Introducing Tender Loving Empire’s Priceless Music Project

Portland record label Tender Loving Empire is trying to raise funds to build a next-generation shopping system to allow customers to “pay what they what” for the label’s various albums. Jared Mees, who founded the record label, is calling this the “Priceless Music Project.”

The goal, is to develop the system and then make it open-source for other record labels to use.

The cat is out of the bag. Music is free. Despite what record labels, the federal government or Metallica has to say about it, your favorite album is available for free somewhere on the internet and all you have to do is find it and hit download. You will not be arrested. The police will not come to your house. But, if you’re like most people you might feel a little melancholy about the whole situation? Not because you’re worried James Hetfield might go hungry but because you know that the artist whose music you love, won’t be seeing any compensation from your free download. Until now, the only alternative for someone in this situation would be to break down and buy the music.

People will pay for music if they know the artist is going to benefit the most, a la Bandcamp, and if the price of the music if fair (we can all agree that Louis CK and Radiohead proved this point admirably, yes?).

Tender Loving Empire has plenty of artists, like Typhooon, Y La Bamba, Jared Mees and the Grown Children, and many more whose music I gladly, happily pay for.

It’s refreshing to see a record label care about not just profits and cocaine money, but actually getting an artist’s music heard. How much is an album worth? $3? $5? Is it worth more to fans than casual listeners?

You can donate to the project here, or just buy some records or other schwag from TLE’s online store. In case you need more reason to help them out on this, here’s an interview with Cary Clarke, the Arts and Culture Director for the City of Portland, to see what he had to say about the Priceless Music Project, Tender Loving Empire, and how they could both effect the future of music.

You can also watch the Cliffs Notes version here. There are few things that make me want to hop on my couch like Tom Cruise and scream “YES!”, but this is most definitely one of them.

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