Here’s a recent article on the role of Napster from the New York Times. For those just becoming aware of the music industry and the role of digitizing musical product, shifting distribution of musical product, and the culture of free, it serves as a great primer.
There’s always a lot of hand wringing over these issues, even now ten or more years later.
Digitizing (and ephemeralizing) musical product definitely changes who the winners and losers are. Storing and distributing physical objects became a losing a proposition over night. And business models built on the idea of storing and shipping atoms covered in music deflated right along with it.
But that doesn’t mean that musicians go away or that there is no path to financial security or remuneration for the work we do. In some ways, it’s the opposite. It just changes who the winners and losers are for awhile, gives everyone a chance to regroup, and then on with the next thing.
Many musicians have always had day jobs. Now, instead of slinging coffee or doing temp work or something else where the time required for travel etc is easy to get, the day job might be a marketing gig to keep a Patreon account rolling or a Kickstarter campaign funded.
Factory workers had to adjust to the new economy and musicians are just as adaptable.