Some interesting points raised here!
I do think that the battle to sto illegal downloads has already been lost sadly. There is no way to stop such things for as soon as you shut one site/supplier down (as has been done recently in the USA
) another one springs up. There will ALWAYS be someone who wants something for nothing (and quite possibly chicks for free...). The trend nowadays is for artists to release special limited edition boxsets to entice the public to buy rather than download illegally. This is where a big record company comes in handy as they can provide the funding for these super-duper deluxe wash-your-car buff-your-shoes editions of albums. Will it stop illegal downloading? Nope - but it might encourage more downloaders to go make the right choice.
That's not to say that independant artists can't do something "special" with new releases. Fish had the DVD with the 13th Satr album, Spock's Beard last release ran a pre-order scheme which not only helped to fund the record but everyone that signed up for the pre-order got their name sung in a specially created song on the album (which is actually better than it sounds!).