Prompted by a Quora question below:
As a manager for much of my career, who started literally in the back of a van with one act to working fifteen years later with some iconic names, I can say with some confidence that the big problem for the industry today is not the method of delivery and new ways to monetize this long tail model; it is the destruction of aspiration which has not been properly appreciated yet. Kids playing air guitar in their bedroom dream of being rockstars, living in mansions and ruling the world of popular culture. They don't dream of a viral hit on YouTube or Facebook, whilst they still pack the shelves at the mall and the former take the lions share of the meagre spoils of their effort. The idea that their page on Facebook will ever stand out from the crowd is of course an oxymoron by definition and if their only route is via a TV show and phone votes, then their music can never be considered a new wave, it will always be a sanitised and manufactured career based on back catalogue covers as a measure of their ability and not a great route for break out artists who are doing something original and creating their own momentum.
Artists need a head to the global long tail business of today to aspire to and it doesn't exist (yet - ;-), rather in the current evolution, the old ones are being destroyed & those 'mountains' are being flattened, to crowd level by those that would control the income stream via phone votes and social control systems.
We need a new break out wave of popular culture like Punk or Hip Hop which transcends all the current business mechanisms out there, driven by the consumer and on the back of which the industry re-aligns itself and does what art is supposed to do; which is to reflect the mood of generations not just line the pockets of those who think the chicken came before the egg, but the artists themselves and our cultures in general.
Do you really want your musical choice in the future to be chosen by phone vote and based on an architected selection of acts whose life expectancy will be in single digits in terms of albums if that? Fast food, fast music... what next? You may like the occasional Maccy D's, but what if that's all you could eat?
Personally I have faith that popular uprising in music is timeless and I would love to see an artist or band take off, that acts as an antidote to the current status quo and rather than see millions of people waste their dwindling money on phone voting, lotteries and virtual goods, they buy that artists' material directly and watch him/ her or them get rich. That is the only way you truly know you made that artist happen and make aspiration for future musicians mean anything.
If you think I'm wrong, then ask yourself which artists of today will be remembered by your great grand children. In my opinion they will still talk about The Beatles, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe etc. etc. but not many of this generation I venture. #saveaspiration - all roads lead to Famebook of course ;-)