The problem with the "1000 true fans" idea
The reason the “1,000 True Fan” formulation sets folks on fire is pretty obvious: It seems like it’s a reasonably realistic goal. All but the most deluded of artistic types realize that massive, earth-shaking fame (and the riches that come with it) is extraordinarily rare to achieve, and that along with talent one needs a heaping helping of luck to get there. But 1,000 people — well, that seems doable on work alone. Plus now creative folks have lower cost and opportunity barriers for production and distribution, the Internet makes it easy to reach infinitely more folks, and so on and so forth. 1,000 people is a high school worth of people. It seems reasonable that you could be famous to a high school’s worth of people, especially when those thousand people are spread out among the 300 million people in the US/1 billion people in the world who have Internet access.
Speaking as someone who is arguably at a 1KTF level of notoriety, I certainly think it’s possible to gather a cabal of personal fandom to you and then ride them to a comfortably middle-class living. That said, it’s not what I do, and I don’t think it’s as easy a task as some folks seem to be hoping it will be, either in the acquisition of or the maintenance of that trusty band of true believers. Nor do I think the reward will be what one expects.
Why not? Well, I’m glad you asked.