It's a buzzworthy notion from early last year, generated by Kevin Kelly, a senior editor at Wired Magazine.
The idea is that in today's industry, you don't have to reach the mainstream to succeed at all. You just need a core fanbase who will consume everything you create. They buy tickets in advance, pay for your releases and b-sides and seven-inches, and create a sustainable source of income that allows you to simply cater to them, and not go chasing mainstream shadows.
In more specific terms, you might ask your fans to fund your next record by buying tickets via presale for your current tour. When you get X amount of money, the record gets made, and perhaps those who contribute receive MP3s along the way, or limited-edition merch or fanclub-privy updates.
What I'm curious about is whether any of this has worked for any local bands. Or if this seems as farfetched and implausible as a powerful A&R guy materializing after your set at The End and offering you a million-dollar deal. Are aspiring musicians still holding out for the old tropes, are you focusing on licensing and commercial payouts to keep the wolf from the door, or are you grooming the fans you do have and ignoring the rest?