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Andrew Sullivan misunderstands the “long tail”

A new British study finds that the most pirated pop songs on the internet are those that already top the charts. Instead of giving rise to a “long tail” where small indie acts broaden their appeal online, the study found that digital technology – and music pirating – simply work to reinforce the fat head of mass appeal.

Torrents and their ilk cannot be considered as an aggregator of the long tail of the music industry. Although P2P networks could theoretically have endless storage, they tend to be biased towards the latest and greatest (the “tyranny of the new”). That is why long tail dynamics are much more visible on wide-ranging individual services like iTunes and Netflix, rather than ad hoc personal networks. That said, I still think that P2P networks can be effective at marketing as Jonathan Coulton, Danger Mouse and Trent Reznor have shown.

Andrew Sullivan misunderstands the “long tail”

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