In an interesting article about ‘web 2.0 fan-based fundraising’, Kevin Kelly (founding editor of Wire Magazine) states that any artists only needs “1000 True Fans” to make a living out of music.
“A ‘True Fan’ is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can’t wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.”
For his theory, Kelly assumes that a true fan spends about $100 a year on buying his idol’s products.
That’s interesting enough, but how about the ambient music niche market? Would it be possible to find ‘1000 true fans’ there at all?
When Kevin kelly asked him, Robert Rich wrote an insightful answer about that in an article on his webpage.
Judging by his view, it will be quite hard to earn a living on creating ambient music alone. But he’s quite a happy man about that fact: “I make about as much money as our local garbage man; and I don’t smell as bad after a day of work.”
Note that Robert Rich is a very prolific artist who released many titles (including “Somnium” – a piece lasting 7 hours which I consider one of the most important works in the ambient drone genre). His output is quite diverse in style, which may keep the ‘true fans’ interested over time.
Obviously, there’s no real money be made in the ambient music genre. You will also have to maintain a day job to earn their living. I don’t really think that is a bad thing however, because this means that creating ambient music means you must be devoted to the genre, otherwise you wouldn’t bother at all!
…Well this is in fact, a lengthy and unusual introduction to the new Matthew Florianz album called “Maalbeek”.
Matthew Florianz is a dutch ambient artist who released quite a few albums that gained critical acclaim. Titles like “Molenstraat” and “Grijs Gebied” may sound familiar to some of you (and if not: they’re definitely worth checking out!).
To pay for his daily living, Matthew has a job that is closely related to his musical works: he is a game sound designer, currently working on a major Multiplayer Online Game: The Chronicles of Spellborn.
There is a close relation between game soundtracks and ambient music. Spellborn sounds like a good example (as was Myst, in earlier times).
It’s an interesting fact that there’s a HUGE audience exposed to ‘ambient music’ without even knowing it. They will probably never be ‘True Fans’ – but if playing games support artists like Matthew Florianz in creating albums like “Maalbeek” in his spare time, that’s fine.
The bottom line, of course, is that you don’t need to be a true fan to support an artist. A less-than-true fan might also keep an artist going – he may just need more than just 1.000…