Years before Napster, MySpace, and SoundCloud, there was another place on the web where independent musicians uploaded their music for all to hear.
It was called the Internet Underground Music Archive, or IUMA, and it was kind of a big deal in musician circles in the early 1990s, especially in Northern California. It was founded in Santa Cruz in 1993, before web browsers were even a mainstream thing and uploading a single song took forever.
Writer Caleb Garling went back and interviewed one of the founders, Jeff Patterson, and talked to some of the musicians who used the early service. There were some successes, like punk-ska band Sublime, which used the action it was getting on IUMA to get a label deal.
But it’s a bittersweet story because the technology was so far ahead of its time — with much faster download speeds available today, Soundcloud gets more than 12 hours of new music posted every single minute.
But back then, not enough people were willing to suffer through slow upload and download times to share their music. Then, as Napster took off, the business case for IUMA disappeared — nobody wanted to invest in a company that made it so easy to share music. It limped along for a few years, got sold twice, and finally shut down for good in 2006.
It’s a great story of the early days of the Internet, and a reminder that new startup ideas rely as much on timing and luck as on vision.
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