Yeah, it's been way too long since I've posted too. I've been thinking about downloading pirated music, Spotify, iTunes, and buying CDs the (haha) old-fashioned way in a store. Honestly, I think it's a really interesting subject to explore and I'm happy to say that I have NO definitive answers about any of it.
All I can do is disclose what I think is a good way to approach the whole situation, a way that feels like I'm not ripping off artists, yet I'm not supporting the inherently evil music biz.
I'm at a point where pirated downloads don't feel right to me, unless it's out-of-print music, public domain, or music where the artist isn't going to get some compensation in any case (like a long-deceased artist or an artist that is OFFERING a free download).
I will still download music for free if I'm on the fence about buying or if I don't know any of the artist's work and I want to check it out. If I end up liking what I hear, I will buy some of their music.
In the case of artists that I know and like, I will buy their music through any avenue that they're selling it...except Spotify. For instance, I'm a big Jeff Parker fan, and I saw he has a new album out. Instead of going straight for the "mediafire" option, I found where he was selling the album, took a chance, and bought it. Happy to say, it's a great record and I feel the money was well-spent. Go give it a listen, buy it if you like it!