What a beautiful concept from Kevin Kelly. A consequence of all that Chris Anderson talked about in The Long Tail is that it is easier for creators (photographers, musicians, writers, whatever) to reach directly to their audience, their market, their fans. Cutting out the middle-man, and the middle-man’s filters, has never been easier. What Kelly offers in this insightful post is something of a bridge or staging post between impoverished artist and mega-star. Simplistically put, all an artist needs in order to provide a living is "1,000 true fans". Kelly defines these as follows:
"someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can’t wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans."
Crucially, Kelly suggests that the true fan will spend one day’s wage per year on your product, nominally pitched at $100. Thus, 1,000 x $100 = $100,000 = a reasonable living. Of course, the real figures will vary by geography, by muse and by the size of the artistic unit: a six-piece rock band will require a higher income (= a bigger number of true fans) than, say, a poet. However, it’s a great concept. Simple, elegant and worth pondering.