This is the freebie e-book distillation of The Curve by Nicholas Lovell and, whilst he does not address the short tail specifically, (surveyed here in this post), The Curve essentially argues that there is plenty of life left in the long tail – if you do it right.
Or, as the blurb puts it, The Curve is Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail meets Seth Godin’s Purple Cow.
So – how do you make money when everything is going free? You take advantage of the amazing opportunity to connect with the people who love what you do:
The same technology that enables files to be shared easily also offers an unprecedented opportunity to build one-to-one relationships with your customers and fans. The web enables artists and businesses to share what they do at a very low cost while building relationships with customers, some of whom will become fans, some of whom will become superfans. How you choose to respond to this opportunity will determine how you fare in the digital age.
Superfans are the key to the curve’s economic model, and how to make the long tail work for you. It’s a three step process:
- Use free to find an audience
- Use technology to stay in touch with that audience and figure out what they value
- Allow those who love what you do to spend lots of money on things they really value
He is right (I think) that content is not enough any more, only great content works now; and adds something valuable in his analysis of the mindset for the digital age:
If you are thinking about units sold, you are thinking in a pre-digital way: you are focused on your product, not your customers. If you are thinking about Average Revenue per User (ARPU), you are putting your customer at the heart of your business.
The customer needs to be at the heart of your business, but the sustainability of your business depends upon finding customers for high value experiences (cynic: are we just saying here ‘ask – what would Apple do?’)
The solution is to flip your thinking. To focus not on finding the biggest possible audience but to seek out the superfans who love what you do. To use the cheap distribution of the internet to start the process of connecting with fans – and then craft products, services and artistic creations which they will pay lots of money for.
In the book Lovell cites the inspiring example of musician Zoe Keating who is making a good living embracing free, giving her music away but asking fans to make a purchase somewhere along the line or the show will be over.
Go ahead. Stream it. Share it. Pirate it. Torrent it as much as you want. But keep in mind I am 100 per cent DIY. I trust that if you love my music, your moral code will compel you to come to a concert, or buy an album, or a T-shirt directly from me.
The example of Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails is less convincing. Because although he is making a massive success of embracing digital and free, he had already established his name through the record company system.
In a very direct way, Lovell himself is also testing his theory. 10 Ways to Make Money in a Free World is the short, free version of The Curve. Will you go on to buy The Curve? Or tread further up the superfan highway and attend a Curve lunch; consult with NL himself (a £POA limited opportunity); or even commission a bespoke Curve masterclass for up to 25 people?