Interview: Tom DeLonge of Angels & Airwaves
Another page will be written in music history on Valentines Day This Sunday with the release of ANGELS AND AIRWAVES new record “LOVE.” Following the footsteps that were laid out by RADIOHEAD who encouraged their fans to pay what they felt their record was worth, AvA took the model and made it into their own completely free of any corporation while they attempt to create viable options for all types of consumers. We caught-up with Tom DeLonge yesterday morning to discuss at length the new AvA record, his view on the state of the music industry and what the status of the BLINK-182 legacy.
SoCalMusicToday.com: The big news of the week is the release of your new record, “LOVE” this Sunday. Could you briefly tell me about it?
Tom DeLonge: We just finished last night at about 9:00 PM. I had the pleasure of noticing along with my manager this morning that this was the first record since I was in my 20’s that hasn’t leaked. It’s pretty crazy, no actually it’s pretty awesome. We did it all ourselves and finally we have some kind of control over it.
SCMT: What brought about your decision to release it for free, yet alone on a Sunday which also happens to be Valentine’s Day?
Tom: We originally wanted to release it at Christmas but we just weren’t ready. So Valentines Day came appropriate with the word Love even though the record isn’t about taking someone’s girlfriend out and having a romantic evening out.
What we wanted to do was change up everything since being on a record label is the death of a band these days. We took an opportunity and ran with it. We own this record entirely ourselves completely free of any corporation and we’re doing it completely for free. Now with this we have over 60 major players helping us distribute this record for free including you. It sounds like everyone is ready to help and furthermore I think everyone is ready to see something happen that is different with music. I really think the music industry needs help and we’re fortunately in the position where we can be a case study.
SCMT: What ultimately made you decide to release the record for free while the industry is in a downward spiral and its future is currently unknown?
Tom: We just believed that was really the only way a band could grow. Being on a label, they fired all their radio people and laid off a hundred people the week of our last release and they create software from burning the record. They hire attorneys to keep people from sharing the record. What they’re trying to do is lower distribution to only the people who buy it. For example, our last record “I-Empire” sold 268,000 copies for the last two years but then we hired this company called Big Champagne to track file sharing. We got a report about a week and a half ago that for that seven day period there were 400,000 file sharers of my last record “I-Empire.” So I’m going, during that seven day period, 400,000 people passed it around but the label is going around trying to keep it down to 268,000. So what we want to do is flip the model completely and we want to prove that we can give out millions and millions of copies of our album for free and only have the chance of becoming a fan. Any percentage of that has a chance to come back to the band and participating in any way shape or form and that has to do with how we run our website off something called Modlife.
The Modlife platform that lets you do things like fan clubs, broadcasting events, ticketing, pay-per-view events, selling our music and records, advertising and all these things that people can do to participate instead of worrying about having to buy a worthless piece of plastic. We’re really excited about it and it makes all the sense in the world to me at least.
SCMT: From what I’m understanding is that you are eliminating the record label entirely and want to have complete control over your band and the image.
Tom: Yeah, we can do anything we want for the length and the life of the album. It never stops.
SCMT: Explain to me the corporate funding model you’ve talked about and exactly how it will work. Do you feel like labels are going to still exist within the next few years?
Tom: First of all, there is no corporate funding model at all. We did look into that but it made no sense to us since we have no corporate funding. We instead have a lot of different corporations that make sense that are helping us distribute the record. The reason that we believe the model is going to work is because our website is built on a platform that services a lot of different things that can help monetize music. For example, if you came to look at tour dates on our website we’d get the advertising money. If you came there and bought a ticket for our concert, we get the advance money since it comes with something. If you came to join the website, you get a lot of different things like extra music, movies, pay-per-views, anything we release, sound checks, early release into the concerts.
That’s where the subscription money comes from. If you just bought the extended version of the record or our movie, we get 75% of that. We believe that the model works because for the first time in history this is a platform that offers a lot of different options that are different than the album and that can’t be replicated and passed around for free. So we’re saying lets let the music be replicated and lets allow it to be passed around for free and if you like it, come back to our website with your girlfriend and at 9PM on a Wednesday night you can just watch on your computer a pay-per-view of us in London for $5.00 if you want to or you could become a member of the site and watch all that stuff including the pay-per-views and get into the concerts early. Or become a member of the site and get the movies for free. So there-s different ways that we are going to make money other then the record which has never existed before.
Until now a website never really did anything for you other than a blog and some news. Now our website is a genuinely working platform that monetizes our business in different ways. We think we’re going to make a lot more money then we ever did when we were on a label to be honest. It’s going to take time to build it.
SCMT: You’re releasing the record for free, whereas RADIOHEAD told their fans to pay what they felt their record was worth. Did you get the idea from that and decide to further expand on it?
Tom: Well what we wanted to do was build on the RADIOHEAD model more and we’re just hoping that people build on our model. RADIOHEAD asked people to contribute and we said okay we can do that and ask people to contribute as well. Along with all of our content on our website and also try to monetize everything while we also try to create viable options for all types of consumers. That’s something they didn’t do since they don’t have a ten million dollar platform called Modlife. When RADIOHEAD did it, it just doesn’t work for smaller bands. I think it was appropriate to learn from it and built from it. I do think that what it showed more than anything is that new ideas work really well like it did for them while what we’re doing will work for us as well. I think that there will be a quantifier in how much larger this band gets and I think it’s going to be massive for the decisions that we’ve made.
SCMT: Where would you like to see ANGELS & AIRWAVES go following the release of LOVE that you called the release of your life while the legacy of BLINK-182 is still a hot discussion at the same time following the sold-out tour last year?
Tom: The plan for ANGELS & AIRWAVES has always been the same since day one. I wanted this band to take over the world and want it to be as big as it can be. I want this band to be the most ambitious and most exciting thing that I could make it. BLINK-182 got back together right in the middle of it. I honestly don’t know how to juggle it. I’m currently driving up to Los Angeles right now to meet with Mark and Travis to start the conversations on how we start since it’s coming on the eve of the release of a motion picture and my album that co-inside together. It’s really difficult since I don’t know the answers yet.
SCMT: What was it like getting back together as a band and playing shows together for the first time in nearly six years?
Tom: It was awesome since that tour was incredible. We broke so many attendance records on that tour and I can’t believe how big that was. I can’t believe how much alcohol that we consumed either to be honest. The whole thing is kind of a blur to me but it was awesome. That band is a huge part of who I am and it gave me everything I have. It’s like a yin and a yang. One is a very high concept philosophical spiritual concept thing while the other is a complete anarchy eternal youth going on to offend people. Both totally co-exist within me and I love them both.
SCMT: I completely understand the same thing being a fan of BLINK-182 seeing shows when the band first came out up to covering both Irvine shows last year, and being a fan of ANGELS & AIRWAVES as I grew up to appreciate music even more.
Tom: I started BLINK-182 when I was 16 and as you grow you want different things out of your art and for me I want to be emotionally moved. Every once in awhile I also want to turn it up really loud and breaking windows but I think that both bands have something to offer since there is absolutely nobody out there who listens to just one band. I don’t and I have 500 albums in my iPod that I listen to. I’m just hoping that ANGELS & AIRWAVES will plug into one of the categories that people will need for certain things.
SCMT: ANGELS & AIRWAVES are taking part in next months Bamboozle Festival at Angel Stadium. What can you reveal about it?
Tom: Well I have to learn a few more things about the festival like if it’s outdoors, if we’re playing during the day since I don’t know yet. ANGELS & AIRWAVES when we play our own shows can play for two hours. It’s very theatrical and dramatic and there is a lot of movements through-out the set. I don’t know if we’re going to be able to do that or not at Bamboozle since we have yet to find out the situation along with the set-up of it. Warped Tour was a difficult one since it totally took us out of our element since we’re not a daytime type of band but we are four guys who grew up in punk rock bands. We will figure it out and try to be louder and bigger then anything else that day regardless. No matter what we will give it everything we have as always.