Music has and always will be, propped up by the core music fan who regularly goes to concerts, reads as much as they can about music and is always listening to music. These are the people who form the base of the industry, yet are being ignored by record companies eager to make money as quickly as they can by pushing the latest American Idol winner or whoever. The industry is moving like a freight train away from the core music fan to the casual music fan because it's a lot easier to make money and also because it's an easier market to target. If the companies aren't careful they'll lose the core market completely and that will put them out of business.
Let's face it, it doesn't take an awful lot of talent for an artist to be a mainstream success in today's world whereas it takes a lot more work for an act to be popular in the 'underground' market. It is also a lot more difficult to ascertain exactly where that market is. How do you include in the same research the guy who goes to his local concert venue 4 nights a week to see local bands, the girl who goes to her local record shop and buys 10 cds every week and the 20 year old sitting at home in front of his computer illegally downloading 5 albums every day because he doesn't see the value in buying a cd. As far as I can see, the record companies aren't interested in finding out, choosing rather to prosecute those who download. While I agree that in exceptional cases prosecution is necessary and deserved, for many they do it because they love music.
The trick is to find these people and give them what they want in a way that benefits everybody. All the information is there, everything is online and it wouldn't take much for word to get around on the internet. These are the people that the companies should be looking at getting involved in the process. To continue to push these people further and further underground will make it impossible in the future to get them back. Soon the major record companies (if they haven't already) will completely lose all credibility among these fans and never be able to get it back. It's a ticking clock. The question is whether any of them are brave enough to put themselves on the line and make the first move.