Music Itself Is Going To Become Like Running Water or Electricity

David Bowie? Alan B. Krueger? David Kusek? Gerd Leonhard? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Music streaming services such as Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music have grown greatly in popularity and power in recent times. Some pundits assert that music in the future will be viewed as a utility like water, gas, or electricity. But this insight was not novel; I recall that David Bowie made a comparable point back in the early 2000s. Correct?

Quote Investigator: An article titled “David Bowie, 21st-Century Entrepreneur” by Jon Pareles was published in “The New York Times” on June 9, 2002. Bowie made several striking comments about the future of the music industry including the following: 1

Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity.

The upheavals in the music domain have been extraordinary, but some of the changes Bowie envisioned have not yet occurred, e.g., the end of copyright:

The absolute transformation of everything that we ever thought about music will take place within 10 years, and nothing is going to be able to stop it. I see absolutely no point in pretending that it’s not going to happen. I’m fully confident that copyright, for instance, will no longer exist in 10 years, and authorship and intellectual property is in for such a bashing.

Piracy of music is commonplace, but the music labels and artists continue to collect billions for the sale of digital music, CDs, and vinyl supported by copyright.

Bowie was very shrewd about the future shift in revenue for artists because he understood the primacy and unreproducibility of direct experience:

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. 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.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Music Itself Is Going To Become Like Running Water or Electricity


  1. 2002 June 9, The New York Times, Section: Arts & Leisure, David Bowie, 21st-Century Entrepreneur by Jon Pareles, Start Page 1, Quote Page 30, New York. (ProQuest)