Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans said if you inspire enough people to support your work just enough, you can earn a living from almost anything. A thousand people, a hundred dollars each, that’s enough to build on. A simple theory.
Li Jin recently put forward a modest proposal: what if you get 100 people who give much, much more? More money from fewer people.
Why stop there? Why not a single patron giving one thousand times as much?
Because that’s art world economics.
Because the point wasn’t the hundred dollars.
It was the thousand souls.
Money is gravity.
You need it to operate, but it’s not the point.
Nobody is inspired by gravity.
Kelly’s essay was written in 2008. The web was still just a little bit wild around the edges at that point. Patronage was still a weird experiment, and software was still given away, called shareware. The rules were still being written.
That certainly doesn’t mean it was all better, but it was differently balanced.
The proportions had not been airbrushed; the cycle hadn’t established itself.
Today, being weird online means one of two things. Either you’re trying to get there before other people do, not missing an opportunity, changing the rules to your advantage. That’s the excitement some folks feel right now: they feel like it’s possible to rewrite gravity.
Or it means finding new proportions, new angles to see from, avoiding maximizing everything, knowing life is not moneyball.
Jean Smith tried music and a variety of odd jobs before she turned to painting. Today, she sells her portraits on Facebook for $100 each.