Can I see your ticket, please?

Not satisfied with the stranglehold it already has on event ticketing in the US, Ticketmaster is looking to take a bite out of the increasingly lucrative resale market. According to an article in the latest issue of BusinessWeek, the company is pushing for legislation that would essentially make it illegal to scalp tickets unless you did so through, say, Ticketmaster. The move is a response to the burgeoning industry of ticket reselling that has sprung up thanks to eBay and more targeted outlets like StubHub.com.

It's an interesting situation. There is no love lost between Ticketmaster and fans who balk at paying a huge slice of their ticket price in "building fees" and "processing charges." At the same time, a select few are willing to pay all that and much, much more to get the best seats to the most exclusive events. It's a disconnect, as the type of person using the resellers likely is much better off and doesn't feel the same animosity toward Ticketmaster that the rank and file surely do.


Who needs The Man?

This new world of choice is built on a premise: People are willing to seek out their own entertainments rather than rely on corporations to do it for them. That isn't the case with everyone, of course, but enough people are starting to do so that a power shift is clearly taking place.

A story in the Wall Street Journal last week offers evidence. More and more young bands are making a go of it through the word-of-mouth opportunities offered through sites like MySpace.com, actually choosing to forgo major label support in the process. They've heard a generation of bands tell of the ways major labels have left them penniless and without the desire to pursue what they once loved -- most famously recounted by noted musician/producer curmudgeon Steve Albini -- and are seemingly choosing a different path.

It used to be that authors and musicians needed the imprimatur of quality afforded by a major book imprint or major recording label to sell. No longer. That's still the easiest path to success, but not the only.


Those oppressive niches

Salon writer Farhad Manjoo has one of the more interesting takes on The Long Tail that I've seen thus far, wondering if it is really more targeted at CEOs than Regular Joes. Beyond that, he offers a constructive criticism: Perhaps the Long Tail and the new world of choice that it promises for consumers is not necessarily a good thing.

"I've long wondered, and sometimes worried, about the flip side to the media ubiquity we now enjoy, the paradoxical way in which having access to everything forces you to choose what you're consuming," he writes, adding that he is so "hopped up" about this notion that he's writing his own book about it. Taking his thesis a step too far, however, he seems to assume that, forced to choose, people will pick niches to the total exclusion of more traditional, mainstream fare. People watch Fox News exclusively and get a distorted view of reality, he posits, worrying about selective exposure and confirmation bias "and a host of other psychological phenomena" that take over from there. "The tail may go on and on and on, but does that matter if you're only living in a few niches of it?"

The problem is that he is describing Ted Kaczynski, not your typical consumer. Most of us will remain in the mainstream for the most part, using the increasingly accessible niches of the Long Tail to augment what we find there. You can get your news from a reputable source and supplement it with the oddball news on BoingBoing, or read Entertainment Weekly for your entertainment news and get more specific news about indie rock from Pitchfork. Or, for that matter, you can choose to read Salon.


Just a reminder: Music is still evil

The fellas at the Freakonomics blog weigh in on reports of a new study that draws a link between music with "sexually degrading" lyrics and early teen sex. It doesn't take a respected economist to point out the difference between correlation and causality, but it helps, because without such prominent rebuttals, potentially misguided attacks can lead to detrimental consequences.

The study, to be published in the journal Pediatrics, surveyed 1461 teens about their sexual activity and their music listening habits as they pertained to "more than a dozen musical artists representing a variety of musical genres." The researchers determined whether the sexual content in the songs were degrading or non-degrading.

From this, they concluded that "listening to music with degrading sexual lyrics is related to advances in a range of sexual activities among adolescents, whereas this does not seem to be true of other sexual lyrics. This result is consistent with sexual-script theory and suggests that cultural messages about expected sexual behavior among males and females may underlie the effect. Reducing the amount of degrading sexual content in popular music or reducing young people's exposure to music with this type of content could help delay the onset of sexual behavior."

Freakonomics author Stephen Dubner writes on his blog that "there does seem to be a correlation between sexual music and sex. But does that make the relationship causal? Wouldn’t it make sense that the kind of teenagers who want to have a lot of sex are the same ones who want to listen to sexual music, and the ones who don’t want to have a lot of sex (or at least refrain from doing so) are the same ones who don’t listen to such music?"

Exactly. That doesn't stop national media from jumping on it as it has with every other "music is evil" campaign.


Chasing the tail

The Wall Street Journal's Lee Gomes again misses the point about the Long Tail. In a widely blogged-about column last week, he called into questions much of the basis of Chris Anderson's book, The Long Tail. I won't go into that argument here, but suffice to say I disagree. In a Tuesday column, Gomes again tilts at the book, arguing that hits are still a big deal. Again, Mr. Anderson didn't suggest otherwise. He simply writes that they are less of a big deal than in the past. Simple numbers back this up. Top films, books, TV shows and music recordings don't post the kinds of numbers they once did.

What Anderson is not saying is that companies should abandon producing what they hope will be hits. Instead, companies that perhaps don't have the means to produce a hit are finding it lucrative to mine the long tail, offering niche products to consumers who are increasingly able to seek out and purchase these products. No one is foolish enough to suggest that Hollywood studios stop trying to make big, dumb mass market films to separate teens from their cash. They are saying, however, that these same teens, bored with such pap, can make their own movies, upload them to YouTube and find ways to make a decent amount of money from their efforts. The Long Tail is about choice and accessibility. Mainstream entertainment entities are scared, of course, because they are about homogeneity and controlled distribution.