Blast from the past, one of the biggest indie "hit songs" on mp3.com:
Fisher, "I Will Love You"
I grew up on WPLO FM in Atlanta between about 1968 and 1975 when it was a format I later heard called "underground FM" - commercial rock that was often not in the Top 40's, but quite interesting. If anyone can tell me where I could find some playlists for that station, I would be quite grateful (yes, they played the Dead). I recall Curved Air and Renaissance as two prog-rock or alt-rock bands they played, but there was a lot of music I can't remember the song titles or artists' names, but would love to hear again. I learned there is much more good music than was/is played on "conventional" popular radio.
So when I discovered independent music on the Internet through mp3 hosts, almost exclusively mp3.com in the late '90's, I ate it up. I remember when mp3.com died, artists spread out to soundclick, the late IUMA, and/or whevever else they could find for hosts (I found these hosts by websearching the names of the artists/bands I had listened to on mp3.com).
Here's two sites that list lots of music hosting sites for independent music artists, it rates them from the artist's point of view, but they may be worth looking over as a listener as well (while sites have all genres, many sites tend to specialize in certain genres):
In general, downloads are either free or only partial songs and charge-for-the-whole thing, depending on options the artist sets.
Many indie artists DO put their material on P2P networks in an effort to increase exposure, but I've stayed away from using the crapware necessary to get it.
mp3.com itself has been "back" for perhaps a couple years as far as being an indie host again, but I haven't really heard about it, I just happened to notice it when I went there one day. It doesn't look like the 'cred' or excitement of the late '90's is there anymore.
One more artist I learned about and bought the CD from ten years ago thanks to mp3.com, country singer "Dorene." Here's her old CD online as free MP3's as well as a new song: