In 2008, Wired Magazine Co-Founder Kevin Kelley introduced a concept that set the creative wold on fire. The 1,000 True Fans Theory. Put simply, he posits that in order to make a living as a creative, all you need is a direct relationship with 1,000 “superfans”. These are your die hard fans. People who will travel far and wide to see you, and who will buy anything with your name on it — no questions asked. If you can make $100 in profit from each of these fans every year, you’ve earned a salary of $100,000. That’s nothing to sneeze at. But how do you get these superfans?
Stage 1: Introduction – in order for people to become your fans, they have to have some sort of introduction. This could be from finding your song on Soundcloud, Spotify or another service; a social media post, or even a blog or news article referencing you. From there, they may follow you on social media. After a while, you’ll want to encourage them to join your e-mail list so that you can contact them directly. That takes you to the next step of the journey…
Stage 2: Nurturing The Relationship – In the old days, artists didn’t really interact much with their fans until it was time to perform live. To find out more about your favorite artist, you had to wait for a magazine to interview them, or for them to release a surprise track. Then it was back to mystery celebrity land. Now that we have Social Media and the internet, that is no longer the case. You can (and should) speak directly to your fans via e-mail and social media. The more fans get to know you, the more invested they will feel in your career, and the more willing they will be to support you with their dollars.
The more fans get to know you, the more invested they will feel in your career, and the more willing they will be to support you with their dollars.
Stage 3: The Sale – For some, selling is the hardest part of gaining success. As artists, we have a hard time putting a value on our work, and an even harder time asking others to see that value and part with their hard earned dollars. But if you’ve done your job in stage 1 and 2, the sale should be the easiest part. As your fans get to know you and your music, they will want to pay you for the music and for other experiences (Merchandise, Concerts, etc). Making the sale is just about giving them the chance to do it.
Stage 4: Nurture Your Superfans By Testing Offers – as you begin to track sales and web analytics, you’ll start to get a feel for who your biggest supporters are. Maybe they bought 3 copies of your CD instead of one. Maybe there’s one fan who always comments on your social media posts. These activities indicate that you’re starting to develop superfans. How do you know for sure? Start offering exclusive experiences, at higher price points. Don’t underestimate your fans’ loyalty. Select VIP Packages for Beyonce’s latest tour sold upwards of $3000 each. In 2016, Eminem sold bricks salvaged from the demolition of his childhood home in a package for $350. In 2013, Nipsey Hussle made a splash by offering 1,000 limited copies of his mixtape Crenshaw for $100 each. Give your fans the opportunity to support you on a deeper level. You’ll be surprised at how many rise to the occasion every time.
Stage 5: Reward Your Fans – Gratitude goes a long way. At every stage of the fan conversion journey, it is critical that you take nothing for granted. Remember, your fans are the reason you are able to make a living doing something you love. Your fans are directly responsible for all of your success, and you should always show them gratitude. Follow your fans on Twitter. Take pictures with them after the show, and post them from your official social accounts. Give away free tickets to the fans who have supported you over the years. These personal interactions are the type that make a long, lasting impression with each fan. Reward your fans, and they’ll take you to higher and higher heights.
It’s possible to make a great living with just a few fans. The key is to develop a meaningful, personal connection with your fans. Have you ever met a member of the Beyhive or the Rihanna Navy? They are incredibly loyal. And that’s because the celebrities they love, love them back. Now it’s your turn to do the same.