spiritual self-exploration through health, fitness, and nutrition

The Long Tail Theory

Back when I was in middle school, radio was my primary source of the hottest songs and artists. I always had my cassette tape ready to record the latest song on the radio so that I could go back and listen to it repeatedly until the next hit came along. Sometimes I would go purchase the whole CD if I really loved the track (Fiona Apple, anyone?) or if a friend recommended something. My taste in music was essentially chosen for me by radio stations and record stores. And to think, that was only 15 years ago.


In his revolutionary book, The Long Tail, Chris Anderson efficiently outlines the concept of business demand moving more down the path of niches and further away from “hits” where all the competition lies. This has proven to be increasingly true

in my personal experience, thanks to the three forces of opportunity in this new marketplace (outlined below, see page 57). Anita Campbell from smallbiztrends.com argues that markets should focus their business models around the long tail, and as Danny Iny so efficiently puts it:

Since you’re focusing on what makes you unique, you’re no longer trying to fit yourself to the same mold that all the other candidates are trying to fill – you’re creating your own.

Producers: Growing up, I was formally trained in classical piano and developed a deep appreciation for all genres of music.  In college, I experimented with a production tool called FruityLoops to create my own electronic beats. This was my extent of experience with production tools, but I’ve known an increasing number of people who have used these types of tools to their full extent and ability.

Aggregators: Once I reached college, the Napster world opened up doors I never knew existed. I built a library of nearly 11 gigs on my hard drive (which was a lot back in 2001!). Today, iTunes is my primary source of purchasing music. As for shopping, anything from Zappos.com to eBay.com are my primary retail sources.

Filters: Recently, last.fm, and MySpace have been my primary music discovery tools. Friends no longer rant and rave about new music through word of mouth, but rather through status and playlist updates. Recommendations have also been an invaluable resource (for books, movies, etc.), and usually act as the deciding factor on whether I would purchased a product.

The biggest difference I see now is that music is no longer chosen for me and products are not unpredictable. I have full control over the selection and quality of my media and products. This control will only increase as the Long Tail lengthens and thickens in unperceivable ways. This is especially true when you take Moore’s Law into account; the faster the tools, the longer the tail.

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