Arnold Kling  

Aging Rockers vs. the Long Tail

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Marie Connolly and Alan B. Krueger write,

Concert revenues became markedly more skewed in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1982, the top 1 percent of artists took in 26 percent of concert revenue; by 2003 that figure reached 56 percent. The top 5 percent took in 62 percent of concert revenue in 1982 and 84 percent in 2003.

This is the exact opposite of the Long Tail story. Perhaps the long tail is artificially excluded from total concert revenue in their measure.

Or perhaps everything about the rock music industry is distorted by geezer bands. The authors list the top 35 bands in terms of concert-tour revenue in 2002, and I count 10 of the top 15 as being relics of the Baby-Boomer teenage years. I wonder what a strictly post-2000-era analysis would show.

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CATEGORIES: Economics and Culture

COMMENTS (5 to date)
Hei Lun Chan writes:

What if they had looked at attendance at concerts instead of revenues? I'm guessing that the increase in disparity is more because the geezer bands can now charge hundreds of dollars per ticket to boomers reliving their past glory than a shift in attendance patterns.

TGGP writes:

I'm a young'un and I think the geezer bands are far better than the crap that is released today.

steve writes:

Perhaps the long tail is artificially excluded from total concert revenue in their measure.

This sounds right. There are more "concerts" in every city then ever before. Because there are more bands then ever before, and booking/going on tour is easier and cheaper. Almost every one I know has been in a band, and gone on some kind of a tour, at some level. Including myself.

However, "concerts" are not held in stadiums. They are held in bars and small venues, with general admission at ticket prices that are at least an order of magnitude cheaper then you would pay to see The Police.

Plus, most of the blockbuster concerts that people 40 and under go to these days are festivals, in which a $200 ticket buys you hundreds of bands. Think SXSW.

Conclusion: I would put $100 on a hole in the data, and distortions at the top.

8 writes:

I thought the long-tail just meant niche items will grow, not that the top ones will shrink (maybe I should read the book?). I expect the middle to peak, and the first and second standard deviations to succumb to the long tail. It's not the top bands that will lose, it's the middling bands forced on the public by record companies that will lose to upstart artists who post music online. Therefore, the number of widely heard bands shrinks to only the truly popular, therefore they increase their revenue, while everyone else has to split what's left. Shared experiences decline with the rise of the long-tail, so that may be an additional factor in its favor.

Mike writes:

It has been a little while since I've read the 'long tail' story, but I think of it as being an aspect of the information-based economy. Deep catalogs + cheap shelf space + efficient search. I think it applies better to recordings of music, say, rather than live music performance.

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