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Niches are growing niches and the mainstream

The array of niches is making mass appeal less attractive but much larger. The long tail makes what’s popular even more popular, like an obsession.

Just scan your newsfeed. Everyone is tying in Jay Z, Beyonce, Bieber to one of their stories, hoping to woo a wider audience.

Forcing the conversation around a sly disconnect means that both people that love it and hate it will see it. The publications and celebrities both get richer, leaving limited space for new hyper-mainstream entrants.

On the whole, people gravitate to online tribes. The Internet connects a mass of niches and curators. Styles such as jean shorts and genres such as dub-step now have huge cult followings.

We really don’t even need the mainstream. It’s unnecessary noise acceptable only to people that don’t know any better. A online niche is a massive craze within itself.

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Manufacturing Scarcity

My idea is that, prior to the Internet becoming a mass distribution platform, the value of a piece of content was more related to its scarcity of distribution than it was to any measure of its value. In equation form, we could think that traditionally Value (V) = Scarcity (S) * Quality (Q). Q of course, being largely subjective, is hard to measure. But S is not. I believe that S then acted as a multiplier of value.

The fact your content made it to the record shop or bookshelf a decade go meant you had been pre-approved, that your work had been vetted by the labels or publishers and deemed of good quality.  

Today, amafessionals and DIYers are crowding the market and making it hard for professionals to stand out.  There’s simply too much content. 

Those that rise to the top in today’s hyper-connected world actually deserve it.  Or do they?  

 

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The Curators, Still the Curators

Here’s what happened

Before the Internet, people bought what was marketed to them. Retailers charged publishers for end-cap display. Those artists with the largest marketing bank accounts sold a lot of units.

In the early years of the Internet, shelf display merely transitioned online. There were algorithmic, “personalized” recommendation engines on Amazon but purchased items still were consumed as a result of mass marketing.

Around 2005, social networking turned paid media on its head. All of a sudden consumers shared and consumed particular interests in a mass of niches. With a simple click, Internet denizens became marketers.

Today, some of those niches and clusters get so big they become mainstream. If you had discovered Bieber on YouTube in 2008, now you’re just one of the 32 million Twitter trolls that eat up his content. You’re discovery is not special anymore.

The Internet undermined the art and appreciation of discovery. Before, you were the person digging in the crates at the record store. Then, you were the one spending hours digging within the digital dustbins online. Now, your discoveries are well known and possibly mainstream, forcing you to dig even deeper into the caves of the Internet.

Search and discovery is a unique talent that requires years of hunting and consuming the good stuff. The pleasure comes from rejecting what is known and finding what could someday be well known.  But taste testers care less about the mainstream adoption of their gems since they are already on to the next thing.

The endless search of good content makes a great curator. The thrill of being anti-collective and finding something first is everlasting.

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Social Media Fanaticism

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64k Retweets, 30k Favorites later

This is what happens when artists can go direct-to-fan and speak with their true voice.  

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How ‘Call Me Maybe’ and Social Media Are Upending Music

Without a supportive Bieber Tweet and a rush of US Olympic team video performances of the song, Carly Rae Jepsen’s track ‘Call Me Maybe’ may have gone unfounded.

Instead, it’s been viewed more than 212 million times on YouTube and is rolling at #1 on pop radio.

The song is a perfect example of social media dictating air play and air play solidifying the song’s longevity in mainstream music culture.

But the main impetus for popularizing the song is YouTube, where teenagers find and listen to a majority of their music.

My wife has kept her music collection on YouTube for years but I never really understood the trend until now. YouTube is free, ubiquitous across devices, and allows for easy playlist creation. Why pay for Spotify or an iTunes download when you’re a click away from a YouTube stream?  

The YouTube stream is now a bellwether for artist popularity. If views are in the tens of millions the song must be hitting on all cylinders, culminating on terrestrial radio play.

The hit market today is controlled by social media noise where one Bieber tweet can kickstart a music career. And it costs nothing. As an artist, you never know who’s watching. That’s why it’s always important to focus on making good content first.

Bieber > YouTube > Radio = Hit