There's plenty of places to get free samples of bands legally. Amazon.com, mp3.com, etc. etc. Just because you and your friends buy more music since the dawn of file sharing doesn't mean everybody does. One of my buddies, who claims to be neck deep in scenes from here to Indiana, hasn't purchased a real record from a real store in probably two years.
I don't do the "free samples" things, because it's just not enough for me. I have to hear the album. If I can't hear the whole album by downloading it online, I'll get a friend to copy his CD for me and watch my CD case grow and grow and grow.
It's a wonderful test of morality, I think. Here we have an opportunity to do something that is clearly wrong (benefiting from the work of others with no reciprocation) with absolutely no consequences. Forget about music or how the industry reacts to file sharing (which seems to be pumping out bands with people who look good on t-shirts and in videos), let's think about if this is really helping us toward goodness. Not to mention the fact that now any trio of Saliva-listening geeks can record a record in their basement, share it with all their friends, and claim to be a band w/o touring or sleeping on floors and eating MacDonald's three times a day.
I agree here, but it sounds preachy to make the assumption that all being in a band is about is touring, sleeping on the floor in a creepy guy's house, etc. There is absolutely nothing wrong with making a song in your basement and sharing it with your friends - that's how it all starts. As for the test of morality - I care not how my habits bring me towards goodness, I only care about how my habits bring me towards good music. There are two kinds of people here, really: those who like a band after they're gained notoriety, or those who create the notoriety for the band. I consider myself one of the latter, and it appears that you would as well, but I am not quite as frustrated with the entropy in the music industry. It is sad that not many people go to the bar just to check out what bands are playing that night, but the truth is not many people ever did. File sharing is just one medium for many people to gain free access to music - if it weren't there, my closet would be overflowing with mixtapes and copies. Maybe the Postal Service (or whatever monstrosity Mr. Gibbard happens to be cranking out) wouldn't be the band that's popular, but some other horrible band surely would have taken its place, and people would still be showing up to shows half-way through the last opener's set. I am dedicated to my obsession, and I will *always* personally hand a band member $15 for their CD so they can pay for gas before I go to the record store and get it for $3 cheaper. I will drive down to the bar during a show night just to see whats happening, or on a blind recommendation. I would consider this far from being an elitist jerk, and those who sit in front of their computer with a bag of potato chips are not elitist jerks either, they're losers. I am sorry about those who never ever buy music now that they can download it, but I just don't care. I am too happy with the state things are in and the fact that my friend can tell me about the new demos he heard from some Canadian Beach Boys-influenced experimental band and I can usually hear it the same day, because there are bound to be a couple freaks who have it in their shared directory before I do. This post is pure rambling. I agree with most of your sentiments but disagree with your file sharing perspective