By Todd Murphy | October 7th, 2014
The 2014 statistics for music sales shows that overall sales are down 4.9% compared to 2013 (see New York Times article). This includes downloads from services such as iTunes, as well as sales of hard formats like CDs, tapes, and records. However, in contrast, the sales of vinyl records are up 43% over last year and 2013 was no slouch for the sales of records. 2013 saw the highest rate of records sold since 1993.
So how do you account for a resurgence in one format, while you see a steady and drastic decline on a music model that was heralded as the only evolutionary path for music? Downloads? Downloads from iTunes slipped last year, and fell precipitously this year. In the highly regarded book by Chris Anderson, The Long Tail, the concept that there is a critical mass of need for everything, no matter how small the niche, mapped out economic success for selling bits and bytes into every interest. No matter how obscure or odd a song might be, on iTunes it would make money by being available globally and easily found to those who might want that song. The dollars would add up over time.
Now, the streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, Soundcloud and others are disrupting the previous disruptive model. Is the long tail dead? Is it not enough to have everything easily found and available at a low cost per unit? Does the user now want flat fee pricing so they can specify what they want, when they want it, and not have to worry about incremental costs? Or, is it simply an evolution in client focused services; a case of services delivering what is wanted the way the user wants it.
Much like music, B2B and B2C services have to evolve with client needs. It could be that buying songs at a cost per song is not how consumers want to use music anymore. Maybe users like the tangible ability to search, specify, interact, and curate their own music without necessarily buying and downloading each unit. Similarly, news monitoring and PR measurement services may have to look to user consumption to ensure they are serving the clients as they wish to be served.
Much change is going on within the public relations’ software tools. Consider the Vocus/Cision merger. Time will tell if this consolidation will be good for both the stakeholders and their clients. What doesn’t change is the need for news monitoring and PR measurement services to focus on delivering the services their client’s need.
When our industry only creates specific service offerings to address the primary needs of the average client, we risk not being able to accommodate the special needs of every client. Whether they’re in New York, Chicago, Denver, or Los Angeles, one factor remains the same for our clients. They all want exactly what they want and when they want it. Are they somewhat flexible on the format, look and feel? Yes. But being able to construct our services around their needs is what differentiates Universal Information Services from our competitors. We know one shoe can’t fit every foot. Services like Spotify and Pandora have already figured this out.
So is the long tail of marketing a model we’ll read about in our economics classes as something that has passed? Maybe. Or, will the long tail become part of the process still appealing to any niche, but allowing dynamics for the delivery mode to change? Our company is banking on the latter. As they say, the customer is always right… and so we’ll deliver on what they request.