Imagine your favorite band or artist was going to drop a new record this Friday, but the only way you could possibly listen to it was via physical copy. Not only do you need the physical copy, but you have to show up to the record store and buy the item in person: no Amazon or eBay. This entire transaction alone is more costly than signing up for a streaming service.
You have to pay for an individual record (which could cost anywhere between $10-$30), drive/transport yourself to the record store, and buy the record in person (I know, horrifying right?). While money is a very important factor in managing our lives, time is arguably the most important. However, both of these elements determine what value we place on certain things. If something is very costly in both regards, then it’s usually of high value or publicly regarded as such (i.e. college). That being said, all of this might sound incredibly elementary or obvious, but it’s crucial in discussing the the following: has our modern access to music and entertainment consequently spoiled our appreciation and enjoyment?
The idea that we can play almost any piece of music from a tiny device is insane. It requires virtually no effort on a consumer level, and gives us an endless amount of options. Looking at this from a product perspective, so much more time and money goes into making music than on a consumer level, and the same can be said for movies, TV, and video games. Some may say that our appreciation for these mediums hasn't waned at all, despite the oversaturated market, but there can definitely be an argument for the contrary.
Over the break, I discovered a very tiny record store in my hometown of Vienna, VA. Having lived there for most of my life, I pretty much knew about everything there was to do and see (which isn’t much), until one day a friend told about Vienna Music Exchange. This place had to be the smallest and most DIY music store I’ve ever been to, it’s almost a glorified closet, no bigger than small bedroom. However, the mere volume of records, CD’s and tapes, specifically pertaining to rock and metal (my favorite genres) was bewildering. Most record stores in my area were extremely lacking in these categories, or at least for my taste, so Vienna Music Exchange was practically an oasis in my eyes. While I was browsing around the store, I had this thought circulating in my head. When was the last time I bought a CD or Vinyl, without listening to the artist or band prior? As a longtime collector of CDs, it was honestly something I had never done (I almost always listened to the band or album before buying a CD), so I decided to try it out.
Going home and listening to these albums was one of the most refreshing experiences I’ve had in some time. I felt way more engaged and appreciative of what I was listening to, and all around felt more enjoyment. The satisfaction of discovering good new music was something I hadn’t fully appreciated with Spotify or online music in general. Maybe it’s because I’m an impatient person, and having access to unlimited music can feel overwhelming at times, but the experience of physical music is more than meets the eye. While the same can be argued for nearly every form of media (RIP Blockbuster), it’s interesting to at least think about the way we consume entertainment. This isn’t to say that streaming has no pros or devalues art completely, but rather questions what makes art and entertainment valuable in the first place.