During 1994, people didn’t have access to any platform to stream/download music online. There were streaming apps like Apple Music, Spotify, TIDAL or more.
In 1993, the Internet Underground Music Archive (IUMA) was found in Santa Cruz, California and gave unsigned bands a platform to promote their music, but that was overlooked. MP3.com hadn’t launched by then.
During the same time, a garage band by the name of Severe Tire Damage from Palo Alto, CA had come together – comprising of computer engineers who performed their first live show using Mbone (network used for streaming media) which enabled melomaniacs around the world to listen to them.
Many were quite uncertain about the technology providing a helping hand, but the CTO Jim Griffin from Geffen was a true digital pioneer and led the world by creating the first corporate intranet. Because of this, on June 27, 1994, Aerosmith’s unreleased track ‘Head First’ from their Get A Grip session was made available for download to the two million customers of CompuServe – one of America’s major ISPs.
You could type the words ‘GO AEROSMITH‘ into the command line and download a 4.3MB WAV file of the track. This was also available as a Mono version, which only took half the space (2.2MB). Considering the internet was new back then, it took you about 90mins to download the track. Sounds unreal, but 10,000+ people did just that!
When Geffen Records released the track, it was declared as a technological and commercial success. Compuserve subscribers with PC’s were now able to download the song for free and listen to it at their convenience!
Criticism followed along with accolades in an article in the New York Times stating the threat this imposes on record labels, manufacturers and retailers. Above all, was the concern for copyright protection.
With a cavalier approach, Geffen’s Luke Wood brought a digital culture to the company and stated that “We did it because it can be done, and it’s cool and fun.” which he followed by saying that “but also to show there are these other issues involved, like how do you collect copyright fees?” Thanks to Napster, and everything that followed after, we figured it out.
Quickly after Aerosmith’s experiment, Megadeth launched the first band website in October 1994, and The Rolling Stones became the first major band to stream their live set online in 1995.
Robert von Goeben told Vice Magazine in 2014 that “Jim Griffin saw exactly where things were going. Only a couple of us saw that it was giving a glimpse of the future.”
It’s been 25 years since, and it’s unbelievable where we stand today. Here is to the next human marvel through technology!