The age of not owning: they give us everything, we leave with nothing


Although people are now more than ever making use of online webshops for their purchases and companies are going online to grasp the potential of ecommerce, there is another business model that is becoming even more important in our day-to-day lives. Just like me, you probably use Spotify for your music, watch Youtube videos occasionally and might even have tried Netflix since it launched in the Netherlands. And if you’re creative, you might use Photoshop and noticed that this service moved to a subscription-based system.

What do Spotify, Youtube, Netflix and Adobe have in common? They have all started to rent their goods. The price may not even be high, that’s not the point, but we’ve come to live in an age of not owning. Where is the time when we had shelves from IKEA solely for storing our DVD’s and CD’s? Nowadays nobody has them anymore. Instead, consumers are moving away from buying music and movies towards streaming and everybody seems happy with this convenience. But I think it’s an illusion to view this as the perfect solution, when in fact it is a trap the world has started to embrace, when in the end we get nothing in return.

Just think of Spotify; you think that you have a music collection, with your own music playlists and even your local songs of your computer are imported. In a way you do have a music collection, but what if Spotify decides to increase the monthly subscription amount each month or even worse; decides to stop this service, or goes bankrupt. Then all ‘your’ songs would be gone, you may even have spent 100 euro’s of monthly subscriptions for it, when you do not even own the songs, you merely rented them. Also while paying for it; you were limited to syncing your Spotify account with only three devices.  It may seem okay to pay some money for an almost unlimited music library, but the consequences when it ends are disappointing.

Subscribing to digital content is still a fairly new business model, and I think that users are still trying to find out what it means to lease digital content and whether it is an investment that is worth it for what you get in the long term. But as things are going more digital content is moving to this business model; e.g. Oyster is a new application for books, and newspapers are setting up a paywall that let’s you view all content available online when paying a fee.

In other words: Do you think it’s worth it? Or do you prefer ‘the old way’ of buying and owning your digital content? And will this be a trend that is here to stay?


Caroline Massart



4 responses to “The age of not owning: they give us everything, we leave with nothing”

  1. 344440jt says :

    Personally, I think that the business model of “leasing” digital content will continue to grow in the future because it managed to overcome the inefficiencies of the traditional distribution of information goods.

    In the past, we did not only pay for the content of the books, CDs, and DVDs, but mainly for the printing, logistics, and physical distribution. Furthermore, the access to these goods was limited in a way that made it impossible to order them from home and use them directly.

    While I like the possibility if owning my favourite movies on DVD, I watch most movies only once. In my opinion, the possibility to watch an unlimited number of movies for a fixed fee adds a lot of value (the same goes for music and books) and is appreciated by the majority of peiple nowadays!

  2. 346824al says :

    You raise a very fair point here. For video’s I agree with the previous post in that I usually only watch them once, so I’d rather stream them. Music, on the other hand, I’d prefer to have on my pc. I would definitely be sad if my playlists on services such as Spotify and YouTube would be gone all of a sudden, especially when I paid for it.

    But isn’t your point valid for a much wider spectrum of online services? Maybe even cloud computing in general. What if I as a company lease SaaS software from another company. In the event this company goes bankrupt, all the software I was leasing is gone too. Or for example hotmail; all my mails are stored somewhere other than my own computer. If Microsoft messes up somehow, all my emails will be gone too (though of course you can save the content of important mails here, but you get the point).

    I think that the leasing business model is a great innovation and here to stay. As the previous commenter mentioned; you no longer have to pay for the manufacturing of the goods you buy, which greatly reduces cost. I do not believe the business model is the issue, I think it’s much broader than that as I just explained.

  3. nielsdiepens says :

    First of all I agree with the comments above. Currently I am using Spotify to listen to the latest music, in my opinion a great piece of transformation of the music industry. The benefit of Spotify is that you can listen to almost everything you want. Every day I find some new interesting artists, and when I want to listen to it I don’t have to buy it and pay an extra fee. So with Spotify I have a more broader experience.

    Nowadays everything is getting to the cloud anyway, so even if Spotify would go down, another platform will arise. I’m not to worried about that.

  4. jellepol says :

    I think the ownership vs. streaming debate is very interesting and I am really curious to see how it will evolve from here. Youtube however doesn’t really require a monthly fee or subscription but generates its revenue from advertisements. They also allow content creators to make money from Youtube by monetizing their own content and giving Youtube a certain share of the proceeds. This effectual and co-operative model is very interesting in my opinion and definitely in the frontlines.

    Other platforms that are more of a service like Spotify will probably exist for many years to come as long as it stays convenient. Spotify fulfills the need for all your music everywhere anytime. When it starts failing to fulfill that need the price doesn’t really matter I think, it will fail regardless. As long as a person can spend up to 50E on a night out I don’t think paying E10 or E20 for a month of music is that much. But the psychology behind impulse spending and your monthly subscriptions is a whole different topic altogether!

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