David Bowie, the legendary singer who passed away on 10 January, was also a pioneer of online music. Even before the launch of Napster in 1999, there was BowieNet, his online music destination that was launched on 1 September, 1998.
According to Mashable, in 1996 Bowie was one of the first major artistes to come out with a song as an online-only release.
Bowie was honoured for being the first musician-created internet service provider. He charged a monthly fee of $19.95 (£13.74, €18.33) for access to his site, launched via a customised version of Internet Explorer. The service package consisted of music, business, sports and finance, supplied by then search giant Lycos, as well as access to exclusive Bowie content and 20MB of space for users to build their own homepages.
The service also offered custom email addresses (firstname.lastname@example.org or davidbowie.co.uk) and live chats with music artists and celebrities. Besides, there were 3D avatar chats, multiplayer gaming, user-controllable web-connected camera for viewing live concerts and BowieNet Radio, an online radio station with Bowie as DJ.
"If I was 19 again, I'd bypass music and go right to the internet," he said at the time of launch of the service. "I wanted to create an environment where not just my fans, but all music fans could be part of a single community I wanted to create an environment where not just my fans, but all music fans could be part of a single community where vast archives of music and information could be accessed, views stated and ideas exchanged."
Bowie perhaps had an inkling of how online music would take shape. Fortune quoted Bowie as telling the New York Times in 2002: "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."