Years ago, I had a friend who did not pirate music. I thought that was weird. Why wouldn't you pirate music? It was free and easy. Okay, fine, technically it was illegal, but the chances of ever being caught were pretty slim. Being in a long-term relationship with a musician did not sway me. Most of the musicians I know pirate music, because they are too poor to buy it.
Somewhere in the last few years, I've turned weird and stopped pirating music. It got to the point where I did not feel good about it, mostly because it is stealing and I can afford to not steal. Piracy became such a problem because previously, record companies grossly overcharged for their music. Prices have become sane again, and lo, and behold, people are willing to pay for music. They just don't want to be gouged.
I do buy a lot of CDs, but mostly I get them used. This puts no money in the artist's pocket, though it does support used record stores and thrift stores. It seems like the secondhand market is overrun with music lately, probably because people are transitioning to digital music - ripping their music collections to their computers and then just getting rid of the disc.
I always check the music section at the thrift stores now, and a lot of times come away with an album or two. I've walked away with as many as ten. Sometimes I swear I come in right after some unknown person of great awesomeness has dropped off their beloved collection. As I poke through the selection, finding more and more good albums, adding them to my stack, looking around in amazement to see if anyone else has noticed the audio bounty, I wonder who brought in all this musical goodness. I wish I'd been here to meet them. We could've been friends.
So I buy their old CDs, rip them to my computer, and then get rid of them. This is better than piracy, but still in a gray area. By purchasing a CD, I am buying the rights to the music. When I get rid of the CD, I should relinquish my rights to the music, because then the rights have transferred to the thrift store and then to the new owner who excitedly pulled it off the shelf, wondering who donated it and wishing we could be friends. What's really shady is when I take the CD to the used book/record store, where I actually get store credit in exchange for it. So I have kept my access to the music, and I've actually made money off the CD.
I recognize that this is not exactly right, either. I am not interested in keeping physical media anymore. In the car, I use a USB stick that holds 8 gbs of music. At home and at work, I stream my music from the cloud, where I've uploaded pretty much every song I own. The only way to keep the music and get rid of the CD while not letting anyone else have access to the music would be to destroy the physical media. That seems like a really crappy solution. So what's the right thing to do?