i feel bad that you're feeling insecure about it, but i don't really think you need to... i mean, do you really want to judge your success as an artist by popular opinion and how many units you sell? there're plenty of artists, including many that are deemed among the most significant now (whatever that means), that were completely ignored and worse while they were alive/creating. but you know that. i think that you need to decide what it is you really want to get out of your artistic career... if it's to really do just what you want and answer to yourself above all, then i think that you're doing very well; you've already established a name for yourself that's quite significant, especially in light of how little promotion you do, solely on the strength of doing exactly what you want, which is definitely something to be deeply proud of. (remember that mark gunderson was just about as obscure for 10+ years of his career, before he got around to sending stuff to record labels and so on.) however, if you really want to sell 10,000(0) of something and have people dancing in clubs and see ads for your release in magazines and so on, then you will have to "whore" yourself (though i'm not sure it's always to that degree; but on the other hand, having to sign a record contract, what are your chances of having it be an equitable agreement?),
obviously i don't care so much about raw sales figures; 10,000 seems like an obscene amount of units for a truly underground release (hell, i'm pressing 200 of true data & would probably be satisfied if i sold half of those... even 10,000 free downloads would be a hell of an accomplishment). & the concept of seeing ads for my release in magazines doesn't really appeal to me (reviews, absolutely, but ads? i'm not a big fan of advertising in general, & i can't even remember the last time i saw a print ad for a cd or record i wanted to buy). although i supppose seeing such an ad could be a little exciting.
it's not so much that i want or expect to make money or sell lots of records. i'd like to think that those things don't matter so much to me (although i imagine most artists secretly crave these things on some level, & i'm no exception, not because i want or need the money, but simply as an acknowledgment that my art has enough legitimacy that someone other than me or my personal friends would actually spend money on it).
but even still, it's tough to watch attention being showered on other up-and-coming artists when i don't feel like i'm getting much attention myself (no matter how much i personally might love said artists). that only drives home the perception that nobody really cares what i'm doing. naturally i don't expect 99.9% of the population to care or even "get" what i'm doing, & perhaps i'm unfairly comparing myself to others who are intrinsicly more accessible, but there's still that .1% out there that does care about fringe audio art (& not just in a specific style like breakcore or bootlegs).
i could give examples, name names of these young hotshot superstars, but there's little point to that... i have no real artistic crticism of most of them (except the occasional "it's good but doesn't live up to the hype/there are others who are better but without the recognition"), & it strikes me as petty to list them when my only real beef with most of them amounts to little more than professional jealousy.
it also doesn't help that the local noise/experimental/whatever scene here in indy is constantly struggling. since the festivilla closed we still haven't found any venues in indianapolis to host experimental shows (not that i've been looking)... there might be a couple that would give us a crappy weeknight show, but we've learned too well that it's tough enough getting people to attend even a well-promoted weekend show of this nature. now, if i posted a complaint like this somewhere like imn, i can already tell you what the response would be. a bunch of rockers would pipe up with some populist claptrap like "anyone can do it if you promote yourself harder"; i tend to ignore those kinds of comments because i don't think the average rocker truly understands the nature of the avant garde: most audiences do not want to be challenged by their art & feel threatened or confused by art they don't understand... if you're in a rock band there are tons of potential listeners around, if you can only catch their attention. but when your audience is already so inherently small, there's no real way to compete economically with an obvious cash cow like punkrocknight or an '80s club night...
definitely... none of those new producer superstars had labels beating down their doors, i'm certain, they went to five or fifty before they got a nibble. labels will not ever hear of you if you don't send them information about yourself (there must be exceptions, but that's about a zero chance, i figure), and it's not necessarily something unethical or whorish to do... if that's what you really want. i would suspect that you would be pretty disappointed in the aftereffects if that actually happened, though.
actually, i have been solicited for a couple compilations (not that being invited prevented me from being cut), & haruo at lost frog did solicit animals within animals for a compilation appearance as well as our forthcoming mp3ep on that label. (then again, it is an mp3ep, not quite the same as pressing up a bunch of copies of anything.... though right now i won't even get into the ethical problems i would face if someone offered to pay me significantly for awia materials; i'll just say that with the band's open membership policies i would have problems accepting money for other people's contributions without some pretty in-depth conversation with the other animals regarding their material & how to fairly compensate everyone involved)
okay, this is getting long... maybe more to come if i get more feedback on the subject.
& you never know, current/upcoming projects like the indy mp3 project, the forthcoming awia release on lost frog, or even my true data 12" will start to reverse these trends. but i'm not counting on it.