Is listening to some music that you're not going to end purchasing because you didn't find it good enough that much of a crime? It could be considered as a "spiritual crime" perhaps, but if some guy meets Steve Roach tommorow and tells to the man "Hey, I've downloaded most of your music and I was deeply affected by it, it changed the way I see music" do you think he'll be mad at him? I don't know, I can't speak for the man.
I can't really speak for Steve, but I feel pretty certain he would be shocked to have someone tell him this. If someone told me they were "deeply affected" by my work, but they had never bothered to purchase a single CD, I'd think here's a pretty selfish person who not only doesn't purchase most of their music, but doesn't even support the work that really means something to them.
I honestly CAN see how people can rationalize pirating the newest Britney Spears album or whatever... she's already a millionaire, how much of a difference will it make if I buy one copy, the major labels are giant evil corporations anyway, etc.
I can even see how people can take a "try before you buy" attitude, downloading a lot of material and buying legit copies of the stuff they like most.
But the idea that people can rationalize pirating the music of an indie artist or label that's bringing in so little money as to barely break even, one of their favorite artists or labels... how does that rationalization go, exactly? The $12 is more important to me than it is to him, besides they didn't actually SEE me download it so there's no proof, anyway the record industry is so corrupt you have to fight against ALL commercial releases, or what?
I know you were just offering an example, but I'd say you probably shouldn't walk up to Steve Roach or anyone else and say "Your work deeply affected me but not enough that I was willing to sacrifice anything at all in order to obtain it."
Of course as you are an label owner I can understand that you try to affect the opinion in your own interest, but I really do not think that Steve would react that way at all, I think he would feel the same just if you bought the album. Maybe he would say that he would recommend the CDs cause of the better sound quality, which in fact is true. Even the best Mp3 format Lame 3.97 and Lame 3.98 does not sound 100% transparent in studio headphones/good ears, the difference is of course very subtle, but ambient music is an analytical experience, where you focus on the details and on the forms of sound... so 100% transparency is important for me if I listen to ambient music.
I do not think Steve is an money grabbing capitalist in costume and briefcase. And why he is able to live on his music also has to do with his non-capitalistic lifestyle, from what I know he live in the desert a quite minimalistic lifestyle, he spend most of the time in his studio... I do not think he have 3 sports cars etc...
I think if you are going to be a musician in this capitalistic world, you must be prepared to live a very minimalistic and sparse lifestyle, you need to sacrifice a lot...do not expect to be rich on creating music..in best case you might receive some pocket money to buy food etc.
I have been living in existence minimum for the past 4 years and I am not really complaining, and you really do not need much to surrive, to pay the bills, yet I have a quite "normal" living standard, but this is mainly because I live in one of the best welfare countries in the world, if I did live in USA I would probably live on the streets now under a bridge.
I can buy the food I need, however I need to prioritize , I can't buy shit I do not need, like expensive clothes and sports cars etc, but to be honest, as the non-capitalist I am I really do not need all that shit, I think all this materialistic welfare is not what bring us true happiness and satisfaction.
However if I would want to live an higher living standard, I would still never take a full time job, at least not in the long term, I know most people do work fulltime until they are about 65 years old, I think I would rather cut my throat then take a full time job for like rest of my life. However to get the money I need to pay for the basic needs like rent and food you do only need to work maybe a couple of days each month. The rest time of the month you could spend on music, this is basically my plan for the future as an musician, I would as little involement with the soiciety as possible so that I could focus on the music, and I am not going to enslave myself in fulltime job just to buy "social status" things that I do not really need...
I think how you rationalize pirating music is really up the person to decide, if it is worth to pay for the music at all. All this morale philosophy dilemmas of not paying to music is obviously not an universal rule, we all have our own morale and norms to follow from our own perspective.
Personally I follow the the "try before buy" rationale, since I buy all 5 star cds because of the sound quality, at least I try to do so. But I think there is about 240, 5 star cds that I can't live with out, but then there is about 3000 more that I find important and very good, but that I can't spend the money on. So to find what I like I really need to download and go through many thousands of album to find what I seek...this is what I spend most of my awake time to, to discover new music...I would not spend more money if I did not file share, maybe I would spend less even, since most of the favorite underground music I listen to I would NEVER have discovered if it wasn't for file sharing.
However I would prefer and digital FLAC download with HIGH QUALITY artwork and 24 Bit soundquality (which is the standard sound resolution in studios nowdays).
But If I am going to buy Flac albums the prices should be lower, considering the labels take about 93% of the money, 7% of an orginal album is an reasonable price, so we are talking about $1.20 for one album in 24 BIT FLAC. Of course you would have the right to stream the album before you buy it, you should know what you buy, and not just trust sensational label advertisement who does always describe albums as the most sensational music ever, this is only words, I need to listen before I believe it.