They often start with “Get some gigs, start building a following, do some recording (because it’s super cheap now that digital is everywhere) give all that away, rinse, repeat, and sell merchandise.
That is not a business plan folks, and it simply solves the audience desire for free recordings.
First of all, getting gigs is not that simple, and are plenty expensive to a band (or band leader). There are many fewer places supporting live (especially original) music, and plenty of reasons why you need to be either willing to work for free or a loss or established. And trying to make a living selling merchandise for a band without a following is also not a winning solution.
So while a recording can be considered a promotional device the question is how to you support the cost of creating it? True the incremental cost is small, but how much does the first copy cost?
Also spoken about as if it were magic is the sell the rare, give away the ubiquitous. This is the start of the subscription model where the artist figures out ways of getting folks inside. Pre-release tracks, backstage passes, etc. It doesn’t solve the promotional problem of finding places to play.
Here’s something that a lot of folks don’t think about. Not everyone is good enough to make there living as a musician. It’s not a right that you can invoke because you desire it, and the greatest work ethic will not guarantee anything either. To be good enough as a song writer, player, etc. to support yourself in this scenario of playing your own music for adoring fans is in and of itself rare. Desire doesn’t change that. Promotion doesn’t change that.
Maybe that’s all there is to it?