digital libraries

Isn’t it strange we don’t pay to own things anymore?

It used to be that if you loved a movie or a record, you went to the store and bought it. You could hold the DVD or CD in your hands. You took it home with you. You could play it whenever and wherever you wanted.

Netflix and Spotify changed the business model. Now, instead of paying to own the thing, you pay for access to the thing. It’s like buying a pass into a private library, where you can access whatever song or movie you want, but you can only use it within the confines of the library.

I’ve always been an advocate for ownership, for taking the thing home with you. I used to berate digital music for removing songs from the context of albums and liner notes. I’ve gotten over this for the most part, but I haven’t been able to shake my distaste for feeling the things I consume don’t belong to me. To my mind, this is an essential part of the artistic process. Once a creator places their work out in the world, it ceases to be theirs. It belongs to the audience.

Maybe this business model is a symptom of late-stage capitalism. We don’t get to claim to own the things we consume. They’re just on loan to us for as long as we want, so long as we pay our subscription fee.

Perhaps this is why I still buy songs on iTunes.

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