The Long Tail of Opera
May 5, 2007 11:33 am
Opera is definitely a fringe musical genre. But like all “minor” genres (from a commercial, not an artistic perspective), opera is experiencing the great benefits of the “long tail.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Long_Tail
The Long Tail is an idea from statistics that has been used by Chris Anderson in a recent article, book and series of lectures. He describes how commodities that are in low demand or have low sales volume can collectively make up a market share that rivals or exceeds the “hits.” With efficient storage and distribution (Collective-as in eBay or Amazon; or Electronic-as in iTunes or Rhapsody) it becomes cost-effective and profitable to supply extreme niche items, like rare opera recordings or Vintage 1939 Sunbeam Mixmasters (eBay #320108951657).
Add to this the ability to create social networks on the internet around ideas and interests that would not gain much momentum in a local neighborhood. Imagine what this group would be like if it were limited to the people within walking distance of your home?
While major studio recordings of opera are no longer a profitable venture, there are many more opera recordings available today than ever before. I was recently reading a book about Finnish Music which sparked my interest in early Finnish opera. Within an hour I was able to find and download complete recordings of Erkki Melartin’s Aino and three operas by Frederich Pacius. I never would have found those recordings, and probably not even the book that mentioned them, in the days before the Long Tail.
It looks like opera is alive and well and even thriving. They would not be bringing these things out on DVD if there was not a market for them. Robert Greenberg talks a bit about the appeal of opera even though it is viewed as an elitist art form… After 400 years it is still going strong. New operas are being written and there are plenty of 20th & 21st century opera that I think are great.