I have lots of fans.
If you add together the people who have checked the "Like" box on Facebook, the people who "Follow" my musician profile on Twitter, and the people who have joined the mailing list on my website, that's a fair amount of people.
If all the people who have said they are my fans actually bought my singles, came to my gigs, and played my music in their homes for their friends and family, I would be making a reasonably decent living from my music.
But, you see, there's a BIG difference between fans and what I will call Fans. A Fan is someone who truly, seriously loves my music - who will rush right over and buy my new songs as they come out - who will enthusiastically share the links that I post - who I can count on to help spread the noise. And they are actually Fans based on my music and my musician persona, they aren't just enthusiastic because they are my friends or family.
Friends and family, as wonderful and necessary as they are, may not actually love my music for its own sake - they love and support me because they are my friends and family, not necessarily because they are a Fan.
I am a Fan myself...there are musicians, authors, painters and business owners of whom I am a Fan, and I happily tout these people's art/services/whatever without ever being paid, or even being pushed or nagged or bribed.
There's a certain author I know who, after many years of publishing excellent non-fiction, has just released his first novel. Its FANTASTIC. This author is my friend, but beyond that, I absolutely love his book. I have posted, tweeted, linked, tagged, talked about, praised, and otherwise plugged his books dozens of times in the few weeks it has been out. I am a true Fan of his work, and he doesn't have to ask me, pay me, send me free stuff, or anything else to get me to help him spread the word - HIS WORK DOES THAT!
As soon as I start talking about true Fans, I think of Bee. I am not sure exactly how Bee discovered my music in the first place, but she is a Fan. When I post something on my website or music page, she comments right away, always looking forward to the next song. When I DO release a song, Bee is the first to buy it.
I'll tell you what, I LOVE BEE. The way I see it, being an artist or musician is a sort of crescent shape - creation and performance make the crescent shape, but when someone else hears and loves what has been created and performed, it forms a complete circle. Bee completes the circle for me with her appreciation and love for my songs.
Believe it or not, I actually think about Bee when I am about to release a song, and feel a tingle in my toes: "Is Bee going to love this song?"
Although Bee is not my only true Fan, of course, because I have personally interacted with her several times (thank you, Facebook!), her face is the one I associate with my Fans, and I truly care about pleasing Bee when I am working on a song. Because without her (and the others like her) my circle is incomplete.
No matter how many fans I get, they don't really change my life much. It's polite and nice of them to click "Like", but its the Fans, the encouragers, the praisers, the buyers, the sing-along-ers, the email- and letter-writers, the rush-out-to-tell-their-friends-ers, that really make being an independent musician possible.
So THANK YOU! To Bee, and the other Fans I have - I play FOR YOU. Please let me know how I can serve you better! I love you all.