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July 20, 2005


The long tail in the indie music space

Sometime last year Derek (from CD Baby) mentioned how he wants to create a number of smaller, focused CD Baby stores that cater to specific music genres. My initial reaction was: "That will dilute your CD Baby brand -- are you sure you want to do that?" And we discussed a little more, but I didn't really get it.

Then, when I was returning from ETech this year, I stopped by Derek's place to escape the horrendous LA traffic for a little while. Derek spotted my hair-do on the Long Tail Blog and we started chatting about tails-within-tails that Chris Anderson talked about in his talk at ETech.

Applying the long tail idea to indie music, I finally realized that CD Baby is the perfect example of long tail -- a large chunk of the CDs at CD Baby sell only a few copies in their life-time, yet CD Baby makes them all available. The idea to create focused smaller stores that serve specific genres, are essentially tails within tails.

For instance, a micro store "louisianabeats.com" might focus on zydeco and other Louisiana centric music. Anyone who loves Zydeco and heads to CD Baby, might not be able to find the right CDs in the vast CD Baby catalog. Instead, CD Baby does the work of identifying all the zydeco music and focusing it on louisianabeats.com. This site in itself will have a long tail effect -- some CDs will sell much better than others. And because of this specific focus, these better selling CDs are getting another shot at becoming popular.

In the grand scheme of things, CD Baby is on the long tail side and Amazon is on the short head side. Inside of the long tail "louisianabeats.com" creates another tail, "ohiobeats.com" another and so forth. This could even go on to "calibeats.com", which in turn could have smaller "norcalbeats.com" and "socalbeats.com" tails within tails.

What's the significance of all of this? Not sure -- for me its a tool to understanding non-mainstream markets. And I understand these better now -- thanks to Derek.

And to prove the Derek is totally on the right track, online MP3 retailer audiolunchbox.com today announced the creation of "7 genre specific digital music stores": themdirtyblues.com, pureclassical.com, punktracks.com ...

Too bad Audiolunchbox got this market before CD Baby, but still -- the concept stands, and I stand corrected!

Posted by Mayhem at July 20, 2005 01:11 PM