A new report titled "The Death of the Long Tail: The Superstar Music Economy" shared some interesting and somewhat depressing data regarding the state of music industry, confirming that top 1% of all artists are earning whopping 77% of all recorded music income today.
As the Midia blog post reads, "the given situation is caused by the industry's current state and the drastic changes brought by the internet era. As the income fell by over a billion dollars from 2000 to 2013, the artists' share rose from 14% to 17%."
However, the consumer behavior possibly has the biggest impact, as the fans haven't actually embraced the vast array of choices given by the modern time, but "have actually been completely overloaded by it."
Blatantly comparing the music fan behavior to sheep, the report says how, The concept of the long tail seemed like a useful way of understanding how consumers interact with content in digital contexts, and for a while looked like the roadmap for an exciting era of digital content.
Intuitively the democratization of access to music - both on the supply and demand sides - coupled with vastness of digital music catalogues should have translated into a dilution of the Superstar economy effect, the article also reads how... "Instead the marketplace has shown us that humans are just as much wandering sheep in need of herding online as they are offline."
The report adds, "In fact digital music services have actually intensified the Superstar concentration, not lessened it (see figure). The top 1% account for 75% of CD revenues but 79% of subscription revenue. This counter intuitive trend is driven by two key factors: a) smaller amount of 'front end' display for digital services - especially on mobile devices - and b) by consumers being overwhelmed by a Tyranny of Choice in which excessive choice actual hinders discovery."
Focusing on streaming services as one of the key culprits, the article insists that massive changes need to be made ASAP. "Action needs taking urgently to make sense of 25 million songs, not just through discovery and editorial, but also by taking the brave decision to keep certain types of content, such as sound-alikes, outside of music services' main functionality."
Until labels, distributors and artists come to together to fix the issue of digital catalog pollution - sound alikes and karaoke especially - the Tyranny of Choice will reign supreme, hiding 99% of artists under a pervasive shroud of obscurity and giving the Superstars another free lap of the track.
The report still stresses that streaming services aren't a bad thing, adding, "Ultimately it is the relatively niche group of engaged music aficionados that have most interest in discovering as diverse a range of music as possible. Most mainstream consumers want leading by the hand to the very top slither of music catalogue. This is why radio has held its own for so long and why curated and programmed music services are so important for engaging the masses with digital."
Music has always been a Superstar economy and there will always be winners and losers in music sales, with the big winners winning really big, the report concludes. "Over time the improved discovery and programming in digital music services will hopefully push the needle for the remainder artist tier," but, we also need to keep in mind...
a) it will not happen over night
b) it will still have a finite amount of impact