Thursday, February 21, 2019

Something Else That Became MUCH Cheaper But That I Seldom Buy Now

Back in the mid-1980s,  music was pretty much my life. I was knocking down $3.85 an hour ($154 a week gross, about $125 net) at my first post-high-school job, but living with my parents and didn't really have bills beyond car insurance and such. That $3.85 went up to $5.00 pretty quickly. But $200 gross, maybe $170 net still wasn't a insanely high pay -- $459 a week in 2019 dollars.

Every Friday, as soon as I got off work, I cashed my paycheck and went to the record store (a local one until that one closed, later one an hour away in the town where I always spent my weekends watching live bands at the coolest nightclub in town, which had an "all-ages" area). And every week, I bought two albums.

My recollection is that new releases ran $7.99 on vinyl or cassette (I considered CD the work of the devil). I would often buy one new thing (say, The Head on the Door by the Cure) and one older item, usually either a punk classic or something from the '60s. New vinyl or cassette, maybe $5.99. Used, $3 or $4. I seem to recall that I thought my average spent on recorded music each week was about $12, or $27.50 in 2019 dollars.

These days, I pay for maybe two new albums a year. Usually that's buying a CD at a gig to support a band I like, or going ahead and buying the "deluxe" streaming version of something I really, really, really care about. And even when I do pay for new recorded music, the price is perhaps $10 -- far less than the inflation-adjusted cost of an album back when.

In fact, I've become a complete miser when it comes to paying for recorded music. I use YouTube. I use the free version of Pandora. I use the free version of Spotify. I pay for Amazon Prime, which comes with (they say) more than a million songs, but I haven't purchased their upgraded version with a lot more music (at least twice a week, Alexa tells me that a song I asked for isn't available, would I like to sign up?).

For less than $10 a month (less than $5 a month in 1986 dollars), I could pretty much have the recorded music world at my feet. Sure, it would be digital rather than physical media, and from the streaming services it would go away if I didn't keep paying, but I used to cheerfully spend $120 a month on recorded music and now I balk at 1/12th that amount.

Why? Because I can find almost anything I want "free" if I'm willing to spend a few minutes looking for it.

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