1000 True Fans (an answer)

A few days ago, I got a question from Kevin Kelly (founding editor of Wired Magazine) asking me to give some real-world insight upon his theory that an internet-age artist can survive with around 1,000 “True Fans.” Stephen Hill from Hearts of Space had suggested that Kevin should contact Steve Roach and me because we each have been surviving in a likewise manor for a rather long time. I decided to write a long and carefully worded answer, speaking as close to the truth as I could. I recommend you read the original article that I’m responding to, if this interests you. It’s at www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2008/03/1000_true_fans.php

Get ready for a long diatribe that might involve you, if you listen to my music. I’m exposing some rather private stuff about real-life finances and the life of a full-time artist. I feel that the only way to communicate these ideas uses naked truth:

=====

Dear Kevin,

I agree strongly with your basic thesis, that artists can survive on the cusp of the long tail by nurturing the help of dedicated fans; but perhaps I can modulate your welcome optimism with a light dose of realism, tempered by some personal reflections.

I have operated on a premise similar to yours for almost 30 years now, before the internet made the idea more feasible. I wanted to make the sort of uncompromising quiet introspective music that moved me deeply when I first heard others do it back in the mid ’70′s. Because of the lingering aftermath of the popularization of psychedelic culture, certain memes leaked out from the avant garde into pop culture, and publishers from the old model were willing to try marketing experimental art-forms to the mainstream. Thus, into the mind of a suburban adolescent growing up in Silicon Valley, merged the unlikely combination of European space-music, minimalism, baroque, world music and industrial/punk, most of which received the benefits of worldwide distribution and marketing – even though we all considered it “underground” at the time.

That means, I grew up as a benefactor of the old system, before demographic marketing analysis helped to cripple the spread of radical thought across subcultural boundaries. I realized from this leakage of experimental culture into the mainstream, that I wanted to be an artist like the ones that moved me deeply. I wanted to speak my personal truth, regardless of the cost. I wanted to serve the role of a modern shaman, while embracing the complexities and ironies of our modern world.

When one sets a course like this, one quickly ponders the financial realities of obscurity. I remember telling myself when I was about 15, “If I can move one person deeply, that’s better than entertaining thousands of people but leaving nothing meaningful behind.” That’s the long tail talking. I suppose when you multiply this idea by a thousand, you have your thesis.

I began self-publishing my music in 1981, struggling to get paid from slippery distributors, trying to keep track of all the shops where I had my albums on consignment. I was relieved over the years when a couple small labels showed interest in helping me, and I could avail myself of their infrastructure. I think I benefitted immensely from this exposure, through labels like Hearts of Space and smaller ones in Europe. I feel in retrospect like I snuck in under the collapsing framework of independent distribution, at a time where small companies could cast a medium-sized fishing net, to catch the interest of listeners who would otherwise never have known they liked this type of music.

If it weren’t for that brief window of exposure, I doubt I would have my “1,000 True Fans” and I would probably have kept my day job. If I hadn’t also developed skills in audio engineering and mastering, I would be hungry indeed. If it weren’t for the expansion of the internet and new means of distribution and promotion, I would have given up a long time ago. In this sense, I agree wholeheartedly that new technologies have opened the door for artists like me to survive. But it’s a constant struggle.

The sort of artist who survives at the long tail is the sort who would be happy doing nothing else, who willingly sacrifices security and comfort for the chance to communicate something meaningful, hoping to catch the attention of those few in the world who seek what they also find meaningful. It’s a somewhat solitary existence, a bit like a lighthouse keeper throwing a beam out into the darkness, in faith that this action might help someone unseen.

Now in my mid-forties, I still drive myself around the country for a few months every year or so, playing small concerts that range in audience from 30 to 300 people. I’m my own booking agent, my own manager, my own contract attorney, my own driver, my own roadie. I sleep on people’s couches, or occasionally enjoy the luxuries of Motel 6.

In your article you quote the term “microcelebrities” which rings ironically true to me. I suppose I experience a bit of that, when some of the 600 people whom I see on tour come up to me after a show and tell me that my music is very important to them, that it saved their life, that they can’t imagine why I’m not performing in posh 3,000 seat theaters rather than this art gallery or that planetarium or library.

In reality the life of a “microcelebrity” resembles more the fate of Sisyphus, whose boulder rolls back down the mountain every time he reaches the summit. After every tour I feel exhausted but empowered by the thought that a few people really care a lot about this music. Yet, a few months later all is quiet again and CD/download sales slow down again. If I take the time to concentrate for a year on what I hope to be a breakthrough album, that time of silence widens out into a gaping hole and interest seems to fade. When I finally do release something that I feel to be a bold new direction, I manage only to sell it to the same 1,000 True Fans. The boulder sits back at the bottom of the mountain and it’s time to start rolling it up again.

So let’s look a bit at the finances. If I can make about $5-$10 per download or directly sold CD, and I sell 1000, I clear a maximum of $10,000 for that year’s effort. That’s not a living. Let’s say, after 20 concerts I net about $10,000 for three to four months worth of full time effort. That’s not a living.

In my case I’m lucky. I can can augment that paltry income through some of the added benefits of “microcelebrity” including licensing fees for sample clearance and film use rights, sound design libraries, and supplemental income from studio mastering and engineering fees. So, 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 if copyright laws vanished then much of that trickle of supplemental income would dry up, so you might imagine I have mixed feelings about both sides of the free-information debate.)

Thanks to the internet, I am making more money now, selling directly to 1000 True Fans, than I was during the days on Hearts of Space selling 20,000 – 50,000 copies. But had I not benefited from the immense promotional effort that it took for HOS to sell those albums, I probably wouldn’t be surviving today as a full time artist.

A further caveat: it’s easy to get trapped into the expectations of these True Fans, and with such a tenuous income stream, an artist risks poverty by pushing too far beyond the boundaries of style or preconceptions. I suppose I have a bit of a reputation for being one of those divergent – perhaps unpredictable – artists, and from that perspective I see a bit of a Catch 22 between ignoring those expectations or pandering to them. If we play to the same 1000 people, and keep doing the same basic thing, eventually the Fans become sated and don’t feel a need to purchase this year’s model, when it’s almost identical to last year’s but in a slightly different shade of black. Yet when the Fans’ Favorite Artist starts pushing past the comfort zone of what made them True Fans to begin with, they are just as likely to move their attention onwards within the box that makes them comfortable. Damned if you do or don’t.

I don’t want to be a tadpole in a shrinking puddle. When the audience is so small, one consequence of specialization is extinction. I’ll try to explain.

Evolutionary biology shows us one metaphor for this trap of stylistic boundaries, in terms of species diversity and inbreeding (ref. E.O. Wilson). When a species sub-population becomes isolated, its traits start to diverge from the larger group to eventually form a new species. Yet under these conditions of isolation, genetic diversity can decrease and the new environmentally specialized group becomes more easily threatened by environmental changes. The larger the population, the less risk it faces of inbreeding. If that population stays connected to the main group of its species, it has the least chance of overspecialization and the most chance for survival in multiple environments.

This metaphor becomes relevant to Artists and True Fans because our culture can get obsessed with ideas of style and demographic. When an artist relies on such intense personal commitment from such a small population of Fans, it’s like an animal that relies solely upon the fruit of one tree to survive. This is a recipe for extinction. Distinctions between demographics resemble mountain ranges set up to divide one population from another. I prefer a world where no barriers exist between audiences as they define themselves and the art they love. I want a world of mutts and cross-polinators. I would feel more comfortable if I thought I had a broader base of people interested in my work, not just preaching to the choir.

Indeed the internet is a tool that allows artists to broaden their audience, and allows individuals in the audience to broaden their tastes, to explore new styles, to seek that which surprises them – if they want surprise, that is. The internet can also give us tools more narrowly to target specific demographics and to strengthen those assumptions that prevent acceptance of new ideas, nudging people towards algorithmically determined tastes or styles. Companies can use demographic models and track people’s search patterns to pander to their initial tastes and to strengthen those tastes, rather than broaden their horizons. This problem doesn’t lie within the technology of the internet, but within the realities of capitalism and human psychology.

Like most technologies, the internet is morally neutral and we can better use its powers to assist the broadening of artistic expression, to assist minority artists to make a better living by communicating directly with their audience, to create tools that help people discover the surprising and iconoclastic, rather than to reinforce only that which supports their existing inclinations. Starving artists will probably remain starving, although perhaps with new tools to dig themselves a humble shelter; and as in the past, some of these artists will use those tools to build sand castles or works of great art.

Robert Rich,

===

Specific answers to original questions:

Q: Specifically, if you think you have a following of “true fans”, how big is that following?

A: About 600 “true fans” and 2000 seriously following listeners… and an unknown halo of others on the outer fringe. My database has about 4,000 names but I only hear from most of these people every few years. Occasionally someone new shows up and buys everything I ever made. It’s not a simple answer. For example I know I have at least 500+ serious fans in Russia who never paid me for anything, because they get it all as bootlegs. My 4 or 5 “True Fans” in Russia inform me of these things. Many “fans” don’t feel compelled to pay for the art that moves them, or perhaps they cannot pay because of economic circumstances or the inverse laws of convenience.

Q: What percentage of your annual revenue comes from them?

A: About 30% give or take

Q: Could you estimate how much a typical “true fan” spends on you in a year?

A: $14-40 depending on the number of releases I put out

Q: Are you taking advantage of new production/distribution technologies?

A: Yes, always or whenever possible within my means and schedule.

Q: If so, how is that affecting the type and quantity of what you offer your fans?

A: More stuff, lower quality, lower price. Not a direction that interests me. There is already too much crap out there, I don’t want to contribute to the informational rubbish heap.

Q: How has it affected your relationship with your “true fans”‘ and your “true fan” count?

A: Incoming number of new “fans” roughly matches attrition, perhaps. I am certainly able to communicate more directly with each individual, but that also means I have less time in the day to actually create new art (half the day doing email is not unusual.) Digital distribution seems to lower perceived value and desirability. Ease of access reduces any sense that it’s special or personal. Compressed audio quality and lack of physical artwork create the sense of a lowering in collectible value. I try hard to counteract these forces with high quality audio and informing listeners about the importance of the source… but people don’t always think about the details.

Before I sign off …. A passing thought about “freedom of information” as it relates to the “Gift Economy”: When information is free, always question what the information provider has to gain from its consumption. William S. Burroughs’ rants on Material’s Hallucination Engine (Words of Advice for Young People): “Beware the whore who says she doesn’t want money. To hell she doesn’t want money. She wants MORE money. Lot’s more money.” Just an ironic word of caution that the gift economy is funded in large part by advertising!

Yet, on a kinder note, I know that many internet developments, and many artistic efforts, are driven by a sense of duty or perhaps a need to help push the world forward into a better place (knowing of course that the military funded ARPAnet, so tools for killing people can also play a productive role.) I embrace and welcome any communal and life-affirming sentiment and consider myself part of it. I just try not to be naive about the stuff I see out there masquerading as something other than advertising.

Much Respect – Robert Rich

24 Comments »

  1. Bless you for these words of wisdom, Robert! Thank you for having articulated exactly those thoughts that seemed to escape my own ability to nail them. And thank you for all the encouragement that came through these words! It´s good to read that someone else, on the other side of the planet, has exactly the same feelings about his own work. This goes to show that my own perception can´t be all that wrong :-).

    Kind regards,

    Stephen.

    Comment by stephen parsick — April 19, 2008 @ 4:36 pm

  2. I read your response through Kevin Kelly’s blog;

    Thank you for sharing your experience so thoroughly… I am also an artist struggling with these same issues, although much further behind in the ‘game’. I plan on diving into online self-publishing this year, but with the same concerns of, as you say, “more stuff, lower quality, lower price…. not something that interests me”. I think, as artists, we may not have much of a choice but to embrace this trend, as it seems that the solution would be rooted mostly in matters of human (buyers) psychology and not forces of technology….

    I enjoyed your evolutionary biology analogy because it applied specifically to a problem with my own path that I have been thinking about. What if, for example, an artists’ output is so varied that it confuses their brand? I don’t mean on the scale of one record being far more experimental than the next (leaving some fans in the lurch, as you touch on above) as much as an artist attempting to maintain an audience from one genre to another… Would it simply be a more exaggerated and failed attempt, or, in reference to your biological metaphor, could an artist possibly create many mutually exclusive ‘trees’ at once to feed off of? This assumes a lot about the artists’ capacity, of course, but the possibility for stability seems attractive enough.

    I would love to read more posts from you like this.

    Rock on,
    eric.

    Comment by Eric Guenther — April 22, 2008 @ 8:57 am

  3. Robert,

    I just emailed you a comment, before I found your blog (how Web 1.0 of me, to look for the contact page before the blog page ;o)

    Anyway, a great response, a reality check, and credit to you for recognising the value in what you’re doing over and above the outside chance of getting hugely rich and famous doing it.

    My experience has been similar to yours, only instead of selling records on Hearts Of Space, my ‘push’ came from touring opening for Level 42 in the UK in 2002 (playing to up to 3000 people a night for a month) and also writing for a UK Bass magazine in the late 90s, which I was able to leverage for for a fair amount of web-notoriety at a time when there was very little bass related info on the web.

    I’ll blog a response to your post soon, and point more people back here too!

    peace,

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Lawson — April 22, 2008 @ 9:18 am

  4. Dear Robert!
    Just commented on Kevin Kelly’s blog before I found your page.
    Here is what I wrote:

    Very detailed description by Robert. Thank you, I agree completely
    That’s what it’s like at the moment. Still I love being independent. Maybe it’s a bit of a struggle at times. Compared to the struggle that people in their daytime jobs have I think I’m blessed.
    Just a few days ago I read, that the winner 2006 of the German equivalent to ‘American Idol’ is back to play small clubs in my area with his Metallica Cover Band.
    Poor guy! He had a nr.1 hit.

    At the moment I learn how to communicate with my future fans by improving my online marketing skills.
    Being an artist and an entrepreneur is a great freedom. I can do what I love the way I want to do it. I am grateful for that.

    We are independent since 1985, mainly because we wanted our music to be the way we love it.
    Didn’t know you before but I’m intereted in listening to your music.
    Wishing you all the best;

    Peter

    Comment by Peter Blue — April 22, 2008 @ 11:56 am

  5. Robert,
    Excellent posting. I do not know you as a musician but I *COMPETELY* embrace and live your posted words. I however have to keep my day job :).
    Thanks for tapping and writing about what so many musicians experience.

    Comment by Ray — April 22, 2008 @ 5:41 pm

  6. Hey Robert — very well thought out and well written responses. I think you might have revealed some of your own moral convictions as you somewhat [accidentally?] contradicted yourself with the statement in the last paragraph of the body where you wrote “Like most technologies, the internet is morally neutral…”, then the very last paragraph of your answers reads “…knowing of course that the military funded ARPAnet, so tools for killing people can also play a productive role”. Just about any technology can be used for good or for evil. If we were coming to this site and swapping pornography or exchanging bomb-recipes, then I’d say that this particular site was just as bad as a tool for killing people. Perhaps it was just a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor. Either way, it sounds like you might not realize that the original purpose of ARPAnet was to provide a robust means of interconnecting research computer systems, and in reality had nothing to do with literally killing people. ;-)

    Bottom line for me is that I’m glad to see your new site is very cleverly leveraging these morally-neutral technologies to provide us (some of whom are in your 1000 True Fans realm) with updates and insights we might not otherwise have. Kudos to you for having the time, energy and resources to do this!

    Comment by Pete — April 22, 2008 @ 8:34 pm

  7. Very well said, Robert! And I’m proud to say I am one of your “true fans”, since I have bought every CD (and DVD) you’ve released, and will continue to do so as long as you’re releasing material! And I will continue to paint to your music, and the music of other similar artists, allowing it to continue to inspire me – but, as Ray said up above, I also have to keep my day job, since that’s where my actual money comes in.

    Comment by Joe — April 22, 2008 @ 10:43 pm

  8. Thank you very much for sharing your insights Robert – they are very valuable for a beginning long tail artist like myself.

    Comment by Jim Offerman — April 23, 2008 @ 5:43 am

  9. You mean I’m not the only one?! Seriously – thanks for sharing your joy, frustration, insight, success, and music as an ambient artist. It would be the hardest thing in the world to keep doing this – if it were not for the pure joy of creating and sharing music.

    Thanks again!

    Will

    Comment by William Edge — April 23, 2008 @ 7:26 am

  10. Thank you, Robert, for a glimpse into your life via the written word. As much as your music, this is a welcome view into your existence. Your intelligence and deep thoughts into life as a musician in a fringe art form is a rare pleasure.

    As a musician who contributes artistic effort to Ricochet Gatherings and Different Skies, I can attribute my small participation in art music to the inspiration I gain from people like you, Steve, and Dirk, just to name a few. It has always been a pleasure to present your music on my radio programs. It is hoped that the additional promotional qualities of my playlists via email, mailing lists, MySpace, and blog serve to increase the visibility of you and all other artists struggling to be heard.

    Comment by Bill Fox — April 23, 2008 @ 7:45 am

  11. [...] Robert Rich » 1000 True Fans (an answer) an artis speaks out (tags: trufan opinion music) [...]

    Pingback by roblef dot com » links for 2008-04-24 — April 23, 2008 @ 7:41 pm

  12. Thanks Robert,

    I just found a copy of Somnium–and it is incredible!!! I have never bought an “album” on itunes and never will because of album artwork, fidelity, and hard copy protection of my purchase. I would like to see more artists put out albums in DVD-Audio and SACD (or Hybrid SACD). Multi-format players are now very affordable ($169 – oppo), and I think these formats could become more popular if there were more releases out there. In 2008, it is time for an increase in quality sound.

    Comment by Christopher Eaves — April 23, 2008 @ 7:46 pm

  13. Robert, after reading your essay on Kevin Kelly’s site, I came to your site to buy a CD. I found you had posted your article here as well. I read your words a second time and have to say that this essay is outstanding. It is inspiring, yet cautionary. It should be required reading for all artists, prospective artists and fans of music and the arts. Now, which CD should I buy?

    Comment by TJ Milian — April 23, 2008 @ 10:32 pm

  14. Robert,

    I fit your description of “Occasionally someone new shows up and buys everything I ever made” since I came across your material typing old playlists for Ultima Thule and couldn’t believe that I had none of your releases. That in itself is a huge oversight on my part because I spend so much time listening to music which might be classified with yours. Since that day, I have become intimately familiar with your discography. I don’t have everything, but I am working towards it.
    I recently downloaded your Somnium and have been working towards a deeper understanding of it. I would like to be one of your 600 dedicated fans, but realize that I could better support you by building your fan base. I continue to attempt to expose others to your music, but as I have always found, my excitment for this music is not transmitted to others easily.
    I appreciate your dedication and your work. Now, I only wish you could perform near where I live!!

    Comment by Brad — April 25, 2008 @ 12:45 pm

  15. Robert your have articulated an excellent response Kevin’s blog entry. Surely you are the real world data to his somewhat conjectural theory.

    I don’t have the time, unfortunately, to craft well thought out essay as you have, but, for what its worth, I will give you my mix of random thoughts.

    One point that needs to be remembered: the entire playing field of media production and consumption remains in a state flux; The old models have clearly gone by the wayside, but the new models have yet to solidify. So we are left with the unenviable task of having to analyze business models for artists without knowing what new model will emerge from the current chaos. (if they emerge at all)

    What if we turn the question around a bit and ask what this new model looks like from the consumer’s point of view? As I was reading Kevin’s blog I did ask myself if there were any artist at all for whom I’ve bought every CD, box set, etc. and for whom I drove long distances to see concerts. There are only a small handful of musicians whose entire oeuvre is within my collection. (guess who’s one of them? ;)

    But more to the point, It seems that for consumers, many of the old aggregators of Content have also withered away or lost impact. When I think about the places I used to find new music I remember those pre 80’s FM radio stations, mostly college stations. (I found your music on hearts of space way back when) Later, when I lived in LA for a while, I learned of a lot of new music from venues Like KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic. When the record stores first started allowing you to listen to music in store, I remember discovering a lot of great material. And now it seems that i-tunes or Amazon’s ability to play similar or like-minded material leads me towards new material. One problem using my self as a example for new model aggregators is that as I have become a bit of a starving artist myself, my budget for buying new music has gone way down. But I’m quite sure that I would be using Internet shopping sites to make most of my purchasing decisions. I believe that eventually i-tunes, Amazon and others, will evolve there sites to make more programmatic presentations of content, perhaps-via podcast type content, even becoming, shades of the old independent radio stations.

    Still many of the long tail players are not at this time allowed in to the mainstream venues online. As we have discussed before, this is mostly due to difficulties of accounting. Hopefully online pay technology will evolve to the point where more small players can be allowed in.

    We should ask ourselves what cultural, business mechanisms can evolve that churn the strata of the long tale model, pulling the smaller players up to larger audiences from time to time and providing the cross pollenization required for continued growth of artist/fan relationships and thereby address the risk of stagnation you discuss.

    You are an exception I think with your dedication to your music, and one thing that haunts me always is the thought of how many talented people fall by the wayside or give up before acquiring the amount of success needed to maintain production.

    Hopefully industry models can emerge in the new order that create nurturing environments for up and coming artists (the Motown records idea)

    There is also a larger societal perspective. Right now the mega hit mouse at the head of the proverbial long tail seems on first examination to be sort of a lowest common denominator monster. (Brittany Spears and Miley Cyrus come to mind, since I have two young daughters who are just discovering Disney manufactured pop-music) Surely there is real entertainment value in this for them. But I have wonder will our society as a whole continue to march blindly into the narrowing valley of mediocrity? If we are not teaching music and the arts in our schools anymore, is it any wonder that the populace inevitably becomes less sophisticated and demanding of our artists. Perhaps the real long term solution to the woes of the long tail artists is to find ways to engender diversity and awareness in the minds of our children on an institutional level. We need to bring the arts back into the fold of our fundamental expectation of public education.

    We are living in a amazing times. The rapid growth and evolution of the Internet and other digital technologies is wholly unprecedented. But we are also living in an era of stupefying materialism. My best hope for the future of the arts lies in the belief that as the hollow pursuits of mindless material gain begins to ring flat for many in our society, there will be a natural desire in the population at large to return to more fundamental and basic sources of meaning in there lives. How this will play out is not clear, but as our economy seems to move into its current tailspin, I have a feeling we are going to find out.

    In the end the only thing I really know is this: I must continue to try and produce the most soulful authentic and meaningful art I can muster and hope that I somehow make that cream that rises, if not to the top, then far enough upwards to be a self sustaining force in my art career.

    Comment by Daniel Colvin — April 29, 2008 @ 11:54 pm

  16. Thanks for these thoughts, Dan. For those other readers who didn’t recognize that previous post, it’s the guy whose artwork graces the front page of this website, not to mention the dark ghosted tree you see behind every few of these blog comments. Dan is the visual artist whose DVD Atlas Dei gave me the excuse to create 90 minutes of mixes in 5.1 surround. He’s also a noble warrior on the rough frontier of the long tail.

    A small thought, as I consider some of the comments I saw on other websites as I searched around to find the echoes of this conversation the other day. A few people thought I seemed angry, or perhaps down-spirited, about the prospects of success in this ever expanding world of shrinking audiences. I’m not depressed about it, I’m just trying to figure out how to surf the future waves, and I think we all feel a bit lost in the changes. I feel very lucky, but I’m cautious about any easy optimism for an easy future. I am very grateful to Kevin Kelly for sparking this dialog. Keep up the good thoughtful comments! – Robert Rich

    Comment by admin — April 30, 2008 @ 2:06 am

  17. Robert,

    What a fascinating explanation of what it is like to be a fringe artist (and of course I only mean that in a positive light!). From looking at pictures of your studio (as well as Steve Roach’s), I always thought that you guys were rolling in the dough (I mean, synths, computers, and mixing boards aren’t exactly cheap). So this essay you’ve written puts things in an interesting perspective. I’ve always dreamed of being an ambient artist myself (I once bought a synth and made some music of it, I sent a copy of it to Mr. Roach) but for me, for what I want to really create it proved to be cost prohibitive.

    By the way, your website looks better than ever!

    Best Wishes
    David Rush

    Comment by David Rush — May 1, 2008 @ 11:59 am

  18. [...] on ILM, a poster today linked to an excellent new piece on his site, addressing what is after all one of the key questions of anyone working in music these [...]

    Pingback by Robert Rich on life with ‘1000 true fans’ « Ned Raggett Ponders It All — May 14, 2008 @ 3:39 pm

  19. Thanks for the well thought-out and revealing essay. I will presume to say that I might be one of your true fans, and have been since I first heard your music while working at a record store, in 1991 or so.

    Your description of the realities of your financial situation are somewhat, well, dismaying – while I knew you were probably not going to be a threat to break the Hot 100, I wasn’t aware of the true situation. Among your recent releases, Electric Ladder is probably one of the most sublime works I’ve ever heard.

    But it does lead me to ask, if you could change anything about your situation (other than magically changing people’s musical tastes overnight), what would it be? The ability to tour more frequently or economically? More / better distribution or promotion? Offers for commissioned works? New areas for work (e.g. soundtracks fo film/video/games)?

    Thanks again,
    ed

    Comment by Ed Hahn — May 17, 2008 @ 3:50 pm

  20. Thanks again to everyone for the thoughtful comments. To address Ed’s last question, I think I would most appreciate extra help on the promotion and distribution fronts so new people could hear about this music. That whole aspect of publicity is probably my weakest link. It would also be nice if all the people who make free downloads understood how few people actually buy these albums compared to the bootleggers and torrents. (I’ve seen statistics on Torrent sites that show as many as 5,000-10,000 free downloads for titles that sell under 1,000 legitimate copies. That’s 10:1 taken directly from artists, not some faceless record label or “the music biz.”) But overall, I hope my feelings in the article came through that I’m not bumming over all this. I really consider myself very lucky to be able to make a living, even if it relies upon multiple income streams. I think an important lesson is that people shouldn’t expect only one activity to pay all their bills forever. The music still comes first, and I will always try to express the type of sounds that matter to me. – RR

    Comment by admin — May 18, 2008 @ 1:12 pm

  21. [...] por alfaya en 7 Septiembre 2008 Interesante reflexión la que ha ofrecido Robert Rich en respuesta a la teoría en esta línea que expuso Kevin Kelly [...]

    Pingback by 1,000 True fans « Borrador B — September 7, 2008 @ 2:07 pm

  22. [...] estime n’en avoir que 600, après 30 ans de présence active sur la scène internationale. Sur son blog, RRich reconnaît que les concerts et les ventes de CD ne représentent que 10 à 20 000 $/an. [...]

    Pingback by 1 000 vrais fans « David SCHOMBERT — November 17, 2008 @ 12:37 pm

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  24. [...] with a 1000 fully dedicated fans, you would have enough to make a living as an artist. There are rebuttals to that theory, but I personally believe this model could work and we’ve developed a couple businesses already [...]

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