All the big labels say they're always looking out for the artists and their best interests, but as we talk about all the time on Techdirt, a big problem with that is the artists do not actually get the benefit that the labels are supposedly fighting for.
As an avid music consumer and part-time creator, I am constantly downloading (usually illegaly) many bands entire discographies, always playing something new, and if I like it I keep it an introduce it to as many people as I can, and delete the stuff I don't like. That works really well for me, and I believe i'm doing the artists I like a service, introducing them to many new fans, even though I do sometimes feel bad that I haven't paid them monetarily.
I often consider paying them monetarily, and wonder, how? I've already got their entire discography so there's no reason to purchase their music, so I end up just adding them to my Jambase so I know if they're playing any shows nearby and I can give them money by seeing them live and getting some friends to come along. But there are many artists that hardly come around or don't tour at all and they'll traditionally see no revenue from me. Often in that situation I consider buying their music that I already got for free, even though its a heck of a waste of everyone's time and resources, especially considering what small percentage of my purchase will actually get back to the people I'm trying to support.
We've all seen and spoken about this problem before - for many music consumers, even those pirates that do want to pay the artist, don't get a good opportunity to do so in a way that they feel actually supports the artist.
Something must be done so that individuals can donate money directly to artists, as well as artists providing products or some other form of service for those that already have the music, but want to donate to the artists while actually getting something out of it - I would suggest every artist selling shirts, bumper stickers, etc so that, even though I downloaded all your music for free, I can still pay you and feel like I got something in return.
Examples that come to mind but hardly touch on this concept include Louis CK's stand up which personally I downloaded illegally although I knew I could pay the great price of 5$ for just as good a copy as I can download illegally (which we all know is rare - usually legal goods are extremely inferior to their illegal counterparts on the web for some reason). When I saw the amount of money he had made just by selling the comedy show I thought WOW, this guy is missing out on a ton of revenue. What if, at the same time you went to this guy's website to pay him for your download, he had all types of other goods for purchase at reasonable prices - a poster, or bumper sticker, or older stand-up acts of his, or cd's etc. Another bad example that comes to mind is DeadMau5. Now i'm not totally into minecraft and don't know how it works really, but I've seen the videos, and hanging out with your favorite artist in a computer simulation seems like something worth a fair price.
My point is, in this day and age, every artist should have something personal set up (website is probably the easiest, while DeadMau5's minecraft setup is ideal as it really pulls people into his world) where fans can go and feel like they are dealing directly with the artist. Favorite artist just came out with a new album/single/anything? Well if you want to hear it their own website should be the fastest and easiest way to get it (for free) and hey! what do you know! while going to check out that hot new single, I saw all these other things the artist was doing and I bought the t-shirt that has their album art on it! cool!.
This way, even if I already got all your music for free, if i was interested in paying you, I could go to your website and see all the different offerings I can pay for, and see which one matches best with my willingness to pay for added value.
After thinking this through I realize that I am probably a genius. I bet most artists wouldn't think of setting up a website to sell their own stuff....