Every time a musician has a breakthrough performance such as the Beatles on Ed Sullivan or the Chris Stapleton/Justin Timberlake duet from the 2015 ACM Awards, newly-christened fans flock to the music store to get a copy of the performer's latest offering. But whereas the kids who dug John, Paul, George, and Ringo had to mow yards or feed pets to earn money for the record, today's excited fans often just go pirate the record.

With so much music now stored in the Cloud and so many sites not utilizing cloud security, it's easier than it should be to pirate music. Of course, many argue that it's a victimless crime; with three-figure ticket prices, massive sponsorship deals, and tons of merchandise on the market, Jay-Z doesn't have to shop in the discount department.

But over the long term, there could be a real impact on your favorite performers if piracy isn't kept at bay. The effects of stolen music are seen in several areas.

Quality Without Equality

Back in the days of LP's and cassettes, piracy was already going on. The difference was in the quality. A copy of a copy of a copy did not sound good; by the time it traveled through several different tape decks, it was hard to distinguish Mick Jagger from Paul Simon. Or even Carly Simon. Whoever it was, they didn't really care that you copied their album because it sounded so bad, and if you liked it enough, you would probably end up buying a copy of your own.

With digital music, that all changed. Duplication can go on infinitely while maintaining very high sound quality. Now musicians do have cause for concern, because you are getting the full audio experience without the artists receiving a single nickel. And the lost revenues impact the whole economy.

We can get philosophical about why musicians do what they do, but the fact is that they have to be able to make money in order to be able to make music. And that carries us to our next point.

Distorted Markets

"Nobody is releasing anything good these days." Ever thought that about the music on the radio? To whatever extent it's true, piracy can be blamed for it.

When great music comes out and gets pirated, it reaches the hands and ears of consumers who didn't pay for it. We've covered that. But what gets left out is the market's awareness of how many people actually want the music.

Billboard doesn't have a "Most Pirated" chart each week. Instead, those few initial sales are tracked, and then the rest of the sharing is lost. So each time one buyer gets an album and rips it for ten friends, there are ten would-be sales that are never reflected in market data. Say what you want about corporate music, but the fact is that your favorite acts may lose their record deals if those evil corporations don't make a profit off them--even though their fans may number in the millions.

Loss Of Integrity

From the artist's perspective, this may be the most serious problem. Pirated music is often rehashed into unauthorized "Greatest Hits" collections. B-sides that were not up to the band's standards go onto the market, sullying the group's image.

When music gets pirated, then, it isn't just shared beyond the artist's financial control. It's also outside their creative control, and that is where the quality begins to degrade.

Does that matter to the listener? Maybe not in the short term, but if a band or other performer feels that they can no longer control the product they put forth, they may choose other avenues of expression and stop creating music. Or they might at least be afraid to experiment, for fear that their trial and error process will be broadcast for all the world to hear.

It would be like taking LeBron James out for a round of golf where he double-bogeys every hole and then broadcasting that instead of one of his 50-point games. He would not want it to be seen by his fans. He just wants to hack around on the golf course and only share his basketball success.

The rising cost of purchasing music and the technological advances that make it easy to copy have created a perfect storm against legitimate music sales. But for the true fans who want to see a vibrant market for their favorite performers, the human touch could still overcome the power of money and technology.