Perhaps benefiting from insta-name recognition, the super-group Angels and Airwaves (AvA for short) hit its stride early on. Formed in 2005 from members of blink-182 (guitarist Tom DeLonge), The Offspring (drummer Atom Willard), 30 Seconds to Mars (bassist Matt Wachter who joined in 2007) and Box Car Racer (guitarist David Kennedy), the group toured the world several times over and developed a reputation for stunning stage shows, intertwined with videos, films and other effects. Their first two albums, We Don’t Need to Whisper and I-Empire, were mainstays in the Billboard Top 10, selling more than 2 million copies combined.
However, as AvA’s big label contract came to an end, the guys decided to strike out on their own. Enter Love, their third installment, which AvA made available for free this past Valentine’s Day. In the absence of record sales, the band is funding the album’s marketing and distribution costs via licensing, branding partnerships and donations. Quite the financial risk.
“It’s a leap of faith, but we believe that this is the future,” DeLonge says. “The possibilities are endless. This can put an end to the way things were done and create the way things will be in the music business.”
Other high-profile artists have put out free albums, including Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails. But whenever a renowned group such as AvA adds its voice to that chorus, the industry is nudged closer to a revolution. “Most bands make their money from their tours,” Wachter says. “I can’t think of a single band who’s making any money from their record sales.” Indeed, record companies have been selling fewer records, as unlicensed sharing and downloading have cut into sales. As a result, the labels are throwing money at artists less and less. An increased chunk of a band’s profit comes from touring and licensing music. “We were fed up and disappointed with record labels who wouldn’t provide the most basic financial support,” DeLonge says. “A major corporation would offer millions to license 30 seconds of one song. That told us something was really off.”
So AvA has joined the ever-growing movement to in effect remove traditional record labels from the equation. If record sales are becoming less and less crucial, then why not put the music into the world for free? The cornerstone of AvA’s brave new world is sharing their music with as many people as possible. In turn, the band looks forward to sharing it with us in person, hopefully to a packed house. “Vegas is always an opportunity to be a little more extravagant than we normally would be,” Wachter says. “So it will definitely be a good show.”