See this week's brilliant Doonesbury. Click back on the calander to read the whole week's series.
It points to one possible outcome of the reality of downloadable music on the Internet. Without the need for a hugely expensive mass marketing and distribution mechanism (because collaborative filtering and downloading on the Internet replace them), pop artists can make music for the love of it rather than for dreams of riches. They may make "a modest income... like working jazz and classical musicians," by performing, or they may make no money and make recordings on evenings and weekends, for the joy of it.
This is possible as Internet resources like Emergent Music make it possible for recording artists to succeed strictly on the merits of their work, with no other requirements.
And as such resources become better-known and therefore larger and larger forces in the music world, will there be a need for mass market artists and record companies that insist on charging for each download? What will the point be, when music made by dedicated musicians out of love is available for free? The made-for-love music will arguably be of higher quality than most mass market music is because it will be made with joy and conviction rather than as a cynical short path to wealth.
So what will the point will there be in the recorded music industry's continued existence?
For a long time, my thesis has been that the recording industry would continue to exist, because artists will want to be paid, and Microsoft, together with law enforcement, has the means to make it difficult for non-geek consumers to pirate music. But lately I've been thinking that that may be missing the point.
The enemy of the commercial recording industry may not really be pirating. It may be better music, made for love, and legally freely available to everyone.