Just saw a very well-written (and long-as-hell) article go up on Slashdot by Cracker guitarist David Lowery entitled "Meet the New Boss, Worse than the Old Boss." In the article, he points out that while the recording industry was looking for talent to boost up and then take advantage of monetarily, they assumed a lot of the risk in promoting new acts. The "new boss," companies such as Google, Amazon, Apple, etc., cares very little for who it is that is making the trends at the moment-- they skim their built-in percentage off the top and go on regardless. As he says in his abstract,
I’m not advocating going back to the old record label model, to an industry dominated by the big three multi-national labels. This is a bit of hyperbole intended to make us all think about this question: Is the new digital model better for the artist?
Later on, he answers that question with a pretty definitive NO:
Artists have seen their most important assets collectivized by file-sharing. They no long control the distribution and exploitation of these assets. If this were happening to practically any other group of Americans there would be mass outrage and civil unrest. Other than Ted Nugent and John Popper most musicians are not heavily armed. Hence the lack of armed standoffs.
And later still (seriously, this is a long article. like, for serious.) he makes his key point:
The crucial difference between the old boss and the new boss is that the old boss-- the record labels-- saw that it was in their interest to invest in the creation of music. Further they knew success in the music business was highly unpredictable. Therefore they spread their investment around. They didn’t do this out of the kindness of their own hearts, they did this cause it was a in their long term interest. And it was the surest way to make money. So up until the early 2000s record companies essentially overpaid the 9 “losing” artists and underpaid the one “winning” or hit artist through their system of advances for each album. It was a semi-socialist system. A system in which the superstars revenue subsidized all those new and developing artists. The destruction of this revenue and risk sharing system is another important reason why artists are poorer now.
So if we are going to "steal" each other's music, why let the "New Boss" in on the game at all? Why not do so on our own network? Why not show them who the real boss is?