I should preface this post by saying that I don't know much about the music industry but have come across an approach to making a career in music that seems honest and real.
Things have certainly changed hugely for musicians and other performers. Bands that used to able to make a fortune in record, then CD sales must have seen those sales decline as people download their songs for little or no money. Live performances can still bring in the dosh but this means touring a lot and I don't know about other people but I often find the price of tickets too high! So how can we ensure our talented singers/songwriters/musicians thrive without pricing ordinary people out of their gigs? How can we make sure they don't starve in garrets when we can download their creations for free?
A singer/songwriter I admire very much is David Rovics http://davidrovics.com/
He writes and performs songs 'of social significance', songs of protest, defiance and celebration. I love his music! Whenever he writes a new song, he sends a Youtube recording of it out to anyone who wants to be on his mailing list, for free. You print off his lyrics for free and when he tours this country, he encourages anyone who wants to organise a gig in their town, to add it to his list. His gigs are cheap, for access to all. True to his principles he is starting a Croudsourced career whereby 1000 people who think he's really good and worth keeping creating, pay £34 a year to him in return also, for lots of goodies (CD's, free passes to gigs, even a guitar lesson!).
I like this idea. It means he can stay creative. It means he can continue to be open and generous with his work. It means people who have no money can still access his music. It involves a personal responsability from his audience - if you want him to be able to make music, you can enable that. Most important of all, for me, is that he continues to write songs about what's happening to the disenfranchised, the downtrodden, the victims of wars, the soldiers that suffer in conflicts, the politicians that lie, cheat and steal and also, how great we can be when we stand together in solidarity.