On 08/08/08, Tom Fine wrote:
> Hi John:
> There's a theory to all of this -- and it's definitely controversial
> but it does seem to work with some items, like recorded music --
> called the "long tail." The idea is that a wide variety of
> deep-catalog content, if made constantly available in a medium that
> costs little to distribute (ie digital downloads) will, in sum, be
> profitable over time. The key is over time. It's an annuity-type
> income, not a quick-hit quarterly boost.
> As for back-catalog stuff, actually more than you might think has been
> transferred to digital. For instance with classical back-catalogs,
> most of the vault stuff is now out of print but was once available on
> CD. Certainly not nearly all of it, particularly lacking is material
> from the mono days and pre-tape days. 

Universal released a good range of box sets of 1950s material from
Decca, Philips and DGG, in excellent transfers. 

See here for instance:

That page corresponds to around 250 LPs - transferred from original

I agree that making transfers from LP copies is a bad idea, if the
master tapes still exist. 

> Same with jazz, although much
> more mono and pre-tape material was once or is now available on CD. If
> you combine Europe-only and Japan-only releases with all the material
> that's now out of print, there's actually a huge back-catalog sitting
> there, easily distributed online and currently not for sale to most
> audiences. That's just dumb business, not having it readily available
> for purchase.
> Once a steady annuity-type revenue stream is established from "the
> tail," it starts to make sense to invest in mastering-to-digital other
> material that was never put out on CD. There's a worldwide market for
> pop/easy listening material, for instance, but clearly not a viable
> market for manufactured CD's. The mentality of the "long tail"
> becomes, a company will offer a giant variety of material, some of
> which will never recoup the costs of transfer to digital. The sweet
> spot is when most of the material is modestly profitable, some of it
> is very profitable and some of it is a loss-leader. And I don't see
> how different this is from the traditional record-company model before
> mega-glomerates. Back then, you'd figure a good portion of your pop
> catalog would never recoup production costs, that your jazz catalog
> would generally be mildly profitable or unprofitable, depending on how
> much your artists tingled that market's fancy at a given time, and
> that your classical catalog was the original long-tail -- offer a wide
> variety of quality product, keep it in print many years and recoup
> costs and then profit over time. Hits were always the good fortune
> that greased the machinery, not the norm. Somewhere, the bean-counters
> and lawyers in the mega-glomerates started to think they were entitled
> to hits and budgeting accordingly. Plus, they got Wall Street
> expecting hits and hammering them even for reliable steady income if
> it didn't meet unrealistic growth targets quarter to quarter.

Don Cox
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