I think it is a step too far to assume that every artist must have consented to the stream if it comes via a third -party listener who posted it to Youtube. Maybe if I were compensated for my time in tracking down the illegal posts of my albums it might be a fairer fight? I don't have a duty to make my music available for free for an optional payment if someone chooses to post it without my consent. In fact, such a disrespecting person really belongs in jail. The ones especially culpable are those who post whole albums as torrents--pretty slimy people. Of course for those consent to having their music up there, that is their choice.
These are good points, Forrest. I was largely trying to work through the economic implications of having full tracks/albums freely available vs. not. I agree with you that the decision on whether and how such promotional material should be distributed should lie with the artist/label and not with someone else. I probably didn't make that clear.
Having said that, I must admit that I find the economic side of this issue much more interesting than the ethical one. What I really wonder about is whether having free material available hurts an artist's bottom line?
I agree with you that there are some people who will choose not to buy a product because they know that they can listen to it for free. But what proportion of these people would have bought the product if that wasn't the case? And do their numbers outweigh the numbers of people who wouldn't have bought it without having the opportunity to hear it first? Or, in the case of less well known artists, do these numbers outweigh the benefits of growing your potential fan base, some portion of which will be paying customers?
These seem like important questions to answer. My intuition is that many labels/artists highlight the ethical side of the issues because they fear that YouTube, Bandcamp, piracy, etc. are a threat to the bottom line. But I don't think there are good data on that issue. And, given that there is more competition within the music world now than ever, I would be reluctant to assume that any declines in sales are necessarily due to these channels.