2002 Version of this page (now replaced, rewritten):
1. Reasons to swap
Can't afford CDs
This one amuses me. It's tough! Simply. Really. If you can't afford something, you can't have it. If it is essential to your survival (like warmth, food, shelter) then you are morally wrong for stealing it, but music is hardly required for your mental well being. People have no right to music, to the produce of other people, unless they pay for it or are given it. The "I'm a student..." excuse is bollocks. Tough fucking shit! Life's not fair? But, in the words of the irritating girl, Sarah, from Labyrinth; on one of her more enlightened moments: "that's just the way it is".
People say, "When I can afford it, I'll buy the albums I've downloaded"... this is just not true. For example, I once copied VNV Nations Burning Empire. Have I since bought it? Nope, because there is so much out there I've bought other stuff instead. And I'm anti-copying, and I still haven't bought it, how much truer this must be for those who freely copy! If this is the case, that you will buy it later, then the solution is very simple: Buy it later, and simply don't get a copy until you do! There's no rush. If you must, download the most popular track or two from the album, like you'd (acceptably) copy a track or two from the radio.
CDs are overpriced
True. For this reason, people swap hoping that CD prices will come down. This is a good reason to swap/steal music. We get ripped off, and the large music companies rip us off. Especially in Europe. Less so in the USA.
Large music companies are evil, suppress individuality, compromise art for commerce So what, there's nothing we can do about it. Because we don't like the way they work does not give us right to try and harm them. Enforcing freer arts through criminal means is no less fascist that the music companies themselves. Large music companies are a force for evil, for commercial anti-human homogeny and herd mentality at the expense of vital expression and new music, however they are not obliged to either produce CDs cheaper or support music (alternative music), there's no way we can morally claim that because they don't sell what we want that they're in the wrong.
Swapping MP3s is just like tapes, and the radio
It's not. Tapes were swapped slowly, had to purchased (people run out of tapes and time much more than they run out of hard disk space and bandwidth), and most importantly of all when we swapped tapes it was personal, friendly, in person and very limited in terms of quantity and efficiency. Between friends, swapping music that was generally bought by at least one person. It was acceptable because of these personal elements.
Swapping via the Internet is not the same at all. It allows complete choice and complete freedom to obtain as much as you want, on a whim, very much unlike the staggered and personal friendships that were the result of tape swapping.
However, therefore, I do actually agree that sending MP3s to friends (i.e., a favorite track or something you know they'll love) is fine. When on IRC discussing music, it is acceptable to send the person a track by a band as an example, etc, this is completely fine.
2. Reasons not to swap
Harms the music industry? I think this is bollocks! I think this particular argument, on the behalf of large music and media companies means: "We get less profit". Which is good. Because everyone hates them, the bands and the fans hate these large labels, especially the bands. These large companies should be broken up into multiple smaller companies. As there are already small labels, people should buy music from these small labels more.
Harms the bands
More important for new bands than for established ones, but even for established ones it's not our fiat to judge "how much" our actions harm others, especially as the bands themselves (whether they're out to make money, they love the music or it's just a hobby that they also get cash from) don't generally "deserve" to be acted against criminally because they make money. We all want to make money. Even if we don't agree with the bands attitude or message it's not grounds to support criminal behavior against those bands.
3. Reasons to buy
Buying an album by a band you like says "yes" to that album by that band. The music industry grows around its successful areas, when you buy music you are encouraging that type of music to be made more. Through exposure and profit, music becomes known and as its influence grows music that is more similar will be produced.
If you agree with someone ideology, then you buy it to support them and what they stand for. Hopefully they contribute to that cause somehow. The difference you can make is even greater in direct correlation to the inverse of the bands success. The smaller the band, the greater the difference you make by buying their music.
Keep swapping personal, not via large scale music swapping software. Don't download loads of albums, select individual tracks and use them as a test of whether you want to buy the albums or not. Don't give your friends whole albums, just representative tracks. This way you will help support the bands you like.
This is most important for the alternative and less popular musical genres. It would make me angry to see people swap the entire albums of new or experimental bands, when a few tracks would suffice. I believe all swapping should be done with a link to where you can buy the album from! When I give out music to friends it's almost always when actually discussing the music in question, and I normally tell them where to get it if they like it.
Occasionally good friends will borrow a CD and copy it. This is OK, it's no different from me making a tape of the CD and giving it to them, something which is acceptable.