I wrote that title, and then wondered - am I setting myself up? But, oh sigh, I'm sure I do that in so many other ways I really shouldn't worry that much about it.
So, a while ago my friend and I disagreed about copying albums we owned and giving them to other people. (Among other things), she felt it was an important way to share a precious resource that might not be easily accessible - after all, CDs are pretty expensive. And then there's the fact that artists don't really make that much money off of them, anyway. When it comes to supporting an artist financially, the sale of CDs doesn't really help out much. My response was that CDs (and recording contracts) serve other purposes - visibility, advertisement, a guage of how popular the artist is. And these things truly have value.
However, I got to know many of my favorite artists throught illegal sharing of music. I have been to shows, bought CDs, and made other people fans, all directly as a result of being given music I most likely would not have found on my own. So sharing music is very important, too, and can expose us to music we might LOVE, but was prohibitively expensive (before we knew we loved it).
So, at this point in time I have decided that it's okay to give people music from bands when you also buy tickets to see them perform (I intend to buy tickets, but not always attend - I hate crowds, and music is not always good enough of a lure). And for other stuff, I have a 30% rule - I will copy or accept 30% of any album - this way I can get a good idea of the artist, and decide if I want to support them myself (and so be deserving of more of their music).
This is a really important question for me, because I think that it is really important for artists to be supported, and that their fans should be able to show them appreciation. If we want a society that supports the arts, that values them, then we need to create an environment where people can work on them - that means they need to be able to make enough money to earn a living. And I think playing music is quite a deserving way to make a living.