When Access Feels Like Ownership


by Franklin Purnell

Remember the days when you used to lug your record collection from place to place that over time could fill a small bedroom? The advent of cassettes and CDs, not to mention VHS’s and DVD’s that we kept on shelves before being transferred to boxes in the garage didn’t change things much either but you were proud of your collection and investment.

Come Mp3, downloads, hardware capable of storing thousands of tracks on a device the size of your finger, WiFi and whala!! Music streaming. No storage, no shelves to rearrange, no garage sale, no boxes to fit all that old music into while you relocate just the press of a button and all the tunes you’ve paid for access to at your fingertips, arranged in neat playlists to suit the mood of the day. The tunes of the past? No problem, somebody else took the time to upload all those old tracks onto a hard-drive maybe in someone’s garage that they’re calling a cloud. Hmm

So what’s the difference if you can access music 24/7 on multiple devices without the responsibility of actually owning it? Awesome huh? except our lives have become full of stuff we have access to but don’t actually own, it just feels like ownership. We just make endless payments to some company with a web address that we visit virtually or speak to someone sometimes in another country. We tell our friends that we own our cars, our homes, our furniture, vacation homes, until we miss a payment and then the real owner takes it back.

So what will total access to music without actual ownership look like? Well, stop making payments and your playlist info will be deleted, all the music you’ve savored over the years will disappear. Of course technology could make it possible to reconstitute what you’ve lost I’m sure. But just think of the implications, endless payments for access or streaming, how many albums over time will that amount to? The audiophile thinks nothing of the thousands spent on Records or CDs but the average purchaser that doesn’t necessarily consider these purchases as part of the house budget might differ. I like the idea of portability, building a song list of music that I like rather than having shelves full of CDs, records, or cassettes that often feature one or two songs out of ten or twelve that I listen to. Maybe over time the long tail of endless subscription payments may equal or exceed the amount of money spent on a personal CD/record collection. The ability to opt out of a subscription sounds good but leaves open the eventuality of having to rebuild a new song list from scratch. Sooo, about that download baby, now we’re talking storage again, yet this time my whole collection is in my living room, unseen, but heard through a device about the size of my hand.

Frankly, I prefer control over my purchases versus the concept access, unless its a gym or a club, let’s be real, access is just that, [access], not ownership. Additionally, I like the idea of not having to plug into a network just to enjoy music. In short, I want my privacy and real ownership. Making a playlist or just random listening that’s personal is a freedom I want to retain and not loose to a communal arrangement of access that only feels like ownership.


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