Long Tail Not Dead Yet: eMusic Says It's Alive And Well

from the premature-death dept

There have been a series of criticisms to Chris Anderson’s concept of “The Long Tail” lately. While most don’t hold up under scrutiny, a few have made some good points that don’t actually go against the long tail concept, but may adjust some of how people understand it. Of course, people love to jump and declare something completely dead, so there have been a few stories making the rounds claiming that the long tail era has been disproved. Somehow, however, when evidence to the contrary shows up, it doesn’t get nearly as much attention. eMusic has published a report noting that, indeed, their own sales show a pretty clear long tail distribution, with at least 75% of all of the music they stocked being sold at least once in 2008. Once again, though, it comes down to the filters. eMusic has some good features (they could be better, honestly) to help people find new and obscure music — and that helps spread interest to new acts. So, once again, it appears that the long tail is still very much alive, but it does still depend on the filters being used.

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Companies: emusic

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Comments on “Long Tail Not Dead Yet: eMusic Says It's Alive And Well”

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12 Comments
PaulT (profile) says:

As an extremely happy eMusic user, I’m glad to hear this. What’s also worth noting is that the eMusic catalogue is far from static. They seem to add at least 100 “albums” per day (that is, anywhere between 6 and 60 pages of 15 titles, sometimes singles & EPs rather than full albums). That combined with their claimed catalogue size of over 4 million tracks makes this a pretty impressive feat in my eyes.

The catalogue goes from strength to strength as long as you aren’t looking for mainstream chart material, and I’ve discovered many new acts there (Bonobo being my current favourite download this month). Long may they continue 🙂

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Erm, the lack of major label content is the *point* of eMusic. It’s a store for independent labels and bands. That doesn’t mean unknown – you can get the likes of The Prodigy, Stereophonics, Isaac Hayes, Creedence, etc. It just means that the RIAA typically don’t get a cut.

Besides, that has nothing to do with the long tail. The basic idea of the long tail is that while most purchases typically take place within a few months of an album’s release, sales can continue for a long time further down the line. The fact that a store with over 4 million tracks with content reaching back from the early part of last century to recent releases is still managing to sell most of its content is proof of the long tail.

Albums that would have been out of print years ago on CD and vinyl are still selling – that’s the point.

marek says:

There are some interesting reflections on this point from Hitwise, using their data to fill out the picture.

It raises the question of how far the subscription model shapes users’ activity and their propensity to get music they might otherwise not consider: because credits reset to zero every month, there is a strong incentive to use them for something. There may be something in that – though of course if people were really averse to experimentation, they might well just choose no to continue with emusic in the first place.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Long tail or odd distribution

According to their current chart, this is the top 5 downloads for the month:

1. Taylor Swift – Taylor Swift
2. Akon – Black President
3. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – I Love Rock & Roll
4. Lil’ Wayne – American Dreams
5. Bon Iver – Blood Bank

While some of these seem to be the result of people looking for mainstream material that’s not there and settling for older names they recognise, I only see one “indie” new release. Of my own downloads this month, only one album is a new addition this month and two are over 10 years old. I also hate “indie rock” so can vouch that the discount element is only part of the story.

chris (profile) says:

my emusic experience

the day my account would reset with credits was a shopping spree. had the $20 a month plan, which i would bottom out in a matter of minutes with older indie/punk/ska tracks.

i also discovered the vitamin string quartet thru emusic, and got classical string versions of a lot of popular songs.

but if i forgot to buy tracks for a month, then i lost $20.

for a while i set calendar reminders but instead i decided to just let it go.

if you have to pay by the track, i wish you could just bank unused credits.

Jeff (user link) says:

also worth wondering about is the factor of how eMusic prices their music –

saying that 75% of all music “bought” was purchased at least once is a bit misleading when you note that they put their users on monthly plans – I would be interested to see how much of that music was bought at the very end of the month, just trying to use up all of their credits for the given month. I think the possibility of this might skew that stat just a bit.

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