Music fans around the world are mourning the death of pop icon David Bowie, an artist known for breaking boundaries in nearly every aspect of his career. But Bowie wasn’t just a music icon – he was a bit of an Internet pioneer.
Bowie’s take on the Internet was quite prophetic; especially when it came to his view on how the Internet was going to change both the entertainment industry and social interaction as we know it.
“I don’t think we’ve even seen the tip of the iceberg,” Bowie said during an interview with Jeremy Paxman in 2000. “I think the potential of what the Internet is going to do to society – both good and bad – is unimaginable. I think we’re actually on the cusp of something exhilarating and terrifying.”
But the artist put a lot of trust into that exhilarating vessel early on in his career.
In 1994 he released an interactive CD-ROM alongside the single Jump, They Say that allowed fans to watch interviews with Bowie and even create their own music video for the single. And in 1996 he became the first major artist to release a new song – Telling Lies – as an online only release. The song garnered 300,000 downloads.
Bowie even tried to live stream – or as they said in the early days of the web “cybercast” – his “Earthling” concert in Boston in 1997.
But in 1998 the pop star got serious about his dedication to the Internet, founding his own Internet Service Provider (ISP) dubbed “BowieNet.”
The service allowed subscribers “uncensored” access to the World Wide Web, alongside exclusive content from Bowie himself – including photos, videos, interviews and a blog. Users were able to watch concert footage and even listen to exclusive tracks.
However, the most elusive part of being a BowieNet subscriber was getting your very own “davidbowie.com” email address – all for $19.95 per month.
“It has been my wish to somehow integrate the power of the Internet and bring it down to a very personal level. With the creation of BowieNet, you can join me in an online, community-based environment for all music fans where together we can experience the Internet as never before,” read the original DavidBowie.com site.
Bowie also wanted to foster innovation on the web by providing fans with the service — each subscriber was given 5MB of space to build their own webpages.
BowieNet even earned a Guinness World Record for being the first musician-created ISP.
The service was shut down in 2012.
© 2016 Shaw media