by David Carus
Today’s artists may consider it a challenge to get noticed and build a fan base. You’ve heard that people don’t buy like they used to, there’s a million things competing for their attention and what you really have to do is know the right person. The picture being painted is that your chances of making it big are about as good as winning the lottery and you’re not successful unless paparazzi chase you. It’s easy to get discouraged if you think you need millions of fans to be a success. The truth is you only need one.
Ever hear of these four guys from Liverpool? The Beatles are widely considered the greatest rock band of all-time but before they had thousands of screaming fans waiting for them at the airport and the British Invasion taking full effect, they needed a hit record to catch on in America. Beatles records were sent to radio stations and they were all huge failures. Nobody was interested in listening to the greatest rock band of all-time! That is except for one 14 year-old girl living in Maryland who discovered the Beatles and called her local radio station and asked why they didn’t play their music. The DJ she spoke with obtained a copy of I Want To Hold Your Hand and the record took off like a rocket, establishing a foothold for the Beatles in America that quickly spread to other cities. In a short time they were the biggest musical act in the country and had thousands of screaming fans, but it started with only one true fan.
How about the story of Sixto Rodriguez? Who is that you might ask? He was a little-known folk singer from Detroit in the 1970’s with a couple of albums that sold practically no copies in the Unites States. He thought his music career was done and went back to working construction. But someone liked his music and began making copies of it and gave it out to friends. His music became huge in South Africa and an entire generation of people grew up on his music and he became bigger than Elvis there. Rodriguez had no idea until decades later. His story became the subject of the Academy Award-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man and the Dave Matthews Band has even covered his music. Dave Matthews, one of the biggest musicians in the world said he grew up listening to Rodriguez when he lived in South Africa. All of this happened because of one true fan.
Don’t focus on the fans you don’t have. Focus on the ones you do have. So David Letterman isn’t interviewing you on his show tonight and you’ve only got 24 likes on your Facebook Page and the only people that follow you on Twitter are from Indonesia — it doesn’t matter. Make great art and find one true fan that loves it. You never know who they might share it with and how far the word might reach. So forget the sold-out audiences that aren’t there and see the audiences that are there. You probably already have a true fan and have been too busy to notice. Speak to them. Smile and wave and let them know they’re important — because they are.
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I'm David Carus. From overcoming one of the most dangerous cities in the country and graduating from one of the most prestigious colleges in America to leading an educational movement as a teacher and running for Congress at the age of 25, I decided the best hope our world has is through art.