My friend Ned wrote a really nice article last week about the activity that is taking place on baconworks.com. In his blog he asserts that ‘there has never been a better time to be an amateur musician than now’. This got me thinking.
There have always been enormously talented musicians that fly under the radar. They don’t have the agents, the record deals or the good looks to be seen by the world. Thank goodness the record industry protects us from looking at ugly people, what a service. Agents, recordings and a perfect smile, however, have absolutely nothing to do with making real music, so it is a real shame that they get in the way.
Fortunately, three things are changing the music creation/distribution paradigm. First, there is a proliferation of low cost/high quality digital recording equipment. Second, it is ridiculously easy to distribute music digitally. No need to press expensive CD’s anymore. Third, and most fascinating, is the quickly evolving social nature of the internet. With relative ease you can now post your unrenowned mug on YouTube.com beat boxing to the Super Mario Brothers theme song if you like. If your music is indeed worth a listen, the world will let you know through ratings, comments and social sharing tools like ma.gnolia, Digg and del.icio.us. You no longer have to ask MTV or Capital Records.
Here is another way to think about it. Record companies focus on major markets because the hurdles of recording and the high cost of distribution made it impossible for them to produce music for niche markets. Instead, they intentionally dismiss the niche markets, otherwise known as the Long Tail. The Long Tail, depicted by the light brown color in the graph below is where I live. Ironically, it is where most people offering services or products live, and that is exciting. It is exciting because nobody really knows how long the tail is. Unlimited markets. A world where there is a market for everything and a distribution channel to supply those markets.
Think I’m crazy? Let’s do simple experiment. I surmise there is a market for ‘used socks’, surely an item Walmart does not carry. I searched on ebay.com for ‘used socks’. As of today there are 241 offerings in the ‘used socks’ category. Yeah, but ‘who is buying?’ you ask. Looking at all ‘Completed Listings’ it turns out that there have been 702 pairs of used socks sold. Incidentally, I ran the same experiment back in June, did some quick math and found that about, one pair of used socks have been sold a day on eBay since June. Here’s a pair that sold for $4.48.
The consumer that bought this pair of socks is definitely at the very end of the ‘Long Tail’ but they do represent a market and they have money they are willing to part with.
Do I have a market? I do. A small one. Major record labels are not lining up at my door. But that is ok because the current state of technology allows me to serve my market without their help. Ultimately, with the price of admission being so low more musicians than ever are stepping onto the digital stage thus creating the greatest display of musical diversity ever witnessed in human history.
So, while I agree it is a great time to be an amateur musician, it is a really fantastic time to be a music lover and it is my goal to provide you enjoyable music from the Long Tail.
Now, if you are in the market for a pair of used socks, I have the inside scoop on where you can get ’em.