How To Make The ‘1000 True Fans’ Concept Work For You

© 2012 Vinny Ribas

There is a lot of discussion regarding the ‘1000 True Fans’ concept that was introduced by Kevn Kelly. Some people say it works, others say that it is pure fantasy. My belief is that this can work perfectly, but only if you purposely put things in place to make it work! To develop True Fans, you need to do 3 things:

  1. Give them a reason to spend their hard earned money on you.
  2. Give them ample opportunity to spend as much money as they want.
  3. Give them the joy of being recognized for their contribution loyalty.

Here are some thoughts and ideas on how to accomplish this:

  • Know your numbers. Recognize that for some artists it may require finding 2000 people who will spend $50 each, or only 500 who spend $200 each. It depends on how much disposable income your fans have, how often you perform near them how they buy their music (single songs or full CDs) and more. Study your audience and learn their income level, their buying habits, geographic locations etc., and then set your goals accordingly.
  • Define what qualifies someone as one of your True Fans. For example, how much do they need to spend to get your special attention? How many shows do they need to attend? How many friends do they need to bring to your shows? (that counts towards their value). You can cultivate fans who are ‘not quite there’ but have great potential.
  • Track your fan engagement. Your goal is to identify who is, or who has the potential to become a true fan. Do this by monitoring your sales to see who buys the most and/or most often. Use some form of tracking to identify fans who come to your shows more often than others. Put surveys in your newsletter and on your website. Those who fill them out are probably ones to begin interacting with and cultivating.
  • Make it easy for your fans to spend $50-100 or more. Without smothering them, give them multiple buying opportunities. Give them various products and at varying price points. Be sure your ‘buy buttons’ are on the home page of your website, in your newsletters, on your social networks etc. Use a program like which enables your fans to financially support you with automatic monthly donations charged to their credit cards (not tax deductible unless you have a non-profit organization). Never make your fans work to give you their money!
  • Provide one or more premium products. This could be a music compilation or anthology, or it could be a $200 jacket with your logo. Maybe it’s the opportunity to go on a cruise with you. Make it something that only a true fan would buy. Once they buy, you have identified them.
  • Provide a variety of products. Don’t limit your fan’s choices. Bundle your products together to get more from each sale. Have some CDs and merch pre-gift-wrapped and suggest that your fans buy them for their friends. This is especially powerful around the holidays.
  • Offer ‘very limited edition’ products. Those who really love you will jump on these. Price them higher than the rest of your music or merch. Your True Fans will not want to ‘miss out’.
  • Create a pull. You want your True Fans to feel like they are part of a very exclusive club. Maybe you can set up an invitation-only fan community on your website. You might have exclusive articles of clothing that identify your True Fans. Make them feel special! Give them a group name so that other people will want to ‘join the club’.
  • Provide informal incentives. Without being pushy, give your fans goals to hit that will make them want to spend more money. For example, you might tell them to ‘send me a picture of yourself holding up all 6 of my CDs and I will send you an ‘Official Superfan’ tee shirt.
  • Provide formal incentives. Make it well known that you have specific incentive programs. For example, you might announce, “Come to 3 shows and get a free, exclusive black ‘Sam’s Superfan’ tee-shirt. Come to 6 shows and receive a blue one. 9 shows and you get a gold one”, etc. Wear the t-shirt to a show and the first drink is on me (work out a deal with the venue to help out with this as an incentive for your fans to come to another show – don’t pay for the drinks yourself).
  • Reward your True Fans and do it often. Develop the habit of rewarding your True Fans with free music, exclusive videos etc every month. You might do a private show just for them (perhaps a house concert or online concert). You might even find a sponsor who will give you product to distribute to your True Fans, provided they match the company’s target demographic.
  • Give them more than they pay for. Both your general fans and True Fans will continue to support you if they feel like they are getting a real bargain. For example, get ‘buy one-get one free’ coupons to local restaurants that you give out with every CD you sell. It’s free advertising for the restaurant, it and just might pay back the cost of the CD. Throw in a bonus CD, download etc.
  • Learn their names. You might even thank them for coming from this from stage. This makes any fan feel important. There is no better way to develop loyalty than to treat your fans like friends.
  • Purposely connect with and engage them. Make a point of ‘friending’ your True Fans on Facebook or other social networks. If possible, ask them before they ask you! Then engage them. Learn about them as people, not just as bodies in chairs. Share things with them that you wouldn’t share from stage to make them feel important.
  • Start a referral program. Reward your True Fans for bringing their friends to your shows. Maybe you start something like a ‘5 And A Drive’ campaign in which anyone who brings 5 friends to one show gets to go golfing with you.
  • Offer to perform a personal house concert for them. If they really are True Fans, chances are they will pack the house with their friends (theirs, yours or a friend’s house). People love to show off, and this is one way they can do it!
  • Tell your fans what you need them to do. Don’t be shy. Most True Fans would love to help you if they knew how. Don’t deprive them of the joy of being a part of your success. Use them as part of your street team.
  • Socialize with your True Fan Club. Whenever possible, create opportunities to spend time with your True Fans outside of your shows. This might take the form of a weekly online chat, or a dinner out every 3 months. Maybe you can have a BBQ at your house. Show them that they are more than just dollar signs to you.
  • Create anticipation. Don’t give your True Fans a reason to move on to another act or interest. Always have something new brewing and keep them intrigued enough to stick around. Do you have a big announcement? Tell your fans via your newsletter that you are going to make it at an upcoming show. Do you have a new CD coming out? Milk the process by showing short videos of you in the studio, by constantly reporting your progress and your excitement etc. This also makes it easy to get pre-orders of the CD.

This may seem like a lot, but it is exactly what any smart small business would do. They recognize and take special care of their most loyal customers. They cultivate that loyalty. They give their customers reasons to come back and shop again. If it works for them, why shouldn’t it work for musicians? Remember, it is 5 times easier to sell something to an existing customer than it is to attract a new one!

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About The Author

Vinny Ribas

This post may or may not have been written by me. Check the credits in he post itself :-) I am the founder and CEO of Indie Connect, an artist management, consulting and education company. We also publish the Business Side of Music podcast. During my 40+ year career, I have been a full time musician, an artist manager, a booking agent, songwriter, studio owner, producer and the Entertainment Director for the NV State Fair. I have authored over 300 music industry articles, many of which are available free on