You are, of course, familiar with the Long Tail principle – Chris Anderson’s now famous idea that attempts to explain what happens to hits and niche products when things like the scarcity of retail shelf space go out the window thanks to the internet.
There was an extremely good and important article, which was then developed into a fairly good book (which kind of amounted to the article with a bit more colouring-in and some more examples), and has continued as a very interesting blog.
In short: as more products become available (thanks to the internet), more people check out what’s going on down the shallow end of the curve – the tail. The tail lengthens and expands.
But what most people seem to have missed is the fact that this is not some announcement of a brave new world for the independent niche musician. In fact, the extent to which this has been misunderstood virtually amounts to some sort of mass self-deception based solely on a wildly creative interpretation of the text and a bucketload of wishful thinking.