos are nice, I saw the digital versions)
    * $300: all of the above plus 4 Vinyl Discs, 2 Giclee prints, and signed by Trent. Limited to 2500 Copies.

    It was announced last night and the $300 one already sold out. These 2500 “True Fans” have already made Trent $750,000 (is my math correct?). Each one was glad to pay it, and the rest of us get to enjoy it for free. Sweet!

  23. I thought it was an excellent article, but then I’m a big believer in Seth Godin’s views.

    Jonathan Coulton seems to be doing pretty well with this approach, with people using his songs to post funny videos to Youtube, and others feeding off that creativity to do their own things, and then someone follows a link and buys a CD or MP3 online and shares it with friends and they … and so on.

    It’s a lot easier to make a living from your art if you don’t have to support a giant record company by paying for its executives’ bloated salaries and for its lawyers to alienate your fans by treating them as criminals.

    #14 has a good point about needing to build your tribe. I think there’ll be room for intermediary companies (like LiveNation perhaps?) to take care of that sort of thing for artists that don’t want to hassle with the details, but they’ll be working for the artist, instead of treating the artist as a disposable face-of-the-year.

    I think people want to give money to people whose work they enjoy, and they want to tell their friends who might also enjoy it. People want to belong, and they want what they do to matter. If the big media companies would give up some control and face the future instead of fighting it, maybe they could save themselves, and if not, things will move on over them.

    Thanks for reading. We now return you to the monkey thread, already in progress.

  24. I’m thinking,one thousand names? With a little work, one could almost have a bit of a personal relationship with a thousand individuals… Answer a lot of their mail…

    How many contacts in a human life, how many “friends”,how many true friends… How many fans would come to your last show or funeral?

    I have never been a public person, I wonder what it is really like?

  25. I bet that Cory has a thousand friendly acquaintances. When I worked at the hospital, I had casual, chatty relationships with about two hundred coworkers at any given time. A thousand isn’t really very many.

  26. This is actually not too far off what is a very successful model for some small yet very popular indie games. Small “boutique” or indie games with a small number of very dedicated fans, no publishing deal, and a happy, small and successful development team. Usually they do not appeal to any kind of mass appeal, and instead aim for filling a niche.

    Examples off the top of my head include A Tail In The Desert (2-3000 happy players paying $15 a month), Mount and Blade by a Turkish couple whom I gladly gave $20 for the coolest indie game ever, and of course RuneScape, which looks like crap but in 2007 hit over one MILLION paying players ($5 a month) yet started out with those happy 1000 fans.

    Two good article that cover this kind of game development are…

    http://lostgarden.com/2005/10/game-business-model-learning-from.html

    and

    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/issues/issue_75/431-Boutique-MMOGs

    So all you smarmy people posting – laugh and snark away, some of us will be out harvesting those that could have been your loyal fans if you hadn’t been so “boingboing clever” :^)

  27. oh, don’t feel too clever. After you built a handsome tribe,we’ll be along to take it off you.
    Right,Ghenghiz?

  28. #28, 32, 34, 36 – good comments, thanks.

    Meta comment – I’d pay a subscription fee to BoingBoing if it allowed me to ignore posts by some people. Seriously. Cory. Really. I’d be one of your 1000 if I could ignore the vacuous and inane.

  29. This is a question I’ve been asking myself since around about 1998, and recently came up with an answer that’s different from Kevin’s, but within an order of magnitude.

    My friend Stew Lee, who originally brought up the question in my head, answered it himself in this article about growing to hate your audience. He says it’s around 7000 — that sounds about right to me. And it has advantages over being “just” generically famous:

    If each of them gave me about £5 a year after tax, agent’s commission and travel expenses, I would be making a fine living, and probably never having to deal with sports fans coming to my shows. There is no need for that 7000 strong audience to include English rugby fans. If I can find some way of operating at such a level whereby they never find me, I could have the most wonderful life

  30. another way to look at it… Who are you a true fan of? How many of these money spending true-fans are there out there really? I don’t know anyone with that kinda spending pattern. Maybe if everyone who wants to collect 1000 of these fans, also commits to being a ‘true fan’ of someone else? Maybe a website is called for. myTrueFans.com – anyone wanna sink their trust fund into this baby?

  31. I am a true fan of nothing because the creative works of my generation are absolute garbage compared to what has come before. This is only because the past is, by the nature of time, much much longer than the present can ever hope to be.

    Recorded music. I can listen to any music made hundreds of years back – music from all over the world, by geniuses, virtuosos and other truly passionate people. So, if I listen to an hour of music every day, what do I choose? Miles Davis? Handel? Joao Gilberto? The Treacherous Three? Or some band with Wolf in the name, consisting of three dudes with glasses who can’t really play their instruments and sing out of their mouths?

    Okay, so there’s no reason for me to be a fan of any music (not the case – I would gladly pay to see Anoushka Shankar or Rufus Wainright or something). How about literature. We have these things called the classics – works that have enduring value. 9 times out of 10, if something is regarded as a classic, and fits my taste, I will enjoy it and feel enriched after reading it. So why get the new novel off Amazon? It might be excellent. But there’s a very good chance it will be garbage.

    The only advantage of contemporary creative works is their newness. What is wonderful in creative works is universal and timeless.

    Appreciation is more sustainable than creation.

  32. “….If you have 1,000 fans that sums up to $100,000 per year, which minus some modest expenses, is a living for most folks.”

    This is specious math. $100,000 in retail sales doesn’t yield anywhere near this amount in profit if you’re manufacturing anything.

    It might work if you’re only selling downloads direct from your own website, and handling the credit card payments yourself, but I don’t know anyone who’s doing this.

    If you sell CDs, DVDs, books, T-shirts, etc, you’re lucky to make $20,000 profit on $100,000 in sales, whether you’re administered by a corporation or standing in line at the post office every day yourself. I do both.

    I make a living writing, making films, and making music. I have at least 3000 true fans, and I make well less than $100,000 a year, and I’m doing everything pretty damn efficiently.

    Michael W. Dean
    http://www.stinkfight.com

  33. Artists need critics before fans. Critics steer the blue chip investors and sundry wealthy dabblers to the appropriate galleries, where they are further herded by the dealers inside.
    International art is commanding record prices:

    “In a sensational auction of contemporary art held at Sotheby’s on Wednesday evening, 54 works realized an aggregate £95 million, or $189.42 million, the highest total in the category ever achieved in Europe.”
    link:
    http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/02/28/arts/melik29.php

  34. Fan does come from “Fanatic.” Fans are great, as they give their love and devotion and money, feeding the ego of the gods they worship. But fans need their gods only as long as the gods give them what they want. If not, it’s the cross for you. Be good to the fans.

  35. Srsly. Hltt. Rlly.

    Th vcs nd nn…sn’t tht bt rdndnt?

    Th snrk hr s gd s t gts. Lrn t lv th bngbng clvr! Dn’t gt yr pnts ll bnchd p.

    thnks n dvnc,
    Znhmmnd

  36. If you aspire to such grandeur as eating five portions of fresh fruits and vegetables every day or paying health insurance premiums, you’d better make close to $100K.

    Ain’t that the truth. It seems to be getting worse, too. $20 used to buy what $50 seems to now.

  37. I just want to note that anyone who considers themselves a fan of mine is welcome to always send me milk. I love milk. Whole only, please!

  38. As a writer, the immediately problem I have with this math is that I don’t produce $100 worth of stuff a year. I’m lucky if I have two hardback books come out in one year, which, being young adult novels, are priced at less than twenty dollars each. Yes, I will have paperback editions of each down the road, and perhaps a “true fan” will buy those as well as the hardback–but I’m what I would consider a “true fan” of other authors, and I don’t collect both. Beyond that, there don’t seem to be a lot of logical extensions to my business. I’m interested in this idea, and my wife, who is a crafter, will be very interested, but I’m skeptical that it’s an effective model for all media.

    Or should I be producing t-shirts and limited edition, hand-printed short stories for people to buy and collect?

  39. A great example of this thinking in practice is Nine Inch Nails’ new album, released in a sliding scale of fan-dom…

    Are you including the millions of dollars spent over the years by the record companies to promote, record, and distribute Reznor’s music in order to build the fan base in the first place?

    Acts like NIN (and Radiohead…let’s not forget them) can move in these directions because they have the monetary base from which to support this. A monetary base built thanks to long-lived partnerships with corporations.

  40. I can say with certainty that there is no such thing as a “true fan.” End of story. This entire concept is a fallacy. I will repeat this, THE ENTIRE CONCEPT IS FALSE and has NOTHING to do with how people consume music. Just nothing.

    I knew people who “toured” with the Grateful Dead for two years and then stopped. I drove to NYC to see many bands who weren’t playing locally. But When I turned 30 I didn’t have enough free time or money to pay to see bands until they came to town. Besides, since I’d become friends with these bands, they didn’t charge me for shows anymore.

    I’m a major fan of different bands and I sure don’t pay one day’s wages to them, they don’t sell $400 worth of stuff I’d want to buy in a given year!

    No, the ONLY way to make money in music is to entice the majority of people who are NOT your core fans to buy your products. If you don’t sell music, if the music is stolen, then you have to have a day job.

  41. I hope you were being sarcastic with your airy “for most folks,” considering the median income per individual U.S. household member in 2006 was only $26,036.
    ——

    But you cannot be a professional musician in a farm in the midwest, you must start out in a major city, so you better not think that average has ANYTHING to do with rent and housing prices in NY, LA, Chi, Seattle, Atlanta, etc.

  42. has a good point about needing to build your tribe. I think there’ll be room for intermediary companies (like LiveNation perhaps?) to take care of that sort of thing for artists that don’t want to hassle with the details, but they’ll be working for the artist, instead of treating the artist as a disposable face-of-the-year.

    ——

    You really have no idea how show business works, do you? It’s not the label that treats the artist as a disposable face, it’s the consumer.

    and it’s the consumer now, the consumer 20 years ago, the consumer in 1954 when they dumped pop vocalists for R+B and the consumer 20 years from now. When the music industry tries to sell something the audience doesn’t want or only wants for a few months, it’s a major pop culture joke. Vanilla Ice, for instance. But it wasn’t the label who made him a fool, it was the artist himself and even more so, the people I knew in the dorms who thought he was great. (!!)

  43. how about a “musical buddy system” as social network and economic engine ? everybody become a true fan of the person to your left. who needs culture and government when you can have true fans ?

  44. I think that one must start slowly, and let one’s career grow bit by bit – which means that for the first few years, you’ll be making no money at all, or very little.

    Incidentally, I will strenuously disagree with the “must start out in a major city” idea. I lived in San Francisco for years and years and my music career was nonexistent. It’s too hard to break into an established music scene. Then, I moved to the middle of nowhere, met people, impressed them (easy to be a big fish in a small pond…), made connections, and now I play in all sorts of places, and the last time I was in SF I got myself interviewed on the radio. Those farm towns in the middle of nowhere are desperate for entertainment, so anyone will be welcome. And some of the folks in those farm towns know other folks in bigger cities, who know other folks in even bigger cities.

    But yes, I also only have about $20 worth of material for my True Fans to buy, at the moment. They do buy it, bless their hearts. And I am working on a new CD, which those lovely folks will probably also want to buy. But I’m not sure I can manage $100 worth of material a year.

  45. most all these comments seem to revolve around music, but this True Fan thing extends to other areas as well.

    There is a guy I know who repairs old motorcycles and makes special tools that are as good or better than the original factory ones. He told me that he has a group of people that will buy the first run of 10-20 of his tools no matter what they are, or what the price, they just collect them. And the prototypes which are normally junked or recycled into other prototypes are sold for even more money to a few of those collectors.

    So basically he never questions fabricating something new because he has a “base” that will pay for his dabbling no matter what.

  46. This only really works for mediums where production costs are fairly small – Audio, mostly. The exciting part is when this crosses over into other media. Authors are getting closer with online distribution and print-on-demand. I also think of the Penny Arcade guys, whose die-hard fans will buy anything the duo produce (or attach their names to). They really show how the spirit of this “1000 True Fans” can go far beyond 1000.

    My question is, in a world of smaller niche media, how does the big niche product come to fruition? Are we doomed to Reality TV and Michael Bay movies, or will we ever see something like Fire Fly again? We still need the big guys to get their act together.

  47. This only really works for mediums where production costs are fairly small – Audio, mostly. The exciting part is when this crosses over into other media. Authors are getting closer with online distribution and print-on-demand. I also think of the Penny Arcade guys, whose die-hard fans will buy anything the duo produce (or attach their names to). They really show how the spirit of this “1000 True Fans” can go far beyond 1000.

    My question is, in a world of smaller niche media, how does the big niche product come to fruition? Are we doomed to Reality TV and Michael Bay movies, or will we ever see something like Fire Fly again? We still need the big guys to get their act together.

  48. Those farm towns in the middle of nowhere are desperate for entertainment, so anyone will be welcome.

    ——–

    That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for your side, is it? Pretty much bolsters my argument, no?

  49. Samuri Gratz said, “As a writer, the immediately problem I have with this math is that I don’t produce $100 worth of stuff a year.”

    You don’t? If you were a popular writer, one book a year could make you a million, or more. So, the value you place on your own stuff could change if you had a best seller.

  50. #73 posted by Takuan , March 5, 2008 10:51 AM

    How does one distinguish a True Fan from a stalker?
    =====
    It’s hard. I’ve had to block e-mail of a bunch, and even had to call the cops on one because she got pissed that I stopped sleeping with her and started leaving threatening phone messages. Of course, I probably wouldn’t have had to do that if I’d stayed outta her pants.

    Since I moved out to the sticks, I have an unlisted number now, and I don’t give out my phone number to anyone….something like 10 people in the world have it, including family and business partners and editors. I don’t even post the town that I live in. Makes it harder to stalk.

    Michael W. Dean
    http://www.michaelwdean.com

  51. #75 posted by Takuan , March 5, 2008 11:41 AM

    Why did you start leaving threatening messages? Was the sex no good?
    ==============
    No, the sex was great, as it often is with insane people.

    I typed that too quickly and left our important clarification. I meant:

    >>I stopped sleeping with her and SHE started leaving ME threatening phone messages. Of course, I probably wouldn’t have had to do that (CALL THE COPS ON HER) if I’d stayed outta her pants.>>
    =====

    I’ve never left anyone a threatening message in my life. My MO is to avoid people I don’t like – get them outta my head, not pull them into my mind more, which is what engaging in threats does.

    The fan girl was mentally unstable, and after I got engaged to be married, and told the fan girl, and stopped wanting to talk to her, she went ballistic.

    ———–
    A tip: I’m not a lawyer, but this has been my experience: If you ever have to call the cops on someone for threatening you by phone or e-mail, you don’t call the cops in the town where the stalker lives, you call the cops in YOUR town, where you’re RECEIVING the threats. And if the cops in your town want to deal with it, they’ll call the person in their town and talk with them.

    I lived in LA when this happened, the girl lived in San Fran (she’d been coming down by bus to see me). I called San Fran PD, they sent me to LAPD. I called LAPD, explained it, the LAPD detective called the girl, and the calls stopped.

    I also documented everything, dates, times, saved e-mails and phone messages etc, on disc, in case it escalated. But it never did, after the cops got involved.

  52. This model could definitely work, although I don’t see it as a total solution.

    Artists should not try to survive off a single source of income. So whether you have 500, 1000 or 10,000 True Fans its still important to tour, exhibit, sell merchandise is shops, sell limited edition items, special order items etc so that the income arrives from a number of sources. For so many artists I know this is how it already works (except they’re called side-jobs) Being creative means being flexible and adaptable.

    Also, we need statistics and varied models for different fields. The True Fan numbers and ways of collecting the money will look quite different for writers, musicians, painters, dancers, photographers etc.

  53. Yes– but this has to be divided by the number of band members, PLUS you have to actually produce $100 worth of goods and services each year per fan (and this doesn’t even address production costs for an LP or CD, or even a download). It’s easy enough with live performances, but producing more than one full album per year (except for the most talented and productive of us) is pretty tough especially if you are touring too (hmm… it’s also a lot easier for free-improvising musicians, where each performance can be released as an album, a la Miles Davis or Derek Bailey). PLUS, the danger is that the more you put out, the more the quality might slip, or that even your true fans will get burned out (if you perform too much in your hometown, no matter how big the city, even true fans won’t come to every show, and attendance will drop off: “Ahhh, they’ll be playing again next week anyway.”)

    There is a certainly amount of truth to the concept, but it is really more of an ideal than a workable solution for most musicians. I know musicians who probably have about 1000 true fans worldwide, but they still only just eke out a living from their music, and most of it is from touring/performing. As it’s presented here the ideal is also simplified; touring costs eat up so very much of what is earned on touring: overseas flights, equipment and auto repairs, lodging and food, bribes in some countries, equipment theft, etc. Plus, HOW does one gain 1000 true fans? You make the best music you can, you promote it, and . . . ? maybe it moves people, maybe not. The suggestion “get 1000 true fans” is not much different than “just win the lottery.”

    Here’s another ideal: Why not just make ONE copy of an album, the most limited edition possible, one signed/numbered edition of one, and have those 1000 true fans bid on it. Hopefully two of them are millionaires and will bid against each other into 100,000-dollar range.

  54. seriously, I know it’s been said, but I’ll repeat how ridiculous it is to assume a true fan will pay $100 a year. Let’s say you’re a musician, you put out one album at most a year, direct download so you get all the money, and maybe a true fan goes to see you twice a year. By the time the venue takes it’s cut tickets probably have to be around 60 bucks each to have that add up to $100. That would be at least double what a typical mildly popular musician usually charges, so only true fans will come, and the venue probably won’t be thrilled with you only filling the place 1/3 full or less since they won’t get drink orders, so they probably won’t let you sell for so high. So for music it’s highly unlikely someone can spend $100.

    For an author, I think we all agree it’s near impossible for an author to get someone to pay $100, unless your name is J.K. Rowling. If you’re an artist, you could probably try selling prints for $100 each. But getting 1000 true fans in the art world is no small task. So congratulations, they’ve found a way for NIN and Radiohead and Michael Crichton to make money, as if they needed suggestions.

  55. Another problem with the math in the essay is that uber-fans tend to spend part of their one day’s wages per year on used stuff and out of print stuff, which doesn’t pay anything to the artist.
    I am honored when people do that, but it doesn’t make you any money, and it really is a large part of what these folks buy.
    =========-
    Also:

    #79 posted by Songe , March 5, 2008 1:36 PM

    “How about divorcing beauty from commerce? Oh wait that would require sacrifices.”
    —-
    This sentement seems to come up again and again in this thread. It comes up a lot, everywhere, mostly from people who do not make their living making art but wish they did. Or from people who are not artists, but think all art should be free.

    My answer is “Artists gotta eat.” I made art daily from age 12 to my current age of 43. Only made my full living the last five or six years. It took that long. And I must say, it was worth it, and I really love not having to leave the house and go do crap I don’t want to do in order to subsidize my creations.

    I don’t see anything unethical or compromising with making money at your creativity.

    I also give away a LOT of art, probably as much as I sell, and do most of it Creative Commons, or simply copyrighted and “I look the other way.” As we speak, I’m running my second laptop with BitTorrent, giving away one-gigabyte archives of podcasts, and they’re being happily shared in about 30 countries. That doesn’t make me any money, but I get a kick out of it. And a few uber-fans around the world are downloading the zips directly and going to help me seed them tonight and the rest of the week.

    I did used to spend a lot of my time answering long e-mails from fans, mostly about technical stuff about how I produce my art. I’ve started charging, as of last month. I’ve got few clients so far, but sending out the link
    http://www.michaelwdean.com/
    in my sig line has really has helped cut down on the many hours a day I’ve spent answering the same questions over and over.

    Michael W. Dean

  56. #80 posted by number14 , March 5, 2008 3:30 PM

    seriously, I know it’s been said, but I’ll repeat how ridiculous it is to assume a true fan will pay $100 a year.
    =====

    Yup, and especially with music, because you are involving other people in the equation, and have to divide whatever you make, in some forumlea, with them.

    One of my favorite musicians and best friends is Eric McFadden
    http://www.ericmcfadden.com/

    The guy is a guitar god, an amazing songwriter and a passionate singer.

    He tours the US and Europe about 300 days a year. He plays with his own three bands, and also has been a sideman for everyone ranging from Eric Burdon to Joe Strummer to Funkadelic. Eric’s currently playing with Bernie Worrell.

    When Eric’s not on tour, he sometimes gives guitar lessons to make ends meet.

    Michael W. Dean

  57. How about divorcing beauty from commerce? Oh wait that would require sacrifices.

    Sure. But you have to get your food and shelter somehow. You can either make a living from your art, or make a living from something else, or acquire a patron who will support you.

    Personally, I think that there’s nothing wrong with having a day job and “divorcing beauty from commerce” – a lucrative-enough day job can make it possible for you to not worry about whether or not your art can feed you. However, such a day job requires a significant time investment, which leaves you with less time to pursue your art.

    Also, I think there’s value in considering something other than your personal artistic vision when creating your art. Art is about communication – it’s about what the audience will like, not just about what you like. The popular taste is often derided, but the public is not stupid. The art that survives the test of time is often the “popular” stuff of its day.


  58. Those farm towns in the middle of nowhere are desperate for entertainment, so anyone will be welcome.

    ——–

    That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for your side, is it? Pretty much bolsters my argument, no?

    Not really. Why? One must start somewhere. I’m not saying that you have to stay in the farm town in the middle of nowhere – just that you start there. It’s a much better environment in which you can perfect your skills, learn your instrument, and (if you’re good) really shine.

    As I was saying, it worked for me. I started out in a small town, playing with a bunch of very kind and very enthusiastic amateurs. I was a much better musician than the amateurs; they noticed my talent, and helped me in every way they could. After a year, I played at the biggest festival in this particular musical genre. The year after that, I was invited to come back as a performer, and to play at other festivals as well. I play my first 2-hour solo concert in July.

    Before moving to that small town, I lived in San Francisco, which – as I later discovered – had a thriving music scene in that particular genre. But I couldn’t break into it then. I can now.

  59. Somehow independent record label owner Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat and Fugazi fame come to mind.

  60. The article did come with a number of caveats so I think the author was not trying to prescribe a one size fits all model.

    Please note that the idea of building up a loyal customer base who will give you repeat business for quite a long time. When I first got into any of the music business someone advised me to take a class on running a small business from the local community college’s adult continuing education program.

    Similar to what was pointed out in that article, the teacher told us that every sole proprietor/small business person should know who their best customers are (80/20 rule) and should contact those people from time to time and ask for new business. Its not exactly knowing who your 1000 true fans are, but its very similar. Some of the pre-selling models discussed there look like new fangled ways to make sales calls.

    Of course when I learned this stuff was before Internet, we were taught something like personal computers could help us understand which 20% of our customers provided us with 80% of our business and that we could even create mailing lists and form letters to send to them. There are of course alot of more convenient tools nowadays as well as fancy buzzwords like CRM to describe this stuff.

    I guess its a good thing to dust off time proven ideas, give em a new coat of paint and present em to a bunch of sods to lazy to go get the same facts from the public library or Google.

  61. We never put it quite this way, but the “1000 True Fans” was on our minds when we founded TuneCore. We wanted to give artists a way to monetize that relationship, and the best way was to break down barriers to the digital shelves. With iTunes now the 2nd largest music seller in the world, of any kind, it’s a place to send those 1000 folks.

    Because we don’t take any %, we don’t exploit the long tail, we let the artist exploit it. Isn’t that the only fair way?

    –Peter
    peter@tunecore.com

  62. #85 posted by freeyourcrt , March 5, 2008 11:46 PM

    Somehow independent record label owner Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat and Fugazi fame come to mind.

    ===================
    Ian (and the above mentioned Eric McFadden) are both interviewed and both perform music in my documentary, “D.I.Y. OR DIE: How To Survive as an Independent Artist”
    http://www.diyordie.org

    Even though I’m still selling copies on DVD, I’ve given away high-quality non-DRM downloads of the whole movie, for iPhone, iPod or computer, here:

    http://stinkfight.libsyn.com/index.php?post_year=2007&post_month=11
    http://stinkfight.libsyn.com/index.php?post_year=2007&post_month=12
    http://stinkfight.libsyn.com/index.php?post_year=2008&post_month=01
    http://stinkfight.libsyn.com/

    MWD

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