That, friends, is no question.
As somebody who grew up with music, whose adolescence was, in many ways, shaped by music, who spent much of his secondary and collegiate education studying, learning, and writing music, and as someone who remains above all else, a completely insane fan of everything having to do with music, I have retained precious few things, the most important being this:
Music is meant to be heard.
Music is meant to be heard without exclusivity, and the only condition placed upon its experience should be each individual human condition that encounters it. It is an art form, and our culture has built its foundations largely upon (at least the appearance of) free trade of its artistic commodities. I can't buy a Monet, but I can Google it and stare. Likewise, I can read the full text of the Great Gatsby without buying the book. Of course, I still have bought the book. So, starting here and now and ending whenever I hang out with Lars Ulrich and change my mind, feel free to enjoy my music freely.
This means you can go to Myspace and, not only listen to "Leaving Tennessee," "Whenever It Rains," and "Memphis Queen," but you can download them all to your computer permanently, without cost. If any of you use Limewire or any other file-sharing services, feel free to share my songs for upload, download, etc. In fact, I want you to. Constantly. Why, you ask?
1) I trust music fans because I'm one of them. I've been on both sides of the relationship, and I know that there's an agreement between artist and fan--every time I download something and enjoy it, I check out more of the artist's music and tell my friends about it. If I enjoy more of it, I buy the album. If I enjoy the album, I encourage my friends to buy it. I go see the artist's shows. I buy merchandise. I read their blog. You get the idea.
2) From a business standpoint, it makes sense. Opponents of file-sharing say that people download the music for free and don't buy the album or song, resulting in lost revenue for the artist. This can be true for established, major-label recording artists like Green Day or Outkast (who still sell millions because they make great albums, not great singles). But for me, a DIY independent artist, file-sharing is the most efficient way to get widespread exposure. For every 100 times a song is pirated, that's 100 new people that are hearing my music and 100 new chances for somebody to consider buying a CD they previously hadn't even heard of. This only works if other music fans, like me, still buy albums they care about. Which brings me to...
3) Good fans buy albums worth buying, and I believe that I have an album worth buying. That is, I'm happy to give you a good first taste, because I think you'll enjoy the whole meal. None of this is to say that album sales aren't integral to the continuation of my career; they absolutely are. I just trust that, because I write and perform music thoughtfully, fans will listen and share that music thoughtfully and we'll all come out ahead.
Ultimately, I'm betting on the fact that you, the reader/listener/fan, will continue share my music with the people you care about, as so many of you have already done. I can't be more appreciative of that fact. The single greatest compliment an artist can get is that his work has inspired motivation: motivation to listen again, to learn the lyrics, to sing along, to tell your friends, to come to a show, to buy the album, and to continue your enjoyment of the music. That's the best experience an artist can be a part of and I am, in fact, only one tiny part of it. Thanks to everyone who reads this blog, visits my site, comes to shows, buys an album (CDBaby or ITunes), and takes anything positive from my music. I'm working my hardest not to let you down, because I know you won't let me down.
All the best,