The struggle of making enough money to support your music career is real, but whether you are a music veteran or a beginning indie artist; it’s not impossible. So how can an independent artist achieve this goal? The answer lies in acquiring enough true fans. 

What is a “True Fan”?

Every artist knows the importance of having a loyal fan base that consistently follows your career, but what is the difference between a regular fan and a true fan? 

In short, a true fan is someone that’s always willing to invest in you. This type of fan might also be referred to as a “super fan”. They will buy the signed version of your new album, the limited edition T-shirt merch you are putting out, and they will drive to another city just to see you perform.

You don’t need millions of people listening to your music in order to succeed, you only need about 1,000 really dedicated members of your audience!

How it Works

How exactly is a true fan base able to sustain your career? Let’s do the math. The “1,000 True Fans” model was originally proposed in an essay by Kevin Keller. 

Depending on how many true fans you are able to acquire, there are two income models to keep in mind. The “1,000 True Fans” marketing model is as follows: If your true fan base consists of about 1,000 people, your goal would be to make $100 dollars per fan per year. If your fanbase is closer to 100 people, you’d need to be able to count on them spending $1,000 each per year. 

Sound intimidating? Not to worry! It’s easier than it seems. 

Don’t forget about the revenue you would’ve also made from regular fans and people who have just discovered you. 

The point of this model is to demonstrate that in today’s economy and with the technology we now have available to us, you don’t have to become a household name and play packed stadiums to be a successful artist. All you need is a couple hundred really dedicated fans in order to make the money you need to launch and sustain your music career. 

Li Jin explains that the key to keeping up a $1,000 per fan model is offering “tailored” content priced at tiered levels. Discover what types of higher-ticket products your fans respond to! Feel free to test out several types of content until you find what your audience is going to love the most!

Provide Incredible Experiences

According to Jeroen Riemens, focus on offering your fans the “best experience” possible. One way to ensure this is by keeping up a direct relationship with them. This is relatively easy to do with numbers in the hundreds and thousands of true fans. As opposed to an artist with millions of listeners and patrons, an artist with a smaller but substantial fanbase is able to spend time making more personal connections with their listeners.

Connecting with your fans directly goes a long way when they are considering buying your content and coming out to your shows. Social media is a great tool for this. 

Make it a priority to reply to messages on Instagram, host a Twitter Q & A about your latest release, or send out a personal note to people who pre-order your album. 

If you could reach out to some of your favorite artists and get a reply, how much more likely would you be to remain one of their true fans?

Maintaining a direct relationship with fans also lies in the type of content you offer them, the overall community you create around your artistry, and how you provide access to these perks. 

According to Li Jin, in order to inspire an audience member to become a true fan, you need to “go niche and tap into users’ desire for results,” by providing them with, “differentiated content, community, accountability, and access.” 

Differentiated Content

Come up with a way to offer higher levels of engagement between you and your fans and create a real community around yourself as an artist. One way to do this would be to start up a Facebook group that requires a paid subscription. Think of some high-level content you may be able to offer that group of fans outside of your regular music releases and performances.

Cultivate Community

Another way to cultivate a sense of community with your fans is to come up with a nickname for them as a whole. 

What is your brand as an artist and how does that relate to your biggest fans? Lady Gaga has her “little monsters.” Beyonce’s fans are all a part of the “Bey-hive.” What type of community will fans of your music be?

Build Accountability

When it comes to building accountability; it’s proven that when someone pays more for a product, they will be much more invested and engaged in its outcome. 

If someone spends half their paycheck on an artist’s exclusive signed album and merch package, you can guarantee they are going to play that record as soon as it arrives. They will wear and show off the merch all the time. This is how you build accountability. 

Obviously, prices that are too outrageous are not going to attract any fans. You also have to ensure that the content you provide for a slightly higher price tag is high-quality, or people will feel that they aren’t getting what they paid for. 

Create Access

One strategy for providing the access portion of this model is to use a crowdfunding service. Think about a creator you follow who has used Patreon, Kickstarter, or a similar platform to distribute their content. This type of crowdfunding is a rather recent development in the entertainment industry, and it works! 

By creating a monthly subscription model, you can predict the amount of income you’ll make on a very regular basis. Depending on the type of content you plan to put out, you can start to determine how to start retaining fans that can fund your career. 

For example, perhaps it’s a good idea for you to give early access to your newest single by creating a Patreon paywall. You can also use a platform like Podia, a website for selling online courses, to offer backstage access videos and one on one fan conversations or other more “exclusive” content for your following. 

The key takeaway is that you do not have to reach a massive level of super-stardom in order to “make it” in today’s industry. Just like there are lesser-known authors, athletes, and actors who might not be household names, they still have substantial revenue to continue doing what they love through the monetization of “true fans.” 

You can be a successful artist without being a guest on nightly talk shows or featured in a People magazine article. If you keep in mind all the tips discussed, and you are truly dedicated to your craft, the true fans will come. 


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