TLC Announce Tour, Post New Song At MP3.com

R&B band is one of biggest groups yet to give away music at popular digital-download site.

ATLANTA — A new TLC song, "I Need That," was made available

for free download Monday (Sept. 27) at MP3.com as part of a tour-sponsorship

package between the popular R&B band and the Internet music company.

"It is very important to reach as many people as we can," TLC member

Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins said at a rainy press conference Monday afternoon

atop the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. "With MP3.com, we can do that all

across the world."

The R&B trio also will be reaching people around the world with an arena

tour scheduled to start Oct. 15 in Montreal. Dates for the tour, which

also was announced Monday, weren't made immediately available, but TLC

manager Bill Diggins said it will hit the United States on Oct. 20 and

remain in the country until December, when the first leg will end with

a hometown show in Atlanta.

After a holiday break, the band plans to tour through Europe in January

and February, Southeast Asia in March and April, and return to the U.S.

for more shows next summer.

It will be TLC's first headlining tour, and their first tour in five years.

Destiny's Child will open the initial U.S. tour leg. TLC member Rozonda

"Chilli" Thomas said earlier that teen-pop singer Christina Aguilera also

will open for TLC, but she was not named as part of the tour on Monday.

TLC, whose third album, Fanmail (1999), has sold 3.6 million copies,

are one of the biggest artists to post music on MP3.com, a popular website

that alienated the download-wary record industry early on.

In recent months, the site has struck deals with Alanis Morissette, Tori

Amos and the Goo Goo Dolls, but those artists have made — or, in

the Goo Goos' case, plan to make — their music available only in

streaming form, meaning listeners can't keep a copy.

Independent rap entrepreneur Master P has posted his own music and that

of Snoop Dogg on the site, and rocker Tom Petty posted a single, "Free

Girl Now," at MP3.com for two days earlier this year.

MP3.com, which also will sell advance tickets for the tour and operate

chats and contests, plans to donate 10 cents to the Sickle Cell Disease

Association of America each time "I Need That" is downloaded.

MP3.com chief executive officer Michael Robertson said the site is hoping

for 1 million downloads by Oct. 1, which would translate to $100,000 for

the association. T-Boz, who has sickle-cell anemia, has been the association's

national spokesperson for the past two and a half years.

The tour will be a "Broadway-meets-concert" spectacle, according to TLC's

Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes.

"It will be very visual, and there are several messages we will be trying

to get across," Lopes said.

TLC designed the stage and all the costumes for the tour, which Diggins

says will play arenas.

TLC's Fanmail spent several weeks at the top of the Billboard

200 albums chart in the winter and spring. It includes the #1 pop hit

"No Scrubs" (RealAudio

excerpt).

Rico Lumpkins, who produced "I Need That" for Dallas Austin's DARP

production company, described the song as "more R&B than hip-hop." It

was recorded exclusively for the MP3.com promotion.

T-Boz said in addition to raising money, she hopes the single will pique

fans' curiosity about sickle-cell anemia, a blood disease that mostly

strikes African-Americans.

"I'm working to build awareness," she said. "I'm 29, but I wasn't fully

diagnosed until I was 28, so we really need to raise the awareness of

other people out there that could have this disease."

The disease lies dormant until it is triggered by various things,

including stress. When the disease flares up, it causes red blood cells

to re-form into a "sickle" shape, resulting in severe pain and soreness

throughout the body.

The disease forced Watkins to miss several dates of TLC's 1992 tour, on

which they opened for Hammer.

"I'm trying to stay stress-free now, but in this business, that's very

hard," T-Boz said. "Still, I try. Right now, I'm as healthy as I've ever

been in my life."

Robertson said MP3.com plans to continue its Dime-a-Download program with

other artists in the future. Artists will post an exclusive track on MP3.com,

and MP3.com will give a dime per download to a charity of the artist's

choice, he said.

"Dime-a-Download breaks the seal on great new music and cuts the ribbon

on a new way for companies to donate and raise money for charities," he

said.