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David Bowie, tech visionary, predicted social media's rise

Kim S. Nash | Jan. 13, 2016
In 1999, the pop star was predicting the success of music downloads and ripping wearables.

I couldn't wait for the day to put up my own site. Virgin Records worked with me in 1995 to do it. But that was really a puff site.

People will want to keep the village aspect of the Net. We're banking on that. We're not sitting there counting eyeballs at BowieNet.

About a year ago, I realized there were so many fan sites on me -- 200 or so. I discussed the idea of integrating them somehow and that evolved into a sort of quirky portal; an individualized portal that revolves around me and music. There's no advertising: We want absolute freedom.

The chaos factor is a very important part of the Net. The most attractive thing is its decentralized nature. Despite what people say about Microsoft and all that, there's no real way it can actually be monopolized, and there never will be. Certain companies will try to eat up everything, but it's not going to happen. There will always be so many cowboys out there to keep it alive.

Someone said it's almost like having 1,000 books on your floor and not knowing where to start. That's how I live. That's how I think! The Internet really is a technology model of how I think. It thrives on its own chaos. It's willing to change its mind overnight, combine things that shouldn't be bedfellows. I see it as a brother.

The Net will become more and more exploratory, reducing itself into many, many smaller and informal units. Portals will emerge and dissolve with regularity. Corporate brand-name [Internet providers] will lose their flavor. People will want to keep the village aspect of the Net. We're banking on that. We're not sitting there counting eyeballs at BowieNet.

What's missing and will not be corrected in 10 years is the ubiquity of the television. Television is in everybody's home, and that isn't going to happen with the Internet. Maybe we'll get to 50%. This produces a technology version of haves and have-nots. Information is gold, there's that. But also schools that have the Net will have higher scores than those that don't. And that gulf will only widen. That's rather disheartening.

People ask me about the distribution of music over the Internet. My heart says one thing, and my wallet says another. Once everyone has his own CD-burning machine, you will put together the album of your dreams. That's what I'd like to do: Go to a heavyweight blues category and take down a particular track by Robert Johnson or John Lee Hooker. I'd be quite willing to pay per track.

The record corporations are just like King Harold, sitting there on the beach, on this throne, trying to order the sea back. They don't stand a chance. The industry isn't going to come crashing down, but [custom albums online] will be integrated into a new way of selling. They will not be able to stop this. There are too many little independent companies keen to do real online downloading. They will become so popular that, by force, corporations will have to capitulate. When there's a dollar in it, watch their knees bend.

 

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