MP3 Sales: Another nail for the long tail?

Chris Anderson‘s 2006 Long Tail theory states that because the web provides unlimited availability of vast amounts of niche and specialist music/films/books/whatever that there will be perpetual sales for the relevant artists, authors and creators of this content. But in an update to their recent findings, the PRS-MCPS Alliance (the UK’s music royalty collection organisation) has announced that only 173,000 of the 1.23 million albums available online actually made a single sale last year. In other words 85 percent didn’t sell even one copy. This is in addition to their recent announcement that 10 million of the 13 million individual tracks available online didn’t find a single buyer. Anderson is stoutly defending his economic model of the new web-based landscape, but who knows what further data is out there to strengthen or weaken is argument?

Is the Long Tail a dead theory already? Is one year’s data in just one sector enough to kill it off? Or should we see the theory as along term economic model that will take time to develop? Or do we just accept that the web makes those producing niche content a little easier to find – a slightly healthier short tail…?

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3 responses to “MP3 Sales: Another nail for the long tail?”

  1. Interesting indeed… have you come across the theory of the centripetal web? Basically argues that despite the web providing a platform for all sorts of obscure things that would otherwise never see the light of day, increasingly the web is coalescing into giant metropolises (or whatever the plural is!) of Google and Amazon and the like, and the obscure things are getting pushed right back to the fringes. So maybe what we’re seeing is the web moving into maturity after an adolescent period of anarchy? I don’t think we’re in danger of no longer having everything available, just it won’t necessarily be so easily stumbled across if you’re not already looking for it specifically.

  2. The study may be flawed in that it may have only looked at the formal (or legal if you prefer) methods of distribution. I suspect that a lot of people who are interested in the lesser known work use P2P etc. and avoid the corporates.

  3. Thanks for your comments guys.

    Jane, I’ll definitely look at that centripetal web. Not something I’d come across before. And yes, i agree that things will always be available (the cost of everything being available is so marginal), but probably harder to find.

    Wayne. Yeah, very true. But I suppose they’re looking at it from an economic point of view. And those P2P downloads etc won’t be contributing to the artists’ income etc. But for those in the long tail, maybe they don’t care as much about revenue as those in the “head”…

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