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July 17, 2008

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Ian Betteridge

There's something about what Seth is saying, though, that makes no sense:

"You can give the hit a shot, but it's awfully crowded at that end of the curve."

It doesn't make any sense to talk of ends of the curve as "crowded", because while a market can be crowded, ends of the market in a success curve can't be - or at least not in the way that Seth is using the word.

Suppose you have £12 disposable income. You can choose to buy a hit CD, or you can choose to buy a different CD at the other end of the tail. What affects that purchasing decision is, of course, very complex.

But either way, you still have to make a single choice of purchase, and all buyers are perusing the same market. All of the CDs, no matter where they are in the tail, are competing for the same £12.

Chris Anderson

I think Seth's point was only that hits are great but they're hard (and unpredictable) to do. It's hard to get into the top ten of anything--it's not so much crowded as it is very fiercely fought up there and success can be fleeting.

Adam Wexler

Hey Chris,

I think Seth brings up some great points in this posting, but I wanted to respectfully disagree with one word choice. When deciding between a hit song and a "long tail" song, there are certain factors to consider.

In the context above, "better" is a very subjective word. "Selling out" is an all-too-common path to success these days. That is one of the biggest problems in the music industry right now. For too many bands, it's not about the music anymore.

It may be "better" to make a hit if you want the big bucks, but if you are in the music business for the right reasons, stay true yourselves and your own sound. As Bob Lefsetz likes to say, where has all the good music gone?

Bryan Rosner

Adam, you are missing the point entirely. We aren't talking about one's passion for good music. The long tail describes an economics model as it fluctuates and eventually lands somewhere new in the digital world. And unfortunately, since we live in a society governed by capitalism, that is what will ultimately shape the long tail economics. We are by definition referring to business and scarcity principles. What you describe is more of a hobby - making good music just for the heck of it. That kind of thinking belongs on a hobby blog.

Bryan

Jason Armstrong

It is a shame that the music produced in a capitalist society is entirely devoid of passion. Someone should pass a law to fix that.

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Tidbits

The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

Notes and sources for the book

FREE was available in all digital forms--ebook, web book, and audiobook--for free shortly after the hardcover was published on July 7th. The ebook and web book were free for a limited time and limited to certain geographic regions as determined by each national publisher; the unabridged MP3 audiobook (get zip file here) will remain free forever, available in all regions.

Order the hardcover now!