So much to say, but other professional insanity restrains me. Take that as you will. To whet your whistle, an illustrative snippet of the long tail attempting to unleash it's authority.
Lost chanteuse Fiona Apple has a finished album, shelved since 2003, that Sony executives do not consider "commercial enough for release." The rumors around the recording and status of that album motivated long-time Apple fan Dave Muscato to start the Free Fiona campaign, including a website and a protest at Sony's offices in NYC.
(see the MTv News story, Jan 2005)
Now, by itself, you would think that this is a nice story of a fan trying to generate noise for a favorite artist no longer thought of by the fickle music-consuming public. However, some of the album is circulating on the Internet, and a Seattle station has played a few songs.
Support seems to be growing from the ground up, exemplifying a niche market trying to flex it's newfound power in mass media. Once these consumers realize that they have some sway, the (soon to be formerly-) dictatorial music executives will find their power slowly(?) usurped.*
Sony might go ahead and release this album online, say, and let her fans carry the torch for a while. Then they get to see how it does before doing a more expensive, marketing-driven release. Think of it as a Beta is the New Black for the media markets. When will consumer-facing businesses wake up and try to ride the wave rather than continue building dikes in rising seas?
*And there is the possibility that the change will not be so gentle. More on that later.