As the world still mourns the loss of music legend David Bowie, many will remember him as the avant-garde musician whose influence revolutionized not only music but also art and fashion. And quite interestingly, technology.
“Futuristic” is one of the terms that described his music. This can also be said about the approach he took to drive his interaction and promotion. He foresaw the future of the web in a time when the internet was only catching speed.
Setting up his own Internet Service Provider ‘BowieNet’ in 1998, the singer embraced technology and fans alike and ventured into a new way of distributing music. Not a surprising endeavor from the man who sold over 300,000 downloads of the single “Telling Lies” in 1996 with its digital-only release.
BowieNet functioned as a full-fledged ISP rivaling AOL, Claranet and others of that era. Members also got their own email address ending with @davidbowie.net and had access to exclusive uncensored content through photos, videos, interviews and even interaction with the artist himself. This inclusion of fans through technology only strengthened his already loyal fan base.
— BBC Radio 6 Music (@BBC6Music) January 13, 2016
BowieNet also provided the platform for a song contest to compose lyrics to one of his songs. Submissions from fans rolled in like wildfire and eventually led to the creation of the world’s first cyber song “What’s Really Happening” , a track which was featured in the ‘Hours’ album. The live recording session was webcasted on May 1999 at BowieNet. This event marked the first-ever public webcast using the 360-degree FullView camera. The cultural icon made history yet again.
Virtual age Daydream
Even before the advent of online virtual world like Second Life, Bowie tied up with Worlds, a 3D entertainment portal to help create BowieWorld. Users can create an avatar and move around the environment and interact with others. VIP members of this online virtual environment get special privileges such as articulated avatars, custom avatar creation in the Gallery of Metamorphics, voice to voice chat, access to VIP Only spaces, and more.
Always one to experiment and entertain, the rock icon sowed his influence in video games as well. He collaborated with French game developer Quantic Dream on the production of Omkiron: The Nomad Soul. His contribution ranged from providing music for the soundtrack as well as making an appearance in the said game.
David Bowie – The Man Who Sold Bonds
The singer co-launched his own branded online bank, BowieBanc, in January 2000 which put his image on a credit card and offered customers a free subscription to BowieNet. It was a bold and risky move that didn’t last long but this entrepreneurship marked the future of how music artists would control and market their images in various unlikely zones which defines pop stardom in the digital era today.
David Bowie performing as his alter-ego Ziggy Stardust
As the ever evolving world of technology moved forward, so did Bowie. And by 2006, BowieNet was closed as an ISP. With platforms such as MySpace, Facebook, Youtube and Twitter, the tides have shifted and led to the expansion of the artist fan dynamics. BowieNet may be over but the legacy of the artist lives on. The creator of Ziggy Stardust was a man of many hats. And for the impact of his experimentation and innovation with technology from within the music industry, David Bowie will be immortalized as the tech visionary that he truly was.
So, which song of his will you immortalize? Leave it as a comment below.
A tech geek who wants to own and write about the coolest gadgets