Back in the day, I use to put 20 dollars aside every week. It was my happy money. My friends and I would forgo lunch and head out to Bestbuy on Tuesdays to pick up a just released DVD. During that night, and almost every subsequent night thereafter, I would watch the just purchased DVD over and over till I have memorized most of the dialog and looped killer scenes for A/V demos. I was proud of my DVD collection, that all changed with Netflix. Even though I have moved on to Blu-ray, I have not purchased a movie in three years. Why bother?
I have an hour commute to work and back. I need music to keep me alert as I drive. I am ever so thankful for all the playlists my wife creates for me but lately with crazy busy schedules, my music has become stale and old. With Pandora on the iPhone, I now have a great music buddy that keeps me entertained on my commutes. I have not purchased music in over a year. Why bother?
I am by far not what you call a trend setter but I know my actions reflect what many are already doing. Owning physical media is becoming more of a philosophical choice. Due to immediate access to media, that mainstream consumers find enjoyable, many services provide that just good enough mentality (something that I discussed before) to offset the need of locating and owning the physical version. Purist may balk at such a premise but the reality is, they are in the minority. A group that I defended passionately but now no longer completely agree with.
What all this comes down to is cost. The cost of own the media vs. a subscription, the cost of acceptable quality, the cost of bandwidth infrastructure, and the cost of redundant services. Do you really need Tivo when you can watch a missed show on Hulu or a television network website with limited interruptions? I think our rich media society is willing to forgo Blu-ray’s amazing video clarity and audio for an online version that is either free or subscription based due to the immediacy of availability.
As technology alters our perception of what is acceptable with media, vendors will need to alter their business as well. What is the incentive of owning a movie vs. receiving it over the mail or streaming it over the web when quality is no longer a rigid mark but more of a slider to consumers? Why should an individual spend the effort of purchasing music and managing playlists when one can be created dynamically based on music preferences at little to no cost to the consumer? Remember, laziness is the mother of all inventions and we are witnessing that reality frequently in rich media. The music industry is struggling and other media outlets are trying to find a way to monetize in this new world reality. Subscription, though an obvious choice, is not the only answer to this dilemma. Netflix succeed where the music industry continues to fail. The reality is, the industry will need to step it up WITH MORE TECH! Give the consumer a reason to watch a just released movie rather than wait for it on Netflix. 3D is a start, but digital distribution pay-per-view on premier night would be killer! As for the music industry, it is time to give up on the sales of albums and make the artist work like everyone else. Keep producing individual tracks and pushing them out at a nominal fee on a regular podcast-like schedule. You want more money? Get the artist out more! Recording a track no longer need to be in a high quality studio as witnessed on Youtube. Record tracks on the tour bus. When music goes viral, attraction to the artist and the need to see that person live becomes ever so enticing!
Cost of media in the traditional manner no longer makes sense. Immediacy and convenience will drive the media market at the expense of high quality. The public has rapidly accepted this reality. It is time the vendors to do the same.