I finally got around to reading Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More. Basically, the book details how recent revolutions in the development, production, and distribution of consumer goods are creating a whole new way to organize markets. In these markets, scarcity becomes a non-issue and consumers are presented with unparalleled choice. Technologies are then connect shoppers to items off the beaten path, so to speak, creating a scenario where almost every book, movie, song, etc. is bought or accessed at least once.
Nowhere does this seem more evident than music. Teens tune into iTunes, torrents, music blogs, file uploading sites, and social networking to have access to an unprecedented amount of access than ever before (legally or otherwise). As a result, it’s hard to imagine even the most obscure niche musician without some fanbase. It got me wondering: when was the last time I talked to teens about music beyond telling them what we had in the collection? I used to a lot, before I got burnt out trying to keep up with the million bands, singers, and rap artists that I had never heard–let alone heard of–before.
It also got me thinking about how much teens love the process of discovering new things. It lets them be a tastemaker, the first person to, say, hear about Dr. Steel and start spreading the news to friends. Or it lets them keep it secret, giving them a sense of their own unique identity and interests.
So, are you including surprises in your music collection? Are you giving teens the opportunity to discover new and underground artists? You might find them on Elbo.ws, The Hype Machine, the Last.fm hype list, the Myspace Music page, or even the Alternative Teen Music Podcast. Or you might try talking to the teens themselves, finding out their means of discovering new music, and doing a little detective work from there. Then add these artists to your collection, and see what kind of interest you pique.