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A broader interpretation of ” 1000 True Fans” — the Vision Thing

Probably if you write captions for home furnishing catalogs, romance novels, obituaries or science fiction, and you don’t need to malarkey around with the vision thing, well then, you’re the village blacksmith at the Renaissance Faire. You have something to do and a place to be and you don’t have to worry about how else to make it. But it is good to know that if you are a creative artist — there are other ways to make a living.

Who are some people who seem to be working some version of the “1000 True Fans” model?

Mind you, I am going to be very broad in how I interpret this. The point of “1000 True Fans” as I have understood it is not a strict mathematical relationship, as many of it’s critics have taken it to be. The point is that, in order to be successful, you do not need to qualify for success in the way that the marketing analysts for the major media companies identify success. We have all seen the cold calculation done by publishing companies, book stores, production companies and television stations. Over the years I’ve had 4 or 5 friends who ran small presses and I am familiar with the numbers of how much one must charge to pay for a printing of books, before even considerations of paying the marketing teams and the author come into the question. Looking at the “failure” of Jericho recently on television — Jericho was canceled for “only” having 5 million viewers.

Nothing I have ever done in my life will reach 5 million viewers.

So –what we are talking about is finding success without ever having to talk to the kind of people who canceled Jericho.

To really get anything from the rest of this post you should plan on visiting the artists websites — the links are provided in the text.

Peter Greenaway comes to mind. His production costs are huge, so he really deserves his own model — but he is a diverse creator. He sells viewing through the traditional theater, lectures, VJ performances, TV shows, regular and limited edition books and he creates free websites to entertain his extraordinarily loyal fan base.

On the down side — his films get very limited distribution — which is a shame because they really should be seen on the big screen, and his production teams grasp of web design is a little shaky still. His various sites had a lot of initial “wow” factor, but didn’t ultimately captivate me — and I am a big fan of his.

Kris Kuksi is a multimedia artist — some sculpture and some painting. His work is unique. He is close to being a traditional artist, except that he works his ass off to get shows. His work is frequently displayed all across America, and he has many pieces already in private collections. He maintains a website and is a prompt and friendly correspondent — including sending pictures of new art sometimes as he completes it.

He is listed here because his work is not immediately sale-able — you can’t picture his pieces in a mall art shop in limited edition next to a clear glass female nude, but the people that like him really like him.

Jason Webley is a touring artist who is just never going to get an EMI contract. And possibly wouldn’t take one if it were offered. His shows are highly interactive — on two that I have gone too the whole audience was instructed to leave the theater and go play — one time we all went to a park and had three-legged races, another time we marched down the local “Main Street” blocking traffic until we came to a lake, where his production team had set up hundreds of floating lanterns for us to each light one of and let it go — a darkened boat then arrived in the middle of the lanterns and picked him up and carried him away. Pure entertainment. Real creativity and commitment.

I first met him at Bumbershoot in Seattle — he was carrying a giant stuffed carrot on a fishing pole over his shoulder that had a sign on it which said “follow me” – he walked around until 30 people were following him and then stopped and performed pirate songs with his accordion right there on the sidewalk.

And finally Amanda Palmer — she uses Myspace to leverage her growing fan base which she nurtures by being on tour, basically constantly, for the last 5 years — sometimes alone, and sometimes with the Dresden Dolls. Her high drama performance style is wonderfully complemented by what is essentially a free book — her reports from the road. I’ve gotten more bulletins from her than all my other friends on Myspace combined — and reading them is like reading an on-going David Sederis novel (yes I am a fan of David Sederis.) She leverages her work crew by encouraging fans to come to shows, to organize special parties, to be in her videos. Her bands model is intensely participatory and much more fun than any other band I have ever enjoyed. She seems to be encouraging everyone to be a groupie, and if you read along with her bulletins you actually feel like one pretty quickly. I would almost expect her to run up to me and hug me if I met her on the street (although I doubt she would actually recognize me) because she has been so successful at making all of her fans feel like they are part of the band.

To get the real juice from Amanda you need to be on Myspace. But I’ll leave that to you to figure out on your little lonesome.

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March 27, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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