Indonesia’s Slice of the Long Tail

It’ll be interesting to see how this kind of thing pans out: An Indonesian publishing company run by an expat American has launched a catalogue of Indonesian pop music on iTunes (declaration of interest: the guy, Mark Hanusz, is a friend of mine). Could this kind of thing change the way this kind of music is distributed, and, perhaps more interestingly, define a musician’s fan base and therefore their definition of success?

There are plenty of examples of music already crossing boundaries. But moves like Equinox Publishing, which claims its “catalog forms Southeast Asia’s largest selection of music to arrive on the digital music landscape”, represent a significant step forward. Until now it would have been nigh impossible for Indonesians living outside Indonesia, or anyone else for that matter, to get their hands on anything other than a CD of gamelan music. Now they can zip their way through 30–second previews of dozens of Indonesian artists on iTunes. Perhaps more significantly, it levels the playing field a bit: Now anyone browsing iTunes is as likely to stumble on an Indonesian band as they are to find a U.S. or European act.

Already Western bands make their way to a place like Indonesia — from Deep Purple and Procul Harem to more, er, contemporary acts like Foo Fighters, Mariah Carey, Alanis Morissette. With a potential audience of 200 million people, it pays for itself. But maybe the tide could change. Mark likes to see himself as slicing off a thin wedge of the Long Tail, catering to a small but significant market. But what may prove just as intriguing is the possibility that an Indonesian band, via something like iTunes, could become just popular enough in certain places overseas to justify a tour or two. Could we be seeing the likes of Homogenic, Netral and Dewi Lestari playing Boston or Bristol?

18. February 2006 by jeremy
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