I think you have pretty accuractely summarized the current situation. Its probably old fashioned thinking, but I think getting out and somehow performing your music for people is the best way to gain a following. People still love going out and hearing music live while drinking etc. If they didn’t, we’d already be at the point where no one left their homes for anything : )
Being online only and with no previous name built means you are basically sending your music to the ADHD internet slaughter. There is so much noise, having good music isn’t enough anymore.
If you decided to go with a label, make sure that in return for your music that label is providing some kind of media attention and distrubtion you couldn’t easily achieve yourself. With Distrokid and LANDR distrubtion is a 20 spot away…If you can’t be arsed to do the social media stuff higher some marketing undergraduate to do it for you. They’ll work for peanuts. Get someone on fivvr to make a logo for you. Its a beautiful time to self-fianance a release.
The reason lables are almost unreachable and want a final product from artists is because in many regards those labels are largely irrelevant. The only reall currency a label might offer you is their reputation.
Videos are good. People are quite used to multi-media these days. Don’t get swept up in the gear video thing. The only people that care about that gimmicky non-sense are other gear nerds. Other people don’t care. And let us be honest, most of the time those videos are more about the gear than the music (because the music is often mediocre and only just barely shareable).
Find a film student and make an actual music video. If you are music is up to snuff to get some aloof little film student interested, I’m sure you can get a little contract written up for cheap that would protect you but let the film student use your music for a project of theirs.
Basically your good music is your currency. Use it to get other people to promote it for you.