Just because everything’s available, that does not mean anybody wants it.

In other words, you can get your song on iTunes, but nobody other than your mother and your boyfriend might buy it.

Furthermore, when you try and market it, you’ll find resistance. A public hyped ad infinitum has a shit detector nonpareil, but it’s even worse, you can’t even get through to them, they delete your e-mail, they block you from having access.

It all comes down to distribution.

There are a limited number of television channels, a limited number of radio stations, and there used to be a limited number of records for sale. Not only could you not get your indie record into a store, if per chance you did, if it sold, you couldn’t get paid. That was the power of the majors, their ability to get paid, their control of distribution.

And now distribution is completely flat in music. Anybody can offer their wares for sale and get paid. And the end result is everybody just wants the best stuff.

That’s what we’re doing online, all day long, searching for the best stuff.

We live in a winner take all society. Just look at the video game business. Huge winners and huge losers.

Now of course the flattening of distribution allows for niches to be populated that were hard to find or get to previously. But don’t expect these niches to blow up. Yes, we’ve got niches and superstars. And expect more superstars down the line, it’s human nature, we want to belong to the club, we want to be able to converse with others.

You’ve been sold a bill of goods. Excited by the Net, you bought the words of charlatans, who had no familiarity with art, who thought that the proletariat was now going to triumph.

You don’t want to be taught calculus by a high school dropout. And now, online, you can find out everybody’s CV, where they went to college, where they worked, the info is such that you can divine the winners.

It’s tough for consumer goods. Everyone just goes online and sees what product to buy. Furthermore, it’s hard to overcharge! With comparison sites fleshing out costs instantly.

And you can now find out what act is worth listening to instantly.

What’s worse, so many bad acts have asked for attention that it’s hard to penetrate the public, we’re not interested when there’s a little buzz, we only care when there’s huge buzz!

Look online. There’s one Google, one Amazon, one iTunes. Sure, there are competitors, but they’re also-rans. Same deal in music. When the best are so accessible, we don’t need the mediocre!

It’s a race to the top. Now it’s even harder to make it!

You can feel good that you’re selling your CD and MP3s, but that does not mean you’re going to make it.

If you want to play the Top Forty game, the major labels have a leg up, you can’t get on radio without them, not radio that reaches anybody and means anything. The majors are a filter.

And in the rest of the world, it’s every man for himself. And the only determining factor is quality.

You’re a hobbyist, you’re not a professional. If you’re truly lucky, you might become a journeyman, able to pay your bills playing music. But if you’re planning on being a star, you have to be incredibly good.

No one wants to hear this. Especially a generation brought up getting trophies for last place. Music is more cutthroat and competitive than ever before. The public is right there, on the other side of the computer, but it’s almost impossible to get people to care.

If you’re a great marketer, good at Facebook and Twitter, hire yourself out as such. Just because you can promote a product, that does not mean it’s going to sell. Social media only works if the music is great.

Good is not good enough.

We’re talking great. One listen great. Fifteen seconds great. Or something so left field that our friends tell us to give it five times through and we think it’s the new “Dark Side Of The Moon”.

Music is like America at large. There’s the 1% and everybody else. You may think you can make it, but you can’t. You’re part of the 99%. You’re a fan.

Sure, someone makes it into the 1%. You know who? Graduates of Ivy League schools who get jobs in finance and literally work 90 hours a week. Did you pay those dues, are you truly willing to work that hard?

Of course there are those who drop out of school, but are you as savvy as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates? Do your colleagues look at you with awe, are they rendered speechless when you play? If not, you’re not gonna make it. Sorry.

Not only do you have to have the skills, you have to be able to innovate. It’s like getting a position with the New York Philharmonic and being able to write the score too!

Just because you can buy a ticket, that does not mean you can win.

Everybody can play the lottery, but almost no one wins.

Almost no one wins making music. The odds are incredibly long. And if you think luck is key, you’re never going to win. You make your own luck. Through hard work!

So good luck.

Know that no one wants to hear your music other than you and your relatives. It’s ultimately got to be so good that people find you, as opposed to the opposite. Are you really that good?

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Category: Consumer Spending, Music, Think Tank, Venture Capital

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

11 Responses to “The Myth Of The Long Tail”

  1. ottnott says:

    I nominate this as the most pointless post ever to appear on The Big Picture.

    A very few of us might need to convince a teenage son that he really does need to attend his high school classes even if he can beat all his friends at Guitar Hero, but, that would make this a post looking far out on the long tail for an audience. Ironic, that.

  2. digistar says:


    Some sons don’t listen. Some sons don’t even care if they make a lot of money or have security. Some sons live for the music they create – regardless. Some sons work a little in the ‘real’ world to support their music lifestyle.

    So, this article is interesting and insightful to some fathers who have sons like that.

  3. ottnott says:

    I think you miss what Bob is saying.

    He’s converting the long-tail sales curve into a bar chart with 2 bars. There is a very tall sales bar labeled “Winners” and a very short sales bar marked “Losers”. People who make music because they love it fit in his Loser bar.

    But, beyond that, he’s missing the point that the long tail is not a myth to marketers like Amazon, which can sell very large cumulative amounts of the huge numbers of long-tail products. Instead, Bob is looking at single products on the long tail and sniffing that each product sells in very small amounts.

  4. Greg0658 says:

    I read the post .. didn’t feel compelled to rant or rave .. but for the 2 dads …
    as a music vs game promoter .. those 2 disciplines teach work together and/or win ..
    either – to play the big game you have to be talented and a standout … but in a smaller world not as much

    and why in a world where it takes a community to raise a child – the lesser talents need a place to work after they don’t make the big time grade .. IQs (talent) have a bell curve

    that tv does such a job at giving us the Grade AAA – and it doesn’t cost us 1 red cent (just pipe costs)

    ps – I get the www. entry point stuff and TBP is 1 of how many blogs?

  5. theexpertisin says:

    I have three kids. They attended public schools and a state universities. They never accumulated one cent of debt. And they never mooched off of me. They are married to a wife #1 with well-supervised and intellectually curious children. What are they now? USAF Lt. Col, USAF Maj, USCG Commander. All have master’s degrees, plus.

    They did not reach their level playing video games, wasting their time on inane trivial pursuits. Ethics and dedication are not learned that way. Rather,they played legitimate musical instruments at a semi-professional level of expertise and excelled in athletics.

    Point? It does not take a community to raise a kid. That is a good thing. In our present culture, most communities suck.

  6. EIB says:

    Barry, can you please credit CUT/PASTED content UP FRONT? This is disingenuous, and reeks of slime. You’re clearly trying to pawn off other content as your own until the very end, when the reader discovers otherwise. Very slimy, bro. I’m a big fan, but I see what you’re doing, and someone’s got to say it.


    BR: 1. Everything in the THINKTANK is by authors other than me. THAT is the entire purpose of it.

    2. Some people have managed to find the very subtle byline that EVERY POST HAS — in this case “By Bob Lefsetz ” in the upper right corner. Once you break this secret code, you can figure out this piece was indeed written by Bob Lefsetz. I understand this may be arcane and complex and difficult for some, but the byline is a system that has worked for 500 years, understood by all but the most fucktarded village idiots and those drooling fools suffering from a terminal bout of syphilis.

    3. Are you working with the Brail version of the Big Picture? In which case, I apologize for placing the byline in a place where an unsighted person might miss it. (Also, for emailing someone who is blind and I am unsure has text to voice software)

    4. On the off chance that you are sighted, well, then, I am sorry about your syphillis, and/or the blunt head trauma that has left you so addled and confused by the traditional literary functions, such as AUTHORSHIP and BYLINES that you embarrassed yourself with a comment so ridiculously ignorant that one can only assume some dysfunction of proper brain operations has occurred..

    5. Please go somewhere to heal your injuries. Once you achieve the status of high-functioning idiot — and believe me, I understand how much ardor and hard work you have ahead of you to achieve that level of intellect — you will be welcomed here. But at present, perhaps it would be best for you to recover from your obvious brain injuries.

    Godspeed to you, you poor syphilitic bastard!

  7. Greg0658 says:

    humm .. I know you are but what am I …. Jinx

    seems old world music chord progression lives on:

    Video Killed the Radio Star

    ps – it takes a community

  8. EIB says:

    I think I see the confusion. In the EMAIL, there is no byline. On the website here, there is.

  9. EIB says:

    Regardless, the byline on the website is a very small font, and is even “greyed” out slightly. Is that by design? Keep up the great blogging! Big fan.


    BR: Glad you appreciate my sense of humor!

  10. blackjaquekerouac says:

    this article strikes me as eliciting such a rudimentary knowledge of how media works as to be ridiulous. Of course “music” as with all other art…is simply “produced”–and ultimately it all is produced “out of love” since the vast majority of great work goes unnnoticed. Van Gogh? Nobody but his brother knew that guy. The point is in the modern media age we have “buzz.” It’s a great expression…all those media “bees”…suddenly “buzzing.” Is the nest under attack? Is that “special flower in bloom”? Is the weather about to change? There’s a panoply of reasons why the bees start buzzing…but what we all know is that there is a REASON…however ephemeral. The question for those seeking out true original talent to me is “does it beep.” That’s what Sputnick did: “it beeped.” And “kept beeping.” In other words “the fascination had staying power.” For some reason humans found themselves attracted to “it”–is “it” the “object d’arte”? Is it just “the buzz”? Who knows. All we know is “there’s something there”….and simply put that thought is not presented even in rudimentary form here in this article. “Some writing just grabs you” as they say…”like the author has something to say.” Most…”is like limp pasta.” We got limp pasta here.

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