In the era of radio, everyone was free to make their own recordings of what they could pick up on their radio for their own use. It was never legal to distribute it. And since the fidelity was so terrible, enforcement wasn't an issue. With digital reproductions, fidelity is no longer an issue. And with the Internet, things are being distributed without artists being paid. When songs are played on the radio, the artists are paid.
And to your point, in the modern era it is much easier to sample things before buying. "Back in the day", radio play was a form of sampling. Also, people would head to record stores where your could listen to some stuff before buying.
Digital technology has certainly changed the dynamics of distribution. It doesn't change the morality or ethics regarding compensating people for their creative works, though.