How David Bowie understood the potential of the internet and foresaw the future of marketing music
David Bowie was one of Britain’s finest exports. A true visionary, he was responsible for some of the greatest songs of all time and featured in countless films. He was an icon to many and was seen as the precursor to punk, the pioneer of glam-rock and was a musical visionary.
However, he wasn’t just a popstar. David Bowie was ahead of the curve when it came to just about everything. Aside from being the androgynous, guitar wielding moonchild who graced our television sets during the 1970’s; Bowie was also an innovator in the world of technology.
He was an early adopter of the Internet and capitalised on its potential by launching his own ISP (Internet Service Provider) called BowieNet in 1998. BowieNet was an internet service provider that featured a high-speed connection; this was much faster than anything else commercially available at the time.
Not one to do something half-heartedly, Bowie offered subscribers of the service the opportunity to listen to unreleased songs, create their own homepage and attend private gigs. This type of extensive service was unparalleled in the music (and technology) world and was the precursor to the way that music is marketed today. You couldn’t even imagine a popstar releasing new music nowadays without a digital marketing strategy and that’s something that applies to everyone – from Adele to Black Sabbath.
Bowie was one hundred percent behind his new venture and claimed that “If I was 19 again, I would bypass music and go right to the Internet”. He truly believed in the potential of the Internet and saw it as something that would unleash new waves of creativity, innovation and something that would bridge the gap between musical superstars such as himself and his fans.
He had previous in this realm and BowieNet wasn’t the only digital revolution that he spearheaded during the nineties. David was the first major artist to distribute a song – Telling Lies – exclusively through digital download.
The concept was mocked by many people who didn’t have the vision that Bowie was blessed with. They didn’t understand that the Internet was about to change the world, they simply didn’t see what he saw. One of the best quotes that defines Bowies ability to predict trends comes from an unsurprising source, Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott – “fans would turn up to get the new record in the clothing style from the last album but he would have already ditched that and started doing something else”.