As long as the major record companies controlled the industry, artists had to accept these conditions. But the majors’ grip on things has almost gone. For years they saw it coming but did little to change things. Now each week brings them more gloom. CD sales are down on last year, which were down on the year before, and the year before that. Sony and BMG amalgamated, but brought themselves little benefit in doing so. EMI and Warners tried to go the same route, but failed. So EMI was taken over by someone with no knowledge of the record industry. Guy Hands of Terra Firma fame promised to reinvent the whole business plan; he started by parting company with Radiohead.
But outside of the industry, who cares? Pop music has never sounded better or more vibrant, never been more easily available to the listener. The only people who are suffering are the people who brought it on themselves. The major record companies.