In his classic 2008 essay “1000 True Fans,” Kevin Kelly predicted that the internet would transform the economics of creative activities:
To be a successful creator you don’t need millions. You don’t need millions of dollars or millions of customers, millions of clients or millions of fans. To make a living as a craftsperson, photographer, musician, designer, author, animator, app maker, entrepreneur, or inventor you need only thousands of true fans.
A true fan is defined as a fan that will buy anything you produce. These diehard fans will drive 200 miles to see you sing; they will buy the hardback and paperback and audible versions of your book; they will purchase your next figurine sight unseen; they will pay for the “best-of” DVD version of your free YouTube channel; they will come to your chef’s table once a month.
Kelly’s vision was that the internet was the ultimate matchmaker, enabling 21st century patronage. Creators, no matter how seemingly niche, could now discover their true fans, who would in turn demonstrate their enthusiasm through direct financial support.