Robert Rich on life with ‘1000 true fans’

Robert Rich is someone who I have enjoyed for many years without being a huge hardcore fan — I first heard of his work in the mid-nineties, as the recontextualization of ambient music for a new generation coming to it through a techno and atmospheric rock angle led to a variety of older artists finding new areas for work in general, as well as new audiences. Rich himself, like such peers as Steve Roach, has been at his craft for decades, and efforts like his marvelous collaboration with Lustmord, Stalker, helped to further bring him to a newer crowd that might otherwise have not paid much direct attention. (If you’d like a place to start with him, though it’s now many years old, I have always enjoyed the Trances/Drones compilation of early work; links to access downloads are available via the discographical entry on his site I’ve placed here.)

Speaking personally, many years back I had a chance to sit and have dinner with him at one of a series of events thrown by friend Dan B., Shambala by name. In retrospect it was part of a seeing out of a time and social circle, as a number of us who had come together out of a love of electronic music and time spent at KUCI in the nineties were soon to start going separate ways as people moved out of OC. Robert was one of the performers at this event, held in a pretty good Indian restaurant in the area, and I remember we had a thoughtful conversation, as part of a small group of four or so, about music and the like — I recall talking with great enthusiasm about Disco Inferno and how he was interested in hearing more, but sadly I don’t think I ever got around to burning him a disc. My apologies to him, if he reads this — but I doubt he would remember something like that so far along the way now!

Over on ILM, a poster today linked to an excellent new piece on his site, addressing what is after all one of the key questions of anyone working in music these days — thriving in an Internet world. To quote the start of his piece:

A few days ago, I got a question from Kevin Kelly (founding editor of Wired Magazine) asking me to give some real-world insight upon his theory that an internet-age artist can survive with around 1,000 “True Fans.” Stephen Hill from Hearts of Space had suggested that Kevin should contact Steve Roach and me because we each have been surviving in a likewise manor for a rather long time. I decided to write a long and carefully worded answer, speaking as close to the truth as I could. I recommend you read the original article that I’m responding to, if this interests you. It’s at

Get ready for a long diatribe that might involve you, if you listen to my music. I’m exposing some rather private stuff about real-life finances and the life of a full-time artist. I feel that the only way to communicate these ideas uses naked truth.

Read both the original, as he suggests, and his response. More thoughts on this at another time, but there are much worse places to start when thinking about this issue in more details, and his experience is greater than most as well.


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