(Oh, say can you see…) the long tail and creativity

On July 4th, Amazon (U.S.) ran a promotion where you could download any mp3 version of the United States national anthem for free. There were 692 items to choose from including a number of times the same song appeared on different anthems (it came as no surprise that the Jimi Hendrix version was included on multiple albums). So, if we discard the repeats, the ringtones and the karaoke versions, we are still left with 500 versions of the same song that today (not July 4th) would cost $0.99 each. 

So this got me thinking, first as a great example of the long tail at work, where because creation and distribution costs are so low there are many versions of the same song. And even when distribution costs are higher,  there are 175 CDs, within Amazon’s CD store, that include the “Star Spangled Banner”.  But perhaps more importantly, I think this demonstrates the value of encouraging creativity by having something in the public domain that could be interpreted by so many different artists without worrying about song licensing fees.