Today's most successful artists and creators are brand builders. They build their tribes one fan at a time. These "artist entrepreneurs" or "creator entrepreneurs" do right by their fans – specifically true fans – who support them from the early days.
Kevin Kelly in his 2008 and newly revised "1,000 True Fans" article, wrote that creatives – comic creators, authors, gamers, YouTubers, actors, writers, musicians, etc – do not need millions of fans. They only need a thousand true fans. Whether you agree or disagree for you, there is ample evidence that true fans spend considerably more than other fans.
A true fan (or superfan) is someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will travel hundreds or thousands of miles to see you. They will buy your super deluxe box sets or limited edition stuff even if they have your regular quality versions. They watch you on social media and have Google alerts. They work hard to get to you when you have newly released work, get signed copies and buy t-shirts and merchandise. They try to convert their friends and bring them. They can't wait for your next release even when you have new work. They are true fans. They are superfans.
Every creator has their own deadheads
The Grateful Dead had Dead Heads, which is defined by Urban Dictionary defines "“a person who greatly enjoys the music of the Grateful Dead and particularly the genius of Jerry Garcia.” During the heyday of the band, Dead Heads followed them from city to city . The band took notice and played a different song set at each show. The regular Deadheads who travelled from gig to gig were rewarded because no two shows were ever the same. The Dead even encouraged their fans to tape shows and even set up a "taper's section" for them. As reported in an Time Magazine article , by Amy Lennard Goehner and Arpita Aneja:
"Somewhere in the Deadosphere, there exist tapes of practically all of the 2,500 shows the Dead performed in their 30 years of touring. If you have a lot of time to kill, just ask a group of Dead Heads to talk about their favorite live show.
Dennis Dennis, longtime Dead publicist and author of the best-selling book A Long Strange Trip writes:
"Dead heads had only one thing absolutely in common: each one had experienced some inner click of affinity, some overwhelming sense of “here I belong,” when confronted by the Dead, its music and scene. It was the recognition of an essentially spiritual experience that bound them together."
'Creator entrepreneurs' are today's power brands
Let's look at further at the music industry today. The December 2018 issue of The Economist, reported that music sales made up just under 66% of revenue in 2000. By 2017, music sales made up less than 40% (Source: Consultancy MIDiA). Record companies and publishers historically held the power to create, control and shape a brand under their watch.
Today, smart business savvy creators are building their own brands through social media. They are developing their assets. They are meeting their fans in unique and memorable ways . Take Stormzy (aka Michael Omari), a 25 year old English rapper who for four years refused to sign a record deal until 2018 after his first album topped the charts. Stormzy didn't have a publicist or agent for the first few years and booked his own gigs himself. His manager and high school friend, Tobe Onwuka says,
"Social media [has] brought fans closer to their idols … We’re in the most honest age of music."
The music industry was the first to adapt to the shift because technology disrupted it first. It certainly will not be the last.
Creators in the geek space are engaging fans up-close
Like the music industry, creators in the geek space have many options to publish independently, through publishers or a hybrid of both indie and publisher works. What's changed today is that creators are expected to be responsible for building and growing their brand and fan base. Publishers are overloaded and instead spend their resources promote work by branded creators, who are more likely to generate higher sales at launch.
'Creator Entrepreneurs' engage their superfans
Creator entrepreneurs listen and engage with fans online and offline. They understand that they should treat each fans as though he or she is the last one. They meet them online and travel to meet them face-to-face. They constantly strive to find ways to identify their superfans, because this subset of fans are one who make it possible for them to earn a good living and do what they love.