The problem is this. The advertising-driven model with which the record industry took over the finite radio broadcast spectrum by pandering to the Moral Majority Morons and the
Stick Up Their Ass Brigade FCC’s Hall Monitors enabled them to pay large shareholder dividends, Wall Street sized executive compensation packages, and still have gargantuan advertising budgets. And because they control the airwaves, artists have no choice but to accept pennies on the dollar for their labor.
The rest goes to corporate coffers, from which advertising budgets are allocated to the biggest selling artists. Beyoncé and Justin Bieber can therefore make billions from actual record sales (which are much more lucrative) because the record labels promote the shit out of them. Artists commanding much smaller market shares meanwhile can either contribute to promoting the headliners or not get played on the radio at all, which remains the single biggest advertising venue in large part because of car culture. The major records labels and thus their three parent media conglomerates have thereby captured a public commons (radio frequencies) as a private corporate asset.
Even the Beyoncés and Biebers are beholden to these labels which own their names as brands. The history of popular music is rife with successful artists fighting bitter court battles, from Tina Turner to Prince, to gain control of their own names and therefore the fruits of their own labors. It’s why so many musicians and bands see starting their own indy labels as a sort of Holy Grail, not because of some vague hippy notion of sticking to the man, but simply so they can have a modicum of creative control over their own hard work and careers instead of being serfs to the record industry’s Ivy League suits. Yet even an indy label isn’t wholly free, because they still need to convince those radio stations, owned by the same media conglomerates that own the big record labels, to play their music.
People whine about not having free speech because people talk back to them. Meanwhile they’ve let the corporate kleptomaniacs steal all the megaphones. Guess why the media industry is so desperate to lock up the internet? The ubiquity of the net is swiftly replacing the broadcast and cable network commons they appropriated out from under us. Radio, for example, if toast when most people don’t have to pay attention to driving their cars and can give their full attentions to mobile devices. The war for free speech has never been hotter, and it isn’t a war with political correctness, it’s a war being waged by global corporations on the customers they want to keep as a captive audience.
TL;DR - Media conglomerates bought each other out until now only a handful control the broadcast commons and now dictate terms to musicians.