Kevin Kelly formulated and wrote about the idea of an artist needing 1000 true fans to make a living:
A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author – in other words, anyone producing works of art – needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.
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.
I saw ilyAIMY here in Charlotte tonight down at Snug Harbor (which I wish had seats, even uncomfortable ones!). I realized as I waited through some pretty good other artists for ilyAIMY to take the stage (is that rude?) that if their performance was good, I’d probably buy any album of theirs that I didn’t have.
See, I saw them back in 2007, when .nathan was like, “Hey, you should come see this band. Watch how redunkulous this guy’s guitar technique is.” And I was like, “Oh, well, I suppose… *watch*… *drool over everything*.” I bought The Fifth Circle (they use frames on their site, so I can’t link directly to info) at the show and got it signed.
But that was two years ago. I missed them in Charlotte last year, which meant that when I caught “Charlotte, NC” in their newsletter a couple of weeks ago, I about tinkled myself at the possibility of seeing them again. I cleared my schedule for tonight carefully (a double-booking was how I missed them last year) and took Gregory with me. But I got nervous waiting. For one thing, I’d love to time my arrival at a show properly for once — I don’t enjoy waiting for over an hour, and I’ve done that twice fairly recently. For another, I saw Rob and Heather (ilyAIMY) meandering around talking. …And they were chill (unlike their stage personas). I began to worry.
Of course, I understand stage presence versus real personality, but I had to wonder: was the last performance a fluke? Did all that energy go someplace during the last two years? Was I going to be treated to a pale and tepid performance?
Obviously not, or I wouldn’t be writing this. I ended up with a signed copy of Between Lover & Twilight (a 2007 release, but not out when I last saw them), the awesomeness of having been familiar to them, and knowledge of the release of the next album (August). I will probably join the cult of Saint Cecilia.
Is the 1000 True Fans idea creepy to artists? I mean it sounds cool in the abstract — people love your stuff and want you to be able to eat. But when it comes to the individuals, that means that someone is actually keeping track of when you’re in the state, asking for signed copies of CDs, and chatting awkwardly about nothing at all at shows. (I was unusually awkward and shy tonight — I blame it on not talking to new people often enough lately.)
I felt creepy tonight, which probably means I’m doing it wrong.