Suppose every artist who sold records had to sign some offical document that defined his music in one of two ways:

Is it art or is it a commodity?

If it's art, then it's free to be copied and shared and played without serious modification and with all of the attributions intact.

If it's a commodity, then your album cover will be emblazoned with a dollar sign and each track will be preceded by an audio version of the FBI copyright warning. However, you'd retain your copyrights and everything and you'd be free to sue as many college kids as necessary to recoup lost wages from illegal downloads.

If your band is a business, then you'll have to tack "INC." at the end of its name on all advertisements, printed references and album covers. Consider it an official name change that looks like this:

Metalica Inc., or, Elton John Inc.

If your band is a charity, then it becomes a tax-exempt, non-profit organization, because art is a public service that's nearly as valuable as the Westboro Baptist Church which enjoys the same status. That's an extreme example but I think the point is valid.

What about labels and the record industry at large which constitutes the largest stakeholding propping up some bands like mannequins in a factory showroom?

Non-profit bands will have nothing to do with them. That stuff will inch towards obsolescence and eventually whither away, frozen in time and reluctant to adapt in a vastly altered landscape where maximum profits are reserved for chumps with minimum substance.

There will be financial consequences. Some artists might have to get day jobs to support themselves, (picture Bono in a Home Depot apron) but savvy ones will accept donations to their causes and will still be paid for performances and merchandise, and it'll all be tax exempt. If you can't make a living like that, then yes... you might consider a day job.

If you're making music just for money, that's totally cool... you'll just have to observe some new rules. But I think most bands are trying to create a communal experience that evokes feelings and thoughts and special shit like that. Art is special. But if you have to pay for it, it's no more special than a can of beans or a shower mat.

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