'1000 true fans'

I came across Kevin Kelly’s 2008 theory about 1000 true fans from Seth Godin’s blog. The gist of the matter is that:

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.

The ‘true fan’ being someone who will buy anything and everything you produce. Kelly has some great stories in the post about authors who have pre-financed the writing of their book through a process some might call micro-celebrity or micro-patronage. Another name is the street performer protocol:

Using the logic of a street performer, the author goes directly to the readers before the book is published; perhaps even before the book is written. The author bypasses the publisher and makes a public statement on the order of: “When I get $100,000 in donations, I will release the next novel in this series.”

Readers can go to the author’s Web site, see how much money has already been donated, and donate money to the cause of getting his novel out. Note that the author doesn’t care who pays to get the next chapter out; nor does he care how many people read the book that didn’t pay for it. He just cares that his $100,000 pot gets filled. When it does, he publishes the next book. In this case “publish” simply means “make available,” not “bind and distribute through bookstores.” The book is made available, free of charge, to everyone: those who paid for it and those who did not.

One author apparently used this approach by asking his ‘true fans’ to collectively donate $100 per month before he posted the next chapter of his book. The fans could check online to see where the total amount stood for each month. As Kelly, points out the book was published for the True Fans entirely online and then released later in normal print for the rest of his fans.

Musicians have also successfully used this strategy to release albums. One musician wanted to raise $75,000 to pay for the recording fees of her new album. Kelly points out she had at the time of his 2008 posting raised $50,000.

Kelly provoked a lot of discussion with his theory, and after some research made a post against his theory. However, some of the comments to the follow-up post provided examples of people successfully implementing the theory.

Overall the neat thing about this line of thought,  is following the long string of online conversation that it instigated – support for the theory, against it, potential examples of individuals seeing success, and so on.

The world of business is changing – there’s little question in my mind. These changes include the non-profit world, the government world, and governance (including implementing policies). For example, take a look at the organization Kiva if you’re not familiar with them. As they suggest:

Kiva’s mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.

Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend to unique entrepreneurs around the globe.

The organization functions on similar microfinance principles advocated by Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus – however, it is almost entirely powered by the Internet.

As I plow through the range of organizations, websites, individuals, government initiatives, and whatever else related to wild salmon – wow! – I am wondering how difficult it might be to coalesce 1000 ‘true fans’ of wild salmon.

I think I suggest this largely to the non-profit world out there focussed on wild salmon and salmon initiatives. My experience has been that the bulk of non-profits are dependent on grants and funds provided by philanthropic foundations – or government programs. Many of these foundations were hammered by the recent financial market meltdowns and had to cut programs – or fold entirely. (Of course there is also the various donations and membership fees that also assist – and some great organizations that do fantastic work with very little $$.)

However, as Godin, Kelly, and many other folks are pointing out – the world of business (and governance) is changing; changing rapidly. Non-profits and charitable organizations are part of these changes too (like it or not). They market to the  masses as much as Coke, Nike or Esso. There is a ‘new marketing’ out there that involves networks (online and physical), involves social media and Web 2.0 technology, and involves mixing these together to search for success.

Estimates suggest there are 80,000 new blogs daily (this one simply adding to the noise), the amount of organizations competing for limited donors grows daily.

(think about how many different color plastic bracelets one can buy now for whatever cost – those bracelets, I think, started with the Lance Armstrong foundation for cancer… and really, for eco-freaks, what’s the environmental impact for all those plastic bracelets…)

Is there a way that wild salmon advocates can secure 1000 true fans? Could the network that stretches up and down western North America – and across the Bering Sea and around the entire Pacific Rim be linked?

Could small community groups throughout the range of Pacific salmon be funded through micro-financing like Kiva’s program? Could these programs assist hard hit coastal fishing communities and fishermen/fishers?

Could we break down the bumpf-language so that more of the discussion is more accessible to everyone?

We Let You Loan to Low Income Entrepreneurs

Kiva’s mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.

Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend to unique entrepreneurs around the globe.

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