It's been 20 years since the first major label experiment in putting music online: on Jun 27, 1994, Geffen Music put a WAV file of Aerosmith's "Head First" on Compuserve, which waived its hourly fee for people who wanted to download the track over their dial-up modems.
The history of "Head First"'s release is a kind of perfect parable about how the music industry related to technology. A nerdy CTO, Jim Griffin, who ran the first-ever music-industry webserver off his own GNU/Linux box, conceives of a plan. A maverick exec, David Geffen, greenlights it. Corporate HQ, Universal, balks and nearly kills it. The experiment scares and disorients everyone. And meanwhile, the fans race ahead of everyone, treating commercial collective-action deadlocks as damage and routing around them.
GO AEROSMITH: How "Head First" Became the First Digitally Downloadable Song 20 Years Ago Today [Devin Schiff/Vice]