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Wednesday, November 23

The sums don't add up

Let me prefix this by stating quite how evident in the piece the nostalgia for un-remembered past is. It’d be nice to be objective, as often as the discourse of the grass is greener on the other side it is nowhere near reaching the ubiquity of the ‘good ol’days’ detritus, even if the glory years were long before the night you’re dad got lucky was even pencilled in his diary.
The last few days i’ve taken to downloading comics or ‘graphic novels’ as they like reassure us. Though fitting the geek convention in just about every other sense the guys in spandex seem to have completely passed me by, but swayed by this last years ‘genuine’ batman movie, the furore around ‘Sin City’ and most likely a couple of people know being into them, I’ve made my first tentative steps in to the Marvel and DC universes. The first thing that struck me was the cost, for a proper story all in one book (i couldn't be doing with collecting as they are released individual, my interests are far to fleeting to sustain that) priced in the same ball park as an expensive cd or a cheap DVD yet really with little of the re-play/re-read/re-re-wind value of either target of my money far to flaming to be contained in mere pockets.
I was instantly drawn to have a go at downloading some comics for free, I’m far from the first and probably even further from being the last, (though true in my rockist sensibilities i take some perverse pride in covert prestige of being one of the first people banned from ‘Napster’ for copyright infringement)
I’ve got a few already, and a few more in the process of being virtually shoplifted, ignoring, the oft-discussed and now verging on the boring, debate around whether this is on a moral par of child molestation or some self righteous egalitarian Robin Hood impression, for a second it got me contemplating my own and my contemporaries problematic relationship both with the idea of tangible concrete media products and the very real question of their value.
At present I still posses the very quaint notion of it is nice to actually ‘physically’ own a record, as my long suffering girlfriend will attest from many an hour spent twiddling her thumbs as I rummage through a pile cardboard and vinyl, which has seen better days in terms of sound, sight and certainly smell, but I can’t see this lasting forever, I was fifteen when I downloaded my first song. Being a bit socially inept and computer reliant its safe to assume i was a little ahead of the curve but things have changed to such an extent to which last weekend my 85 year old grandfather asked if my laptop was an mp3 player.
Whilst two generations up the Newman family train might not be particularly au fait with the intricacies of the product matrix of the Apple company, the fact he even asked the question highlights the extent to which, the iPod and mp3s of all variety have reached critical mass. It can only be a matter of time before myspace or whatever mp3 distribution is the way in which a generation ‘possessed’ music.
I know not all kids are safely middle class like me with their modern computers and broadband connections, but you only have to sit on a bus or outside H&M on a Saturday in Brighton to see kids left right and centre with their iPods, realtone phones and fancy gramophone machines.
Music is well ahead of film, comics and everything else, but its safe to see a trend. The evil companies (not that i work for a large media plc or anything) will do their dardnest to stop it, and they might well be successful, apparently in the last quarter iTunes music store was the 7th most successful music retailer in the States; but for me at least my understanding of the value of media products has been forever altered. I begrudged spending money on these comics, this seems to be where many of the pro-downloading articles fall down have no delusions that these kinds of things should be free, everyday at work I see how expensive these kind of things are to produce and I don’t work on anything near the scale of a Hollywood Blockbuster.
How am I sposed to reconcile the realisation that I am accustomed to getting content for free when i am fully aware that this is a recipe for disaster. Some people subscribe to the viewpoint that these companies make enough money to take that hit, i would tend to disagree, when a project stacks it stacks hard, and for every run away success there’s countless embarrassing mistakes. The wins counteract the losses. To use a football analogy its great to win 5 Nil but if you let in four the next mach you might as well have only won by one in the first match in terms of goal difference.

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