100 True Fans: A Web3 Evolution
In kevin kelly’s seminal essay 1,000 true fans, he painted a picture of a creative future that was no longer dependent on scale. Instead, those that could achieve the minimum viable audience to support them would find success. He predicted that through digital technology, it would be possible for creators and fans to form a tighter relationship than ever before and do so with greater ease and less cost than in eras past.
The idea was sound. It’s possible, through direct connection, support and feedback, to create a successful audience of true fans who operate within the niche of your music and art specifically, who will support it financially and allow you to build a successful career.
From the essay:
“Here’s how the math works. You need to meet two criteria. First, you have to create enough each year that you can earn, on average, $100 profit from each true fan. That is easier to do in some arts and businesses than others, but it is a good creative challenge in every area because it is always easier and better to give your existing customers more, than it is to find new fans.”
1,000 True Fans
This is an edited, updated version of an essay I wrote in 2008 when this now popular idea was embryonic and ragged. I…
According to that math, if an artist is able to earn $100 each year from each fan, they will be able to net a 6 figure income stream from their work. This is a good number; but it relies on two variables:
- The artist has to be able to find — and cultivate a meaningful relationship with — 1,000 individual consumers
- The artist has to be able to maintain enough of an output to justify an engagement of $100 per year, finding a way to produce content that will appeal to the 1,000 true fans to the degree that they will maintain their contributions to the creator’s nano-economy
We propose a radical modification of the 1,000 True Fans.
We’re talking about 100 True Web3 Fans.
The history of the artist is one which has long been entangled with the concept of patronage; from Ancient Greece and Rome, to Feudal Japan, to the Renaissance patrons who created the foundations for art that has stood the test of time, the financial support of people who have resources and want to consume artistic work and back it as a way to represent and communicate their own values and views has been a key part of our creative tapestry.
In the digital era, we have seen that form of patronage become democratized, no longer remaining solely in the realm of the wealthy, but becoming open to smaller communities and individuals who want to help the art, the music, the film and the audio they love continue to be made. Patronage now just means a stronger, dedicated relationship between creators and fans.
This model has been embraced by many. Musicians are building fanbases with Patreon.com, InkTip helps writers stay connected to producers and directors which leads to work that pays the bills. More social media driven businesses have come into being that allow you to engage directly with your customers in exchange for their patronage.
However, these channels, platforms and access points operate within the walled gardens of Web2 platforms that deny or exclude the possibility of ownership for either fans or creators. The content that we create and financially support and the fans we build are entirely beholden to those who chose to partner with us; fans do not get to actually own the digital goods, exclusive podcast episodes etc. that might accompany their Patreon subscription. The model itself suffers because it is dependent on middle-men and access/transactional layers that take a cut of all financial contributions and hold audiences captive.
Web3, NFTs and owned content give creators access to a smaller group of dedicated individuals, while giving those individuals immutable access to artists they enjoy, and ownership over their work — true ownership, not merely rented ownership.
The math in our new model is simple; if you are able to find 100 supporters who are actively searching for ways to back you as an artist — supporters who in all likelihood already exist within your fanbase — and you are able to bring them into a tokenized system in which they become investors in your creative ecosystem, and owners of assets that can hold and maintain tradable value, you can create a scalable revenue model that is self-sustaining, more accessible, and able to provide an increased level of value for your true believers.
In this new “100 True Fans” model, each fan becomes an investor in your creative work and gives you a micro-investment in the form of Ether or other cryptoassets. With Patronage in the lower fraction of a single Ethereum coin, artists will be able to reduce their reliance on larger audience numbers.
Artists will focus their patron/final output purely on immutable and tokenized products — such as NFT music, artist tokens and POAPs and NFT drops.
One of the reasons that this equation works is that the fans themselves do not simply receive content they can stream or consume; they are compensated for their investment in the form of both immutable and permanent collectibles that are uniquely theirs, and in the form of the asset value those collectibles represent.
Their 0.448 ETH per annum actually has the potential to net higher returns in the long-term, through the potential rise in value of their digital collectibles, and through the growing profile and artistic accomplishments of the artists themselves, whose larger body of work will add to the value of their immutable assets.
The web is in the midst of a seismic shift, and it’s time for creators to take advantage. With the advent of Web3 and new technologies such as NFTs, we are able to create systems that give artists more access to dedicated supporters, while providing immutable access to the art they love and true ownership over their work. If you’re an artist looking to get started in this new era, or if you’re simply interested in how these changes will affect the way we interact with art online, join us as we explore the future of creativity.