I don’t have all the answers, Red.
However I don’t see how Spotify helps any artist to get connected to their fans.
There’s no interaction on that platform.
When artists say this helps their visibility, I see most of them linking to it, and bringing their own fans to the platform, not the other way around. The search algorithms are rigged to benefit the bigger artists and especially the big labels who have contracts and shares on the platform.
I’m not even talking about the amount of money they have diverted from artists, 5% of the songs are earning 99% of the royalties. The rest is collateral damage. I’m not even talking about the many ways they avoid paying royalties (see the way they file NOI when they supposedly can’t find The Beatles for example), how much settlements for non paying royalties they have paid, and how much money they are still sued for, nor the fact that they are pushing freemium, thus effectively perpetuating the idea that music should be free. To me there is a big ethical issue with these platforms (and Spotify is just one of them, but they all have the same rotten core, and Google is leading the way, with Youtube being the #1 copyrights infringements site).
You talk about the time when big business decided what was heard. I don’t see a difference. Big streaming corporations are deciding what is heard. Meet the new boss, the same as the old boss.
There are countless indie radios nowadays who are operated by individuals who are doing it for the love of it, they have more and more listeners, and these are the true new platforms that unsigned artists should support. Bandcamp is also a place where you can discover lots of music. But all these platforms and radios are as endangered as the unsigned artists they support, blogs are the same, podcasts too. The whole music economy is in the hands of Silicon Valley corporations nowadays, so I wonder how better this is, because what’s for sure, they don’t put any value in the music. And if artists put their music there, it means they don’t put much value in it either.
I suppose what is needed is a way to aggregate all the music from unsigned artists in a platform that respect their rights and redistribute the earnings fairly. This is not the case right now, and as much convenient as it is, it’s unsustainable long term. I think streaming needs to evolve and the people who need to drive the changes are the people who are being screwed right now. Artists, and radios, and blogs, and podcasts, and venues, should group into a movement for a change.