While some artists have discovered this path without calling it that, I think it is worth trying to formalize. The gist of 1,000 True Fans can be stated simply:
A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author – in other words, anyone producing works of art – needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.
A True Fan is defined as 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.
(via 1,000 True Fans – kk.org)
He goes on to explain that the number of ‘true fans’ may be different depending on what you want to do, how many people you work with and even where you live. Personally, I would drop the ‘1,000’ bit.
Anyway, I’ve heard this notion expressed before, I think in an interview with Jonathan Coulton. As someone who has been a passionate fan of several writers, artists and filmmakers I can totally believe in this model. You don’t have to buy into the notion that you either become a megastar or a failure. So long as you know you’re great at whatever it is you do, there should be a way to make a living out of it.