The rise of physical media

Written by: Lili Minato | Freelancer

In 2023, Best Buy announced that they were going to stop selling DVDs in 2024. DVD sales have also been declining for the past 16 years, but with the rise of fan culture, especially on social media, DVDs and other forms of physical media have the chance to make a comeback.

Social media has allowed people from around the world to build connections with one another, especially when it comes to the shared love of media like film and music. Within these communities, there is a presence of commercialism. Artists make merchandise to sell to adoring fans, and people post about their purchases such as the discovery of new or vintage items relating to the media. It’s a large part of the culture. 

The urge to buy merchandise from favorite artists allows businesses like The Criterion Collection to rise in sales. Criterion is a company that makes special editions of classic and contemporary films. They sell DVDs with new covers and designs; their DVDs usually house exclusive commentary, merchandise and scenes from the director, which is a big selling point for fans. 

Even with new companies like Criterion, the purchasing of brand-new DVDs is still on the decline; this may be because many fans are giving thrifted and vintage DVDs a new life. The more obscure the merchandise is, the better it is for enthusiastic devotees. It is also very cost-effective, considering many DVDs only cost a couple of dollars at a thrift store.

Still, some may find the purchasing of DVDs to be a waste of money because of the accessibility of movies through streaming services. For many others though, the ability to own their favorite movie heavily outweighs being able to easily watch it through Netflix. 

In contrast to the steady decrease in DVD sales, vinyl sales have been rapidly increasing. In 2023, Americans purchased 49 million vinyl records, which is 14 percent more compared to previous years. Vinyls have also outsold CDs consecutively in the past three years. Fans and social media have contributed to this increase. Exclusive vinyls with limited merchandise inside have enthralled followers of popular musicians. 

Taylor Swift sold the most vinyl albums in 2023. Swift’s fan base has been known to have an obsession with merchandise, official or not, and with the combination of that and Swift selling many limited edition CDs and vinyl that included many treasures inside — such as photos and posters — there’s no debating why Swift conquered the charts in that category. 

Physical media will most likely never regain its position above streaming services, but for fans of popular and alternative media alike, personalized ownership will always win over the convenience and availability of streaming platforms.

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