The digital/physical paradox

Something very interesting happened when smartphones became common good. Not only did we gain a suite of productive tools, entertainment possibilities & endless connectivity, but more importantly: we gained the curse of the digital.

The curse of the digital

A new kind of problem arose with the advent of technology and the digital world. Suddenly everything could be stored in this magic cloud and be accessed from anywhere. The smartphone expanded this idea of anywhere to the point that ‘anywhere’ literally became every conceivable place with an internet connection.

This created the curse of the digital.

Simply put: the more we shift our lives onto the digital plane, the more we yearn for physicality.

This means that with every new innovation that pushes an aspect of our lives into the digital world, we also crave to push something back to the physical.

Human beings strive for balance

I’m not sure if there’s been any research on this phenomenon, so I’m pretty much just writing this on gut feeling, so take it for what it is.

I think that the reason for this weird paradox between digital and physical resides in our core need for balance. We notice this in our homes, where we strike a balance between the newest technology and the comfort of single-use objects.

A common example is the way we make coffee. One might use the newest coffee machine that takes care of everything with just a press of the button, whilst others prefer the engaging process of a slow-press.

Most often it’s the people deepest into technology, those that design, develop or engineer it, that feel the need to adopt a more simple approach to the common things in their life. Like making coffee, brushing their teeth, driving their cars or listening to music.

The old Moleskine switcharoo

With the advent of the smartphone this digital-physical balance got disturbed in a pretty big way. Suddenly we were keeping our to-do lists, notes, calendars, news, contacts and everything in between on this one device. Nothing was physical anymore. Nothing to carry around. No reason for a pen or a piece of paper. Everything was on this one device.

Like I said, people crave balance, and having everything on that one device disturbed that balance.

It varies from one person to another where they draw the line, but a lot of people seemed to draw the line at their notes and calendars, because the sales of notebooks and portable calendars skyrocketed after the smartphone became common good.

I too felt a weird attraction towards notebooks after I started putting everything on my smartphone. Suddenly I wanted to write down as much as possible in these notebooks. Not the ones you buy in packs of 10 for the price of a Snickers bars, but those that carry identity.

I wanted to write down things of value to me, into notebooks worthy of that value.

So it’s not only a question of balance, this physical/digital paradox, but a large portion of it has to do with identity as well. The more we tuck away into that portable powerhouse, the less we have that reflects our personality, taste and ultimately our identity.

It feels like we’ve gotten to a point where the only way to express something nowadays is through the back of an iPhone or Samsung.

What this means for the music industry

It doesn’t take a genius to see where I’m going with this, so I’ll keep it short.

The more we transfer our music into the digital world, and the more we use digital music services, the less chance we get to express our taste in music. The less we’ll have to express ourselves as fan of a particular band of artist.

We’ll approach a point where albums aren’t the norm anymore and the idea of an artist telling a story through 12 songs on an LP will seize to exist.

However, this digital/physical paradox will keep the physical alive. Because the more we shift to digital, the more we’ll want to own something physical of our favourite music. Sure, you’ll discover most of it online and through various apps, but you’ll start to crave something real.

You’ll crave something that has a cover as meaningful as the album itself.

You’ll want something that you can put up on the wall. Something that reflects your taste to visitors and invites them to learn more about it.

You’ll be needing vinyl.

So the more people use apps and services that offer digital music, the more they’ll want a physical representation of that music.

How Backstash fixes this issue

While there are a lot of digital publishers, we’ve chosen to focus solely on the physical market. We provide record labels and stores with the tools to sell their products online with ease. We calculate the shipping to all possible outskirts of the world and make sure there’s never an order for a product that is out of stock (unless of course you want to offer a backorder, we take care of that too).

Backstash is a firm believer in keeping vinyl alive, whilst also embracing what the digital world can do for music. Because like all humans, we too crave balance.