I’m old enough to have known a world where physical media ruled, but young enough that I didn’t fully understand the significance of the shift away from it. My mom would help me burn CDs with songs downloaded from LimeWire, and I learned that if I didn’t keep the computer very still while burning it, tracks would skip on the finished product. None of these mixes were good, but they were mine—a physical timestamp of whatever embarrassing music I was listening to that I’d never allow anyone else to press play on. I looked forward to buying CDs the day they came out, one year even asking my mom to drive me to Best Buy on her birthday so I could get Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager (sorry, Mom). I listened to that CD so many times in my bedroom, studying the cover art and lyrics in the CD booklet, that those songs have embedded themselves in a deep, unforgettable portion of my brain—a remarkable feat as I become increasingly concerned about my ability to remember anything.

And then before Katrina, I had a shelf full of Disney VHS tapes—all lost in the storm—that I would watch nightly. I remember the excitement of my dad taking my brother and me to Blockbuster and Hollywood Video on Friday nights to pick out the weekend’s viewing options, along with candy and popcorn. Picking something out in person, along with a sense of obligation to finish it on a deadline, was exciting. I’ve always thrived on a deadline.

The transition away from these things did not strike me as worrisome, perhaps due to convenience or simply age.

Around 2018, when I came into the media scene as an adult trying to build a career, digital media was the route. At that time, sites were already beginning to shutter, and the writing was on the wall; this wasn’t sustainable, and this cycle would only continue. I poked around, pitched a little, dipped my toes in, but I wrote off Trying To Make It as a full-time freelancer pretty quickly—I’m not a hustler and I like stability.

When I began writing for ANTIGRAVITY, having my writing in print was exhilarating. Seeing my first little 200-word review of Ezra Furman’s Twelve Nudes—that I spent hours trying to get just right—on the physical page, distributed all over the city, left me giddy (I listened to that album so many times that I ended up naming my cat Ezra). It’s an excitement that honestly has not really worn off, despite the regularity of it. Knowing that my writing can make its way into the hands of someone who didn’t go looking for it, that it exists outside of whatever insular social media circle I’ve created, is awesome—in the truest sense. That information can travel that organically still, in the midst of extremely insular algorithms, feels miraculous.

The longer I work on this magazine, and the more frequently I see online behemoths go down (Pitchfork, BuzzFeed News, VICE, etc.), the more righteous I feel in my dedication to print. As online sites shutter, and peoples’ work—sometimes whole websites—disappear from easy public access, print offers a welcome reliability: proof that the work existed, that it can be returned to, referenced, studied, built upon, and refuted. This is public record, and it will exist somewhere tangible for as long as its physical form can hold on.

I do not aggrandize physical media simply because I hitched my wagon to it and aim to justify my own decisions. As the streaming wars continue and sites fold into each other, I am further reminded of the importance of independence from monopolistic corporations. Sites like Max (formerly HBO Max, which now includes Cartoon Network, Warner Bros., Discovery+, and more) have started pulling, and sometimes never releasing, their own original content from their streaming services for tax write-off purposes. Spotify pays artists fractions of pennies for streams, and even Bandcamp, a platform that has always stressed artist control over their music, was sold—laying off about half of the staff in the process. Moves like this ensure that art gets lost in the ether, inaccessible by legal means, and artists’ control over the distribution of their own art becomes extremely precarious.

Shit’s bleak. Every week more rounds of layoffs, more acquisitions, more consolidation. As venture capitalists buy platforms they don’t really understand, gut them and sell them for parts, more writers and artists lose their jobs and often have to find new careers entirely. When only a handful of people are responsible for distributing news, art, anything to us, they are able to determine what we receive, when we receive it, or whether we receive it at all.

There is precarity all around, and that is by design. It seems as though every corner of life is subject to the whims of very rich people who don’t care about anything except becoming richer. A world where people who are actively hostile to art and artists are the ones controlling the distribution of art is a terrifying world to live in.

For my part, I’m trying to take back control when and where I can. I’ve begun investing again in DVDs and Blu-rays, slowly building back a collection that fell off probably around high school. A few months back I bought a Blu-ray player at a thrift store (most have plenty, and they’re cheap) and have been ordering my favorites as I think of them, as well as browsing second-hand stores, which brings with it the same excitement as picking out DVDs on Friday nights with my dad and brother. And lest we forget, DVDs often come with bonus material like deleted scenes and director’s commentary—a more nuanced rendering of a work’s completion that helps us understand how it was made, and why.

Similarly, working on this magazine every month feels like a way to maintain some control. Here at ANTIGRAVITY, after nearly 20 years, we will continue to bring you stories in print, every month—work you can hold, that we will not, and cannot, take away from you. —Marisa Clogher

illustration by Laura Frizzell

April 2024 cover by Gurleen Rai

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