In the technology age, it’s easier than ever to develop true fans of your work, whether you’re an artist, musician or writer. The industry is no longer all-or-nothing; you can find a niche and develop a cult following somewhere between the lines of “famous millionaire” and “starving artist.” According to The Technium, all you need is 1,000 true fans to support your living expenses.
A true fan is defined in the article as someone who will buy all of your merchandise, go to your shows or conferences, buy your books or artwork, or attend signings anywhere you’ll have them. This may seem a little unlikely– that no one is that dedicated– but really, it’s not as intense as it sounds. Merchandise is not terribly expensive and is often very unique and highly coveted by the community of true fans. It is not hard to believe that a fan will want a souvenir from a concert or conference. It’s also not so far-fetched that a fan will drive hundreds of miles to attend an event; after all, it’s not often that one of your personal idols comes to the area to do a meet and greet. People take advantage of exciting events like these.
For musicians, it might be a little harder to find someone who is still willing to spend money on their work. Unlike painters or photographers, musicians are easily ripped off by pirating. Many fans would rather get the album for free than support the band by buying it for $10. There is, however, almost always a line of dedicated concert goers that I run into at shows who are eager to buy the newest CD to have it signed when the musicians are done performing. In addition, many bands offer initiative to purchase music on record (for example, I’ve been especially compelled to purchase a CD when the bands have offered free posters or personal phone calls). Sometimes, people just buy the CD for the sole purpose of helping out a talented individual.
This brings up another important point. In order to develop a dedicated fan base, artists must connect with their supporters. Computers make this easier than ever; social media may be the best tool an artist can use to spread the word about their work. Facebook makes it easy to design a professional page, which can then be used to reach out to your friends, then friends of friends and eventually the general public. Musicians can easily put up videos of their songs on youtube, and journalists can blog just about anywhere. Sharing links through other sites makes the word spread even faster. And with websites like Kickstarter, indiegogo and beacon reader, fans can even help fund their favourite creators directly in exchange for a small gift. This way, fans feel that they have contributed to an important cause with only a small donation to someone they believe in.
Direct funding isn’t necessary though, as long as fans have some way of supporting you financially. The true fans will almost buy anything to support their causes. The Technium article states: “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.”
As long as an artist can nurture a community of dedicated followers, financial stability is a completely realizable goal. It is possible to become famous without being a billionaire, as long as you’re famous to a certain niche of people. Fame may not even be important; some creators simply want to get a message out. These people have no concern for recognition or fortune, as long as they can inspire someone in some way. With the focus on the message instead of the glory, everyone has the ability to truly make a difference through creativity.