In 2008, Kevin Kelly, then editor of Wired, wrote the 1,000 True Fans essay, which suggested that an artist on the internet only needs 1,000 superfans to earn a living from their art. The number was recalculated in 2020 by Li Jin, co-founder of Variant Fund, who stated a creator only needs 100 true fans to make a living from their work.
Of course, we talk superfans, people that are willing to spend a bit more on their artist than everyone else. Even the major record labels have started to propose a more artic-centric payout system. Mainly though that they list everything to the distributors that now control the longtail, and with an artist-centric system they would take back control over the market.
With this writing, I still wonder why artists are so focused on being on social media? To look where people make money is more like Only Fans, mostly porn, but it shows people are willing to pay ridiculous sums of money for things they want. And to be honest, all these Tiktok, Youtube, and Instagram stars are not making money out of their social media followers. No, the money comes in from sponsorship for companies to have their products in the show or mentioned. The streams you get on YouTube are kind of irrelevant. Even the content is irrelevant for the companies is just how many followers that count not the quality of the content.
Focus then on your streaming numbers on Spotify must be the most stupid thing you can do. As an artist, you should leave social media numbers and stop looking to get more streams on Spotify. In the end, these 1000 or 100 people won’t get this number up high, and on Spotify, you can’t even communicate with your fans in any logical way. Instead, you should start to collect these superfans. Social media is built in the way that you must pay to reach your fans. A post just reaches a few percent. The way to reach people is still by email or phone numbers. That is the only channel where you get direct in front of the screen of your fans. It’s here you can collect superfans and keep track of them. And the newsletter program is your best friend. Then you use social media to just make events where you can speak to your fanbase, but of course, they get the info where and when on the safe channels.
I guess we are heading this way pretty fast. Most of the social media stars I have never heard about. Since it’s algorithms that choose what I should see they seem to think I’m not interested in the big stars, right now Tiktok thinks I should see a lady without any teeth sing covers. She is funny but yes the outlet is not done for an artist.
To have a good sustainable career you need to start thinking of getting superfans, getting content that works for these superfans, and start listening to your superfans, and how they want to experience your art. We are now heading into the small bubble of fans. Still, you just need over 1000 to make a living.