It's not a great day for Neil Young fans with Spotify accounts. Ol' Neil heroically stomped on a rake and blooded his nose. But in embarrassingly doing so, has helped reaffirmed the value of physical media in the digital age.
The promise of digital media has always been that much of the world's best music, movies, and literature can be available to you in an instant. We've never had so much art and information at our fingertips. What a time to be alive! But that promise comes with peril. The availability of all that stuff depends entirely on the whims and desires of big digital corporations. Books can be deleted from e-readers. Movies are removed from online libraries. Streaming services can shut down unexpectedly. And a moody Neil Young can decide one day he doesn't want you to hear his music.
I had at one time given myself over to the streaming revolution. Ridding myself of DVDs and started building a digital movie library a few years back, I realized I couldn't find one of my favorite movies on any of the available services.
That's when I found myself agreeing with a movie critic who has spent years warning consumers to get physical copies of the art they love. He wrote in 2018 after Apple removed movies from Canadian customers' iTunes libraries:
"Like I keep telling y’all, you have to invest in physical media if you want to be able to hold onto the things that are important to you. You cannot trust streaming services. “Buying“ a movie or an album through Apple or anybody else is a sucker’s game".
It's even worse now. Consumers don't even really "buy" content anymore — they rent it, suckered into paying a monthly subscription. If the stuff they love disappears from a service, it disappears. There's nothing that can be done. I don't want sometimes access to my favorite art and literature. I want it all the time.
So buy the DVD. Buy the book. Buy the CD or vinyl. You get to keep it. The digital powers may be able to make your words disappear, but to take away the stuff you can hold it in your hands is impossible.