More and more data are surfacing to suggest that while we aren’t seeing the sort of explosion of niche media consumption at the scale expected in Anderson’s Long Tail, we are seeing a lessening of the power curve in a comparison between “old” and “new” media experiences.
The reasoning seems to fit with what people expect, but just to re-iterate the three major (imagined) factors):
Part of this outcome is the shift to many-to-many media—many users able to access many works (a broad catalog of music). The catalog of available works increases, effectively surfacing a “tail” of media that previously was not easily seen.
Part of this outcome is a “relaxation” in the consumer-facing model—from product to service, if you will. The catalog of accessible works increases, as a function of “lower transaction costs” (subscription and free services lowering the effective cost of trying out new things).
Part of this outcome is the introduction and accessibility of new mavens and connectors (to employ Gladwellian terms). The catalog of plausibly accessible works increases given the introduction of new technologies and social actors able to introduce us to new stuff—randomly, filtered collaboratively, ideologically, or automagically.
My personal opinion would be that there will always be a head-heavy nature of experience distributions, not because of market control but simply because (1) culture is something we share (i.e., have in common and transfer among each other) and (2) some creative works are simply by their nature general in their appeal (in the same way that khaki pants go with about any shirt you wear).