The Long Fail : How recent data are causing trouble for the Long Tail thesis

Recent data put through the ringer by my collaborator Will Page are suggesting the hopes and dreams of the Long Tail may be farther from reality than many have hoped.

Essentially, by way of transaction data from a large digital music retailer that shall go nameless, the tail wagged as follows:

Roughly 80% of the available inventory of music tracks sold nothing over the course of a year. Unfortunately, that outcome alone is enough to really question how life is for those artists operating in the tail.

Of the 20% of tracks that did sell something, the great majority of sales (more than 80%) came from a tiny sliver of tracks.

You end up with less than 5% of the available inventory accounting for more than 80% of the sales, during a year.

And unfortunately, that outcome is a far cry from “the future of business is selling less of more.”