Alaska Robotics

True Fan Boost – A New Labor Day

Tuesday, September 9th 2008 by Pat

My friend Arlo Midgett has been kicking around an interesting idea he calls the “True Fan Boost.”  The basic proposal is that we should use Labor Day as an annual date to consciously elevate those independent artists whose work we support.  The idea is fairly fresh and flexible so I’m going to twist it up a bit and see if I can wring something out.

1000 True Fans

The idea of the True Fan Boost is a piggyback on Kevin Kelly’s 1000 True Fans concept which holds out a bright orange carrot for independent artists.  If you can find 1000 True Fans willing to spend $100 per year on your work you will have made $100,000 at the end of the year. This probably translates into much less once you’ve figured the costs associated with producing whatever you produce- still, a living.

The math is different for everyone but the basic concept is there.  Maybe it’s 50 True Fans for a talented painter or 10,000 True Fans for someone selling handmade pog earrings but there is a certain (smallish seeming) threshold for artists who wish to succeed in a niche market and it’s a very attractive goal to work towards.

As you can imagine, plenty of enthusiastic head wagging ensued once this idea hit the web, both vertically and horizontally.

The 1000 True Fans business model applies to artists out in the long tail.  The ones who live out on that precarious snaking tendril filled with steampunk rock bands and  face contorting micro-celebrities.  I think it makes sense as a theoretical business model but the complicated reality of depending on True Fans is far from a sugarplum vision.

The sort of artist who survives at the long tail is the sort who would be happy doing nothing else, who willingly sacrifices security and comfort for the chance to communicate something meaningful, hoping to catch the attention of those few in the world who seek what they also find meaningful.

– Robert Rich (via The Technium)

The Boost

What I like about Arlo’s True Fan Boost is that it comes from the fans.  It’s grassroots.  It isn’t an artist trying to collect “True Fans” like a bunch of Pokémon, it’s the fans making an effort to give something back to the artists they love.  To not only support their labors, but to reward them and to encourage others to delve into a new body of work.

Of course this happens thousands of times a day in the comment fields on Amazon and on blogs and myspace pages and over the water cooler but I feel like this can be something more.  It’s a semi-organized effort to not only discover and encourage those emerging and existing talents, but to get other fans to do the same.

It’s Labor Day, it makes sense to honor the uphill battles and absurd labors of the artists we admire.

Consumerism & Cake

I really don’t like consumerism.  Consuming.  It makes me think of greasy fat people gulping down whole cakes. Store bought cakes with printed pictures instead of decorations and crusty yellow frosting made from horse parts. Consumerism today is about replacement. We remember a slice of apple pie we once had, we remember the imperfect homemade crust and a gooey filling that would never work on a plate, we remember the single scoop of vanilla ice cream slowly turning the whole thing into one delicious puddle. We try to recreate it again and again but sometimes we just replace it with something else, something easy.

I feel like consumerism goes wrong when we replace the genuine love and effort in a process with something stale and predictable.  A product lacking care or interest that simply exists as a stand in for something better.  I want to go the other direction and this is a chance to remember that as a goal.

What’s in a Name? – The “True Fan”

One caveat here is that I don’t know if I want to be a “True Fan,” it sounds kind of… well… fanatical.  I think I just want to be someone who appreciates quixotic creative endeavors, great storytelling, and imaginative human expression.

Boil & Simmer
So I’ve ground it down a bit now and I’m ready to do this thing. Here’s the process I’m using.

  • Identify the artist(s) you enjoy and want to nudge towards center stage – no yellow cake please.
  • Support them financially – buy something or palm them a couple bills.
  • Tell someone about the artist(s) on your website, blog, myspace, facebook, forum, podcast or soapbox of choice.
  • Encourage others to do the same because we’re all fans of something and friendly word of mouth is better than suffering advertisements.

I know Labor Day has passed but this thing is just an idea in the formative stages so go ahead and take it for a whirl anyway. Sharpen it up, make it better, move it forward. It needs criticism and discussion to get anywhere but I do believe there’s a place for conscious fan-based movements like this one.

One Response to “True Fan Boost – A New Labor Day”

  1. Arlo says:

    Needless to say, I like your take on the idea, Pat, and I’m looking forward to seeing the artists you deem worthy.

    When I was posting my own selection, I re-used Kevin Kelly’s “long tail” image.

    Got me thinking: What about a True Fan Boost logo?