I just finished Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail. I consider it a must read for anyone who needs to understand consumer tendencies toward buying in a new era of unlimited supply. The internet affects every industry though and as Chris reminds us, “forget it (the web) as a marketplace of products, and instead think of it as a marketplace of opinions. It’s the great leveler of marketing.” p. 244 And from consumers, to aggregators, to producers of content, the internet has and is continuing to change the face of traditional business and moving us into a different looking bell curve from the one I learned in grad school.
Chris explains that what we used to know as the limited shelf space in a retail outlet and the ‘top of the tier’ items was all that was sold in the traditional outlet. The recent orientation of technology accessible to ‘non-professionals’ and the internet as a practically free platform for production and distribution have helped establish the ‘zero-sum game’. Chris explains that “inventory is ‘non-rivalrous’ on the web and the ratio of good to bad is simply a signal-to-noise problem, solvable with information tools. Which is to say it’s not much of a problem at all. You just need better filters. In other words, the noise is still out there, but Google allows you to effectively ignore it. Filters rule!” p. 117 Chris follows with a brief explanation of the wide range of quality that goes with the zero-sum game. The traditional industry is decided on its own merits by those at the top of the ladder but is now being tested by the individual among his own community of influence.
Chris does a good job recounting the steps that back up his theories. One example is through his pulled media vs. pushed media analogy. In this discussion Chris addresses the demand and how we have come to content by way of tv shows in 30 minute pockets. As we see the demand move from pushed to pulled, Chris suggests “demand will shift to shorter content for convenience and entertainment, and longer content for substance and satisfaction. But the arbitrary middle will not hold.” p. 199
What does this mean for a musician and a marketer? It has great relevance in providing products for people but it also does in simply counteracting what Chris coines as scarcity thinking. This is the mental trap that often comes from being educated to live and work with a limited amount of options. And yet most of our businesses still try to function in this old model. It’s true that in a traditional distribution channel only a limited few are selected as ‘worthy’ to be distributed to the masses. But in a market of unlimited supply you simply need to start influencing others and validating your method by seeing if you’re making an impact. You have all of the production and distribution capability in your hands. All you may need is to develop skill in areas that you have opportunity.