1,000 True Fans


I recently revisited a talk given by the excellent Diane Ragsdale in which she refers to Kevin Kelly’s theory of 1,000 True Fans*. Kelly tells us “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.”

I actually first heard about this concept from Ragsdale four or five years ago when she gave a talk in Vancouver. I still remember the excitement I felt at learning about this seemingly simple idea—one that I believe is ideally suited to nonprofit arts organizations.

Now, being reminded of the concept, I am surprised that this—in its revolutionary simplicity—apparently has not caught on.

What could be more desirable than a solid base on fans eager for your art, productions and presentations?

Every arts organization has some fans, and with some degree of activity there is always the potential of acquiring more. Imagine building a league of followers who are eager to attend your performances, advocate for you through word-of mouth, donate, subscribe, share and comment.

Kelly acknowledges we do not need to fix on the number 1,000. He says, “in fact the actual number is not critical, because it cannot be determined except by attempting it. Once you are in that mode, the actual number will become evident. That will be the True Fan number that works for you.”

The point is to nurture the right number of fans that will allow your company and work to survive and even thrive. A small dance company offering one or two performances a year in a small venue will be fine with fewer fans than, say, a large presenting venue that may need 1,500 fans and perhaps many more.

What is important is to work towards the number you need, adding one a day or one a week, and reaping the benefits as you go along.

Imagine the return on your communications efforts. On one hand you can communicate to a group of people who actually want to hear from you, or you can market to a great mass of unknown people hoping a miniscule percentage will actually see your ad and take action.

Thanks for reading!


*Learn more about Kelly's work here.