Since the tragic and unexpected death of David Bowie on the 10th of January, the internet has been awash with tributes to the singer. From parties held in the streets of Brixton, where Bowie grew up, to a memorial service held in Hansa Tonstudio, the iconic recording studio in Berlin where Bowie famously recorded his two albums 'Low' and 'Heroes'; it is clear that Bowie left a huge impact on his fans.
It’s hard to say if there is a modern equivalent to Bowie and some see the internet as the reason pop music just isn’t as good as it used to be. But is the internet really to blame? Even Bowie did not believe the growth of the internet would destroy the music industry forever.
Bowie on the Internet and Music
In 1999, David Bowie was interviewed by Jeremy Paxman about music, drugs, and the internet. In the interview Bowie seems to be many years ahead of his time while Paxman dismisses the internet as nothing but a tool, Bowie saw it as a radical new way of sharing music and information. Watch the full interview here.
In 1996, Bowie was the first artist to distribute a song as an online only release, and he worked with web entertainment innovators Robert Goodale and Ron Roy, to explore new ways of distributing music and connecting with fans through the internet. He even launched his own internet service provider in 1998, "at a time when plenty of major corporations were still struggling to even comprehend the significance and impact of the web; Bowie was there staking his claim," says Keith Stuart from The Guardian. For Bowie, the internet was an exciting force to embrace, one that would revolutionize the music industry. Although, he will be remembered for his music, and image, rather than experiments with the internet, he knew the digital revolution was coming, and he did not try to fight it.
What Does the Internet Do for Music?
Nowadays, even the most amateur musicians can have their own website, promote their work with social media, and share their music with an online audience using SoundCloud and YouTube. There are many different companies that can help you get started with web hosting and cheap storage space, which musicians could use to create their own online platform for distributing their music. The freedom to share music online means more sub-cultural musicians can promote their work, and essentially gives a platform for underground music movements, which in the old days wouldn’t have got the air time on the radio.
Bowie may be gone, but his vision and inspiration will live on as artists and tech brands continue to push the boundaries of the digital landscape.