Re: Fairer system...
It sounds backwards, but start with the premise that many artists don't get paid all their royalties, plus the big labels can take upwards of 2 years between sale/play to paying the artists. This article is a few years old but explains something of what is going on.
WiReD has had older news posts about Kobalt, but the article from this month is not yet online. There was an example from Eminem's manager where he tested different payment systems on one of the rapper's songs. Each of the three writers went with a different company for payments, which should have been identical since they were for the same song. Kobalt came in far sooner, and the traditional companies were well over a year to pay. No artist can afford that delay, unless already well-off, so they will go to their company and ask for an advance on sales, maybe not realising their money is already there. The company then uses this advance to maybe secure a new contract with the artist.
It relies on lack of transparency in where the money comes from and where it is in the system. The aricle was more about how Kobalt made use of data to open up that information to artists. I'm not in the music industry so have nothing more to go on than articles and what others say (though my brother-in-law is a singer/songwriter) - it probably doesn't work that way for big names, and there may be many different ways to earn a crust, such as mentioned earlier in this thread. It just seems unfair on the artists, especially anyone trying to start out.