The long tail, Music and the small bookshop

I've talked about the millennial thinking before. I've heard it  said that the "iPod Generation" don't think about "Current Music" vs "Old Music". When I bought LP records there was never much back-catalogue in the shops. Growing up in Brighton there were second hand record stores which you could trawl if you wanted something which was long gone, but something which had gone out of the shops recently didn't show up. But, if you get most of your music by downloading, then there's no division into current and old. Music gets added to servers but it could be back catalog just as easily as it new releases - and server capacity can increase in a way that shelf space in a bricks and mortar shop never can. I recently went to see Gary Numan re-touring the 1979 Replicas Album. The audience was a mixture of 40-somethings who remembered the album from new, and students who'd discovered Numan from the various people who link to him and know Replicas from downloading it. At Radio 1's big weekend last week (great bit of Deep Zoom, by the way) - it was young fans who complained that Madonna didn't play her early stuff (we're talking 1983 music here - before some of them were born ).  Having heard Annie Lennox on Desert Island Disks this morning her Music from 1982/3 sounds every bit as good today [she picked the Beatles' Penny Lane as one of her 8 songs - I'd love to know what their download stats are like]. There are plenty more examples if you look, and of course this is what the idea of the long tail is about. Good music, (and good movies and good books too) will continue to find a market forever if you don't have to take them off the shelf. The same idea applies to blogs, Wikis and a lot of other "user generated content". If this blog were a newspaper column, it would appear, be read and disappear. As a blog the text remains - potentially forever, and thanks to search engines is discoverable and consumable - there are plenty of ramifications in that.

Two years ago now a couple of friends of mine announced they were going to open a bookshop. Part of me envied them, because I worked in a small bookshop before getting my first "proper" job after University and I remember it fondly. Part of me remembers running a business and the stress that went with it and would say "Never again"; that part also wondered if they had the resources to cope with a slow start or any spell of poor sales.  And part of me said "are they crazy ? Going up against Amazon etc on-line, and only a few miles from Oxford where book buyers are very well catered for".  It's pretty obvious that if you're going to make a success of it you can't compete on selection or price with the Oxford stores - much less with Amazon, but if you can make a place where people like to shop they will reward you with their loyalty. How to make such a place is a the challenge. Well Nicki and Mark seem to have cracked that because this week they picked up the Booksellers Association New Bookshop of the Year award. I'm sure it helps that they have a blog, but you have to more than that - things like this for example. Well done folks.

Comments (1)
  1. Mark says:

    James – bless you. The ‘are they crazy’ thing is still a valid question! The next thing we are considering is whether or not to set up an on-line store. Your comments about Amazon are well made, but your long-tail comments also have implications. If we can find products (signed copies, value-added packs, etc.) then *maybe* there might be a nice niche we can slot into…

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