To try and answer the questions you asked, I believe it is helping new independent musicians and hurting the industry. Music should be an artistic and immediatist pursuit undertaken with the realization that fame, greed and media attention are inherently disastrous to both artist and art and should not be sought out.

The digital music revolution via net-labels, file-sharing websites, etc. is absolutely changing everything. Artists can collaborate with others online, find new artists to meet and work with in real life and they can promote shows and other projects much easier.

I think that what we're seeing generally is an end of support for major labels as well as those indie labels with a desire for the money of the majors. We may also be seeing a deterioration of the major avenues by which the droll masses typically find out about new artists and styles. I'm sure you know MTV, VH1, Fuse, etc. are dead. Some of those have been dead for a number of years now. They've ignored all real trends in music and have instead played '98 or '99 over and over again (some might even say they stagnated as early as '96, possibly earlier). Television, radio and internet sites owned by the same industries are where the drollest of the droll masses still go to find out about what they perceive as great new music, which is, more often than not, glossy and talentless. Media's over-saturation and pathetic stabs at viral advertising are having the backwards effect of pounding the nails in the industry's coffin even faster.

What I think is going to happen, which for me is hopeful and wonderful though maybe not for you or many others, is a primitivism emerging, coming to us through our open, democratic technology which may reduce the musician from b-celebrity status to the traditional status of most artists world-wide: the broke nomadic wanderer. I see a somewhat saddening fall in the sound quality of music surely being a result of this, but an overall increase in the artistic or avant-garde aspect of music definitely. It will be harder than ever for anyone with a slim interest in the arts to jump in and make a ton of money like in the '80s.

Because of this, I imagine the societal role of the musician will be left only for the youth and the lifers.