Tim Longhurst's Blog

How many fans does it take to quit your day job?

March 19th, 2009 · 7 Comments

1000-true-fansWhere does your money come from? If there’s one area where people have consistently innovated throughout history, the way we resource ourselves would have to be it.

When it comes to the creative types, the concept of quitting your day job and just pursuing your art is a great temptation. But if you’re not going to be a Billboard-topping musician or an Academy award-winning filmmaker, how many fans is it going to take for you to lead a comfortable life?

This is a question asked by many, and attempts to answer the question are available via a series of creative types who have been running the numbers… According to Kevin Kelly, it all comes down to the concept of a ‘true fan’. If you have 1000 people who will just about buy any book you write or any album you launch, you probably only need 1000 of these ‘true fans’, because in concentric circles away from your die-hard followers, there will be still others who will buy your work on occasion-

Kelly has concluded that if you’re a creator (artist/designer/author/videomaker etc), as long as you have 1000 people who love you enough to buy what you do, you’ll be well on your way to linking your income to your passion.

Of course, central to this thesis are the questions of ‘how much is enough?’, and ‘what does life with 1000 fans really entail?’.

Bringing some sharp focus on the downside of living a life reliant on this model, musician, Robert Rich offers this take on life as an artist with about 1000 fans:

“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.”.

Scott Andrew doesn’t make a distinction between ‘true fans’ and ‘the rest’. He encourages artists to run the numbers on clearing $20 from each fan (a fairly modest number, really). How many fans would it take to quit your day job? He explores the mathematics of this in a rudimentary way –

Brian Austin Whitney [once] pointed out that an artist who has 5000 hardcore fans to give him or her $20 each year — be if from CDs, ticket sales, merchandise, donations, whatever — stands to make $100K per year, more than enough to quit the day job and still have health insurance and a decent car.

…Here’s an exercise: take your own salary, pre-taxes, and divide it by 20. If you were to quit your job right now and start living as a full-time musician, poet or author, that’s how many fans you’d need, spending $20 each year to support your art. So, if you’re making $30K yearly, you’d need 1500 paying fans each year to replace your salary. And it gets better if you’re willing to take a pay cut. In Washington state, where I live, a person working for minimum wage would only need around 700 paying fans.

Of course, if you’re going to manage your relationships with your fans through the various traditional and new media options, you may well need a team of staff who can support you and your art, keep your fans in the loop, etc. so it’s probably best to do the numbers on how you’re going to pay them, too!

This kind of modelling is a great way of looking at breaking outside the mainstream, because it puts your audience – the people you want to reach – at the centre of your planning. After all, art that keeps the audience in mind is far more likely to touch, move and inspire – and surely that should be the whole point?

Thanks to Suzi Dafnis, who’s tiny tweet inspired this post (and its title).

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Category: Communication and connection

Heading to New York and DC for coffee

March 6th, 2009 · 5 Comments

Today I’m heading to NYC and DC for a two week trip, and I’m hoping you can help me make the most of it. Sure, I’ve got some work to do while I’m over there – meetings planned for my work with GetUp etc., but I want to squeeze the most out of my trip. I’m attempting to ‘crowd source’ part of my itinerary by asking my network to advise me on who I should with over the next fortnight.

In short, I’m going to America to have a few coffees with interesting people – and I’d like you to help make sure I fall in with the right crowd.

To give you a hint of what I’m looking for, I am passionate about innovation. To me, answering the question “Is there a better way?” is one of the most important tasks we have as humans. I’m dedicating this trip to meeting with innovators – people who dare to seek the better ways of doing things –  in the fields of media, communication, activism, business – actually, really, any field at all!

But maybe ‘innovators’ is the wrong word? Maybe change-agents, activists, philosophers, thought-leaders, speakers, futurists, rabble-rousers, culture jammers or thinkers would be better words?

If you know (or know of) someone based in NYC or DC that you admire/love/respect/think would be cool to meet, recommend them! I’d like you to please name them in the comments section below, forward this post to them, or email me – tim @ timlonghurst.com.

I’ve got a great feeling about this trip. Naturally, even if you’re nowhere near NYC/DC you’ll be included – I’ll save the best quotes and anecdotes from all of this fun for the blog – I promise! Thanks in advance for your help, Tim

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Category: Communication and connection · Corporate craziness · culture jamming · Guide to better living

Transmedia storytelling – media trend / innovation

September 4th, 2008 · 8 Comments

There are lots of ways to tell a story these days: websites, comicbooks, videogames, movies are but a few… So if you’ve got a great story to tell, which should you choose? Increasingly, the answer is “as many as make sense”… Welcome to transmedia storytelling.

The Matrix is an example of Transmedia storytelling, as there is no one medium that conveys the entire world in which Neo (the central character) lives. As one professor wrote: “key bits of information are conveyed through three live action films, a series of animated shorts, two collections of comic book stories, and several video games.”.

Michael Moore is a fantastic example of someone who understands the benefits of transmedia storytelling – in the lead up to the 2004 US presidential election, Moore went to town on George W. Bush… he was attacked on Moore’s blog, in his book, Dude, Where’s My Country?, in his film, Fahrenheit 911 and during his Slacker Uprising national speaking tour. By choosing to tell his stories on multiple platforms, Moore reached diverse audiences in a manner that appealed to them, but a complete picture was only possible by experiencing each of the media in turn.

The term was introduced to me by edwardharran via twitter.

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Category: Communication and connection

Think Big Forum – quick post-talk notes

September 3rd, 2008 · 1 Comment

What a day! I’ve just arrived home from Sydney’s Think Big Forum at ANZ Stadium…

I was invited to ‘keynote speak’ at the Forum when I was in Beijing and I decided to change my flights to be included on the speaker list. The way it was put to me was simple, “It’s a business forum, but we’re being innovative about it…” it was to be “degustation-inspired”, with the food theme kept throughout. I was invited to be the ‘group dessert’. What a title. How could I say no?

The day opened with Kylie Kwong talking about her business trials and tribulations (key insight – she swears by the original “E-Myth” book) and was followed by a diverse ‘tasting menu’ of speakers who each had twenty minutes to share their knowledge of the topic.

The format meant that the sessions were fast-paced – 20 minutes each – enough time to get a sense of whether you liked the topic; liked the speaker and wanted more. And that’s where it got interesting – after each session, we were invited to attend a “Master Class” with the speaker we’d just seen. If you were prepared to forgo the next scheduled speakers, you could ‘go deeper’ into the topic. What a great conference model!

So in the afternoon it was time for ‘dessert’… Well, here’s how my 40 minutes broke down…

  • Introduced myself and my work as a futurist / innovation expert
  • Talked about futures studies / innovation and the role they play in business – ie. new products and processes… It all starts by asking the key innovator’s question: “Is there a better way?…”.
  • Talked about the rise of BRIC nations (Brasil, Russia, India and China) and specifically about the rise of China… Then, since I’m fresh of the plane, taught some valuable Mandarin to the crowd “CHINA – LET’S GO!”. Seeing 170 people on their feet cheering in butchered Mandarin was one of the most surreal moments of the day and confirmation that this was a fun crowd.
  • Described the trends I’m seeing in business, particularly some highlights of my favourite innovation programs:
  • The Clean Plumber – constantly innovating, the business’ latest move is replacing a utility truck with a motorcycle for many plumbing jobs – it zips around the Sydney streets with ease; saves on fuel and keeps the business’ promise to be on time.
  • Dell’s Ideastorm, which I believe is one of the best examples of open innovation, particularly given that Dell actually takes advice and turns it into improved products.
  • Australia 2020 – inviting an entire country to participate in your innovation program is a brave move for a Prime Minister – if Rudd pulls it off (by implementing good ideas or at least explaining why he’s not using the ideas he doesn’t like), it could be the beginning of a new attitude of innovation from Canberra
  • and Google… I mentioned the 80/20 rule (20% of time dedicated to innovation), but I also would have liked to discuss their use of Google Labs, which is fantastic.
  • Gave ten tips on how to spot a great innovation culture – that was fun because the pens came out and the heads started nodding – I think I was talking to a room of innovators!
  • Dropped in a top tip – innovation programs are a great ‘Gen Y’ retention tool because they give younger employees a voice and demonstrate that all staff opinions are valued – especially if ideas are acted upon!
  • Examined the major shift from closed/R&D-based product development to open/inclusive innovation programs…

And BOOM! It was 40 minutes… Wait, what?! We’re just getting started… Oh man!

I guess that’s the problem with tasting menus – sometimes you just wish you could have a little more of each dish – and I did get twice as much time as most of the other speakers, after all…

I invited feedback from the audience either through email/linkedin or my blog, so it will be interesting to see if people have something to say here on this post.

After my presentation, all sorts of business leaders shared their stories with me – I met heaps of bankers, a bullet maker (REALLY! YIKES!), a guy whose business is hydraulics, a guy that runs a solar-panel installation business, a bunch of innovation people from Telstra and ANZ, a logistics guy (who told me truck stories), a recruiter, a few marketing types, a couple of event managers… It was a good mix, that’s for sure.

It was a great day (a good way to spend my birthday!) and a really warm crowd to welcome me back to Sydney. Can’t wait to see my family, friends and clients and get settled back into Sydney!

Congratulations and thank you to the NSW Business Chamber and to the BigThinkers who made the day such a great start to my Spring in Sydney…

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Category: Change Agency

Beijing’s ‘sold out’ Olympics – no tickets, but lots of empty seats?

August 11th, 2008 · 7 Comments

News organisations and journalists have been reporting that the Olympics are sold out, but thousands of seats remain empty at many events.

Considering how many Beijing locals (and tourists, for that matter) would love to attend the Olympics, the ticketing allocation process is clearly inefficient if so many seats are empty at popular events like beach volleyball.

I recorded a short video to show you what the stadiums look like from a spectator’s perspective:

..oh yeah, and I included a call for London’s 2012 Olympic Organisers to allocate resources to making sure seats are almost never empty.

I’ve got some smart friends and readers. What do you guys have in mind? What technologies could be used to make sure thousands of seats don’t go empty at London’s games?

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Category: Things that make you go hmmm