My Experience with the Long Tail Theory and Music
By: Alex Dansereau
Being passionate about an extremely niche interest can sometimes seem disheartening. For a long time, my niche passion was the music I listened to. Specifically, around my junior year of high school (in 2012) I became hooked on a sub-genre of punk rock called post-hardcore. This genre hit a commercial peak in the early 2000s (about when I would’ve been in kindergarten), then pretty quickly fizzled out in the mainstream. If that wasn’t bad enough, I soon got into a further niche within post-hardcore music: a scene called “Swancore.” Basically, these bands made music that was too weird even for most post-hardcore fans.
Even though this music really spoke to me, I figured there was almost no chance I’d ever meet anyone in person who knew any of these bands, and certainly didn’t think it would change my life and help me find my career path. That’s because I didn’t understand what I do now: how the internet, and specifically the “long tail theory”, has made niche interests cool.
Chris Anderson coined the long tail theory in a best-selling book called The Long Tail. The simple version of the theory is basically that the internet enables targeted marketing to more niche interests than ever before. “For too long we've been suffering the tyranny of lowest-common-denominator fare, subjected to brain-dead summer blockbusters and manufactured pop,” Anderson wrote in Wired in 2004. “Why? Economics. Many of our assumptions about popular taste are actually artifacts of poor supply-and-demand matching—a market response to inefficient distribution.”
But the internet changed all of that. Now, fans of niche products or pieces of entertainment can easily connect with others from around the country — even around the world. And it has enabled a boom in marketing and content that targets even the smallest of niches.
Eventually, as I fell deeper into the Swancore rabbit hole, I found a Facebook group of likeminded fans. Eventually, myself and another fan in the group, named Trystan, realized there was a need for a podcast that covered some of the bands we both loved. “PlggdN Podcast” was born.
Since we were one of the only podcasts dedicated to covering some of the artists we loved, it wasn’t hard to get a foothold. All we asked of the artists we interviewed was that they promote our interviews on their own social media — which quickly pointed numerous fans our way.
I’m not saying we ever got big… our biggest draw, an interview with Andrew Wells (guitarist of Dance Gavin Dance and lead singer of Eidola), got maybe a couple thousand hits on podcast services. Yet the experience showed me that there really was an audience out there for niche music coverage — and that covering the kinds of bands and artists I loved was well within reach. Ever since, I’ve continued doing music coverage for various online music blogs — which led to my eventually switching my major to journalism. Now, I’m hoping to work in public relations within the music industry, and I have made connections with many of those same bands and artists.
The point of all of this is: if you have an obscure niche passion, and are in love with something other people in your life may think is “weird”… embrace it. Because of the long tail theory, you may have just found your greatest opportunity as a public relations professional or journalist.
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