The Long Tail in Action

On the way to work this morning, I heard an interview on NPR’s Morning Edition that illustrates how the Long Tail works in a real business. The interviewee, Mitch Koulouris is the founder of an online music company called DMGI. On the premise that every song, no matter how far from the mainstream, would appeal to someone, he bought up a large amount of music catalogs for his business. His instincts were right on. On average, each song in his catalogs sells at least five times per month. Of course, technology makes this phenomenon possible because he can archive his song inventory for relatively little money compared to what it would cost a record store to physically warehouse every CD, tape, and record (for those of you under a certain age, those were black plastic discs we used to listen to by placing them on a record player ;)) .

I read a lot about libraries and the Long Tail, but this story made me think about it in a more practical light. We are in the midst of a weeding project. It needed to be done. The average age of our collection is somewhere around 1970. Conventional wisdom in libraries has usually been to save physical space by weeding out volumes that are in poor condition, have very low circulation, or are otherwise not thought to be relevant. How could technology allow us to follow Mitch’s strategy? And would we want to? Is every book valuable just because it made it into print? The Long Tail philosophy would be that every book is of value to someone and if we had the space to keep them all, eventually someone would read each of them. Should Google be applying selection criteria in choosing titles for their digitization project or should they just scan every title? Should we be archiving every Web site posted? The thought is mind boggling. I think I need a cup of coffee!

NPR : Music Downloads Drive a Back-Catalog Business Opportunity
Mitch Koulouris once worked as a manager for the now-defunct Tower Records retail chain. Five years ago he realized digital music distribution was the wave of the future. Now his company, Digital Music Group, Inc., is buying up old song catalogs and selling them online.


One Response

  1. Thanks to Eddie Byrne for citing this blog post in his presentation Web 2.0 and Library 2.0, available from SlideShare at


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