Forget squeezing millions from a few megahits at the top of the charts. The future of entertainment is in the millions of niche markets at the shallow end of the bitstream.
It's all about consumer choice when you are freed from the constraints of the capacity of a store shelf. Whereas in the past we could select from among the popular items (i.e., the "hits"), we now have the ability to browse through everything. No longer are we limited to the 5 or 6 basic stations for TV; we have digital cable and DirecTV and content we can download directly from the Internet. No longer are we bound to what we find on the shelves at Tower Records; we can browse obscure artists through online music stores and even download free tracks from bands that we've never heard of (Ever heard of my friend Pete McClean? You can download some of his best songs right here on SongRamp for free!).
But most of us want more than just hits. Everyone's taste departs from the mainstream somewhere, and the more we explore alternatives, the more we're drawn to them. Unfortunately, in recent decades such alternatives have been pushed to the fringes by pumped-up marketing vehicles built to order by industries that desperately need them.
Hit-driven economics is a creation of an age without enough room to carry everything for everybody. Not enough shelf space for all the CDs, DVDs, and games produced. Not enough screens to show all the available movies. Not enough channels to broadcast all the TV programs, not enough radio waves to play all the music created, and not enough hours in the day to squeeze everything out through either of those sets of slots.
Read the manifesto to find out more about The Long Tail.
Suddenly, popularity no longer has a monopoly on profitability.