Here I was, looking at some CDs on Amazon, and wondering how to be the first one on my block to appreciate the next great new bands (e.g., to see them in small clubs). Then I saw this line on the product page for a CD (Summer in Abaddon, by Pinback):
Based on customer purchases, this is the #82 Early Adopter Product in Alternative Rock.One wonders if Amazon considers one an early adopter or not.
Seriously, when you have lots of data you can do some really cool shit. Like, maybe, tell the difference between cultural expression that's obscure because it's not so great, and expression that's obscure for other reasons. I don't have an obscure fetish, I swear. It's more like I feel less and less well-served by the mass-market content industry. I think there's a market out there that's looking for something different, and it's not novelty or obscurity (so much), but something that expands us--something that shows us something new about ourselves, or something that was always there but that we never properly recognized. In order for something to do that, it has to be new to you, but it's more than just novelty.
I like aggregate measures like these Amazon purchasing pattern analyses because they're easier than figuring out if a particular critic has tastes like mine or not.