Salon reported this week that doctors have urged Morrissey to stop touring. The singer also apparently feels that record labels aren't interested in him because of his age: "[Major record labels] are only interested in very young people who will fly by and ask for nothing in return."
The odd thing is that none of this should be a concern for Morrissey. Kristen Hersh, of Throwing Muses fame, maintains her solo work and two bands (Throwing Muses and 50 ft Wave) through her fan funded Strange Angels program.
The truth is that if Hersh can do it, and Palmer can do it then surely Morrissey can do it. Even if he can't tour, he could live stream shows from wherever he happens to be and fans would pay to watch. He could get new albums crowdsourced and/or simply sell music online. If he doesn't want to do it himself he could always hire someone to run his online presence.
The primary function of record labels has always been production, publicity and distribution. The labels are no longer needed for production or distribution and Morrissey no longer needs publicity. This isn't rocket science. In fact Morrissey's apparent lack of knowledge of the internet combined with this tweet from Amanda Palmer made me wonder why established music stars all running "labels" of their own?
If Kristin Hersh and Amanda Palmer can sell their own music online, surely they could also draw attention to less established acts. If Palmer created a website to sell no only her own music, but also the music of less establish acts who she endorsed, those acts would sell more music and get far more attention than they would on their own.
Adding the work of 5-10 additional artists to her site would cost Palmer almost nothing, the artists in question would see an immense increase in sales and Palmer could take a small commission as compensation. So, assuming this would work for Amanda Palmer immagine what Morrissey, Prince, Madonna, Paul McCartney, Lady Gaga or Elton John could do?
This would effectively create Palmer's "village" where established acts could help younger acts along. This would help pay for their retirement, if they needed help, after they stopped playing and touring. Presumably some of the acts they helped would eventually become established themselves and could form virtual labels of their own. It sets up a cycle where there is a path to self sufficiency for new artists and a path to new revenue for older artists. In other words everyone, except the labels, wins.
One final note: If this works for musicians, there is no real reason why it shouldn't also work for authors and filmmakers.