Forget 10,000 True Fans. How About Just 1?

Since 2008, the theory of 10,000 true fans being enough to sustain an artists career has permeated music industry marketing, but what if that ratio could be parred down from 10,000 true fans to just one mega-fan?

Guest post by Bobby Owsinski of Music 3.0

In 2008 Kevin Kelly wrote an article in Wired that influenced music marketing forever. The concept was that 1000 true fans are enough to sustain any career, since they’ll buy anything an artist puts forward. If you could make just $100 from each fan, then you could gross $100,000, which most musicians would be happy about. Jump to 2020 and that thinking is altered a little. How about finding just 1 super-fan instead?

Actually the idea was re-created early this year by Li Jin, a board observer at email subscription site Substack. Her idea was to reduce the 1000 number by a factor of 10, meaning that $1,000 from 100 people might be easier for an artist to achieve than Kelly’s original theory.  

Jin wrote that the original 1000 True Fans theory was based on a fan’s sense of “altruism or fandom,” which is pretty much the model that most artists work on. The difference is that the $1,000 a year model is built more around what the super-fans want, then catering to those needs.

Now an article written by Popjustice editor Peter Robinson turns Jin’s notion on its ear, instead aiming for just 1 super-duper fan instead. If you think this is something new, consider that artists and composers have been supported by sponsors like this for centuries.

We’ve actually seen this play out recently when Wu-Tang Clan’s seventh album Once Upon a Time in Shaolin was purchased by disgraced pharmacuetical exec Martin Shkreli for $2 million. There was only 1 copy ever made and Shkreli bought it (now owned by the IRS as part of his forfeiture settlement) and the stipulation was that it could never be commercially exploited until 2103.

But being sponsored by just 1 super-fan may have its downsides too, especially since your music might no longer be heard by other fans and your audience won’t grow. Still, the thought of not having to worry about social media posts and TikTok videos might be enough of an enticement for many artists if the chance for just a single fan presented itself.

The bottom line is that while 1,000 may be a good number start with, but it might be too high a barrier. A much smaller number at a higher price might be much more doable for an artist with a good following.

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