All of us take downloading music (or anything) from the Internet for granted these days. It’s something most of do every single day. But twenty years ago, this was the stuff of science fiction. Vice’s Noisey takes a look at the day the first-ever legal digital download of a song was made available. And you may be amazed at whose song it was.
Pretty much everything about this story will seem old. Maybe laughably so. Let’s get that out of the way. Technology is in a perpetual state of relentless, preposterous forward motion, and we’re constantly reminded that we’re already somehow living in the future, today. But I’m talking about an older future. I’m talking about Aerosmith. I’m talking about Internet connectivity that charged by the minute. I’m talking about a time when AOL blew people’s minds.
Twenty years ago, on June 27, 1994, Geffen Records made history when it released the first major label song for exclusive digital download. The song was Aerosmith’s “Head First,” an unused cut from the Get a Grip sessions. Ten thousand CompuServe subscribers downloaded it in eight days. It is three minutes and 14 seconds long. It took 60 to 90 minutes to download. “Head First” was a trial, a marketing ploy, a flash of the future, an iceberg for a titanic industry, and 4.3 megabytes of riffs and double entendres, available as a WAV file.