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David Bowie Was Also an Internet Pioneer

Bowie founded his own Internet service provider in 1998 and was in the vanguard of distributing music online.

Dan Jones

January 11, 2016

2 Min Read
David Bowie Was Also an Internet Pioneer

The man who created Ziggy Stardust was an Internet visionary who launched his own ISP in 1998. Bowie, who died Sunday at 69, was the first major artist to distribute a song online, and grasped the importance of online banking before many in the tech industry itself.

"If I was 19 again, I'd bypass music and go right to the internet," Bowie said in 1998.

BowieNet was first launched in the US and later worldwide as a portal into all things Bowie. The Diamond Dog said he intended it as an uncensored Internet provider.

Figure 1: Bowie's Best Photo by Piano Piano! (CC BY 2.0) Photo by Piano Piano! (CC BY 2.0)

The online BowieBanc followed the ISP, exposing some hardcore fans to their first taste of online banking.

Both ventures were short-lived. The BowieNet ISP shut up shop in 2012.

But Bowie may have had a darker effect on the financial world too. Economists have often debated if "Bowie Bonds" -- securities sold in 1997 backed by the anticipated future royalties of the 25 albums the Thin White Duke recorded before 1990 -- helped to precipitate the rise of repackaged, securitized loans sold by banks that led to the fiscal crisis of 2007-2008.

Bowie also pushed the limits in the intersection between the Internet and music in ways that are everyday now, but risk-taking for an established artist at the time. He released a single online in 1997, "Telling Lies," and an album, "The Hours" via the web in 1999. Around the same time, he provided music and some storyline details for an ill-fated 3D game for the Sega Dreamcast.

But for anyone growing up in the later half of the 20th century, we might be thankful that Bowie didn't get to focus his visionary talents on the Internet too soon, but created a roster of unforgettable songs instead.

1969's "Space Oddity" was performed in orbit in 2013:

And 2016's poignant "Lazarus" was released just days before the singer's death:

Rest in peace, Mr. Bowie.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Dan Jones

Mobile Editor

Dan is to hats what Will.I.Am is to ridiculous eyewear. Fedora, trilby, tam-o-shanter -- all have graced the Jones pate during his career as the go-to purveyor of mobile essentials.

But hey, Dan is so much more than 4G maps and state-of-the-art headgear. Before joining the Light Reading team in 2002 he was an award-winning cult hit on Broadway (with four 'Toni' awards, two 'Emma' gongs and a 'Brian' to his name) with his one-man show, "Dan Sings the Show Tunes."

His perfectly crafted blogs, falling under the "Jonestown" banner, have been compared to the works of Chekhov. But only by Dan.

He lives in Brooklyn with cats.

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