THURSDAY 14 JAN 2016 10:16 AM


Legendary musician David Bowie died on 10 January aged 69. Although he is best known for an eclectic approach to the arts, music and fashion, Bowie’s involvement in innovative financial schemes, internet servers and online banking also left an unexpected legacy.

Communication with his audience was always an integral part of Bowie's career. His investment in 'bonds', the internet and online banking was a sure way for the Bowie brand to connect with an increasingly modern community of fans. Monetary interests notwithstanding, Bowie used external industry influences to ensure his own message was that of experimentation and diversification; much like any good business should be.

Bowie made music and financial history when, in 1997, he ensured that any future earnings from renowned songs such as Changes, Space Oddity and The Man Who Sold The World were protected to benefit himself, his children and family in years to come. Styled ‘Bowie Bonds,’ these asset-backed securities were sold for $55mn (£38mn) and allowed investors to take a share of Bowie’s royalties for the following 10 years.

Cash flows were backed by current and future sales of his records, by American insurance firm Prudential Insurance, to which the Bowie bonds were privately sold – he enjoyed an initial annual return of 7.9%. However, internet piracy and free streaming services saw royalties earned from his songs become less lucrative; the bonds were downgraded in 2004 and had been liquidated by 2007.

Finance was not the only unexpected market for David Bowie to tap into during his lifetime, however. Always one step ahead, his acknowledgement of the digital age and its possibilities saw him set up an online bank in 1998. Among its perks were cheques and bank cards decorated with images of Bowie himself - the Bowie brand could never be boring.

Although its presence was short-lived with only 3,500 accounts held, the fledgling digital banking age of the late 20th century saw BowieBanc hailed as a fairly radical approach to personal banking, and certainly innovative for its time.

BowieNet was also a preceding concept to social media and blogs which are so popular today. Through the use of telephone line and a dial-up connection, BowieNet sold full Internet access to users for $19.99, or £10 in the UK. It coincided with a Bowie fan club, where users of BowieNet were allowed exclusive access to David Bowie-related content, as well as perks such as a first look at his various musical endeavours, artworks and much more.

Although it closed ten years ago to become merely a fan site, at its peak BowieNet had around 100,000 customers. Always one to push boundaries, Bowie is full of surprises even after his death.