George Michael: Dot-Com Visionary
Before BOWIE.NET, before iTunes, before Spotify and even before Napster, George Michael was selling music for download in 1997 on his web portal AEGEAN.NET. It was one of the most innovative music/artist-centric websites of the mid-90’s, and one of George Michael’s least known – and most interesting – efforts. Here’s the story.
AEGEAN.NET was the Internet arm of Aegean Records, the label George Michael and his childhood friend Andreas Georgiou founded in January 1991 in the aftermath of the breakdown of Michael’s relationship with Sony. The label, which still exists, serves as a repository of Michael’s post 1991 catalogue, along with music from artists Surreala, Mutya Buena, Toby Burke and Trigger.
But the website’s the REAL story here.
In May 1997, a year after the release of his third solo album “Older” and a full year before the launch of David Bowie’s vaunted internet portal BOWIE.NET, Aegean.net announced the launch of a suite of innovative interactive and e-commerce elements to connect George, his music and the music of other Aegean artist to their fans.
This was a big deal when most every artist website looked something like this and the music portals at the time looked like this and this.
And though a few other artists at the time were experimenting with selling music online, George Michael’s Aegean.net was what we would consider the first real artist-owned and run web portal.
As an Internet executive at the time, I experienced the website first hand, and I was impressed with what they were doing – they made real the future of music I saw in my head.
Aegean.net was the first artist-owned website to allow fans to:
Participate in chat with music artists (including George Michael)
Purchase and download music (via Liquid Audio)
Audio/video streaming (via Real Video)
Join the first online-only fan club (at an annual cost of $21.99 + a CD-ROM for access)
Exclusive news and updates from George and other Aegean artists
Participation in polls, contests and messaging with George, other members and artists.