Music Rebellion Leveraging the Long Fat Tail: CDBaby


The Long Tail

Leveraging the Long Tail is a concept introduced by Chris Anderson in 2004 and adopted by Tim O’Reilly later on when describing the main features of Web 2.0 platforms to explain the concept that with the introduction of Internet and later technologies the small and not known sellers and producers have the same opportunity of distribution and sales than the big fish in any market. There are a few mainstream fish who get most of the market share, but there are millions of “not known” little fish that aggregating the total of their small-scale sales can actually challenge the figures of the big ones. Wow, that’s an interesting concept!

Our favorite topic is music, so I’d like to show how this concept applies to this field. Firstly, to contextualise the discussion let’s see how the music industry was run in the past in contrast to how it’s run in this digitised world of today:

For the most part of the 20th century the power in the music business was held by a few big names: Universal, Sony, EMI and Warner; those were the main labels. But what do I mean by label: “A company that produces, markets and distributes the music of artists”. At that time they were the ones that had the recording studios, the distribution channels to stores, the media support to publicize and advertise and because of that, their voices were booming stronger than any other fish in the pond. Only a few artists chosen by them were the only ones who had a major opportunity of having a great living out of music. But not anymore, all the musicians now are in a  a level ground as the resources have been made accesible for “everybody”, that is:

  • Home studios are cheap so any given artist could access them easily or even invest in one to create a product of a decent standard.
  • There are music distributors, such as the feature of this article CDbaby, that receive music from artist in CD format or MP3 and sell them through their online store and even more, send the music to high-profile online music stores such as iTunes and Rhapsody.
  • Social media and internet methods of advertising and publicising such as Facebook and Google have made that low-profile musicians could be known better.

ImageLet’s focus in CDbaby as a typical example of leveraging the long tail. Their slogan is “the best independent music store in the web” (stylised in lower case, reflecting the grass roots background of their members).

What are their features and how this relates to Leveraging the Long Tail:

  • There are more than 300,000 artists signed up to CDbaby. I have to say that they are mainly independent, but also mainstream artists are there (CDbaby, n.d., a).
  • Those artists caters for a significant number of micro-market niches.
  • The sign-up fee for the standard service is $ US 49 and includes worldwide digital and CD distribution as is shown in CDbaby website (n.d., b). This is a price that is affordable to any musician. Nowadays, the big labels don’t have the exclusive worldwide channels of distribution, as now any humble musician could reach any place in the world with their products.
  • CDbaby make use of digital music that could be distributed through the web at minimal cost through the use of MP3s and other compression formats; minimising then the inventory costs, being this one of the features that helps the leveraging of the long tail.
  • CDbaby receives a limited number of physical CDs (4) to minimise inventory space. CDbaby will ask the artist more CDs based on the demand of the product.  In addition, offers the service of CD manufacturing so the small fish could have a CD factory that they could count on using on demand orders.
  • Comments and rankings crowdsourced to fans help the users of the platform to filter and explore the ocean of music.
  • Artists are prompted to categorise their music and tell if their music is similar to other artists, so that the right music could be pitch to fans that have bought similar music.

CDbaby empowers the independent musicians leveraging from a big long tail, but it also true that the ocean of artists is huge and the noise is loud, so now it all comes down to how the artists can stand out to get the attention of an information overwhelmed hordes of fans.

Thanks for stopping by and have a read.

What do you think? Feel free to post your point of view.




CDbaby (n.d., a). About Retrived from:

CDbaby (n.d., b). Pricing. Retrieved from: