Here's a little breakdown:
Quote all the SoundScan statistics you want. Then call Eric Garland at BigChampagne. Illegal trading of files far outstrips physical sales, to the point where the latter are essentially irrelevant. End result, everybody’s got a lot of music, and this is good. The only piece of the puzzle left is to move the public to paid services providing everything all the time for a low price. Emphasis on low price. The majors refuse to win this war, refuse to collect a little if it insures they won’t collect a lot. But rental/streaming/rented tracks living on handsets is the legal solution that’s imminent. Just like digital books.
We’re in the midst of a revolution, that’s what you can’t see amidst the chaos. People have not stopped making music. Everybody has access to recording equipment, everybody has access to distribution, leading to an incomprehensible marketplace. But for how long?
Search was baffling until Google. Now no one complains they can’t find what they’re looking for online.
In a matter of years you’ll be able to find all the great new music. Algorithms won’t be irrelevant, but human opinion will be key. In other words, the musicians doing it for the music first will beget online sites where it’s about the music first instead of profit/selling advertising.
I keep reading Jack White (of course - I have google alerts set) talking about how things are different today and musicians have to do different things to make a living. But that's not the case. The fact is, music was different for forty years, 1960 to 2000. Now, it's back to where it was. A forty year bubble in popular musician's remuneration when considered over the 45,000 years of music making... or let's just be conservative and say 3,500 years of music making... is not a norm that can be re-established. It was a peculiarity, and using magical thinking, like only recording using reel-to-reels and vinyl records in an attempt to invoke the manifestation of the rock and roll demon, is not going to work.
You have to love the music to buy it. You have to love the merchandise, and you have to love the artists. For all my bitching about White, he is putting in the effort to have the merchandise and mystique out there. But he does seem to think that a vinyl record (mastered from CD) is a triumph of its own, when in fact it's a buggy whip. A lovely collectible buggy whip, but a buggy whip nevertheless.