So, especially since the release of the new Radiohead record, both digitally and physically, there has been much speculation about the future, or lack thereof, for the music industry. Many have predicted the downfall of the long-hated and feared major labels, and the rise of a more personal, and ultimately, digital world of music.
It seems that some of this is actually coming to fruition. It's not any kind of news that CD sales have been on a steady decline since the inception of illegal and now-legal file sharing programs like Napster, and the digital music purchasing alternative in iTunes and Amazon.com.
Not only that, but since the bold move Radiohead made this past October, letting fans pay what they want for their new record, many major label artists have up and split from their former support or found it elsewhere in more independent labels. On top of all that there has been recent news circulating in Rolling Stone stating that layoffs for employees working for major label corporations are at an all-time high to reconcile slumping album sales.
I guess the ideas I want to put forth and the questions I want to ask are as follows: it is obvious that the artists who are able to split from label support and fly completely solo are only able to do so because of the previous support they've had from their labels. In other words, without the major labels funding tours, promoting records, and selling merchandise for these artists, they wouldn't be where they are today and wouldn't be able to enjoy the fame and success they have, with or without label support.
Is any of this really helping new, independent music? It seems like up-and-coming bands are the most eager to seek label support for the ability to tour for long periods of time, fund recording new albums, and buying and selling new merch. True, there are more digital outlets for literally anyone to start a band and use DIY-style promotion via Myspace, Facebook, Purevolume, and Garageband. However, is this getting anyone recognized? Is this really changing anything?
To me, it simply seems that the goals have shifted for musicians who want to renounce any kind of affiliation with major label support. Indie labels are quickly growing and adopting major label ideals and procedures. It seems that complete independence has become the new "indie label" and the indies will soon take the place of the old "major labels". It seems terribly circular to me, and I don't really see any end to it. I've got plenty more where this came from and would love to hear someone give me hope and tell me that I'm wrong.