1000 True Fans + AI: Creative Success In The Age of AI

If you are a creative person who wants to make a living from your passion, you might have heard of the concept of 1000 true fans. This idea was first proposed by Kevin Kelly, the founding executive editor of Wired magazine, in a 2008 essay. He argued that you don’t need millions of customers or fans to be successful, but only a thousand loyal and dedicated ones who will buy anything you produce. In this blog post, I will explain why Kelly’s idea is still relevant today and how it relates to the development of AI.

Kelly’s essay was based on two simple assumptions: first, that you can create enough each year that you can earn, on average, $100 profit from each true fan; and second, that you have a direct relationship with your fans, meaning they pay you directly and not through intermediaries. He wrote:

“To make a living as a craftsperson, photographer, musician, designer, author, animator, app maker, entrepreneur, or inventor you need only thousands of true fans. A true fan is defined as a fan that will buy anything you produce. These diehard fans will drive 200 miles to see you sing; they will buy the hardback and paperback and audible versions of your book; they will purchase your next figurine sight unseen; they will pay for the “best-of” DVD version of your free youtube channel; they will come to your chef’s table once a month. If you have roughly a thousand of true fans like this (also known as super fans), you can make a living — if you are content to make a living but not a fortune.”

— Kevin Kelly, 1,000 True Fans

According to Kelly, the number 1000 is not absolute, but rather an order of magnitude that can be adjusted depending on your goals, costs, and niche. The key point is that it is much more feasible and realistic to aim for a small but loyal fan base than to chase after millions of casual followers who might not even care about your work.

But why is this idea still relevant today, more than a decade after Kelly wrote his essay? Well, for one thing, the internet has made it easier than ever to reach and connect with potential fans around the world. You can use platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Patreon, Substack, Shopify, Gumroad, and many others to showcase your work, build your audience, and monetize your content. You can also leverage social media, podcasts, newsletters, blogs, and other tools to communicate with your fans and create a sense of community and loyalty.

Another reason why Kelly’s idea is still relevant today is that it can help you navigate the challenges and opportunities posed by the development of AI. As AI becomes more advanced and ubiquitous, it will inevitably disrupt many industries and professions. Some jobs might become obsolete or automated by machines; others might require new skills or adaptations. However, AI might also create new possibilities and markets for creative people who can leverage its power and potential.

For example, AI can help you generate new ideas, enhance your productivity, optimize your marketing, personalize your products or services, and expand your reach. You can use AI tools like GPT-3, OpenAI Codex, DALL-E, and others to create content such as text, code, images, and even music or videos. You can also use AI algorithms to analyse data about your fans’ preferences, behaviour, and feedback, and tailor your offerings to their needs and desires.

Moreover, AI can enable you to collaborate with other creatives, share resources and knowledge, and explore new frontiers of creativity and innovation. You can participate in online communities, attend virtual conferences, join collaborative platforms like GitHub or Behance, and learn from AI-powered tutorials or mentors. By embracing AI as a tool and a partner, you can enhance your creativity, amplify your impact, and multiply your true fans.

The concept of 1000 true fans still remains a powerful and practical idea for creative people who want to make a living from their passion 15 years on. By focusing on building a loyal and dedicated fan base, rather than chasing after fame or fortune, you can achieve sustainable and meaningful success. Moreover, by embracing the opportunities and challenges posed by AI, you can enhance your creativity, productivity, and innovation, and create new possibilities for yourself and your fans. So, whether you are a writer, a musician, a designer, or any other type of creative, remember that your true fans are the ones who matter the most, and that AI can help you reach and delight them in new and exciting ways.


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