The Factory impresario’s company Music33 sold individual songs as MP3s three years before Apple. But with a baffling interface and dial-up connections he was doomed
It’s January 2000, and Tony Wilson is regaling me with tales of his brilliant career; how signing Joy Division, New Order and Happy Mondays to his Mancunian indie label Factory Records was like “winning the pools three times. Twice is a miracle, three and you call in the fraud squad”. The interview is winding up when the Granada TV presenter-turned-mogul gets on to what is, at this point, his latest would-be masterstroke. He has just set up music33.com, an online record shop selling individual songs – as MP3s to download – for 33p a time, because, back then, the public are “fed up with trawling around record shops to find albums which have three good tracks and they’re the singles anyway. People want to buy songs.”
Music33 is long forgotten, but three years later, Apple’s iTunes store revolutionised how we buy and listen to music with exactly the same idea. Could Wilson – who died 13 years ago today – really have been first? Manchester entrepreneur Mark Garner helped fund Music33. “Tony used to say to me: ‘You’re in business to make money. I’m in it to make history.’”
Wilson would 'march into major labels with his MP3 player strapped to his belt, like a six-shooter'
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