The state of physical media in the age of streaming

December 14th 2020 | ~ 3 minute read

I grew up in the 2000s and 2010s, naturally I love physical media. I still remember I used to record the original Dragon Ball on my VCR back in the day. My dad had a sizeable collection of music CDs and audio cassettes that I used to listen to growing up. I generally like collecting all sorts of things, so I was always fond of owning my media on an approachable format. In recent years, however, the entertainment industry has seen to an innovation that has all but killed physical media altogether, streaming.

I get it, streaming is convenient and accessible. A Netflix or a Spotify subscription costs about as much as a single Blu Ray disc or an Audio CD. But in my mind I can't help but feel that those streaming services have more drawbacks than they do benefits. For one you're at their mercy for actually providing you the content you want to watch/listen to. The other thing is that if you actually want to support the artist you like then a streaming subscription is by far the worst way to do so, as they get but pennies through licensing deals.

However the most important thing for me is that these services offer me no independence. I don't actually own any of my media there. As such I recently started collecting physical media again.

A part of my personal collection of physical media.

This offers me a lot of versatility I wouldn't otherwise have. I can rip my audio CDs and DVDs and store them on my NAS for quick access throughout my home network and it all works, even offline. I can then encode my music and video for playback on my mobile phone or even for streaming over the internet. This comes with an advantage that's usually unavailable with streaming, namely the media is of a higher quality. Audio CDs still offer the best fidelity of music you can find (Aside from some questionable, Hi-res Audio formats such as FLAC-HD), DVD and Blu-Ray often offer surround sound capability that simply can't be made available through streaming because of limited bandwidth.

Another part of the experience, albeit a minor one, is of course the feel that you can only get when you're actually holding a physical item in your hand, like a book or a movie. Also, physical media often has a ton of extra content to justify its purchase, such as art books, lyrics, exclusive photos, posters and so much more.

All of this coupled with the coolness factor of owning physical media is enough for me to jump on this hype train. If you're so inclined and have the means to do it I encourage you to try it out for yourself too.