The Technium: Kevin Kelly writes "the long tail is a decidedly mixed blessing for creators. Individual artists, producers, inventors and makers are overlooked in the equation. The long tail does not raise the sales of creators much, but it does add massive competition and endless downward pressure on prices. Unless artists become a large aggregator of other artist's works, the long tail offers no path out of the quiet doldrums of minuscule sales.
Other than aim for a blockbuster hit, what can an artist do to escape the long tail?
One solution is to find 1,000 True Fans."
While this essay is bubbling the rounds, along with its rebuttal thread, I thought it might be worthwhile to recall the Prophesy of Momus in 1992's "Pop Stars? Nein Danke"
possibly apropos to the whole Tory artsparty-crashing debate? no, I thought not.
However, back at the 1,000 Fan Ranch, on closer inspection, like nearly all web2.0 pundits, Kevin is unable to cite even one verifiable real-world example of anyone actually paying a mortgage with his method; every cited example either has other avenues for traditional income, a working spouse, or still lives in their mom's basement!
The gist of the essay may still be valid, and as Momus points out, the fact of the matter is your audience is very unlikely to exceed a few thousand true fans, so we either deal with it, or get a day-job.
The most useful idea in all three is how there perhaps needs to be a new breed of net-aware A&R arts-promoter, a silent 'fifth beatle' who is full-time jamming on the wire.