Hooray for Bowie downloads!

Published September 08, 2010

As most people reading this will be aware, for the past decade we have seen an eternally ongoing debate about illegal file-sharing versus legal downloading, the future of the CD, the potential of services such as Spotify, and so on ad nauseam. I'm not going to open that particular can of worms right now, except to put the following question: How are music fans expected to legally download tracks when so many artists - from superstars to super-obscure - or their labels simply won't make the music available in download shops such as iTunes? For example, in 2010 The Beatles and iTunes/Apple are still haggling over percentage points, and nothing by The Eagles is available for legal download except their latest album, Long Road Out Of Eden, just to name two major acts.

Therefore, I want to take this opportunity to salute David Bowie. Without claiming to have encyclopedic knowledge of his recorded output, it seems to me that pretty much everything he's ever recorded from 1969 onwards is available on iTunes.

While recently searching for digital files of Bowie recordings that, to the best of my knowledge, were never released on CD, such as the 1982 Baal EP (songs from a television production of Brecht's play) and the single mix of Loving The Alien (far superior to the mix on the 1984 album Tonight), I found that these were actually available as downloads-only on iTunes. What an excellent compromise between the fans' desire for rare tracks, and the somewhat limited commercial potential for these less than celebrated releases.

I suspect that this easy availability may have something to do with the fact that Bowie pretty much controls all his recordings from 1969 onwards, and being an Internet-friendly sort of person he and his representatives probably saw the logic in making everything available for the completists. I only wish more artists and labels would follow in his footsteps and make life easier for those of us who actually are willing to pay for our music. We want to give you our money in return for music that you've already recorded and released - what's the problem?