Making the Long Tail visible: social networking sites and independent music discovery

Michael Gaffney (The Stowers Institute for Medical Research, Kansas City, Missouri, USA)
Pauline Rafferty (Department of Information Studies, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, UK)

Program: electronic library and information systems

ISSN: 0033-0337

Publication date: 25 September 2009



The purpose of this paper is to investigate users' knowledge and use of social networking sites and folksonomies to discover if social tagging and folksonomies, within the area of independent music, aid in its information retrieval and discovery. The sites examined in this project are MySpace, Lastfm, Pandora and Allmusic. In addition, the ways in which independent record labels utilise social networking sites for promotion are investigated.


Three groups of participants were surveyed using questionnaires. These groups were music concert attendees, people who responded to online postings to social networking sites, and independent record companies. In addition interviews were held with digital music experts.


The results suggest that respondents use social networking sites for music discovery but are not generally aware of folksonomic approaches to music discovery. When users do use and contribute to the folksonomy, most respondents were found to tag for personal retrieval purposes rather than attempting to aid the retrieval purposes of the population of site users as a whole. The four record labels unanimously agreed that social networking sites are having a major impact on independent music discovery. Digital distribution has a major impact on independent record labels. It facilitates discovery but at the same time digital distribution creates new promotional dilemmas.


The project is small scale but the research area is a relatively novel one, and the results are interesting enough to share more generally in the hope that this project will stimulate further research activity in this area.



Gaffney, M. and Rafferty, P. (2009), "Making the Long Tail visible: social networking sites and independent music discovery", Program: electronic library and information systems, Vol. 43 No. 4, pp. 375-391.

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