Yes, “constant hustle” is right–and it’s a lot like freelance journalism. This article was an interesting contrast with the part of David Byrne’s weblog in which he addressed the point that although recording is much cheaper, it’s not yet free.
I don’t own much Robert Rich, but there is something about his frank matter-of-factness that made me want to go to magnatune and buy an album or two. One of my favorite ambient labels is hypnos.com, which just announced they are re-issuing a Rich album there after a first printing of 2,000 copies sold out. 2,000 is not a bad set for a tiny label, and yet the royalties on 2,000 sold is not richesse. These small-scale hustles to profit from little releases impress me.
I also follow Mystified, who releases a stunningly prolific CC netlabel catalog, and yet still sells a goodish number of little CD issues.
His model, mystifiedmusic.com, intrigues me. It’s again like being a stringer, trying to get a by-line anywhere,everywhere.
These artists both use their own websites as focal points, not entirely in line with but analogous to the points you’ve making lately.