Music

How Bowie predicted the future of music in 2002

In amongst the deluge of tributes to the simply unique David Bowie, whose death at the age of 69 was announced this morning, have come a few more unusual examples of the man's genius.

While primarily known as an artist, Bowie was also a keen technophile and businessman, who launched products such as his own online bank (BowieBanc) in 2010 and BowieNet, his own internet ISP in 1998.

While it was perhaps ahead of its time, and overly ambitious, BowieNet demonstrated that Bowie was a man with a keen eye for the artistic and commercial possibilities that the burgeoning web could provide.

One piece of insight that particularly resonates is an interview that he conducted with the New York Times back in 2002 which discussed the future of the music industry in a digital age.

I don’t even know why I would want to be on a label in a few years, because I don’t think it’s going to work by labels and by distribution systems in the same way. The absolute transformation of everything that we ever thought about music will take place within 10 years, and nothing is going to be able to stop it. I see absolutely no point in pretending that it’s not going to happen. I’m fully confident that copyright, for instance, will no longer exist in 10 years, and authorship and intellectual property is in for such a bashing.

 

Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity. So it’s like, just take advantage of these last few years because none of this is ever going to happen again. You’d better be prepared for doing a lot of touring because that’s really the only unique situation that’s going to be left. It’s terribly exciting. But on the other hand it doesn’t matter if you think it’s exciting or not; it’s what’s going to happen.

While copyright is still alive to this day, there's no doubt that it has been severely compromised. In all other aspects - the primacy of touring as the only "unique situation" and the collapse of traditional distribution systems - he's basically on the money. Major labels have survived, but have substantially downsized, with many functioning primarily as marketing resources. But there is no doubt that there has been an "absolute transformation" in the way that things are done.

David Bowie: a visionary in more ways than one.