The combination of widespread illegal downloading dealing a significant blow to the retail market, and the rise of the internet as a means of indiscriminate populist distribution, has been constantly bandied about by pundits and self-appointed wonks alike as the death knell of the traditional music industry. And, of course, the examples that support this and similar statements are everywhere.
But, curiously, an interesting phenomenon has been developing of late. Artists who established themselves via the 20th century model of "the Machine" and who count with the necessary name recognition, fanbase, and quite often, the infrastructure that would make it possible for them to take their careers into their own hands, are quietly signing with record companies, major labels in particular, when they are in a position to cut out the middleman.
In the last decade or so, Jane's Addiction moved from Warner Bros. to Capitol Records; Alice in Chains left Columbia for Virgin Records; and Dave Grohl has kept his Foo Fighters on the major label train, from RCA to Capitol Records, throughout the band's existence. These are a few but by no means lone examples of artists with means to control their recorded output on their own, opting to stay within the confines of the old-time industry womb, regardless of their options and opportunities. Surely there are favorable deals available to these veteran outfits that are not within the periphery of lesser acts. Granted. But when a tech-friendly artist like Trent Reznor, who made such an impassioned argument for his freedom to create and release his music without the interference of the allegedly cigar-chompin' guardians of "the Machine", non-chalantly announces the release of the upcoming Nine Inch Nails via Columbia Records, something is up.