Today I “met” someone via Twitter. Dallas W.Taylor. The Dallas Taylor, as in “Crosby Stills Nash and Young Dallas Taylor and Greg Reeves“. The Dallas Taylor who played drums on that album shown above (Deja Vu), on the first album Crosby Stills and Nash, on the first Stephen Stills album, and on the two Manassas albums.
[And not the Dallas Taylor who was on the FBI’s Most Wanted list for a short while in 1953. Or any other Dallas Taylor.]
I’m delighted to learn that there’s a new band in the works and that there’s new music to come. For sure I will be buying it, I want to support a childhood legend. My wish to support him grew even stronger when I found out what Dallas has been doing in the decades since. Go here if you want more information on the work he’s been doing on addiction intervention.
An aside I can’t resist, germane to this discussion. I read an article in the Times today trashing the Long Tail, referring to a study I studiously avoided mentioning till now; it smelt of trolling. But now I can’t resist. The headline was, believe it or not, Long Tail Theory Contradicted As Study Reveals 10m Digital Music Tracks Unsold.
Turns out the study was done by Will Page, Chief Economist of the MCPS-PRS Alliance. Yes, as in the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society and the Performing Right Society.
Now I shall resist the temptation to say that it’s a bit like reading a report on why cigarettes don’t cause cancer written and published by Philip Morris, or maybe on why gas guzzlers have no impact on climate change written and published by General Motors. I won’t say that. Having successfully resisted that temptation, I will state that what I can glean about the study looks quite reasonable. Except for a couple of points. A couple of big points.
First, Long Tail actually requires you to make the right Long Tail things searchable, findable, sellable, buyable. Not just any old things hanging around in inventory like elephants-without-colour. The right things. Too much of past inventory management focused on what was sold, what wasn’t sold. Whereas what should be measured is intent, not sale or purchase. How many things, Long Tail things, didn’t get sold despite the intentions of buyers? Mary Modahl, in Now or Never, a worthwhile book written at the turn of the century, makes that point very well. Nowadays, understanding buying intentions is at the heart of VRM, particularly unfulfilled intentions.
The Long Tail may not always be visible in a business environment that has been Hit Culture dominated, at least partly because industries in such environments are so far away from the customer and her intentions. How else can we explain the fact that it would appear no one considered that it would be worth while to re-release the Jeff Buckley and Leonard Cohen versions of Hallelujah as physical CD singles last week?
Long Tail is about what happens when the costs of discovery and contracting drop in an environment where inventory can be managed flexibly and dynamically, making the case that there’s a lot of people wanting to buy a lot of things that they can’t buy because of unavailability, high search costs, high fulfilment costs and so on.
Second, even if the study’s conclusions were right, they will not continue to be right. Because people like me will buy the songs and albums of people like Dallas Taylor, even more so if he starts connecting up with the Greg Reeves and Chris Hillmans and Joe Lalas and Al Perkins and Paul Harris and Fuzzy Samuels.
You see, these people are part of the Long Tail. Many today have not heard of them. But enough have. Even measured in readers of this blog, there are enough. Even measured in Facebook friends, there are enough. Even measured in Twitter followers, there are enough. Enough to form a Long Tail.
So people will buy their music. And not necessarily through traditional routes either.
In the meantime, I will continue to relish the sensation of being in touch with someone whose name used to adorn my wall as a teenager.