Is the Long Tail Good For Musicians?

18th August 2008 - To the independent artist then it’s helpful that the Long Tail phenomenon exists because it means that if there’s a chance to sell a few copies of your work there are no longer any barriers in your way to stop you selling those few copies. That won’t make you a millionaire but it’s better than nothing. The Long Tail wasn’t promising you stardom or even a decent wage. Collectively those little bits could be added together so that some entrepreneurial sort who wanted to release an awful lot of those small sellers could take a tiny margin which could be economically significant over hundreds or even thousands of releases. Freakish helpfulness Sometimes when you make something available people like it out of proportion to your expectations. Removing the barrier to entry (ie: no longer having to justify pressing 1000 CDs in order to ‘release’) means that you can take a punt with much lower risk - and sometimes those risks pay off. And the great thing about the internet is that something that would not have even seen the light of day under different circumstances can become a runaway success simply because people like it talk about it and send it to their friends. This doesn’t happen often and everything has to be in pretty much perfect alignment in order for that to work - but it does happen. And what that does is to take something that would have been part of the long tail of low sale items and catapult it up to the realm of the hit. And that’s pretty cool. So - is the Long Tail good for musicians? A little bit. Not really. Occasionally it’s great but on the whole it’s hardly the panacea for the struggling artist a lot of people were pretending it was (or getting cross that it wasn’t). Is it good for the independent music sector? Absolutely - if the independent music sector would actually grasp the concept and use it then it would be enormously beneficial. So far I haven’t really seen that happen.