Sorry to drag this back up, but I just saw how my last post started this thread off on a discussion of the morality of music piracy. Below I will have my say and then step back off the soapbox:
In simple terms, it goes absolutely without argument that piracy is having a significant and detrimental effect on the music industry. One can always drag up contrary evidence in small, tailored pieces, like one would due to dismiss global warming, but the evidence is damning.
Below are some common excuses/defenses of piracy I normally see, and what I say when I hear them:
1. "I only download what I wouldn't normally buy, or just want to try out"
Let's assume for a second that you, miraculously, can handle your heroin. Do you think this is how the majority or even a significant number of downloaders think or operate? Also, how do you know any of the CDs you downloaded you wouldn't have at some point bought? Maybe you were "trying out" a new artist or album, but shouldn't that be something you would pay for? If I "try out" a new dish at a restaurant, I need to pay the bill regardless of whether I like what I ordered or eat the whole plate. The same should go for music.
2. "I'm not taking physical product, so it's not stealing."
I could make photocopies of a new book to distribute, and while I'm not stealing paper, I'm directly reducing the number of copies of that book that WOULD HAVE BEEN purchased. The supply/demand curve for CDs is not defined by limits in the supply of cheap, circular pieces of sand and plastic.
3. "Artists don't get a huge percentage of what I'm paying, so they shouldn't care anyway."
Since the beginning of time, cost models of the major labels have been built to offset sunk costs or losses from failed groups or CDs with the profits of successful ones. Every copy of "Nevermind" we purchased in 1991 was used, at least in some part, to offset losses from other CDs that year that DIDN'T sell, covering recording and promotion costs that would not otherwise be recouped. When labels lose the ability to hedge these bets, they SIGN FEWER ARTISTS and take fewer chances on new talent. They instead go for the 10,000th remastering of some retread classic rock catalog or the safest music one could imagine. Music gets boring. Artists that WOULD HAVE OTHERWISE BEEN SIGNED are left in the club scene, so yes, they are impacted.
4. "<introducing misinterpreted data to suggest downloading is helping music sales>"
There's no shortage of people who will gladly mistake correlation for causation in making the case that downloading is having no effect on music sales. There was a study last year out of Scandinavia that suggested people who downloaded music were more likely to purchase music than people who didn't. People jumped all over this, using it as "evidence" for their cause. The only problem is that the most likely explanation for the study was that people who liked music were more likely to buy AND download music than people who didn't listen to it altogether. There was nothing in the research that suggested that one behavior influenced the other, or that, in the absence of downloading, music listeners would suddenly stop paying for music altogether.
5. "It's all about the quality of music being churned out today!"
First off, let's look at self-fulfilling prophecies from item #3. Then, look at other data factors. If this were the case, we'd be seeing a drop in concert revenues exactly proportionate to the drop in CD sales. Also, one can't make the case, outside of normal "get off my lawn" curmudgeonliness, that music today is SO MUCH WORSE than at any point in the last 40 years that would justify the multi-year collapse we've been witnessing.
6. "It's all about the loudness war!"
Oh please. Ask any non internet audiophile what the loudness war even is and they can't tell you. To US the loudness war is destroying fidelity. To the average listener, I would wager to say it's a way they can hear music more clearly through their ear buds on a crowded subway. It's not the cause. I know we hate to think it, but the AVERAGE listener is going to want their music loud. People like us on the forums aren't the average listener. Find me a collection of college students who have turned their back on the industry because of the limited dynamic range of modern recordings, and I'll eat my hat.