Do you have 1,000 true fans?

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I’m a huge fan of this singer-songwriter guy from Hong Kong called Chet Lam.

As an independent singer-songwriter, he has never signed to a huge record label. You probably haven’t heard of him. He’s not world-famous. He doesn’t have millions of fans. Yet for many years now – since 2003 – he has been able to make a living from making music for a very small, niche market – the Chinese-language independent music industry in Asia.

Over the last 13 years of his career, he has released 15 albums, performed at countless sold-out live shows, released DVDs of his concerts, written books, acted in plays. He has even released his very own cookbook.

I buy almost all of the stuff that he releases.

I’m subscribed to his mailing list, his Facebook fan page, his Instagram, and every time he releases a new album or a new book, I buy it. Almost without question.

I’m what they call a true fan – a fan who laps up everything he does. Repeatedly. (Lesson number 1: You can sell to true fans over and over again.) And since he’s independent, every dollar I spend goes directly to him.

You see, we always think we need millions (or hundreds of thousands) of fans to make it as a creator. We don’t. What we need are thousands of die-hard fans who are willing to buy the things we put out – whether it’s an album or a book or a print or a t-shirt.

There is a name for this little phenomenon – the 1,000 True Fans theory.

Over the last decade Chet Lam has managed to build a tribe of true fans who genuinely adore him, who buy his every product, go to his every concert, read his every book, support every one of his (inevitably successful) crowdfunding campaigns. This tribe of true fans cannot be bought, like how one can easily buy fake likes on social media these days. To be effective, this tribe must be carefully cultivated.

Throughout his career, Chet Lam has kept his fans updated with news of his latest projects. The medium evolves constantly – it used to be a blog that he updated with some regularity, now it’s updates on his social media accounts like Instagram and Facebook. We move along with him through life. We watch him as he grows through his various projects. As fans we feel invested, engaged. So when he has a new project, we genuinely want to support him.

Yes, it might be called the 1,000 True Fans theory, but you can have 1,000 fans, or 500 fans, or 25,000 fans, it doesn’t matter. It’s not about the number. It’s about having genuinely engaged and interested fans.

They are the ones who can help you make a living as a creator.

So, do you have 1,000 true fans?

To ask a more important question: How are you going to cultivate your own 1,000 true fans?

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