OnlineRock: Empowering Musicians  
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True Fans by Kavit Haria

How many fans do you need to make a living?

If you’ve been marketing your creative works for any length of time, you may have heard of the long tail. This term describes the way that some companies, like Netflix and Amazon, make their money. By providing access to a very large number of products, they’re able to make more money selling a wider variety of less popular ones, compared to the older marketing strategy of relying on a few hits. This is good news for aggregators, like these companies, but not as useful for creators themselves. Individual artists and creative producers don’t receive a significantly larger amount of profit from the long tail, but they suffer from dropping prices and greater competition. Attempting to capitalize on the long tail slowly dooms creatives to small sales and little profit. However, focusing on hits doesn’t help, either. There’s no formula for an intensely popular work. So, what are artists to do?

One solution that seems to be viable is finding what are referred to as true fans. These are not just people who will buy one or two works, but people who really love you and your products. They’ll often buy almost anything you make, because they’re in love with your style and way of working. The Internet gives us the ability to find our true fans, and to pick them out of the crowd. The best way to do this is to create a real feeling of connection between yourself and your fan base. If they feel that you’re more than just another faceless content producer, they’re more likely to become dedicated, true fans, and will devote more of their free money to your work. The biggest question is how many true fans you need to support yourself and your work. If you can find them, or convince some more casual fans to become true fans, you’ll have a much easier time as an artist.

Keep in mind that all these fans don’t arrive at once. You might have to add a fan a day for several years. Fortunately, it’s easy and pleasant to make a true fan happy. All you have to do is stay true to yourself and focus on what makes your work unique, because that’s what your true fans really appreciate. The biggest challenge is staying in direct content with these fans, especially if your work is distributed through other outlets, instead of directly from you. Popular methods of doing so include blogs and RSS feeds containing news about you and your works, and making use of social networking sites like Facebook and Myspace. Web sites that host galleries of your work and biographical information are also good ways to let your fans feel as though they’re really in touch. Remember, you don’t have to appeal to everyone - just enough people to sustain you and your work. Your small inner circle of real fans will provide you with a living. They’re the most important, although there will also be lesser fans who don’t seek out contact directly, and who won’t buy as avidly.

Remember - you don’t need to have a hit to survive as an artist, and you don’t have to get lost in the long tail. By using the same medium that created that long tail, you can make contact with the people who will really appreciate your work, and become able to support yourself and your work. True fans will stick with you and help keep you afloat. Just share directly with them, and stay true to yourself.

Kavit Haria is the founding director of Inner Rhythm (, an independent music business training company based in London. He runs the Musicians Mastermind. He is also a Tabla player and plays both Indian classical and Jazz fusion. His music website is at


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