The Dichotomous Parallel Between MP3s and Digital Copies

Recently, I drew the parallel between the digitization of music and that of cinema. Digitization in terms of the end user’s home entertainment product. I often describe myself as being caught between two times because I always like to have links to the past, while conversely staying fairly current. I remember when MP3s first came around it was amazing. It was like “Ermagerd, I can listen to music on the computer” (That is, if we talked that back then).

Maybe it had a little to do with the fact that the internet was still in its infancy and we all either turned a blind eye to, or were ignorant to, the piracy it incurred. Eventually, the free music party came to a halt. While Lars Ulrich was neither the right person, nor an un-douche, he had a point about Napster. The fact of the matter is the word monetization wasn’t even in the vernacular back then. In the end, it was Apple with the inception of iTunes and the iPod that legitimized MP3s. Now, there was and is music business tussling there too. The point of the mini-history lesson is: Music on a computer was instantly fine with the masses. I can’t say it was preferred, even I have to give it to certain formats (even the analog ones) for having un-reproduceable qualities, but it was widely and quickly accepted as a norm.

With movies that’s not really the case. I’m citing mostly myself in this instance but the shelves of a Best Buy and the warehouses of Amazon will back me up on this, films on physical media are still king even if not by much. However, having some sort of file saves room. I had a clutter of CDs that I then jammed into my iTunes and could access it at the touch of a button on my iPod. With movies I’d still rather hold the disc.

There are gray areas which I’ll come to, devices may play a large part. Apple didn’t just start iTunes, as I mentioned they added an accessory. So, yes, the new album I both wouldn’t be something I physically received, but I’d access it through a device.

This tactile obsession is a bit odd and interesting. I think the volume of streaming done on Netflix and Amazon will indicate that we’re fine with cutting the rental store out. We just want to see a movie. People have been watching movies on TV since there was TV, and even more frequently since the advent of HBO. However, that’s watching a movie. Owning a movie up until recently has meant possessing a physical copy of the film.

Even within the realm of digital film there’s a slight stigma I feel. I like having as a bonus a digital copy of a film … on a disc that I can download into my iTunes. However, Ultraviolet annoys me and is something I’ve not used and I think many others feel the same way, and I have access to digital versions of many Disney films I’ve purchase, which remain unstreamed. It still comes down to having a box with a film in it feeling more like owning it even though the issue of space is still present.

Perhaps, this is a slower evolution, or maybe physical copies of films on one media or another will never die our for home video use. Perhaps it’ll be smaller or less successful films that go digital only, while the blockbusters and new classics that can still make a killing on video will get DVDs and Blu-Rays and whatever comes next. I don’t know the answer; time will tell. I just thought it was such a jarring juxtaposition for me personally of how readily I accepted digital representations of one artform but struggle with another. Furthermore, it’s confined to a feeling of ownership, of wanting to have that film in my grasp. I can watch any old thing by any number of streaming methods even as a first viewing but ownership still equates to a holding the film, and I’m sure I’m not alone there. That may change for me and for many some day but it hasn’t yet.