What a nightmare. You mean I have to do this job I hate for the rest of my life because I should want to do the thing I actually like for free? Is there really no value in it at all?
People who make products we want badly enough to need one of our own should be compensated for their efforts. They should not have to go out and play it in clubs, or sell you a t-shirt. If you want a copy of their song, you should compensate them. There are always going to be 90% of artists whose art is not popular enough to earn them a living. The problem we're discussing is that of the people whose music is very popular, but is being taken illegally without their permission.
Face it, we're not born with a burning desire to buy Metallica albums. You grow up listening to radio or watching tv, getting exposed to certain types of music (typically between 2 and 6 minutes, most on 4/4, with accompanying lyrics sung by one or two artists) and that's the music you'll end up wanting "that bad" -- pure coincidence?
Artists who succeed following traditional models (who, incidentally, are the most supportive of draconian copyright laws) are the ones who marketed themselves more heavily and got more access to traditional media: they went on TV, did interviews and concerts, paid for airplay... -- without any of that, they wouldn't be "popular". To do this, they had to borrow a lot of money from their label, and often will see very little financial reward.
So why they should not have to go out and sell you a t-shirt, instead of borrowing from a label to buy (increasingly more irrelevant) airplay? What's the big deal ?
The argument is essentially that piracy is okay because 90% of artists are never going to earn their living from music. 90% of artists do not create a product that appeals to enough people for them to earn a living selling that product. 10% create something popular enough that they might be able to earn a living at it.
How those products came to be popular socially is completely irrelevant. You're saying, let's not compensate them for being great musicians who created a recording I want a copy of. Let's instead require them to be in the business of selling clothes because I respect the value of a t-shirt more than the art they created that made me give a shit about a shirt with their name on it.
So I'd rather compensate them for being great t-shirt sellers, it doesn't really make any difference and it will probably guarantee them more cash.
Sometimes (maybe mostly). Other times it's because the artist is actually good and people buy their stuff just by word of mouth (Metallica is actually more an example of this). I think it's easier to tell in hindsight which is which. Milli Vanilli vs. Led Zeppelin, for instance.
The traditional role of the record company wasn't to manufacture music and shove it down our throats, but to be the filter--find the good musicians and sign them up. While I agree that there is a lot of manufactured crap out there, I do think that you can't dismiss all pop music because there are actually artists out there that are good and popular.
Incidentally, I think the real revolutionary thing that napster did was stop the record companies from being the filter, at least in our minds. Being able to try out any weird music I liked was liberating and when I found some bands I liked I could look at that user's whole library and use it as a primitive recommendation engine. I was able to find way more indie stuff and it effectively gave some of the filtering controls over to me.