One of the big difference between the head and the tail of producers is that the further you are in the tail the more likely you are to have to keep your day job. And that's okay. The distinction between "professional" producers and "amateurs" is blurring and may in fact be ultimately irrelevant. We make not just what we're paid to make, but also what we want to make. Both can have value. Once, with high barriers to marketplace entry, only the professional work found an audience. But now those barriers are dropping.
Bloggers are perhaps the most obvious example; is anyone really paying the rent with Adsense alone? And yet 8 million Americans have created their own blog, according to a new Pew Internet survey. There are loads of other examples, from open source software contributors to homebrew remix artists. Demos, a UK think tank, has written a great report on the "Pro-Am" phenomenon, which they summarize as follows (if you have trouble loading the pdf from your browser, as I did, save it to your desktop and doubleclick that):
From astronomy to activism, from surfing to saving lives, Pro-Ams - people pursuing amateur activities to professional standards - are an increasingly important part of our society and economy. For Pro-Ams, leisure is not passive consumerism but active and participatory, it involves the deployment of publicly accredited knowledge and skills, often built up over a long career, which has involved sacrifices and frustrations. The 20th century witnessed the rise of professionals in medicine, science, education, and politics. In one field after another, amateurs and their ramshackle organisations were driven out by people who knew what they were doing and had certificates to prove it. The Pro-Am Revolution argues this historic shift is reversing. We're witnessing the flowering of Pro-Am, bottom-up self-organisation and the crude, all or nothing, categories of professional or amateur will need to be rethought. Based on in-depth interviews with a diverse range of Pro-Ams and containing new data about the extent of Pro-Am activity in the UK, this report proposes new policies to support and encourage valuable Pro-Am activity.