What seems absurd to me is that the record industry refuses to obey one of the basic laws of capitalism: Adjust to the market.
As The Bard wrote:
You'd better start swimming
or you'll sink like a stone
for the times
they are a-changing.
"The bottom line is that the music industry as a whole is thriving. Record labels may report a dip in their income from record sales, but more money is going to artists at the same time. Is that really such a bad outcome?"
What the Nowegian study fails to show is that with more artists being paid direct for ther recordings of course their GROSS has gone up but they then have to absorb all the costs that were previously borne by the record company. Manufacturing, mechanicals, printing, video, photography, tour support, warehousing, shipping, promotion, marketing, the massive expenses associated with distribution, international development / licensing etc etc.
As for iTunes (now the world's number one music retailer) any artist that, as you put it, started swimming and saw the opportunity early and got themselves signed up directly to Apple actually make more money per unit from an album than they ever would from a cd distirbution deal let alone a license. And yet still net revenues are tumbling.
In the end people will believe what they like though it was funny how quiet the "kill the record industry" crowd were when Ralph went under. Surely it was only the bad guys who were supposed to be hurting? Sadly not.
The Norwegian "study" also supports my key point. This process is forcing musicians into a state of semi-professionalism.
I hope all the people being laid off by the Tories have greater success adjusting to the market in the coming years than having to work two jobs.
You want to know how it is? Make a record. Put it out and support it (with some cash or sweat equity or both) so that the world beyond your immediate peer group has any chance at all of finding out that it exists. Make it your life's work. Not a hobby. Then take your income from that record and any associated activities, deduct your costs and then divide it by the number of hours that were put into it and then see how rosy things are for these mythical thriving musicians in the new world of "free" music. As I say, homlessness is not a practical alternative to a housing problem.