Recorded music now makes so little money that some artists have gone to a completely different business model.
Musicians are now releasing their work for free in the hopes that their music will reach the ears of someone willing to put it in a movie, or that it will help promote a live tour or merchandise sales. This is called a “Creative Commons License,” and it grants everyone the right to freely distribute the work, provided they don’t sell, alter or claim it as their own.
The advantage for the listener is that there has never been a better time to access new music, since Creative Commons Licenses allow a truly free exchange. Two of Nine Inch Nails’ albums were released for free under a Creative Commons License. Fans were also given the choice of buying additional collector’s-item pressings, and the band earned three-quarters of a million dollars within three days of the first release.
As difficult as the music industry is, those who are willing to think differently now have options. While record companies are still trying to figure out how to sell CDs, websites like Soundcloud and WFMU's Free Music Archive are keeping things fresh.