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Rock Gets Wired

1998 in Review
Consumers still flocked to record stores made of bricks and mortar to purchase these albums, but more and more they turned to the Internet for their musical needs. Amazon.com launched a music site and many label record clubs established on-line sites to compete. The launch of MPEG3 (or MP3), an audio compression technology that allows people to download and distribute music via their computer, showed that the future was closer than we thought.

A number of acts made songs available in the new format. Few, however, went as far as fledgling alternative group Less Than Jake, whose webmaster made the act's three albums available in the format — only to have the albums yanked days later by rather unhappy representatives of the label that owns the group's master recordings. A number of more established acts also turned to the Internet to peddle their wares. Prince's latest, Crystal Ball, was available through his web site, Love4oneanother, long before it hit stores. But perhaps no artist embraced the new technology like David Bowie. The Thin White Duke launched BowieNet, an Internet service provider that could meet any hacker's needs, including all the latest on Bowie. Perhaps Major Tom resides in cyberspace after all.

—Melinda Newman is Billboard magazine's West Coast Bureau Chief.




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