This is my main conspiracy theory. The years that napster ran unchecked, glorious, glorious years, were the years that the RIAA recorded their greatest profits, level of profit that they have not equaled since. I think that unfettered access to music of all genres makes people better music consumers. I personally became excited about music as I had not been since my youth ( I am an old ) . I bought more cds, I went to more concerts. I have tapered off again because it is just harder to get things done, so I don't bother. The numbers say I am not alone.
I feel the real reason the music companies are terrified of electronic music distribution is twofold.
One, maintaining limited participation in music distribution to protect the status quo, it democratizes the process creating methods of distribution that a smart player could get involved and push the old fogeys out.
Two, electronic music distribution makes the tracking of music sales trivial, and the accurate assignment of funds to the correct copyright holders, and audit by same go from a difficult and arcane process to a simple exercise in database management. This is the last fucking thing the labels want. Since the beginning of the recording industry, the most powerful and profitable labels have gotten there by screwing the musicians. Hiding overseas profits, disguising sales and production runs, overstating promotional costs, accounting errors ( never in the favor of the artist, I assure you ) anything, actualy, to hide the actual profits from the musicians, and send it to the record companies' coke habits.
Try to watch a music documentary from the past 50 years. Find one where the label wasn't fucking the artist over. The labels don't want this to change, this is why they have to be dragged into digital music by their shorthairs, they need time to set up the structures to screw the artists out of their due. If you are ever wondering why packaged and cookie cutter artists seem to thrive, it is because they are more easily bilked out of the profits.