+
Heroes

Other musicians scoffed at the web. David Bowie started his own Internet service provider.

Some musicians (cough Metallica cough) saw the Internet as a Wild West threatening their ability to control fans' access to their music. David Bowie saw things differently.

In 1998, only 42% of American households had Internet access. Compared to the 74% of households with Internet access today, that's a pretty huge difference.

After releasing his 1996 song "Telling Lies" as a web-only single and selling 300,000 copies (a huge number in any era), David Bowie decided the Internet provided a unique opportunity to interact with fans in a new way.


The only issue was getting more people online. And the best way to do that if you can't wait for the rest of the world to catch up? Start your own Internet service provider.

So, that's what David Bowie did.

Image by Ralph Gatti/Getty Images.

On Sept. 1, 1998, David Bowie launched BowieNet, "the world's first artist-created Internet service provider."

For $19.95 a month, users could access the Internet and many fancy Bowie-themed perks, including an @davidbowie.com email address, 5 MB of personal webspace, unreleased audio and video tracks, and "exclusive music content provided by the Rolling Stone Network."

In short, BowieNet was creative and ground-breaking, and I wish I'd known about it at the time so I could have been jeangenie@davidbowie.com instead of hlibby@not-my-real-email.ca.

The BowieNet landing page in 2000. Image via DavidBowie.com.

As the Internet grew and evolved, some artists (like Prince) changed their minds about it. David Bowie never did.

He held online art exhibitions, offered his voice and his image to video games, and encouraged fans to remix his music on the new site BowieArt. Bowie did all of this because he believed in the power of the Internet, calling it "subversive and possibly rebellious and chaotic and nihilistic."

That statement is from a 1999 interview with U.K. Journalist Jeremy Paxman. Watch Paxman's face as Bowie talks about the internet:

Sorry, J-Pax. This is the face of a man who just doesn't get it. GIF via Clorpse/YouTube.

For a good third of this 16-minute interview, Bowie tries to explain the power of the Internet for artists and creators.

"I appreciate that there's a new demystification process going on between the artist and the audience," Bowie says. "I think we're on the cusp of something exhilarating and terrifying. [The Internet's] an alien life form."

It's hard to state in a few sentences how special Bowie's attitudes were and still are.

Giving fans increased power to access and interact with artists was a scary concept in 1998. By 2000, musicians like Metallica and Dr. Dre were suing Napster (and the university students using it) for sharing MP3s of their music. In 2014, Taylor Swift famously announced she'd be removing her music from Spotify — one of the world's most popular streaming music services.

Image by Jo Hale/Getty Images.

Yet, Bowie's approach to the Internet remained the same: Let the fans in, let them connect with each other and with you, and allow yourself to be surprised and delighted by what happens.

BowieNet operated as an ISP until 2006 and as a fan community until 2012. By the time it closed its doors, its creator was rewarded with a Guinness world record for "first celebrity ISP" and a Webby Lifetime Achievement Award.

Bowie's management announced his passing yesterday with posts on Facebook and Twitter — cutting out the PR middlemen and going straight to the fans with the most important news.


Just as Bowie would have wanted, and the Internet enabled him to do.

Image by Justin Tallis/Getty Images.

This article originally appeared on 09.06.17


Being married is like being half of a two-headed monster. It's impossible to avoid regular disagreements when you're bound to another person for the rest of your life. Even the perfect marriage (if there was such a thing) would have its daily frustrations. Funnily enough, most fights aren't caused by big decisions but the simple, day-to-day questions, such as "What do you want for dinner?"; "Are we free Friday night?"; and "What movie do you want to see?"

Here are some hilarious tweets that just about every married couple will understand.

Keep ReadingShow less
Democracy

A man told me gun laws would create more 'soft targets.' He summed up the whole problem.

As far as I know, there are only two places in the world where people living their lives are referred to as 'soft targets.'

Photo by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash

Only in America are kids in classrooms referred to as "soft targets."

On the Fourth of July, a gunman opened fire at a parade in quaint Highland Park, Illinois, killing at least six people, injuring dozens and traumatizing (once again) an entire nation.

My family member who was at the parade was able to flee to safety, but the trauma of what she experienced will linger. For the toddler with the blood-soaked sock, carried to safety by a stranger after being pulled from under his father's bullet-torn body, life will never be the same.

There's a phrase I keep seeing in debates over gun violence, one that I can't seem to shake from my mind. After the Uvalde school shooting, I shared my thoughts on why arming teachers is a bad idea, and a gentleman responded with this brief comment:

"Way to create more soft targets."

Keep ReadingShow less

Paul Rudd in 2016.

Passing around your yearbook to have it signed by friends, teachers and classmates is a fun rite of passage for kids in junior high and high school. But, according to KDVR, for Brody Ridder, a bullied sixth grader at The Academy of Charter Schools in Westminster, Colorado, it was just another day of putting up with rejection.

Poor Brody was only able to get four signatures in his yearbook, two from what appeared to be teachers and one from himself that said, “Hope you make some more friends."

Brody’s mom, Cassandra Ridder has been devastated by the bullying her son has faced over the past two years. "There [are] kids that have pushed him and called him names," she told The Washington Post. It has to be terrible to have your child be bullied and there is nothing you can do.

She posted about the incident on Facebook.

“My poor son. Doesn’t seem like it’s getting any better. 2 teachers and a total of 2 students wrote in his yearbook,” she posted on Facebook. “Despite Brody asking all kinds of kids to sign it. So Brody took it upon himself to write to himself. My heart is shattered. Teach your kids kindness.”

Keep ReadingShow less