“Rarity itself has become very rare,” argues Rex Sorgatz:
With access to infinite bytes of media, describing a digital object as “rare” sticks out like a lumbering anachronism. YouTube — the official home of lumbering anachronisms — excels at these extraordinarily contradictory moments. Here, for instance, are the Beatles, performing a “VERY RARE” rendition of “Happy Birthday.” That sonic obscurity has been heard 2.3 million times. And here [see above] is a “Rare Acoustic” version of Slash performing “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” Over 26 million have devoured this esoteric Axl-less morsel.
More? Nearly 5 million people have heard Bob Marley opine “No Woman No Cry” (“version rare”), while a bit of conspiratorial Area 51 footage (“RARE,” of course) has racked up 1.5 million views. And some Woody Allen standup from 1965 (excitedly: “RARE!”) has garnered a half-million views, while double that number have endured a Marlon Brando screentest (prosaically: “Rare”).
“Rare” is such an quizzical descriptor, a blatant contradiction of the very nature of digital culture. Rarity describes a state of scarcity, and as we enter a proto-post-scarcity economy, digital stuff defies such shortages. Things are no longer rare; they are either popular or unpopular.