BigChampagne, The Long Tail, philosophy versus data

According to PaidContent , BigChampagne is about to release a study that shows that, far from driving the Long Tail, P2P file trading echoes the legal marketplace. What is popular in the legal marketplace is also popular in the “unencumbered” marketplace. PaidContent reporter Robert Andrews says that BigChampagne will claim that their data “refutes” the Long Tail. Mr. Andrews uses the study’s results to counter that position. Whilst the most popular tracks in this study were downloaded over 14 million times in a year, more than 13 million individual tracks were also swapped at least once – that sure sounds like a long tail, albeit a virtually inconsequential one…” He also correctly notes that the Long Tail took the entire web into account. It did not distinguish between legal and illegal opportunities to discover content.

“Inconsequential” and misleading. The Long Tail concept misses the key curve that (not surprisingly) invalidates it as a positive concept for inspiring and aspiring artists. While the curve illustrates that even obscure content may be found over a long period of time, it neglects to include the curve that shows that the amount of content available for discovery is increasing much faster than the curve declines. That means that while even ‘obscure’ music as a category has a long life, the odds of any particular song being found, and any particular artist benefiting from the discovery, decreases more rapidly over time than The Long Tail curve itself. Chris Anderson , who controls the major media whose audience cares about this concept (Wired and related sites/communities) may be able to propagate and sustain the idea that the Long Tail is good for individual artists, but the basic trends readily observable on the web don’t bear him out.


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