Thursday, August 6, 2009

You Don't Need a Hit to Survive

One thing always leads to another, and in true form, Scott Kirsner's recent list of The Four Kinds of Fans led me to the Kevin Kelly's 1,000 True Fans article. I'll get to Kelly's article after I give you Kirsner's list.

The relevance of this lies in the question Kirsner asks, how do you get your fans to do something? The truth is, getting a response is a major preoccupation of ours in the entertainment and culture business, since if our targets don't respond to what we do we would be advised to do something else. In light of this, his rationale for categorizing the kinds of fans make good sense. The four kinds of fans as he sees them are:

1. The Impulse Fan. The impulse fan sees a video you've made, or hears about your band from their roommate, and signs up to follow you on Twitter or joins your Facebook group.

2. The Prospective / Occasional Fan. The prospective fan is someone who can be lured out to a show or screening, or convinced to buy a new CD/DVD, but with some effort.

3. The True Fan. Kevin Kelly defined the True Fan as "someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce."

4. The Super Fan. The Super Fan is a True Fan who is willing to help you out in some way.

Kirsner has a discussion about this going on his blog. He also details the characteristics of each there. Click here to read it. It can't hurt to learn more about building that relationship with your different kinds of fans.

That said, according to the blogger Kevin Kelly all you need is 1,000 True Fans. In his blog he says:

You don't need to aim for the short head of best-sellerdom to escape the long tail. There is a place in the middle, that is not very far away from the tail, where you can at least make a living. That mid-way haven is called 1,000 True Fans. It is an alternate destination for an artist to aim for.

Young artists starting out in this digitally mediated world have another path other than stardom, a path made possible by the very technology that creates the long tail. Instead of trying to reach the narrow and unlikely peaks of platinum hits, bestseller blockbusters, and celebrity status, they can aim for direct connection with 1,000 True Fans. It's a much saner destination to hope for. You make a living instead of a fortune. You are surrounded not by fad and fashionable infatuation, but by True Fans. And you are much more likely to actually arrive there.

There are possible negatives though, since this suggestion is calculated based on you being a solo artist. It varies also based on the kind of creative work you do, singing, writing, graphic work, etc. The medium will also determine if this successful, that is, if you are a musician, a painter, or a film-maker. No doubt, your location and the spending power of your fans will also impact the final numbers. Click here to read his full post.

The blog goes on to talk about Fundable as a useful way for creatives to fund their projects. This source may not be available to all who might read this, but the principle is that the fans help to pay for the production of the work by making contributions. This in some ways translates to pledging as we often do for a range of social projects, but in this case, its pledging to a creative project. Its worth considering in my opinion. He wraps up his post saying, "the usual alternative to making a living based on True Fans is poverty." Could this be for real? You bet!

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