I own 500 odd albums on CD and maybe another 200 singles and EPs. I also own say 200 movies on DVD or Blu-Ray, with another 50 odd assorted TV series, music DVDs and sports DVDs lying about. These have all been amassed over the last decade for DVDs and Blu-Rays and the last 2 decades in the case of CDs.
I am immensely pleased with my collection and take great pride in my ability to select and purchase wisely (biggest mistake in 20 years? A tie: The Art of Noise – The Seduction of Claude De-Bussey & The Coup – Party Music. Both suck to a degree I can’t fathom.)
I never owned vinyl, but in my teen years must’ve shilled out for another hundred music cassettes and perhaps a similar number of VHS tapes.
Here’s the thing: Movies and music – from here ‘media’ is more freely available than ever before, in higher quality and at lower cost too. You can buy almost anything on iTunes and be listening to it seconds later, you can have movies streamed direct to your TV or mailed to your front door. The availability of media at low cost and in short time frames has made home entertainment instantly attainable and more disposable then at any stage in history.
So why do I continue to buy DVDs and music on CDs?
It took a while, but that is the question I have been posing to myself more frequently than ever before. The tipping point came when I recently found Tremors on Blu-Ray for $10 – a bargain to be sure for one of the best movies of all time – but is it really when I was replacing a perfectly sound DVD already in my collection?
Especially when the DVD only replaced the VHS a few years ago. Sure the quality of each generation of media has enhanced the enjoyment of the film, but I might’ve watched the VHS two or three times, the DVD say thrice, and the Blu-Ray once so far… Add up the fact that in total I must’ve spent $50 upgrading my giant worm movie over 20 years and that’s $7.14 per viewing.
For non-Tremors fare the conversion is similarly galling. I normally set a personal budget ceiling of ~ $14 for any purchase, more than that only when the film demands it – which isn’t too often. Let’s say you find the disc in the bargain bin for $12, what normally happens next?
OK the likelihood is that you’ve seen it already – no-one I know buys a DVD without first having seen the film – so between a rental or a trip to the cinema you’ve already outlaid funds before you make a ‘buy’ decision. The average trip to the cinema leaves you $20 lighter at least, the rental perhaps $6 for a new release, let’s average the two and call it $13.
This with your DVD purchase price has you down $25.
OK, you now own the film. What next?
Assuming it was a cinema release it’s been probably 3 months since you saw it in theatres, so you get home and watch it that night. The next bit is a little trickier, assuming you lurrrrrve the movie and watch it again that weekend, what’s next Roger Ebert? The plastic DVD cover gets slid into the shelf between the other DVDs in your collection that’s what.
The next question is for how long?
In my experience even the films I love to death I would guess every three years or so I would rotate through the entire bunch. Let’s use that example and say we’ve now seen our film 5 or 6 times in the first decade of ownership at a cost of between $4 and $5 per viewing.
Is now a good time to remind you (and me) that DVDs over 6 months since release can be rented for $1 or $2 per viewing? Would it be especially annoying if I also pointed out that it is extremely unlikely that Blu-Ray will even exist in 10 years as a viable alternative?
Why buy the DVD and accept the risk that the format may be rendered obsolete before you’ve watched the film more than a couple times?
I give you three reasons and three reasons only (maybe):
1 – The media in question is a genuine limited edition or is in such a niche market that it will be difficult or costly to seek it out again. This used to be the case with foreign films and martial arts flicks, with the net, Netflix and ebay it’s not so much a big deal. (This is the one reason I keep giving myself by the way – even if it is hardly the truth on most occasions: I’m really going to have trouble tracking down a copy of ‘Inception’?)
2 – You are a kid or have them… my four year old can watch the same DVD on a loop for weeks if we let him, and on some weekend mornings if I am hungover it has been known to happen.
Yeah-yeah, bad parent, but sometimes Tractor Tom is a necessity.
3 – You could argue the case for perhaps your top 10 or so as being so important, so indispensable, so essential that they demand that you purchase them, because sometimes you simply MUST watch Die Hard or The Blues Brothers at such short notice that you can’t prepare for it.
4 – I’ll break my own rules and allow a ‘4’ for music and for concert and sports DVDs, especially if you were at the gig or the game. You might not watch them on a daily basis but as background fare they perform a role, and sports DVDs tend to be in and out of the shops quicker, meaning they are good examples of being hard to track down.
5 – I know I know I keep moving the goalposts, but I saw on the weekend when ordering my signed copy of Jebediah’s new album online that my last 7 purchases have all been signed CDs. You can’t sign an iTunes release. The fact that the CDs are signed actually doesn’t mean a great deal, they probably aren’t worth too much more and won’t result in me playing the album any more than the quality of the release demands; they are simply the same price as the non-signed releases and they are there.
I know I will at times continue to ignore my own carefully thought out rules and will on occasion buy a CD or DVD merely because I am in the shop and I can – this happens quite a bit on holidays – but rest assured that I have done the maths and know just how impractical and what a waste of money it is most of the time.
As with all things music and movies sometimes rational thought is irrelevant. I thought this last night as I watched Being John Malkovich again and immediately jumped online to see what a Blu-Ray version costs.
It doesn’t exist yet. But when it does…