David Bowie predicted the Apple Music future in 2003

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David Bowie's futuristic vision didn't stop with sci-fi lyrics.
David Bowie's futuristic vision didn't stop with sci-fi lyrics.
Photo: Sonia Golemme/Flickr CC

David Bowie’s uncanny vision of the future didn’t stop with songs about holographic TVs or astronauts adrift in space.

More than a decade ago, the dynamic entertainer — who died Sunday at age 69 after an 18-month battle with cancer — predicted the music biz would look a lot like it does in the time of Apple Music.

“Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity,” Bowie said in a 2003 interview in The New York Times. That bold prediction came just two years after iTunes launched and sounds a lot like today, when Apple Music, Spotify and other streaming services are radically altering the music industry landscape.

While listening to streaming music arguably isn’t as cool as strapping on a jetpack, we do live in a future that seemed impossible in the eras of vinyl and tapes. You can listen to almost any song ever recorded, whenever you want, for less than $10 a month.

Bowie seemed to foresee a time when all-you-can-stream digital music would transform our relationship with songwriters and their work. He also predicted that big record labels would become increasingly pointless as the internet made old-school distribution a non-issue.

“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,” Bowie said. “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.”

While he was wrong, at least on paper, about the death of copyright, he nailed the reality. The proliferation of MP3s and internet-fueled piracy led to iTunes and sped the demise of the music industry’s cash cow, compact discs. Today’s streaming services do pay songwriters and musicians, but the checks aren’t as big as they used to be.

Even though streaming services like Spotify, which launched in 2008, didn’t exist yet, Bowie presciently observed that on-demand digital music would leave performers with only one reliable form of income: loading up the tour bus and hitting the road.

“You’d better be prepared for doing a lot of touring,” he said, “because that’s really the only unique situation that’s going to be left.”

Bowie’s futuristic history

Throughout his career, Bowie pushed the boundaries of music from all angles: His public persona constantly evolved as he shifted genres like a time traveler’s temporal jumps. He also wasn’t afraid to grasp at the future of business: He launched an ISP called BowieNet in 1998, saying at the time, “If I was 19 again, I’d bypass music and go right to the internet.”

Two years, he told the BBC the world had only seen the tip of the iceberg when it came to the internet.

“I think the potential of what the internet is going to do society — both good and bad — is unimaginable,” he said. “I think we’re actually on the cusp of something exhilarating and terrifying.” (See the full video interview below.)

Bowie also streamed his 2013 album The Next Day exclusively on iTunes prior to its release.

For his final bit of visioneering, Bowie left the world with a new album, Blackstar, which he released on his 69th birthday last Friday. Two videos for the album depict a lifeless astronaut and Bowie in a hospital bed, singing about being in heaven.

Via: Andy Baio