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 21 years, 1 month, 8 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
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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 21 years, 1 month, 8 days will look… Well, watch this space!