Saturday, 20 November 2010

Making Money From Music or 1,000 True Fans

I was a member of a panel last Monday at an event that was part of the London Jazz Festival organised by the Musicians' Union.  The topic was Marketing and Promoting Your Music and it turned out to be a very interesting and lively discussion.  Other panel members were David Jones (Promoter, Serious), Kit Downes (Musician, Kit Downes Trio), Steve Rubie (606 Club owner), Rick Finlay (Musician, Just East) and the panel was chaired very successfully by Dave Webster from the MU.  (If you're not a member of the MU, I'd urge you to become one.  They run lots of interesting free events like these.)

One of the ideas I brought up was the concept of "1,000 true fans" which I think is especially important in the niche genre of jazz.  Everybody has been talking about "the long tail" - the ability of music outlets to increase sales in the digital age because they have an endless catalogue with a huge amount of sales although most individual items are selling in very small amounts.

Although good news for the likes of Amazon, unfortunately this doesn't mean much for the thousands of jazz musicians who are selling very few CDs.  All it does is increase competition and reduce prices and therefore income.

The 1,000 True Fans idea argues that an artist only has to acquire one thousand real fans to make a living.  A "true fan" is someone who will buy every album you produce, go to as many gigs as possible even if it means travelling over long distances, buy any merchandise you produce and tell everyone they know (by word of mouth and online through social networking etc) just how fantastic you are!  Perhaps you have some of these wonderful people already but increasing that number to one thousand would ensure that you could make a reasonable living from your music.

But how do we attract these fans?  For me, the only answer is one by one.  I don't have the money or support of a record label to launch a PR and marketing campaign.  This means that I need to connect to every fan individually and directly.  If you show your fans that they are important to you and that their support and opinions count, eventually you will convert casual fans into "true fans".  Of course the downside of this is that you'll have less time to devote to your music.  Nurturing fans takes quite a bit of time.  It means staying engaged by responding quickly to all emails sent to you by fans through your website, setting up and monitoring accounts on myspace, facebook and twitter etc.  Most importantly, it means giving your time and energy at gigs by chatting to the audience members and signing CDs both during the intervals and at the end of the night (when really all you might feel like doing is collapsing in a heap somewhere with a large glass of something).  But I think it's worth it.  Do you?

More in-depth analysis of the concept here.


  1. Hi Juliet, very interesting topic and I think you have a very valid point. 1,000 true fans -with careful nuturing and marketing ( which you can just about handle on your own) would then slowly turn into 2,000 true fans and so on....self promotion is very hard with so many socual media websites to have to maintain and keep up with so looking after 1,000 fans is a good round figure to aim for. You would of course gave to constantly provide fans with new things to keep their interest; gigs, music, Vlogs, blogs etc.

  2. Thanks Sophie. Yes, it's a tough job keeping on top of all this social networking stuff!

    Thanks, Estelle. I appreciate the feedback. :-)

  3. i gotta say (though I know it's not gonna be popular!) that self-promotion in this digital age is a full-time job in itself to do effectively enough to attract 1,000 die-hard fans within a reasonable timeframe. To keep the fans we attract, like Sophie says, you do need to constantly provide new content in order to keep people's interest. Most of us are likely to end up creating that content ourselves in some way - spending time that could be spent on music engaged in things we're probably not best at. And yet the more we get side-tracked by self-promotion, the more we lose sight of the fact that it was the music itself that won us the fans we already have, and so it will be by making more music that we are proud of that will win us the greatest number of fans the quickest and give us sustainability. Well, that's my theory for what it's worth! Still, great blog though Juliet - I enjoyed your post re 10 steps to singing.. totally spot on!

  4. Thanks for your excellent feedback, Julia. I actually agree with you! It would be a full-time job to keep 1,000 true fans happy. Word-of-mouth promotion from people who love what you do is always going to be the best advertisement. But I think nurturing those first few fans is important as it will encourage them to spread the word. Of course when the number of "true fans" increases to maybe 100 or so and they are all spreading the word then the artist would probably already be in the position to attract a manager/agent who could then take over the work. The way I see it is that the first "true fans" are actually acting as your PR agents but doing it for the love of your music not just for their 20 per cent!


Thanks for your comment. I really appreciate the feedback. :-)