Death by 1000 ‘true fans’: do marketing laws apply to music listening?

Zachary William Anesbury, Callum Davies, Carl Driesener, Bill Page, Luke Greenacre, Song Yang, Johan Bruwer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The advice to musicians and marketers is to focus on what they love: a truism for practitioners is to find 1000 ‘true fans’ and make $100 from each of them (Kelly, 2008. 1000 True fans. The Technium). If this advice is correct, we should see musicians with loyal user bases engaging more with their favourite artists and less with other music, suggesting a narrow targeting strategy would suffice. On the other hand, the established marketing laws indicate that the listeners of very different genres should overlap more than conventional wisdom would suggest, supporting the need for a much broader approach to targeting potential audiences. Given these conflicting views, musicians need to know if they should market to their existing listeners, the listeners of music similar to theirs (i.e., the same genre), or if they should try to reach a much wider audience. We turn to established choice patterns from the marketing literature to address these questions in the music context. This study examines 84,000,000 observations of music listening from 27,000 unique global users between 2013 and 2014 and survey data from 2019 containing music listening from over 1000 representative respondents in the United States. The results show that listening follows the Duplication of Purchase law for genres, artists, albums, and songs, at an annual, 6-months, 3-months, 1-month, and 1-week period, with no indication of partitioned music listening. The implication is that musicians should try to reach all potential listeners, regardless of what they already listen to. These findings contribute to the theoretical knowledge about duplication analyses of various durations, extend the contexts of choice behaviour that exhibit this pattern, and managerially, to knowledge about the extent of potential audiences and ‘share of ear’ competition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-97
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Consumer Behaviour
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023

Cite this