Slate explores how on-demand services and instantly available media changes our relationship with pop culture and high art.

Bill Wyman of Slate magazine ponders what it means to have all music instantly available and whether this means the end for the concept of ‘rare’ music and other forms of media. With iTunes, YouTube, torrents and file sharing, you can find almost any tune, movie, video clip, comic book, or TV show you are searching for. Whereas, in the past, it would have been seen as a major accomplishment to find that rare CD or video, now it is less impressive.

The concept of “rarity” has become obsolete. A previously “rare” CD or movie, once it’s in the iTunes store or on the torrent networks, is, in theory, just as available as the biggest single in the world… A rarity might be less popular; it might be less interesting. But it’s no longer less available the way it once was. If you have a decent Internet connection and a slight cast of amorality in your character, there’s very little out there you might want that you can’t find. Does the end of rarity change in any fundamental way, our understanding of, attraction to, or enjoyment of pop culture and high art?

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