Sorry for my confusing "go away" and "go for it" posts, above.
It's just that nobody can tell you the future. Nobody can say, "Yes you can make a living selling your music" and nobody can say, "No you won't make a living selling your music", because the ONLY way to find out is to go do it.
(Kinda like asking, "I'm thinking of getting married. Do you think it'll work out?")
There are some people making a living selling their music independently, yes. I'm actually surprised to find out how many of our clients are full-time musicians.
Then there are many more people who don't earn enough from selling their music independently to make a living doing it.
But that doesn't help you one bit, so let's get back to your 2 original questions:
is the ultimate cost of entry in promoting an album going to force out the small guy?
No, because independent artists usually use their lack of budget in their favor. They call attention to themselves using creativity and a unique niche, instead of throwing money at it.
Look at some of our biggest sellers this week
: CD Baby: PROJECT: Winter in June CD Baby: HYPNOTICA: The Sphinx of Imagination CD Baby: RICHARD STROCZYNSKI & DANUTA WYSZYNSKI: Polish-American Christmas Carols CD Baby: PROJECT: Winter in June CD Baby: THE BLANKS: Riding The Wave
I think they're doing well because they're the kinds of projects that a big label wouldn't gamble on. Their unique, noteworthy, remarkable projects that have great word-of-mouth because they're so unusual.
Is distribution in what ever form it may take always going to held by the boys with calculators and not the boys with guitars?
No - distribution has already been blasted wide open. Distribution means almost nothing, now. Everyone's got plenty of it. It's all about doing something remarkable. Read Purple Cow, by Seth Godin
. Marketing genius. Thesis point : you can't afford the millions it costs to make the public buy something unremarkable. Instead, design your "product" (in our case, music) from the beginning to be "remarkable" - something so unique and curious that it makes people tell their friends about it. Something the fanatics will embrace with a passion because you've done something that nobody's done before.
The encouraging point of this is that it doesn't cost any money. You can win this with creativity and a clever angle. No money needed.