I had an interesting discussion with Lee Gomes a while ago, about the concept of the "Long Tail". Lee was taking the position that the Long Tail works as a concept, but as a business model it is no way to actually make money. He felt that by having an infinite amount of choices in music, it would cheapen all the music, and lead towards everyone making less money. I argued against that idea, and felt that there was room for everyone, and the "cream will rise to the top" in every area of the Long Tail.
Well, I am not sure who is right, but it is pretty clear that for 2009 the vote is coming in loud and clear that people want their music for free and unfettered.
Even Apple iTunes is gradually moving towards getting rid of the DRM (digital rights management) on songs you download from them. Amazon, CDBABY and other major sites are already offering downloads of songs now that, once you buy them, you can copy them to your hearts content.
But why bother buying the music, when you can listen by "streaming" it for free on your computer? MYSPACE now has a jukebox feature where you can create playlists of songs from thousands of artists ranging from little old me to people like Eric Clapton, Guns n Roses, you name it. last.fm, jango.com, pandora.com, imeem.com- all these sites give you unlimited access to music free. They are all working on the business model that they can pay a fraction of a penny per streamed song since they run ads on their websites, and they use the ad revenue to pay for the incredibly cheap music.
All well and good. but I wonder, where will it end? If everyone can create the music, and the basic business model is to give it away, what will happen to the quality of music? Perhaps there is less cream to rise than I thought...
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