From Music to Clothing, Flexible-Use Models Are Changing How We Experience Our Favorite Things
A wise person once said that the things you own end up owning you. Or maybe that was Tyler Durden in Fight Club? Yep, it was Tyler Durden. Anyway, the point stands—even if I do tend to believe anything that comes out of Brad Pitt’s mouth.
And while flexible-use models were but a glimmer in Pitt’s anarchist’s eye when he uttered those words back in 1999, they have since come to upend countless ownership-based models by giving people use-as-you-go access to the products and services they love.
Here are five of our favorite things that have been made endlessly more enjoyable now that we no longer need to own/store/fix/waste/overbuy/overuse/heartlessly dispose of them.
The process of hearing your favorite song used to be the very definition of crazyballs. You had to motor to the nearest record store, plop down $20 on an entire album of stuff you’ve mostly never even heard, pop in the CD, skip to the song you wanted, and spend the next four hours rushing over to hit the repeat button like you were manning the countdown timer reset in Lost. No wonder we’re so in love with music subscription services like Spotify. The Swedish music streaming service has 20 million songs, podcasts and videos in its database, all of which can be accessed instantly with a mere $9.99 monthly subscription—or for free if you don’t mind high-decibel ads randomly scaring the bejesus out of you while streaming a nine-hour emo playlist at 3 a.m. Instead of only having room for a handful of your favorite CDs on the now-impossible-to-clean window ledge nearest your bed, you’re now able to deep dive into an entire universe of killer artists—from Adam Ant to the Zac Brown Band—and say “Bye Bye Bye” to your dusty *NSYNC collection.
Sure, we all have great childhood memories tied to cable television and its more adventurous cousin down the street: the video store. Whether scoring the last Blockbuster copy of Forrest Gump directly from the re-stocker’s cart or marveling at the miniature neighborhood from the original HBO intro, paid television and DVDs are largely to credit for the kind of universal, not-at-all wholesome adolescent cultural experiences that have saved countless dull adult conversations since. And while the original on-demand entertainment service, Netflix, wasted no time in sending Blockbuster to the return bin of history, it has now teamed up with its rivals to take on the lone stalwart of this bygone era: box-based cable TV. Letting customers skip cable’s three-figure monthly price tag and thousands of unwatched channels, streaming services like Hulu, Amazon Prime and Roku offer on-demand TV shows and movies at a fraction of the price of traditional cable. And it’s working even better than expected. In fact, research firm eMarketer found that cord cutting was accelerating faster than originally anticipated, with 22.2 million adults ditching traditional paid TV in 2017. That’s a 33.2 percent increase from the previous year and more than its projection of 15.4 million cord cutters for that year. Longtime cable-bound networks like HBO and ESPN are even offering their own standalone subscriptions, a sure sign that cable’s days are numbered.
When wedding season comes around, do you cringe thinking about how much you’ll need to spend on formalwear? In your 20s and 30s, which is pretty much a never-ending grownup wedding season, the expense can be a real struggle. And when you think about it, are you really going to wear that seersucker suit your cousin Glenn made you and all the other groomsmen wear on his big day? Probably not. Enter companies like Rent the Runway and The Black Tux. The Black Tux specializes in suits for men, while Rent the Runway essentially leases out women’s clothing for special occasions, as well as apparel and accessories for everyday wear. Feel like channeling more of a bohemian vibe for that baby shower, but need an ever-changing professional look for that board meeting? Now you can pull off both looks without breaking the bank or wearing the same thing twice. These flexible models mean a plethora of options, an ability to change up your closet with your style, size and budget—and no four-figure outfit demands from the college BFF-turned-bride you haven’t seen in five years.
Smell is arguably the most powerful of our senses, triggering visceral reactions of the good, bad and ugly variety. So it’s no wonder that people’s dressers are littered with overpriced, oversized, barely used bottles of perfume or cologne. In fact, for any bottle of perfume or cologne you’re currently using, you likely own five others (some dating from a decade hence) that you’re not. Perhaps you simply moved on. Maybe you just wanted to try something new. Or, possibly, you have some painfully searing memory so irrevocably tied to a specific scent in your closet that you can’t even bear to look at the bottle. For any of these scenarios, Scentbird offers a subscription-based solution that delivers a 30-day supply of the authentic designer fragrance of your choice to your doorstep—whether you’re simply a picky fragrance user who wants to make an informed consumer decision, or a scent connoisseur who wants to sample all the latest trends. And the best part? You’ll finally be able to get rid of that gargantuan bottle of Drakkar Noir at the back of your random drawer.
For decades, the auto industry has been delivering us increasingly innovative car options—from hybrid to electric to autonomous to just plain cool. Meanwhile the process of getting a car hasn’t changed a lick in that time. You’ve still had to visit the dealership, have your financial knick-knacks poked and prodded amid the fluorescent glow of a back room, and sign countless pages of paperwork—only to leave with a car you’re now essentially wedded to for the better part of the next decade. As an added bonus, you get a large anvil of debt hanging constantly over your head, just waiting for you to miss a payment so it can seriously mess up your life (and credit score). Enter Fair, which allows you to get a car of your own on your phone from wherever you are and turn it in whenever you want—without borrowing a dime or seeing a single page of physical paperwork. Simply download the app, scan your license to see pre-owned cars with all-in monthly payments you can afford, sign for the one you want with your finger, and drive for as long as your car suits you. Your monthly payments include practically all your related transportation expenses, such as roadside assistance, routine maintenance, a limited warranty—even insurance if you need it. Just pay a simple start fee to get rolling, make your monthly payments as long as you want the car, and give Fair five days’ notice when you want to turn the car in. And Fair can give you access to your own car even if you have “not great” or “non-existent” credit. In other words, Tyler Durden would abide.