So where does all this leave the artists, and their music? A quick glance at the winners of this year’s poll suggests that even if the major labels are being killed by downloading and the sheer number of CDs that hit the stores each Tuesday, the artists are making out quite well, thank you. If you look beyond CD sales and start adding up all the money that comes in from touring, from merch, and from the host of licensing deals available to artists of every stripe (not just the White sort), it becomes obvious that even if there are more artists taking a bite out of the pie, the pie actually is growing in size. And, more often than not, the folks who put together soundtracks for, say, The OC, aren’t all that interested in getting tangled up in major-label red tape when there are indie artists out there who are much easier to get through to. And indie labels have been getting more adventurous: two of our winners this year, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars in the world act category and Tom Waits in the roots category, record for imprints of the So-Cal punk indie Epitaph. That may be one of the most encouraging trends of all, because it opens the door for a whole new generation of consumers to acquaint themselves with exciting outsiders.
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