I'll start by stating something that should be obvious: most musicians are poor, broke, or don't make their money through their music. In the past, musicians have made money through record deals and concerts. That's about it. Now we have iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, Slacker, and even Google and Amazon have music services; so don't musicians have all sorts of new revenue streams which just feed them money as they lay back and enjoy the ride? Well, here's the problem: These guys care just as much about musicians as record labels.
I've read a few articles recently which address these phenomena, and people have lots of things to say, like "shouldn't musicians be paid 'fairly'?" or other complaints about either the corporate monster or the poor, victimized musician. Now, I can understand both of the sides here. After all, if grown men can play sports and get paid 6, 7 and 8 figures a year, why can't musicians get paid for their hard work? You guys know that I love music just as much if not more than your average American, but I'm not so sure I would be willing to pay more than I currently do for my music. And that's the other side, the corporate side, which knows that people want their music in mass quantities, and they want it all the time, and they don't want to pay a dime out of their own pocket for it.
So what can we do? Well, for one, musicians will always make the most money from concerts. That's why concerts cost so much, and so many people are packed in, and beer and booze are marked up 8,000%. Musicians make some money there. They also used to make money from CDs or "albums". This isn't a totally dead technology, but anybody under the age of 40 should know that CDs are dying like the VHS before it, and the digital age has provided people not only the capability to pirate music, but the opportunity to carry gigabytes of songs on their arm or in their pocket. Soon it will terabytes, and our ability to shrink data will be second only to Rick Moranis.
And here I reach my point about musicians making money: people don't WANT to buy music, but they are willing to pay for entertainment. It's important to understand the difference, and for aspiring musicians, you need to understand that record labels and companies don't owe you anything. I've read that companies like Spotify pay musicians fractions of a cent per play on a song; the bottom line is, for most of you, it's a waste of your time fighting that process. Take the exposure and publicity for what it is, and focus on delivering the entertainment that people will pay for. Oh, and if you aren't a musician, don't fight companies like iTunes and Spotify; you'll ruin the cheap, legal music for the rest of us ;)