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Image for Reality Check: Your digital collection is worthless

Reality Check: Your digitalcollection is worthless

So you’ve probably all read the fake story about Bruce Willis wanting to pass on his collection of music to his kids, but being “codeblocked” by Apple, who have some fine print about proprietary rights. In essence, as one intellectual property lawyer put it, it’s like loaning a horse from some guy, and then expecting your kids to be able to ride the horse when you die. Or something. I tuned out when I read “intellectual property lawyer”.

Now, there’s probably a serious debate going on somewhere online about how “evil” Apple is for essentially treating us like thieves and not handing over any rights to the digital files we purchased with our hard earned cash. And while that’s all good and valid, it has to be asked: Why in the world would anyone want to bequeath their collection of MP3s to their next of kin?

Let’s all just pretend for a second that Bruce Willis is a real person who really really wanted his children to inherit his “many, many iPods” worth of Architecture In Helisinki rarities, Black Rebel Motorcycle B-sides and The Strokes’ first album (because all the others are shit). Let’s pretend that “Bruce” has spent years carefully cultivating this collection by opening iTunes and clicking his mouse a couple times until he finds something he likes. Wouldn’t it be, like, really unfair if all this clicking and cultivating amounted to something that would just die – hard – with him?

“Being handed a couple generic drives full of faceless MP3s is hardly something to remember someone by, especially if you were expecting some sort of inheritance.”

For all those people thinking, “Right on, Detective John McClane, you tell those Apple overlords they can’t take what’s rightfully ours”, here’s a reality check: Your collection of digital music isn’t worth the $100 Dick Smith hard drive it’s imprinted on. Digital music is designed to be impermanent. It’s a format that’s decaying with every passing moment. Have you ever tried to open a Word 1994 document on your new MacBook? Or tried to play a Betamax tape in a Blu-ray player? By the time your child inherits your collection of antiquities from a bygone era, they will probably have some implant in their brain that allows them to play music through the power of telekinesis. They’ve no doubt got an account with Rdio or Spotify already, which means they could stream your precious Boz Scaggs collection right now if they really wanted to. (They don’t.)

Being handed a couple generic drives full of faceless MP3s is hardly something to remember someone by, especially if you were expecting some sort of inheritance. Even if your kids somehow manage to open the files you’ve mislabelled and compressed to buggery, they’ll be presented with a screen full of unfamiliar titles and zeitgeist-y names. Is anyone really going to want to listen to a band called alt-J in 2043? The great thing about flipping through your parents’ record collection was stumbling upon some weird or evocative cover that’d compel you to listen to it even though you’d never heard of The Ohio Players before.

So if, like Bruce, you’re (allegedly) interested in creating a musical footprint for your descendants to trod in for all eternity, perhaps you should invest in something a little more permanent like vinyl. Because there’s absolutely no chance of a representative from Apple coming round to confiscate the cheesy disco 7”s you found in an op-shop in Dromana anyway.

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Darren Levin is the editor-in-chief of FasterLouder. He owns music in a variety of formats.

Comments

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Oflick

Oflick said on the 5th Sep, 2012

I've been trying to think of a response to this article for a while, and I'm not convinced the one I've come up with is the best. But still, here are my thoughts:

Yes, digital music is worthless and will not appreciate over time. But if a kid in 2043 has access to such wondrous technology as you claim (and I'm well aware you're exaggerating), why would they care about vinyl? I like buying records, mainly from a collection building standpoint. I think that they're great, but I can't see why they would have any value to the average person in twenty years time. Especially when you consider the major cost difference between legal downloading and buying a physical copy of the music.

Granted, "being handed a couple generic drives full of faceless MP3s is hardly something to remember someone by", but I'll go out on a limb and say this is how a lot of people get new music nowadays. When I was in high school I used to give friends the music on my hard drive and they'd give me the music on theirs. That's anecdotal evidence, I know. But I don't think there's any less chance of that music being listened to compared to vinyl. Hell, if a kid can "stream your precious Boz Scaggs collection right now if they really wanted to", why would it make a difference to them whether you have it on vinyl? To be honest, I think if the average kid was handed a bunch of records from their parents, they'd either:

A) listen to them online
B) Not do anything because they've already listened to them online
C) Say "thanks I'll listen to them later" and never touch them.

So really, it's not so much that a kid wouldn't care the format in which their parents "pass down" their music. It's more they just probably wouldn't care about the music itself. They may give it a listen (and I've listened to plenty of music of my parents recommendation), but I don't see why they'd be more likely to give it a listen in physical format. If a kid isn't going to listen to an album online/in digital format, they're not going to listen to it on vinyl.

One final point: Take this quote from the article:



This does nothing but show that media evolves over time. The same arguments used in the defence of vinyl could be used in the defence of Betamax. Similarly, I could ask "Have you ever tried playing a record on your ipad?" And be fair: it's much easier to open a word 1994 document on your new MacBook (i.e. play your digital music on a new platform) than it is to play a Betamax tape in a Blu-Ray player (i.e. play a record on anything other than a record player).

Anyway, those are my thoughts.

Oflick

Oflick said on the 5th Sep, 2012

TL;DR

I disagree with the article, kids wouldn't care whether it's in physical format, and I imagine the author is one of the four Yorkshire men.

Darren Levin

Darren Levin said on the 5th Sep, 2012

records have intrinsic value as artefacts. it's irrelevant whether you can play them or not. you can feel and touch them. they have covers. they have liner notes. they are fascinating beyond playability. digital files are not.

Darren Levin

Darren Levin said on the 5th Sep, 2012

(you raise some good points though oflick)

The Great Monkey War

The Great Monkey War said on the 5th Sep, 2012

I like my cds. I have them from the time I grew up buying cds.

I like my mp3s. I haven't started using Spotify and that ilk because I don't find it as satisfying as playing an mp3 on my computer.

I know it's probably a matter of time before we all use cloud storage for everything and have constant access to streaming sources of media and thus don't need to store mp3s but whatever.

Oflick

Oflick said on the 5th Sep, 2012



I don't dispute that records have value beyond the music, but at the end of the day it should be about the music. I know that children inheriting music was only the "Macguffin" (for lack of an accurate term, but I think you know what I mean) of the article, but going back to that if your goal is to pass on music to your children I can't see how vinyl is any better. Really, outside of the physically aspect, there's nothing a record has that a a digital file can't: It can have a cover, liner notes, etc. and is not limited by the same space restraints. Though it has it's cons, it has it's advantages.

I like records, and do collect them. But media evolves over time, and I don't really think the trend towards digital music is necessarily a bad thing.



Thanks. Don't get me wrong, I think your article makes some good points too. I just don't see the transition towards digital music as being as bad as a lot of people say it is.

freyalouise

freyalouise said on the 5th Sep, 2012

what's wrong with dromana? haha to be honest, i don't even think they have an op-shop there.

Piko

Piko said on the 5th Sep, 2012

So i never thought my digital music files were of any monetary value. To be honest I don't think CDs are of any value either. As for 2043.. ok lets look back at file format history...

What is the oldest form of music file i can think of? hrmm.. midi files! ok, thats rather old isn't it. Now lets see if i can find a midi player. Google search brings up how many results? bugger i didnt count yet it turns out I already have software installed that can play them! not a rare program either, VLC does it.

Whoever thinks a websearch for an mp3 player will be impossible to find in 30 years is dreaming. Actually I have an install file for particular software in with my collection just for convenience. AAC files that are owned by apple may not be of any use as they own that media type and may stop supporting it and not make it free. But thats apple, i avoid them, a lot of people don't but I would never recommend itunes to anyone.

I do indeed hope that all music ever released will become available for streaming one day accessible via voice command, yeehah. Alas unlikely all from one single source as multinational media companies won't really agree to that will they.. Perhaps not live bootlegs or small aussie bands would be aailable, however, will the kids ever care to listen to that stuff? Well like a lot of kids it depends on if you play it to them in the first place. That doesn't mean they will like it but they will know it and may like it whilst they are impressionable.

All this article says to me is that Apple are arseholes and that should have been your focus, not your flawed attempt at being a futurist. Comparing an out of date physical media format to a virtual media format is ridiculous and as for your Word 94 comment.. Word 6.0 was released in 1993. And forgive me if i'm wrong as I don't own a mac.. If you are having trouble viewing these files please use the following steps.

1.On the Word menu, click Preferences.

2.Under Output and Sharing, click Compatibility .

3.Select your prefered version.

I hope you find that of some use.

truthlies

truthlies said on the 5th Sep, 2012

I certainly don't think physical CDs are worthless if you have a first pressing of it, or a special deluxe edition where all the packaging is whacky and unique.

[URL=http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/225/image201209060001.jpg/]http://img225.imageshack.us/img225/3503/image201209060001.jpg

Probably cost about $3 when I bought it.

Stugalug

Stugalug said on the 5th Sep, 2012



Isn't Dromana full of bogans? Then again, so am I.

berlinchair101

berlinchair101 said on the 5th Sep, 2012

No! Your digital collection is worthless!

truthlies

truthlies said on the 5th Sep, 2012



Sorry I said that in reply to this.

Braveheart81

Braveheart81 said on the 5th Sep, 2012

I think the main underlying point is that whatever format your music is in, in 20-30 years time, no one is going to give a crap about it.

95% of the critically acclaimed bands from today will be completely forgotten and your kids are unlikely to want to listen to them regardless of what format they are in.

shazie

shazie said on the 5th Sep, 2012

I think the main underlying point is that whatever format your music is in, in 20-30 years time, no one is going to give a crap about it.

95% of the critically acclaimed bands from today will be completely forgotten and your kids are unlikely to want to listen to them regardless of what format they are in.

No way, man! We're gonna keep on rocking forever!

Forever.

Forever...

Forever....

daverh

daverh said on the 6th Sep, 2012

What's with the contrarian distaste for alt-J on here?

berlinchair101

berlinchair101 said on the 6th Sep, 2012

http://img.thesun.co.uk/multimedia/archive/00899/Bruce_Willis_899484a.jpg

Brucie is a bad ass.

gumbuoy

gumbuoy said on the 6th Sep, 2012

It’s a format that’s decaying with every passing moment.

perhaps you should invest in something a little more permanent like vinyl.

Really? You think digital is decaying, but vinyl is forever?



Really? The intrinsic value of something is whatever the market sets the price at. What price do you think you're going to get for a record that doesn't play, but still has its cover/liner notes in tact?

Braveheart81

Braveheart81 said on the 6th Sep, 2012

Berlinchair101, it's a rhetorical value.

shazie

shazie said on the 6th Sep, 2012



http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/forum/showthread.php?t=45460

?

Piko

Piko said on the 6th Sep, 2012

Is that beck loser single cover meant to be different? or you mean the CD itself? its what is all over ebay.

i guess i may be missing something but you can get it for 1 cent on ebay. But to be fair, there is one Buy Now for $7, a buy now Cassette at $8.59 and vinyl for $9.77... which is tempting.

Though a first print of a CD is usually a lot more than the first print of vinyl for the last 20 years. But yes some would be of value to some collectors. However every CD I own is near worthless already.

truthlies

truthlies said on the 6th Sep, 2012

Is that beck loser single cover meant to be different? or you mean the CD itself? its what is all over ebay.

i guess i may be missing something but you can get it for 1 cent on ebay. But to be fair, there is one Buy Now for $7, a buy now Cassette at $8.59 and vinyl for $9.77... which is tempting.

Though a first print of a CD is usually a lot more than the first print of vinyl for the last 20 years. But yes some would be of value to some collectors. However every CD I own is near worthless already.

I think the ones on ebay are not as genuine (may have hole punch through it - i don't know didn't check ebay), and it holds more value to me being one of the first cds i ever bought. Plus, have you heard Corvette Bummer?

truthlies

truthlies said on the 6th Sep, 2012

I just checked ebay, nah mines better coz still has card sleeve n yeah mines tattered a bit which adds some sentimental or nostalgic value. However, on the back of the sleeve mine says its distributed in australia '94. Me thinks its a first Aussie pressing maybe? I don't care coz i ain't selling it.

Braveheart81

Braveheart81 said on the 6th Sep, 2012

You can leave it to your kids so they can use it as a funky coaster.

berlinchair101

berlinchair101 said on the 6th Sep, 2012

Things are only worth as much as people are willing to pay for it.

nos235

nos235 said on the 7th Sep, 2012

can't you just leave the ipod/player with the songs on it? does the license have to be renewed at some point in the future? I don't use itunes so don't know how it works.

Scootah

Scootah said on the 7th Sep, 2012

i hardly think that bruce wanted to give his daughters his music collection for them to remember him by. i suspect it was more in the view that if he had say 10,000 songs purchased at a dollar a song, that would make his library a 10,000 dollar replacement value asset and of course he'd consequently want to include that in his will.

i'm also not sure that the decaying nature of digital music is a valid argument. the mp3's i downloaded from napster, having been copied between harddrives ever since, all still play just wonderfully. they seem to have lasted much better than my cassette tapes or cd's from the time. there's not an unspooled or scratched mp3 amongst them.

but that's a bit beside the point really. the argument that apple are jerks for the way they handle the death of music library owners has nothing to do with the implied permanency or lack thereof of the format. it has to do with the common understanding that if i buy 10,000 dollars worth of things, and die the next day - my next of kin will inherit those things that i bought. media vendors vehemently insist that illegally downloading a song is just like stealing a car, but apparently if i buy the car, the metaphor no longer holds, and it's just a borrowed horse. and that's a crock.