Physical Media vs Lifestyle Media

I’ve been preparing my home for the arrival of our first child in August. One step I’ve taken is to digitize a portion of my music collection, and put my CDs and records into storage.

I have collected music since I was a teenager, scouring record stores, looking for rare international editions, buying the same album in both vinyl and CD, and chatting with the store owners about when their next shipments are coming in. I loved everything about records, record stores, and fellow fans who were passionate enough to spend all of their time and money discovering the rarest of the rare.

In the past few weeks, as the records and CDs disappeared from my shelves, there is a sense of freedom in the newfound space. The music is still there, on hard drives, on subscription services such as, on streaming radio stations, on my iPod. But the physical media is gone. What have I lost? What have I gained?

It’s interesting to consider that my child’s life will be filled with music, but they will rarely experience it as a physical object. They won’t pull a CD off the shelf, or mistakenly scratch one of my records. But there will likely always be music playing, because that’s just sort of how it is in our home. In fact, they won’t even be able to point to a stereo or entertainment center, our current “system” is a set of speakers that runs off of my iPhone.

I can’t help but feel that this transition away from physical media, has opened me up to LIFESTYLE MEDIA. That is, media that supports our experience of music, ideas, information, entertainment, and connection – instead of the collection of objects.

It took me a long time to embrace digital music. I had such an affinity for the objects of media, that I didn’t want to give them up. But that has changed. Likely, it will take me a long time to embrace digital books. The industry is still working out issues of digital-rights-management, platforms, pricing, and the like. I now realize that this change from print to digital adoption will come in time. I know more and more regular folks who are loving their digital book readers.

These transitions make me appreciate how my child will live in a world filled with media, even though he or she won’t be able to see it. That they may even experience it in a more pure form than I did growing up. What if I had spent more time in my teens LISTENING to music, instead of SHOPPING for it? What if I didn’t have to hunt down good books, but they simply popped into my life on my phone, iPad or e-reader? What if television is no longer defined by a device and a place, but as an experience? Sure, part of me is sentimental for what is lost. But more than anything, I must focus on what is GAINED. And the more I consider it, I realize we are gaining more than we are losing, and we can’t let sentimentality hold us back.