David Bowie predicted Spotify and Tidal before other musicians knew where the business was
JASON ABBRUZZESE, Mashable.com —
"Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity."
David Bowie made that profound prediction all the way back in 2002, seemingly predicting streaming music services, in an interview with the New York Times.
The legendary musician and artist passed away on Sunday night, just days after turning 69 and releasing his now-final album, Blackstar, with the devastating and prescient song "Lazarus."
Bowie seemed to live in the future, trailblazing styles and sounds and images in music on which fellow artists would spend years playing catch up. That vision extended beyond art and well into the business of the music industry.
Bowie didn't just talk about change in the way the industry would work and pay artists he instigated it with a move that continues to resonate within the music industry, finding a way to take control of his own royalties. It wasn't entirely successful, but it spoke to the artist's endless spirit of innovation and was predictive of battles such as Taylor Swift's and Jay-Z's to capture more of the money they bring in, with varying degrees of success.
In 1997, Bowie introduced "Bowie bonds." The basic idea was that Bowie would offer people the chance to invest in money his music. As his back catalogue continued to produce cash, that money would then be passed on to the investors in the bonds.
No artist had every done this before. It represented a shrewd move by Bowie, who raised $55 million from the bonds. The tradeoff for Bowie was that he would be given a big chunk of cash immediately as opposed to the slower income from royalties over the next decade. In return, he theoretically left some money on the table over the long term.
The move inspired other artists to produce similar bonds, including James Brown and Marvin Gaye. More recently, a new startup called Fantex has been offering the chance for people to invest in professional athletes.
The bonds turned out to be particularly brilliant for Bowie, who saw well before most other people that the music industry was in for a difficult time. Seven years after the bonds were issued, they were rated just above junk status a term for very risky debt due to a steep decline in record sales.
That must not have come as much of a surprise to Bowie. While he may have predicted a far more dramatic collapse than has actually happened he said in the Times interview that he believed copyright would not exist by 2012 many of his prognostications have been borne out.
His call about the importance of touring seems particularly prescient, as live shows have become a primary source of income.
"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," Bowie said. "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."