The Merch Church
There's an interesting model on the web that can support creative types and isn't conventional in any sense of the word. It goes something like this: create so much interest in your freely-viewable, unrestricted content and sell merchandise (or "merch") based on that content. Sound silly? Or low-return? People are doing this and their content is becoming self-sustaining.
The best example of this is Homestarruner.com. A flash cartoon with new weekly episodes and literally tons of extra stuff to peruse (like clever parodies of old 80's computer games), this site is a great example to study. Most people go to see "Strong Bad's Emails" which is the weekly segement based on questions viewers write in. There is a large stable of goofy characters in this universe and they all have products based on them (available on the website). Both my son and I have Homestarruner t-shirts.
Recently, indie animator Nina Paley released her film "Sita Sings the Blues" free in every online venue she could find. It's on YouTube, her website for download and there's even a Bittorrent file circling the globe on P2P networks. Anyone can create anything they want from it because it's not copyrighted. It does have a Creative Commons license which means NO ONE can copyright it. Therefore, it propagates in one form or another creating buzz and selling merchandise based on it.
I think this model is fascinating and plays right into what everyone wants. Viewers want quality content to watch for free and the option to support the artist directly. Content creators want a revenue stream so they can keep creating. Here, everybody wins.