Here’s a fine critique of a common kind of delusion that arises when people think about the nature of the long tail. This is the intro to a New Yorker music review.
“World music” is a category that does nobody any favors. Entirely disparate performers, liek the dapper Brazilian singer-songwriter Caetano Veloso and the African blues guitarist Ali Farka Toure, get lumped together in American record stores simply because they don’t sing exclusively in English. Also, European and American pop have saturated the world to such an extent that Kyle Minogue and Tupac are now more world music than, say the Malian singer Oumou Sangare. Finally, most of what you find in the world-music section tends toward the gentle, melodious, and uplifting, as if the world were that way.
World music is the long tail. The process renders that long tail as melodious and uplifting? Romanticization.
Very hard to generalize about the long tail. It’s only attributes are: huge scale, exceptional diversity, and poverty. Well “poverty” if your measuring stick marked off in units that are useful for measuring the wealth of the elite. That marking stick, useful for the elite, is useless down in the long tail.
Melodious – it reminds me of the way that people who run developer networks like to say that developers “just want to have fun.”