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Today we talk about the importance of creating valuable relationship with fans. The idea for this post came from a very popular article by Kevin Kelly that I would sum up in these terms (although I strongly recommend you to read it and develop your own opinion):
A creative professional needs 1,000 true fans to be able to make a living. A true fan is a fan that will enthusiastically buy anything the artist produces/proposes. If the average true fan spends 100 € a year on the artist, you get to 100,000 € which for most people would allow quite a good standard of living. 1,000 is a reasonable number to achieve. The biggest challenge is to keep a direct contact with your 1,000 true fans, because you need to make them feel that they are part of your life and your creative process.
I’m not saying in any way that pulling this off in real life is easy, nor that it is suitable for every kind of musician in any given stage of her/his career development: every single life situation requires a different mix of solutions. But I definitely praise the clarity and the sharpness of the key concept:
there is a very tangible value in the creation of bridges with a reasonable amount of people who sincerely love and appreciate what you do.
This point is probably the single most important pillar of anyone’s music life (and anyone’s life in general, actually). We use the terms “fans”, but this should be understood to also include your mentors, coaches, patrons, band mates, school mates and anyone with whom you created a particularly deep, true and meaningful connection.
I’d like to present as an example the case that is probably the most famous of all: Amanda Palmer. In this Ted Talk she tells her story and explains the importance of connecting with fans. Amanda became famous for being the first musician to raise on Kickstarter (probably the world’s most famous crowd-funding platform) 1.2 million $ for her record. Amanda tells the music industry at large: “Don’t make people pay for music, let them.” And she tells her fans, one by one: “I see you“. Her online shop presents her philosophy in very clear terms, I suggest you check her “manifesto” out.

And now let me dare a bit, bringing in a couple of very clever guys who would probably define these “1000 true fans” as your “tribe”. Enter David Logan and Seth Godin, who normally inspire and advise corporations, entrepreneurs and managers. The concept of Tribe is helpful to define how people with shared values and interests interact with each other, and how a “tribal leader” (the artist, in our case) can create the most value for all the tribe members.

David illustrates the 5 levels of tribal leadership and explains how to move from level 1 (“Life sucks”) to level 5 (“Life is great”), which is really inspiring for musicians who have the privilege of influencing people’s emotions and outlook on life. Dave closes his presentation with the key question we should always keep in mind: “Will your tribe change the world?”. Let’s be bold and let our music have deep meaning and purpose!

 

Seth is particularly good at challenging you to change the status quo by creating and leading your tribe, your movement. I think this perspective is incredibly powerful for today’s artists that can boldly leverage the many opportunities that technology has created for them, surfing the many waves that the implosion of the “old” music business model has created. We will meet Seth again and get deeper into his thinking and provocations.

As usual, my intent here is to share experiences, points of view and ideas to increase our shared knowledge. I would much appreciate your opinions on the topic of creating valuable bridges with the key people in your art, with your true fans.

PS for Italian speakers, this is a translation of Kevin Kelly’s article found in a very good Italian music industry blog: http://horizonsblog.it/2014/02/13/kevin-kelly-1000-veri-fans-ita/
PPS for English speakers, this is where you can download Dave Logan’s audiobook “Tribal leadership” for free: http://www.culturesync.net/toolbox/tribal-leadership-audio-book/