TBT: The band that would give its music away for free

Ten years ago I got my first regular paying gig as a writer, penning a column for the local daily called Person's Perspectives. It was meant to be a young person's take on Helena, though I'm not sure how well I gave that. My first article, after all, was about a band playing a 21-and-over show later that week. But looking past that problem, the piece about Ten Mile Tide seems prescient now (completely on account of the band, not me). In 2004, the music industry was obsessed with the threat file sharing programs posed; Napster had been broken, but really it shattered into several other sites like Kazaa. Yet while the narrative then was one of artists vs. all of us who would download an album for free, Ten Mile Tide saw the internet as a fantastic way to market and distribute their music without having to go through a record company. So, they gave their album away for free on Kazaa in hopes that the money that came from people buying tickets to live shows would make up the difference. It was an incredibly elegant solution to what was then considered an existential threat for working artists. Yet it took nearly a decade for Spotify and other streaming services to codify the model into something not built off pirating websites. Of course, Spotify is a corporation, and many artists have legitimate concerns with how that corporation treats artists. Yet re-reading the Ten Mile Tide profile reminds me of all the BS the internet has expunged from the music industry, BS that even in 2004 was considered a cornerstone of pop music in America rather than a hindrance, specifically the way in which the old model made king-makers of a few giant record labels. Sure, destroying that system means fewer kings in general, i.e. fewer mega-rich rock stars. Yet none of the gravest predictions have come to pass. People are still making music, lots of it good, and we're hearing a lot more of it. And damned if it wasn't a long time coming.