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August 20, 2006



Here's another few.
- What music are people creating?
- What music are people listening to live? (at concerts, bars, live performances)
- What music are people copying?
- What background music is being played at people? (in bars, restaurants, hotel foyers, shops)
- What music is used as soundscapes in TV, film

I really wish we could get some of the same metrics for books. The problem is that a book can't tell a computer that it's being read the way a piece of music can tell that it's being played.

And BTW. The whole "Music Genre" classification system is really screwed. It's ripe for tags. At which point see Last.FM.

Alastair Burt

For some insight into the third stage, Last.fm (http://www.last.fm/) should provide a wealth of information. It lets media players on your computer update a central data base on the web about what tracks you listen to. You can even upate your ipod listening statistics, I think.

If you click on anybody's name you will see a bar chart showing - surprise, surprise - a long tail of their listening habits.

The interface to get at the data is open, so statisticans could have no end of fun with these figures.


All three of Quirk’s measures assume an existing or build-able "inventory" of supply to feed demand. They are supply-centric. None raises the more impenetrable question, "What would people choose to listen to, if they could listen to (literally) anything." (Julian's questions are in the right direction.)

I believe the suppliers of large catalogs will never have the imagination or incentives to figure this out, and perhaps they shouldn't try. I guess it will be up to us, and the musicians, artists, and writers.

Nathan Jones

"Usage charts ... a metric that's only become available with digital distribution."

I get the feeling that you can still only see usage for particular realms. Last.fm is big and broad, and therefore useful, but it doesn't take into account the listening habits of people who don't use Last.fm. Of the people who listen to music with software, only a minority would be savvy enough to a) see a point in sharing their music tastes and b) actually set it up. Then there's the vast number of people who don't listen to music in a digital realm: just radio and CDs...

Naples Florida Real Estate

I agree with you in that #3 is the most important. I ripped every one of my CD's into iTunes and have a pretty decent collection going. But when I look at the top 25 played songs, it's surprising even to me. If you asked me who my favorite artists are or what my favorite album was, I don't think my answer would match what iTunes tells me I listen to.

JT Lowell

Chris -- just finished the book--and all the way through I was thinking about the demand side of the long tail, in contrast to supply. Your post starts to hint at that. I am curious as to what lead to what--infinite supply changing demand, or did demand shifts lead to supply changes.
You might argue that demand has nothing to do with the virtually zero cost of bits to supply. And I would agree--but I think of the remote control as a demand changing device for television. When I first got a cable box way back when, I had to change the channels via the mechanical slider on the top of box. I wasn't much of a surfer. There was more choice, in terms of channels, but I was still captive, for the most part, to a particular station--at least during 30 minute and 60 minute blocks. The remote actually changed the shape of my demand, more than the proliferation of choice.
There are many other examples of other enablers to demand-shifting and the long tail. I'm currently beginning research into a narrow range of those to probe the demand vs supply influence. It's not an either/or discussion, but I think it's worth probing into individual demand shifts as well. Over the next few weeks I hope to have some data to share on that front.



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As a record executive working in the UK music business the key issue within the record labels seems to be whether individual track downloading will kill off the album. What is apparant (and very annoying particularly to the major record companies who don't like being bossed around) is that because iTunes has 80% of the download market in the UK (fair dues seeing as they have 2 fantastic products - the iPod and iTunes store), Apple can set it's prices (£0.79 per download) at very affordable levels for their customers but which reduce revenue for the record companies. Apple, despite earning well from iTunes music sales (around 30% distribution fee per track sold) are really motivated by selling more iPods, computers and all thing Apple related. The market dominance of iTunes maintains the dominance on the Apple brand and vice versa.
How does this impact album sales ?
The lack of huge selling albums (20 million plus) as noted in the The Long Tail will continue as music consumers can pick off the key tracks they really want from an artists album via online stores. The resultant reduced revenue for the labels (they take a bigger cut from a full album sales via downloads and CD sales) will mean more downsizing for the industry and thus more risk in breaking acts. The reason why bands eventually sign to a big/major label is for the funding needed for good videos (that can play in every territory), marketing muscle and tour support. Would we have U2 and Red Hot Chillies if their respective labels hadn't been able to bankroll their global domination. We would have Bruce Springsteen though 'cos he's been touring for 25 years self funded ! But The Clash may never have got across the pond to the US.
So the increasing popularity of individual track downloading could eventually have dire consequences for the music business as a whole and therefore make it harder for new bands to get that helping hand to compete with the superstar acts. These more established bands, with no younger, hungrier competition coming though the ranks will continue to release less challenging repertoire (why mess with a formula U2 and RHCP's ?)
The other Long Tail relevance of iTunes is their set price for all downloads. The new Justin Timberlake costs the same as 'Rock Around The Clock' which goes against standard back catalogue pricing i.e a CD of Rock & Roll classic would sell for less than the a new chart album which helps record companies re-cycle back catalogue by discounting. If iTunes will not adjust their pricng structure accordingly for old catalogue/budget tracks they are effectively interfering with the classic long tail curve aren't they ?


Alex Bukinis

I think people are looking for [if we boil down everything to the ground]: expressiveness of speech - clear manifestation of feelings in the nonverbal plane and the correspondence between the words and the gestures, the mimicry.

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Even if all file sharing stopped tommorrow that certainly doesn't mean I would go out and buy more CD's, DVD's and go to the movies. The reason I stopped all those before was I objected to being ripped off plus most content is imho opinion complete crap. Until these things come right down in price to a level that actually equals their value I shall continually to boycott them. Went to the cinema for the first time in years last week, over eight quid for a ticket and I would have needed a second mortgage to buy some drinks and popcorn, so it will probably be another few years before I bother going again.

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The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

Notes and sources for the book

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