Here’s an excellent article by David Lowery of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker that totally explodes the premise (and promise) of how artists can expect to benefit from digital distribution. His arguments underscore my lately festering opinion that we’re moving to a patronage model of artist compensation, where entities like Kickstarter are going to play a bigger role in funding recordings and tours than album and ticket and shirt sales. The Renaissance is new again, though instead of having single wealthy patron families funding art we’ll have pledge drives from our fans. I’m not sure this is a good model.
On a related, petulant note, I was having this conversation with a friend recently about how Web technology has pushed past the place where it was fun. That is, in 1999 or so he and I were both inspired by DIY indie pop artists and labels, where the technological barrier to entry (recording, making CDs, websites, zines, etc) was pretty low but was high enough that not everybody did it. It felt more special. Is there anything more pointless in 2012 than making a website?
At the same time, some of the best music is being made now, precisely because the tech is so ubiquitous. Then again, an album like Rumours would probably never get made today. It’s all very complicated.