Thursday, July 3, 2008

More Unfettered Music, and Defense of "The Long Tail"

This has been a big week for news, if you can get past the depressing stuff they are printing on the front page.
First of all, Rhapsody announced its entrance into the downloadable music market with songs that have no copyright protection - once you buy them, you own them, and you can copy them to your other machines or players to your heart's content. This is good news, and follows my prediction that within the next 18 months the RIAA and the major labels will throw in the towel on the "DRM" stratgey of penalizing people that pay for a download vs. paying to buy a physical CD.
If interested, Rhapsody is giving away a free album to the first 100,000 people to sign up, but that offer ends on July 4, so better hurry up.
It also supports my belief that in the end people prefer OWNING the music they like, Vs. having to pay a monthly fee forever for the pleasure of listening to the music of their choice. But that is just my opinion.

Secondly, yesterday one of my favorite columnists, Lee Gomes, wrote an article about a new study from Harvard saying that the "Long Tail" concept first put forward by Chris Anderson in 2006 is not true. "The Long Tail" argued that the Internet, with its expansive shelf space, would mean a smaller role for mega-git products and a bigger one for the "long tail" of smaller niche products. The new article by Anita Elberse suggests that the Web is only cementing the prominence of a small number of cultural favorites.

I read the book, and came away with a very different impression. It may be true that Chris Anderson's idea that society is "shifting away" from the "hits" mentality that has driven our consumer society is not true on a macroscopic level.

If one throws enough money at marketing a "Hancock", it will have a huge opening, no matter how bad the product may be.

What struck me, and I believe to be true, is that within the "long tail" there are many many "niches", and if you look at each niche individually, they will each have their own "head", followed by a long tail.

What the internet has allowed to happen, due to the rapid inexpensive transmission of information and the low or no cost of "stocking" an item that is really just ones and zeros, is it has allowed these numerous niches to grow and even thrive as more people are able to find them.

The jazz music industry amounts to under 3% of all music sales in any given year. As the "major" labels have given up on this niche market as one that is unprofitable on their scale, it has opened up the playing field to niche marketers like myself that can target market this "micro economy", and be effective.

If you look at the JazzWeek Jazz Radio Album Chart for this week, you will see that over 50% of the artists are on small or self-released labels. My new album, COVER UP! is my 6th self-produced album over the last 10 years, and has just entered the charts at #43.

Believe me, this would not have happened 10 years ago.

So the "winner-take-all" dynamic has shifted. There is room enough now for everyone's creativity, and the cream will rise. I look forward to being in the "head" of my niche, and having a successful carreer, accordingly.