Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog

Music marketing ideas for DIY artists, managers, promoters and music biz pros

January 30, 2013

100 True Fans? Is Small Really the New Big?

Here's an idea that might cause a few of your brain cells to fire in new directions ...

What if I challenged you to think smaller instead of bigger about your music career and your fan base? What if your goal wasn't to reach a mass audience but to cultivate a small, dedicated core group of people who love and support you?

Please don't jump to an early conclusion about what I'm saying here. There's more to it ...
You may have dreams of creating the next "Gangnam Style" song or video, or hitting the jackpot with an 18-star review on Pitchfork. And that's fine. It's great to think big. But there may be another way to tackle music career growth.

You may have heard the news: The unit sales figures of bestselling albums in recent years are much lower than they used to be. There are fewer "household name" stars and hits these days.

However, there are also more people consuming and enjoying music than ever before. It's just that the attention of consumers is now spread out over a wider variety of styles and artists. It's a fractured marketplace.

As part of this evolution, thousands of independent artists are now doing well serving niche audiences. But most of the success stories you hear about (like Karmin, Pomplamoose, Jonathan Coulton) are at the upper end of the indie scale.

At the same time there are countless artists who do well under the radar catering to distinct (albeit smaller) groups of people. Some serve yoga instructors or massage therapists; others attract environmentalists, car enthusiasts, Harry Potter fans, or cat lovers.

How Low Can You Go?

Kevin Kelly wrote a popular blog post in 2008 called 1,000 True Fans, which described this new world of artists who cater to specialized clusters of supporters. But let's take it down a notch even further.

How cool would it be if your goal was to see how SMALL of a fan base you could develop and still make a difference (and even make a living) with your music?

If that was your goal, your actions would be quite different ...

If growing your career wasn't about attracting the masses, you would spend more time cultivating individual relationships with fans. You would serve and repeatedly thank your small but dedicated support group on a regular basis.

You would regularly get their input on new projects you worked on. They in turn would feel more special and connected and be more likely to show up and support you.

The funny thing is, catering to your tribe of early adopters in this caring and authentic way might just lead to positive word of mouth. And that could end up growing your audience exponentially ... without you ever having to be concerned about "the masses."

As Seth Godin has written, small is the new big. Would you be willing to build your music career in this "less is more" manner?


P.S. Speaking of Seth, the idea for this post came to me while listening to a great interview that Krista Tippett did with him. Listen to it here.

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posted by Bob Baker @ 11:37 AM   5 comments


At Jan 31, 2013, 10:16:00 AM, Blogger SteveGrossmanOnline said...

Yes, YES! Powerful, reality based and rewarding concept Bob.

At Feb 1, 2013, 12:45:00 PM, Blogger Songstress said...

Bob - this article really resonates with me. I think it goes hand in hand with the idea of finding the niche for your music. Most people feel passionately about only a few bands, like a whole lot more, and can not get up and walk out of the room for a whole lot more. It's those fans who feel passionately about our music who we want to identify and cultivate a relationship with. Super fans will support your music because of the strong emotional connection they feel to it and to you as an artist. And as humans, we can only have so many people in our circle we can truly call our friends. If we can find that group, it's a great experience for everyone - fans and artist alike.

At Feb 5, 2013, 6:34:00 AM, Anonymous Matt said...

Yeah, ever hear of the 100 monkey rule? I think it was an old Japanese tale but seems would be apt in this scenario.

You could also say people are tired of quantity everything but the quality is lacking, finally realizing quality or originality actually means something.

At Feb 5, 2013, 10:20:00 AM, Anonymous James Pew said...

Smart Bob. I like it. If you already have less than 100 true fans it seems unrealistic to make 1000 your goal. 100 fantic fans is necessary to catalyze the momentum toward Keven Kelly's model.

At Feb 9, 2013, 4:25:00 AM, Anonymous ghost said...

Bob - this is EXACTLY what I've been doing - it's working....


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