Tangent measure distributions were introduced by Bandt and Graf as a means to describe the local geometry of self-similar sets generated by iteration of contractive similitudes. In this paper we study the tangent measure distributions of hyperbolic Cantor sets generated by contractive mappings, which are not similitudes. We show that the tangent measure distributions of these sets equipped with either Hausdorff or Gibbs measure are unique almost everywhere and give an explicit formula describing them as probability distributions on the set of limit models of Bedford and Fisher.

Tangent measure distributions are a natural tool to describe the local geometry of arbitrary measures of any dimension. We show that for every measure on a Euclidean space and every s, at almost every point, all s-dimensional tangent measure distributions define statistically self-similar random measures. Consequently, the local geometry of general measures is not different from the local geometry of self-similar sets. We illustrate the strength of this result by showing how it can be used to improve recently proved relations between ordinary and average densities.

Answering a question by Bedford and Fisher we show that for every Radon measure on the line with positive and finite lower and upper densities the one-sided average densities always agree with one half of the circular average densities at almost every point. We infer this result from a more general formula, which involves the notion of a tangent measure distribution introduced by Bandt and Graf. This formula shows that the tangent measure distributions are Palm distributions and define self-similar random measures in the sense of U. Zähle.