Photo - Emma Wallace being a rock star
I am an independent singer/songwriter who is lucky enough to do what she wants full-time. Which is being an independent singer/songwriter. Twenty to thirty years ago, the possibility of making a sustainable income as an unsigned artist was pretty much nonexistent. While a lot of music people may lament the piracy and fall of music stores (both of which do cut into any artist's pay), I'm actually quite happy about the way things are evolving!
The wonderful thing about the music business in this day and age is that there is no gate-keeper on a single, narrow road. Previously, a precious handful of 'chosen ones' would get all the investment of the record labels and if you weren't signed, you were pretty much just going to be a hobbyist. Nowadays, you don't have to wait for the mercy of A&R reps to sign you to a label (which would then take a shameful chunk of your money. Like, literally, a gazillion percent of your sales, so that you're forced to tour and tour and tour just to pay back your advance). There are many musicians who make money doing what they love with no one telling them to lose weight or change their name or their hair color, etc.
So, if you have a dream to release an album, even if you don't want to necessarily make it your full-time career, you don't have to win American Idol (in fact, it probably would end up being better for you if you don't!). There are sites like CD Baby or Tune Core that will distribute your music on iTunes and Amazon for a very manageable fee. There are companies like DiscMakers and (my favorite) Oasis CD who will burn and replicate copies of your music for you. Most towns have bars with open mics and coffee shops that host live music shows. And PayPal makes it possible for anyone with access to a computer to sell her merchandise online with practically zero overhead.
You can publicize your music through blogs, Twitter and Facebook and even set up house concerts and tour spots with fans you've met online! You can get your music on Pandora or Wizard Radio or other internet radio without having to pay up to the djs at a commercial radio station.
I've met many amazing friends and fans through my blog (that only writes about happy things) and my vintage radio show/podcast, Rose-Colored Radio Show (that only talks about happy things) which goes a long way to help a work-from-home musician get social connections. I've used my Facebook page to get inspiration for songs and my Twitter followers to get advice for lyric decisions.
While the life of a musician may no longer be the wild, partying-in-gold-swimming-
And what's more rock star than that?