Downloading copyrighted music is like shoplifting. (This message is cross-posted on my personal and music blog.)
...That's what most people will tell you (example), and I disagree.
Personally, I think selling MP3s is like selling water. Misguided and ultimately abusive.
I understand artists need to make a living doing what they do. I understand that thousands of jobs revolve around the existing music industry, and I understand that stealing music is stealing money from those people. I'm sorry about that.
...The industry was built on a house of straw. Sad though it may be, those people's lives will have to change when it tumbles. ...just as it is with any industry that isn't sound. And, frankly, I don't think any of them will be out of a job when the dust settles: it will just look different. Well, except maybe the executives. They might suffer most. But industry executives are, in no uncertain terms, taking more money from the pockets of artists than we are. My heart will not bleed for them.
No product is being stolen. There's no box, no wrapping, no store. No effective way to prevent it. It's not shoplifting, and the ananlogy is a harmful one.
What's being stolen are services, and in such minute quantities (after it reaches an adequate number of ears) that the "debt" any individual incurs from their transgression is negligible.
Pay-per-download is not an efficient economic model. MP3s could be subsidized externalities. There's an opportunity here. Music is an enormous part of our culture. Enormous! In my humble, the industry needs to stop crying foul (they can't stop it) and do something productive. There are at least a half-dozen superb ideas to accomplish this already: I won't bother repeating them*.
I have no qualms with people freely downloading music, as long as they ultimately support the artists they appreciate.
And remember: I release my music for free**.
* Not often suggested, but: what if you put MP3s in the public domain? This could be the greatest thing since the Public Library System!
** Actually, I once made a few hundred bucks, at MP3.com, which was subsidized, freely-downloadable music. That model failed: it was too early and their math was way off, but that's a story for another day.