LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Blink-182 guitarist/vocalist Tom DeLonge is taking a break from major-label life with the release of the forthcoming album by his other band, Angels & Airwaves. The group's third studio album, "Love," will arrive February 14 as a free digital download.
DeLonge and Angels & Airwaves manager Rick DeVoe agree that self-releasing the 10-song set is a financial risk, especially with DeLonge spending up to $500,000 of his own money to fund the process. But the artist hopes to recoup through corporate sponsorships, touring, merchandise sales, premium exclusive tracks and videos on the band's Web site and by selling a deluxe version of "Love" with 30 minutes of exclusive bonus material.
"We're redefining the music business," says DeLonge, who finished a reunion tour last fall with Blink-182. "And I honestly think we're going to be 10 times bigger because of it."
Angels & Airwaves' past two albums -- "We Don't Need to Whisper" (2006) and "I-Empire" (2007), which have sold 571,000 copies and 268,000 copies in the United States, respectively, according to Nielsen SoundScan -- were released on Geffen.
DeLonge initially approached the label with the idea of releasing the album for free. But "there are certain costs they couldn't throw under the rug," he says. After failed negotiations, Geffen agreed to allow Angels & Airwaves to self-release "Love."
"When you sign with a label early in your career, it's because they have the advantage of investing in your brand," DeLonge says, noting that he owns the masters and publishing rights for "Love." "Now it's changed, because the majority of the kids now get their records for free (and) the labels don't have money to invest."
"Love" will be available as a free download on Angels & Airwaves' Web site, and a deluxe version of the album will be sold at stores and digital retailers, including iTunes, for about $5-$10. A final release date for the deluxe version hasn't been set.
Additionally, a feature film titled "Love" will hit select theaters later in the year, according to DeLonge. The music from "Love" will serve as the soundtrack to the film, which centers on an astronaut who is stranded in a space station as the Earth collapses.
To help market and promote the album, Angels & Airwaves partnered with Live Nation, Fuel TV and Hurley, among others, to feature the download link on their Web sites and send e-mail blasts to their customer databases. The combined lists will reach about 55 million people, according to DeLonge.
DeLonge hopes to distribute at least 20 million downloads of the free album. His intention is to expose Angels & Airwaves' music to as many people as possible, with the idea that those new fans will return to the band's Modlife-powered Web site and buy merchandise or sign up for a premium membership, which costs $6.95 per month and gives access to advance ticketing and digital content.
"If only 5 percent of that 20 million came back and interacted with the Modlife platform that powers our Web site, the revenue would far exceed anything we'd make from a major label, in any way, shape or form," DeLonge says. "I believe that music would be like a business card that you pass out, and if people like it, they come back and buy a number of things from your band."
So far Fuel TV is the sole sponsor of Angels & Airwaves' spring tour, which will visit 1,300- to 6,000-capacity venues in North America; DeLonge says the band is still negotiating with other companies for sponsorship. He believes the free album will lure fans to the show. "We've decided to basically give up the fact that we're going to sell albums and hope we're going to get it on the ticket side," he says.
Meanwhile, DeLonge says that Blink-182 is planning to record its new album soon and is talking with its label, Interscope, about a 2011 release. The group also intends to play European festival dates this summer.