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I believe the concept was brought forward in response to the destruction of sources of income, particularly for publishers because many smaller players in that industry relied on sales from their catalogue and that happened disproportionately through independent book stores. The idea was that Amazon would make the traditional publishing niche "better" by making the catalogue even easier to buy from. But that proved largely false because Amazon pushed down prices, pushed down distributor share, etc.

There was and continues to be something like this business in music, but in classical (and somewhat in jazz) not in pop/rap, anything that sells in volume. The results are somewhat different because, for example, there is a fixed vinyl production capacity - really, it's been what it is for decades - that is essentially at 100% use. Collectors also look for special issues - odd colors, even a record inserted inside another record (thank you Third Man Records).

In regular music, the net in general has allowed some smaller scale artists to prosper. I don't think was marketed as "long tail".


Pre-internet there were ways of finding unusual music mostly music magazines, bur also books such as the Rolling Stones guide for rock and Penguin guides for Classical and Jazz, specialist record shops, music videos on TV and friends. So people did find unusual things. So now I find them on the internet but I don't find any more than I did before. I expect the figures you are quoting shows that things are much the same for most people.

There is also what someone described as the Winner Takes it All effect. Consumers will choose something that is better, but better may be just because they are better known. The net has made this greater by allowing us to see other opinions and even the relative sales of a recording.

Jeff Weir

How I'd sum this up: just because there is a long tail doesn't mean that there are no search costs of searching that long tail for something you want to buy.

If search cost dropped to zero (that is, we could effortlessly scan the entire distribution and pull up the things we like from anywhere within it), then of course income would be redistributed from the head to further down the tail. But never so much that income from the long tail would dwarf income from the head of it. Although some artist might jump quite a few places from the tail towards the head, and replace some fairly talentless hack currently squatting there.


To add to my previous post Amazon's suggestions based on what other purchases have bought is actually quite useful. The iTunes one less so, as Apple has a smaller catalogue. What I really need is something that analyses my whole CD collection (which I've imported to iTunes) and then suggests based on those with similar listening. This would also remove from the list music that I already have which is a problem with both iTunes and Amazon that they could recommending CD that I already have.

Anyway having just tested Amazon out on a McGarrigle sisters album, I now have to check out Sarah Jarosz who I had never heard of, but seems to be rated very highly.

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