Sunday, June 13, 2010

Some additional thoughts about the Long Tail


In the Long Tail Chris Anderson proposed an interesting and provocative theory.  Traditionally products and services fall into something called the 80-20%.  That is 80% of the value of sales come from 20% of the products.  

Anderson made the novel argument that by digitizing something you could establish value out of things which previously were simply too expensive to carry in inventory.  Here is a good example, I like old time string music.  One of the early players of this genre was a banjo player named Charlie Poole.   Poole died in 1931 and only recorded music for perhaps a decade.   I first encountered him on a trip to see family in North Carolina.  I found an old album (vinyl) in a record store in Winston Salem.  But it was absurd to expect that all of Poole's recordings would become available.   The first banjo I owned was originally owned by a performer named Uncle Dave Macon who was from Tennessee (as opposed to North Carolina).  Macon had been fairly famous in old time music but since he died in 1952, the chances of finding all of his recordings was also small.

Anderson makes two points in his book.  First, with digitization it is now possible to carry a much wider catalogue of music or books or other products.  And, with that the payoff for those in the 20% becomes a bit higher.  So while a prominent singer in an earlier era, because the true sound of his talent could not be recreated precisely, made a reasonable salary, in these times the payoff for highly prominent performers is much greater.

We learned in a class yesterday that operatic performers who work in smaller companies are making less money than they did a generation ago.  Thus one question could be asked is whether the Long Tail results in a redistribution of income between, the middle people (right below the 20% in number) who at least according to the market for opera singers seem to make less money than they once did.   And the new market in the long tail.

One would expect that the total market increases (the pie gets bigger) but to the extent it does not, the the middle becomes less well off and the long tail becomes better off.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112023188

Dr. Tax in Sacramento said...

An anonymous reader sent a reference to the Charlie Poole Project - which is an album (two cds) from Louden Wainwright which presents Poole and Poole like music. I knew about it and if you like old time music (or even if you don't) these CDS are quite interesting. Wainwright does a superb job!

Dr. Tax in Sacramento said...

An anonymous reader sent a reference to the Charlie Poole Project - which is an album (two cds) from Louden Wainwright which presents Poole and Poole like music. I knew about it and if you like old time music (or even if you don't) these CDS are quite interesting. Wainwright does a superb job!