British alternative rock act the Crimea has taken a radical approach to building a following.

The group -- currently out of contract after they split last summer with their former label, Warner Music -- has made its new, self-financed, album "Secrets Of The Witching Hour" available to download for free from their official Web site.

From June 4, a CD version will be offered for sale on a mail-order basis, details for which are posted at the site.

The band members hope the free offering will generate exposure and, in turn, boost revenue streams from live performances and merchandise sales.

"It's a one-off for us," their manager, Stephen Taverner of Out There Management, tells Billboard.biz. "They knew they couldn't compete in the traditional way, so why not give it away, and try to gain more exposure that way. Its not a two-fingers up to the music industry at all, far from it."

By mid-afternoon, the album had been downloaded more than 5,000 times since going live late last night.

Taverner adds, "We all recognize the fact that we needed a record company involved on a global level. If we can get the fanbase up significantly, maybe someone would be interested in doing a partnership with the band."

Warner Bros. U.S. signed and released the Crimea's debut album "Tragedy Rocks" (2004) which has shifted about 35,000 copies worldwide, says Taverner.

The band is currently preparing for a series of shows in China, including a performance today at the Midi Festival in Beijing, before returning to the U.K. for a four-week tour starting May 21 at the Thekla venue in Bristol.