Successful musicians and artists have relied on sponsors and patrons to make their living. From Bach and Beethoven to WPA artists support from persons of means, the government, or other non-profit motivated organizations and individuals have allowed artists the breathing space necessary to survive and create.
The paradigm may be changing. Locally artists like Ryan Marvel and Vicki Pompea work independently producing and promoting their amazing work, while still maintaining a normal family life. And then yesterday I got to listen to an interview with Jonathan Coulton. It talked about how, unable to make money from his music he wrote computer code, and kept at the music on his own, self publishing on his website. Now he's pulling down serious money doing what he loves, all without the support of what has become the traditional system of music production and promotion. Eric Whitacre recently became a youtube superstar with his astounding virtual choir performances, reaching an audience that had previously been completely unaware of his genius.
This maybe the wave of the future. The internet and World Wide Web are changing how we interact, and who we interact with. It is now possible for creative people to reach their comrades and their audience without the intermediary. I can't wait to see where this is going.