It's amazing to think that way back in the distant, long-forgotten past when Popjustice first arrived on the internet, people were still listening to pop music using their ears.

But there it is: a reminder that long before listening equipment was hardwired directly into our bodies, and before record labels blasted the latest releases straight up our arses, ears were the only way we could exper­i­ence pop.

Of course, that's not the only thing that's changed since the turn of the mil­len­nium. In the 19 years, 6 months, 14 days since Popjustice first clattered onto the world wide web pop has altered beyond all recog­ni­tion. So let's take a 'trip down memory lane', and find what the world of music really looked like all those years ago…

How we consumed music

A music fan, c.1999–2000, makes his way home from a 'record shop'

These days we've embraced the thrill of never really knowing if or when an artist or label will throw a strop and block or remove a song from a streaming service, but back in the year 2000 music fans were forced, daily, to endure the frus­trat­ing incon­veni­ence of knowing exactly what music they owned, exactly where it could be found, and exactly where it would be the next day. In the year 2000 songs only existed as sheet music, which was available in what became known as 'record shops' — quite simply, shops where a record was kept of all available music. Sadly there was no way of knowing what any of the songs actually sounded like because in 2000 nobody had invented musical instru­ments, or singing. These devel­op­ments did not come until later in the 2000s: during the spring of 2002 Vanessa Carlton invented pianos with A Thousand Miles and later in the same year Girls Aloud's Sound Of The Underground invented drums, and bass. Singing was not recog­nised by UK law until 2010, with the release of Jessie J's Do It Like A Dude.

Song lyrics

Pictured in 2003, a group of early 21st Century pop music fans seek out their favourite songwords

As not everybody had easy access to music, lyrics from the time were collected together in books, which were stored in large library-like buildings called libraries. Many music fans may not realise this but songs about romance are actually a rel­at­ively recent devel­op­ment, and back in the year 2000 it was more common for lyrics to cover popular past-times such as croquet and the invention of fire. That's not to say pop music couldn't be political: in 2001, S Club 7 were respons­ible for several songs taking aim at the era's con­tro­ver­sial tithe policies. (As mentioned above, singing and most musical instru­ments had not actually been invented in 2001, limiting the effect­ive­ness of S Club 7's brave stance.) Pop lyrics changed forever in 2004 when Pitbull invented sex with his song Culo — Spanish for 'ass'. Pitbull managed to avoid cen­sor­ship on these shores because in those prudish times nobody in the United Kingdom knew what bottoms were — and we may never have done had it not been for Pitbull! Pitbull bravely bringing bumholes to the United Kingdom is now thought of as being just as sig­ni­fic­ant as Sir Walter Raleigh's invention of chips and fags.

Record labels

Two early 21st Century A&Rs debate whose label will sign Blazin' Squad

When Popjustice launched, Napster, the first major file sharing service, hadn't even gone online, and people would exchange songs by rolling sheet music into a tube, sealing it into a bottle, chucking it in the sea and hoping for the best. Songs would even­tu­ally be washed inland via a series of rivers and streams. Music fans would retrieve the songs by allowing them to drift into nets. THIS IS HOW INTONET STREAMING GOT ITS NAME. Before Napster, record labels were literally shitting out cash. There was money every­where! So much money that at one point Samantha Mumba's little brother got a record deal. To give you an example of how affluent labels once were, in 1999 Sony Music or whatever it was called in those days was based in a golden palace where the reception desk was made out of diamonds, and Simon Cowell — at that point a lowly A&R man — had a private toilet made out of ruby-encrusted platinum and a solid gold ashtray. Sadly the entire Sony HQ was melted down in 2012 and made into gold discs in anti­cip­a­tion of the third Dido album, which many his­tor­i­ans now view as a mistake.


Westlife examine their latest sales figures during a fierce mid-2000 chart battle with The Spice Girls

The story of the modern boyband dates back to the late 1990s, when his­tor­i­ans digging in the Liverpool area unex­pec­tedly unearthed evidence of early all-male pop groups. This inspired the formation of bands such as Westlife (pictured above) who were also respons­ible in 1999 for the invention — and sub­sequent pop­ular­ity — of stools. Prior to Westlife's success nobody had con­sidered taking the back off a chair. In 2003 boybands and the music world as a whole took another unex­pec­ted turn when Busted invented the guitar and, with it, guitar music. (Some Canadian experts claim DNA evidence proves that the invention of the guitar should actually be attrib­uted to a humble minstrel by the name of Avril Lavigne.)


Early 2001: Jenny Frost meets her Atomic Kitten bandmates for the first time

In 2000 the biggest girlband in the land was The Spice Girls. Two years pre­vi­ously the band had been a five-piece but they dropped to a quartet following the departure of Geri Halliwell — which the rest of the band initially told viewers of Ye National Lottery was due to Halliwell having been struck down by the pox. One of The Spice Girls' biggest pro­mo­tional moments involved sending a harp­si­chord player to the home of any fan who collected fifty pro­mo­tional wine flagons. The most con­tro­ver­sial girlband of the early Popjustice era was the Sugababes, whose ability to shape­shift resulted in multiple accus­a­tions of witch­craft.

Reality TV

ITV bosses interview Nigel Lythgoe for the role of 'Nasty Nigel' in Popstars

When Popjustice launched it was frowned upon in the United Kingdom for members of the general public to become popstars, with recording contracts generally only available to members of the royal family and the British nobility. That all changed at the start of 2001 with the invention of tele­vi­sion and, with it, Popstars — a programme that for the first time extended the oppor­tun­ity to get dropped after a second album to normal people. Within a few years another show, The X Factor, appeared, and quickly became more popular than other pastimes of the day such as watching public hangings.

The media

A journ­al­ist from TV Hits magazine inter­views the first recorded Sugababes lineup

It's hard to believe now, but in the year 2000 music magazines like Smash Hits, Top Of The Pops, Lute Monthly and TV Hits were still a popular way for fans to find out about music. Magazines were delivered by men — and women! — on horseback, right to the door of music fans, and contained up-to-the-minute coverage of the previous month's music news. Most magazines included pull-out posters, which could be attached to bedroom walls using a mixture of wet soil, clay, sand, animal dung and straw.

The internet

This is how websites worked in the year 2000

These days we take the internet for granted. It is part of our daily lives. But when Popjustice launched in 2000 it was only possible to get online by following these steps: Step 1. Going to the Mr Dixon's stall at the local market and picking up a wax cylinder con­tain­ing Freeserf, which was a program coded by agri­cul­tural labourers. Step 2. Connecting your type­writer to a telephone using twine and allowing Freeserf to play in the back­ground. Step 3. Typing a special message. Step 4. Waiting three days for con­nec­tion. It was a com­plic­ated process. Even so, a huge number of people 'got online'. Once online they could make friends, send messages and search for great deals on cattle. YouTube was not invented for some time, meaning that until 2006 nobody had ever heard the phrase "HEY GUYS WHAT IS UP", and people who took purchases out of boxes were required to inform friends and strangers one by one.

New Music Friday

May 2000: copies of the Richard Blackwood single 1–2–3–4 Get With The Wicked begin their journey to Portugal

You may be surprised to hear that New Music Friday already existed in 2000 — but it was a bit different to the one we know today! Back then, due to the com­plex­ity of inter­na­tional music dis­tri­bu­tion, there was only one New Music Friday each year, taking the form of an annual event cel­eb­rated in town squares and village greens across the land. In those days many believed that new music was a gift from heavenly beings and in the belief that financial offerings would inspire new music to be created they would often give cash to their local churches, with suggested donations starting at £9.99 each month per indi­vidual, or £14.99 for families. Sadly the churches would keep a large portion of this cash, which they'd spend on well-salaried clergy and impress­ive buildings, with musicians them­selves ulti­mately being paid very little.

Live music

During the winter of 2001 Daniel Bedingfield heads to Manchester for the first night of his tour

Concerts were very different back in 2000. Amplification did not exist so artists' live pop­ular­ity was often reliant on how loudly they could shout, which partly explains the turn-of-the-century pop­ular­ity of Tom Jones. You may be wondering how this all works in the context of our earlier claim that singing was only invented in 2010, and that is a good question, and all we can say is that this all happened a very long time ago and there are many con­flict­ing reports of what happened when, so that's that. Once inside a music venue, it was customary for fans to visit the mer­chand­ise stand, where they could buy cus­tom­ised hessian sacks. It might seem incred­ibly primitive to today's concert-goers but back in 2000s many of the country's largest music venues did not even have roofs, meaning that if it rained the audience got wet. More amazingly still, back then live per­form­ances were beyond the financial reach of many music fans. Fortunately these days it's all very different, with some arena show tickets actually costing less than £150!


An early picture of Scott Mills enter­tain­ing the nation

Back in 2000 radio as we know it was still some years away. In those days an early version of the 'disc jockey' would travel from house to house singing the latest hits. Sometimes this would mean that only two or three people would hear a 'radio show' each day — an early precursor to Beats 1. In terms of DJing style the best prac­ti­tion­ers, in a feat of oral dexterity, developed an ability to talk over the beginning and end of songs they were singing — a tradition that continues to this day!

Well hopefully you have enjoyed this article and, to Popjustice's older readers, hopefully it has brought back some fun memories. As for how the next 19 years, 6 months, 14 days will look… Well, watch this space!