It suddenly occurred to me this morning that I had to buy the Sex and the City box set; that nice pink one containing all the series of Carrie Bradshaw and co. and their adventures in New York City. So I headed out of the house and, after 10 minutes of looking for the car keys, started my trip to the biggest media and electronics store in town. I’d seen it the about a year before on the shelves and although I couldn’t remember how much it cost at the time, I was sure it would cost a little bit less now. All excited, I entered into the big warehouse style electronics store, bombarded by adverts of the new Ipad and internet offers. I stopped briefly to check out the new Nintendo 3DS after which I directed myself toward the DVD section, remembering more or less where the TV series were, seeing as in the past year I mostly went to the store to look at PCs or cameras. I found one fairly generous aisle of DVDs, one dedicated to cartoons and one dedicated to “real” films! So I stood in front of the series section and looked. At first I didn’t quite understand what I was looking at and it took a while for my eyes to adjust to all the various names and colours, and I wasn’t quite sure whether they were in alphabetical order or not. But I couldn’t find it! I knew I had seen it there before! But it was gone! I scanned the whole series section, and then also the normal DVD section and even the cartoon section, just in case they’d decided to put it somewhere else. Nothing. Ok, fine, so I decided to go to the second biggest media store. This time I found the DVD section shrunk compared to what I remembered and, again, no Sex and the City box set. But what shocked me most where the prices! I remember DVD movies costing at least €20, and more for new releases, whereas now you could buy a recent Oscar winning film for only €9,99 (yeah, to make it look cheaper) and new (also Academy Award winning) releases at €16,99! So I moved on to the last and final store in the area. Gone! Where the hell is the DVD section? Or shelf? Once upon a time it covered an entire wall and now they only dedicated three 2x1m shelves to them. I left the shop horrified.
Driving back home, a little disappointed, it hit me that what they’re saying is true. The film and music industry are really losing out thanks to technology that now allows us to easily download and share media files at no cost what so ever, fuelled by the enormous range of flash drives that offer ever more storage space, boasting the number of films or mp3s they can hold. DVDs and music CDs just don’t sell anymore; people don’t buy them. They don’t need to. They have been replaced by something cheaper and easier to obtain. I realised that there’s no wonder why hardly anyone gets a record deal anymore because what records are you going to sell? Sure, there’s still the radio and there are still reproduction rights (along with extortionate fines if you get caught playing a CD in public without a license), and you can legally download a song from iTunes. But that’s many, many €20 CDs that are not being bought. I find it sad. It makes me nostalgic of the times I’d spent hours in a record store like HMV flipping through all the latest singles and checking out the charts. Then buying an album my friends and I loved and coming home to my mega three-disk HIFI and hearing the high quality sound of music coming out from the speakers. Downloading mp3s from iTunes or any online music store just doesn’t give the same rush. You have nothing to hold in your hands, nothing to handle. Remember LPs? How good does it feel to hold that vinyl disk between your fingers and gently place it on to a turn table, lower the needle and hear music being produced thanks to the way the plastic was moulded!
What frustrates me, however, is that we are the ones that are punished in every sense, rather than the ones that provide us with all the gadgets. We’re the ones who are deprived of a multidimensional music experience and we’re the ones who get fined for downloading and sharing. They threatened us with higher prices, but they gave us fancy mp3 players. They bombard us with phones that support a variety of (illegally downloaded) music formats. They sell us flash drives of all shapes and sizes at low prices and external hard disks with outrageous amounts of space that you’ll never even use up! We are consumers and what we’re supposed to consume is storage space for all of our mp3s and DivXs, the latest mp3 players, and of course CDs to play in our dusty CD players (when’s the last time you saw someone go jogging with a portable CD player….actually, do they even sell them anymore?)… Of course, putting the brakes on the clever engineers who invent and design the very tools that help and provoke us to break the law would be a very silly thing to do for a very clever marketing expert. Hey, they’re the ones in the win-win situation and we are, as always, the puppets on the strings!