OK. so it is all the rage these days to debunk the Long Tail. But for a record (yes, they are still records, even if it is a digital only release!) like the one my label AMP Recordings has just released, the Long Tail is crucial.
No one really gets rich in the classical recording field, and this is modern chamber music to boot - so the idea of a "hit" was never really viable. (Although I must say there are exceptions, like the almost fairy tale story of the Grand Valley State recording of Steve Riech's Music for 18 Musicians - but I dare say no one got rich). So what the Long Tail does for a micro label like ours - who has partnered with artists to create a product, is that it makes it available to people all around the world.
When we released our first recording (Scarlatti Harpsichord Works) in 1996, it was quite a struggle to make it available to people. See, classical chamber music is in of itself a niche - and there are a ton of niches with the chamber music niche. There are number of people in the world who would love to get there hands on what was an obscure recording of Scarlatti Harpsichord works. The trick was (and is) letting that niche know that the recording exists and making it somewhat easy to find and buy.
Chamber Music - Lots of niches within niches
There are infinitely more tools (at very low cost) for accomplishing this than there was 10 - 12 years ago - social networking, search engines, blogs etc, and of course for music, digital aggregators like CD Baby et al, but clearing through the clutter to get your niche's attention can still be a challenge. (We are going to re-release that recording digitally because we know someone in Hungary or Japan or Indiana is working up a Scarlatti Harpsichord piece and would love to hear what is on this record)
Often the scenario for chamber music releases on small labels was to hope to sell some, and then either store or give away the rest. I will get some push back on that, but it is essentially true.
So we have a definite Long Tail plan for our newest release. We have a number of things going for us I think. First; the ensemble, Brave New Works Rocks. Second; the pieces are fantastic and are by contemporary composers - and, as far as we know, they have not been commercially recorded before. The works are William Bolcom's Piano Quintet and William Albright's Clarinet Quintet.
We are releasing the record on CD (available now, you should buy it) and as a digital release. We are doing the traditional marketing stuff (albeit on a shoe string), sending it to radio for play (yes, we are still buying into terrestrial radio) and sending it out for review in both print and blogs. We are in the process of creating a dedicated myspace and facebook page for the release. We actually submitted for consideration for a Grammy and it made through the Committee phase. (Any NARAS members out there - give it a listen!). We have realistic expectations, we are excited that a couple thousand Grammy voters will see it on the list.
From the micro lable's point of view, the Long Tail is a real and quantifiable phenomenon. From the retailer and major label POV, maybe not. But is has made it possible for micro lables to sell a 1000 copies of their release, instead of just storing them.
So, I will post as things progress to see how our release does in the Long Tail.