I’m 56 years old, and anyone my age can relate to the frustrration I felt whenever I would re-purchase music. There are some albums that I owned on 8-track [yes, I had an 8-track player in my car in 1981], then on vinyl, then on cassette tape, and then on CD. In some cases, I would buy them yet again as an MP3 download, should the media have worn out.
To me, it sounded like a very expensive proposition to keep up with the latest formats. But it was also essential to keep up in many cases. I do own some vinyl albums, but do not currently have a record player. It can be expensive to keep various players in-house and maintained, not to mention the space they take up.
But for as much money as I seem to think that I “wasted” on this upkeep, I look at what the kids are doing today and consider myself fortunate to have lived in a relatively inexpensive time of transition.
They pay something like $10 per month to just RENT music. And in some cases, it’s nothing more than background for them. Now, if they want to spend the money on this, then more power to them. It harms the music business greatly, which is just one of the problems that I have with this.
I cannot imaging spending $120 on music, where at the end of the year, I own NONE of it. As a kid, if I spent $120, then I had roughly one dozen records that I could listen to again and again.
Maybe I have Autistic listening habits. I’m certain that I do, because I can listen to the same album over and over again. For me, variety doesn’t matter so much as my mood.
But I digress.
SOME ONLINE PURCHASES AND THEIR FATE
I remember buying music on iTunes, and being unhappy with the DRM, which is a form of copy protection on the files.
Knowing how DRM works, it got me wondering what happens to my music that I purchased on iTunes if the DRM verification servers go down.
The answer is that the files become useless. I do recall someone from Apple saying that online media purchases are basically rentals, but I cannot find that source as I write this.
So I stopped purchasing things in iTunes and would go to the record store. As the record stores began to fade, I would find myself purchasing audio files that were DRM-free and downloadable.
Digital properties that cannot be downloaded are another problem. More on that later.
THE NETFLIX DILEMMA
I do have Netflix, and think that I get my $13.99 per month value out of it. Most of what I watch are things that I will never watch again.
During my time working on social networking websites, I would often times have to work at night. So I would pull up Netflix on the flat screen and put on “The Big Lebowski” while I spent two hours testing a fresly-uploaded iteration of the website.
One night, as I prepared for work, I realized that Lebowski was no longer on Netflix! This made my work evening feel a bit drab, so I went out and bought two copies. One to use and one as a backup.
During this time, Lebowski would return for a little while on Netflix, before disappearing.
Netflix is too unreliable when it comes to films that I love, so I always purchase hard copies of those.
WHEN A SERVICE GOES AWAY
In the early months of the pandemic, I was splitting my focus on entertainment between my existing collection, going to the movie rental store, and purchasing or renting online.
Renting online is more expensive than going to the movie store. The up-side is there is nothing to return. I’m okay with renting online sometimes.
My collection is somewhat limited, although I do have copies of some movies that I have yet to watch.
I only recently watched Inception, and have yet to watch Avatar. I bought these titles, as well as others, as an impulse buy at a closing Blockbuster in LA, for $1 each.
I also have some Criterion Collection releases, such as the Blu-Ray of Eraserhead. These releases typically have high-quality artwork, as well as detailed booklets, photos, commentary tracks, and more.
The video store is the best for me, as they have both rentals AND used releases that are available for purchase. And the store owner, Terry, is always willing to find and acquire those really crappy horror movies for me. They’re totally niche and difficult to find in the wild.
VIDEO STORE = COMMUNITY
I used to go to a video store in Santa Monica, California in the late 80s called 20/20 Video. They also did film developing. They had a girl working there named Magdalena. She was 22 years old and had 18 siblings, yet NO TV show. She would always have movie posters waiting for me. They were either extras or were outdated and supposed to be thrown out.
I’d also go to another in town called VIDIOTS. They had a great collection of films. I rented Eraserhead there, and asked the person working there where I could buy a copy. He said that David Lynch had put a moratorium on releasing the film for purchase.
At the time, I owned a LASER DISK of Eraserhead, as a motivator to one day buy the equipment. It became outdated by the time I was half-way there.
The guy at the store rented me the movie, but also let me take a VCP, or Video Cassette Player, so that I could make myself a bootlet copy. I kept that bootleg VHS copy that I made, and watched it until I found out that Criterion Collection had released it on Blu-Ray.
My latest video store is Mr. Video. It’s a great place and worth the drive. I don’t go there as much as I used to, since funds are tighter than ever. But I still show support however I can, whenever I can. They appreciate their customers and it shows in how they run and maintain their facility.
A RUDE AWAKENING
When I moved from California to Oregon in late May 2019, I was excited to get things going. My girlfriend had gone ahead of me and found a place, so I was bringing the moving truck.
One of her jobs was to get the cable installed, so that we would have internet access when I got there. I haven’t had actual cable television in about 15 years, but internet has always been a necessity for me.
She was having trouble with this. Seems the order was being placed, but then nothing was happening. I didn’t believe it, until I went through her same headache on three different occasions.
The problem was that our brand-new building had faulty cable installed! The rental management company was slow to act, even when I told them that I was losing great work-from-home opportunities that were costing me $300 per day. They didn’t care. Fortunately, I wasn’t really working, but that’s what I would have lost, based on past performoance.
By the time I had internet access, two months had gone by! No Netflix, no YouTube, no Google Play. NOTHING!
This meant that I had to rely heavily on my physical collection and Mr. Video.
This makes me VERY hesitant to rely on cloud storage for ALL of my media. I don’t want my music collection on a server. I want it here, right now, accessible by me at any time, without the need for internet access, a subscription, or any other fees or hub-bub.
Hub-bub. I am officially old, just for using that phrase.
The new Samsung phones do not accomodate an SD card for memory expansion, which is why I will not be upgrading. As I write this, I am considering stand-alone options for music, including making my own with Raspberry Pi. We shall see.
YET ANOTHER RUDE AWAKENING
The unreliable nature of The Big Lebowski on Netflix is one thing. Shoddy construction and sub-standard cable is another.
My latest rude awakening is a combination of TWO things.
The first is the death of Google Play. My television still has the Google Play app on it. I had purchased many things on Google Play, including the first four seasons of Rick & Morty, as well as some other television shows and movies. It’s not a huge investment, but enough to get me thinking.
The app feels abandoned. What will happen if those services shut down? Will I get a refund? No. All of these purchases are not really purchases, but are actually rentals.
This first part of my double-platinum rude awakening rides piggy-back style on a story that I read recently about how Terraria’s Stadia Port is Canceled after the main developer got ghosted by Google.
What happened was his Google account got shut down for no apparent reason. This killed his access to ALL GOOGLE PRODUCTS, including Gmail, YouTube, and whatever Google Play is called now.
Essentially, he had all of his eggs in one Google basket, and the basket just got crushed for no reason at all. He still cannot figure out why.
For everything I have on Google Play, as well as how much I rely on YouTube and Gmail, it got me thinking how precarious my own online access is right now.
And the scary thing is that I don’t have to do ANYTHING wrong at all. All it takes is one mistake on their part, or a false flag put forth by a social engineer who hates me, and my life is over.
Should I spend any more money on Google?
I think not.
And this goes for other services like VUDU, where I have purchased a few movies. What happens when their website and service goes away? I lose everything that I purchased, for it’s not really a purchase and is merely a rental. This is the case for EVERYTHING that you cannot download!
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
My guess is that we ended up here because our society has no respect for masterful artwork. I have written in the past about how music has been devalued. The same is true for most movies.
I’m old enough to remember when purchasing a VHS tape was the only option to get a movie at home, and these would cost as much as $100! Not many people were buying at the time, so I suppose that made sense.
Now, we live in an opposite world where there are too many options out there, so everyone has to go cheap. It doesn’t help matters that American Capitalism is broken and corrupt, but that’s another entry for another day.
In this photo, I am holding a triple-release Blu-Ray featuring three masterpieces by Stanlely Kubrick.
I found this in a bargain bin at Walmart for $9.99. Three complete classics — masterpieces for the ages — and this is how little they are valued by society.
Good for me, with regard to price. However, I think that society is paying a far larger price by devaluing movies, music, and other art forms.
Society’s shame is my gain, I suppose.
MY GENERAL RULE
The general rule is that you do NOT own it if it is not in your hands or on your local drive.
This guides my new online media philosophy, where anything I cannot download and keep for myself MUST be treated like a rental.
COUNTER-ARGUMENT: THE JERRY MAGUIRE VIDEO STORE
In early 2017, a company called Everything Is Terrible had an art display in Los Angeles. It was a Jerry Maguire video store.
You could not rent anything in the store. While I was there, I did see 14 copies of Jerry Maguire arrive in the store, in varying levels of condition.
Their presentation housed everything Jerry Maguire, as well as over 14,000 copies of the movie.
Why would they do this? They had spent years collecting these donated movies. After the video store, they planned on building a pyramid of this collection, to stand as a monument to “American consumption.”
Ironically, I purchased a few items they were selling, including a Jerry Maguire t-shirt.
I get their point, which harkens back to my purchase of used VHS tapes at the second-hand store for 25 cents.
People buy movies, watch them a few times, and then don’t watch them anymore. What this means is that the physical production of products is generating a great deal of waste on the planet, and something must be done about it.
I do agree with them on this point. Does that make me a hypocrite? Since I don’t throw away movies or take them to the second-hand store, I don’t think so. All the same, if I died tomorrow, one might safely bet that most of my stuff will end up in the dump.
As I am writing this, I am thinking back to the Kubrick triple-release set for $9.99. As low as the price might be, this move could be nothing more than a cash grab from Walmart. I would be okay with getting rid of things like this.
I would gladly pay $40 if there were a Criterion Collection style release of just one of these movies. Doing this would reduce waste, and lower the likelihood that the release will end up in a landfill.
I am also just now remembering that I have TWO copies of Jerry Maguire. One is a physical DVD, and the other is on Google Play. So far as I am concerned, I have only one, for the Google Play purchase is nothing more than an over-priced rental that will one day just disappear without fanfare or explanation.
Basically, the Google Play purchase is money wasted.
IN THE END
If I can have a hard copy for the shelf, then that’s great. But if I can only get a download of it, then that’s fine too. My main problem is online purchases that are actually over-priced rentals.
The only way that I can appropriately end this entry is with a video tour of the long-gone Jerry Maguire Video Store. This is my video, taken with my phone, and my narration.
The environment is important. So is not getting ripped off. My approach to this is simple.
With movies, I buy the ones that I know I want to keep, and rent the ones that I’m curious about. Buying used is also an option. With music, I will buy used CDs or purchase DRM-free downloads online.
Is there anything that I missed? Please do let me know your thoughts on music and movies, as it applies to online purchases that cannot be downloaded.